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Topics - RV Squirrel

#1
The supports for the awning in our Camplite 14DBS travel trailer block the window on the front right side.  Unless we have the awning extended, we can't open the window!  IMG_7444.jpg

I was recently on a short trip when the wind picked up just before nightfall... I closed the awning, which meant that I had to close the window as well. This really cut down on the cross-breeze, because the tiny kitchen window is the only thing left on that side, and it doesn't open all of the way.

I'm wondering if I can "shorten" the fabric roller tube, and move the offending awning support so that it sits just behind the window, and just in front of the wheel well.  At first I was concerned that I'd have to mount the support where a vertical aluminum beam goes up the side of the trailer, but after looking at it, I noticed that the support is mounted with big (#14?) hex-head sheet metal screws at the top and bottom of the trailer.  So instead of drilling new mounting holes into vertical posts, I'd be drilling them into the horizontal beams that run along the top and bottom of the trailer.

Ideally, I'd like to move the front support 18 to 22.5 inches to the back.  The current fabric is 9' wide.  I think that I can buy new fabric that is 7.2' wide.  I think that the roller spring assemblies are only 42" long, so I'd have enough space for both roller spring assemblies even if I removed 22" from the roller tube.  I know that I'd have to move the light fixture.  Here is what I was thinking:
- remove fabric roller tube from trailer (carefully so as to not get injured from uncoiling spring mechanism)
- remove roller spring assembly from one side
- remove around 22" of the roller tube
- move awning support 22" to the back of the trailer (which would put it around one-half inch from the front of the wheel well)
- install narrower awning fabric on roller tube, and reinstall roller spring assembly
- replace fabric roller tube on trailer

Has anyone ever done this and lived to talk about it?  Or are there newer/better options available nowadays?  I just looked for Dometic awning parts, and it seemed like there weren't many available online.

#2
My CD player seems to have stopped working.  It has power, the CD just won't spin.  It wiggles a little when it tries to start up, and then stops.  I think that the drive motor went up.

Anyone have recommendations for a replacement, or ideas for how to repair?  It is a "Dual" XD1228.  In addition to being a radio and CD player, it also has a USB charger port and auxiliary input that I often use.

I have an "RV Forever" policy, but I don't think that it covers the radio.  If anyone thinks otherwise, please chime in.
#3
I've been doing some electrical rework in my 2014 Camplite 14DBS, and I keep scratching my head when I encounter a fuseholder that is separated from the other fuses in my AC/DC converter.  The fuse is 15AMPs.  When I unplug it, the radio stops, but nothing else does (not that I have noticed, anyway!).  The strange thing is that the radio already has its own fuse in the AC/DC converter.  So why would there be two fuses?  I've attached a picture.  I see it whenever I open the cabinet beneath the sink to get dog kibble.  If the dogs know what it's there for, they are not telling me.  Anyone have any ideas?
#4
Two months ago I started a thread on entitled "Does Bluetooth work in an aluminum camper?  Victron vs. Renogy."  I was thinking of upgrading my existing lead acid batteries to lithium ones, and was comparing two vendors. 

This thread ultimately became a long and fruitful discussion about how to do a lithium battery upgrade.  It had a lot of great input from #DavidM and #Merlin, with some additional input from #Pinstriper.  It went way beyond Bluetooth!  Had I known that the discussion would become so inclusive, I would have named it something like "How do I go about getting a Lithium treatment?"

My old lead acid battery (93Ah) could no longer hold a charge, and my AC power converter was making a making an annoying sound whenever it charged the batteries (ever wonder what tinnitus sounds like?... this is the same!).  I had a PWM solar controller that I wanted to upgrade to MPPT, and I was never quite satisfied when charging of my lead acid batteries from my tow vehicle.

An upgrade to Lithium batteries would give me a number of benefits.  Not only would I have more storage capacity, but I would also be able to charge the batteries more quickly.  I decided to go with two 100Ah batteries so that we could make better use of campsites with "no hookups" when we stayed at our favorite parks or went on an extended trip.  Although we could have kept the existing power converter (for lead-acid batteries), this would have never fully charged the batteries (because of lower voltages) and would have likely reduced the lifetime of the batteries (since the battery management would not have a high enough voltage to do cell balancing).  My old PWM solar controller did not support Lithium, and I wanted to upgrade to MPPT anyway.  Since Lithium batteries can recharge very quickly, they can draw a lot of charge... this made it wise to get a DC to DC controller that regulated the current from the TV and ensured that adequate voltage was being used to charge the batteries.

After a lot of discussion on the "Bluetooth" thread, I finally decided on particular components.  A block diagram is shown below. 

Lithium Block Diagram R1.jpg

I've purchased nearly all of the equipment.  I still need to find a way to connect MC4 connectors through the side of the travel trailer, since I'm currently in the habit of moving solar panels around the trailer.  Also, I haven't purchased any equipment associated with the inverter.  Installing the components will require some work.  Some of that has already been done.  This thread will begin with what I've done so far.  As I make progress, I'll add notes.

The "Bluetooth" thread includes a lot of information from forum members in response to my questions about different components and manufacturers.  I ultimately purchased the following:
-    Battle Born BB10012 batteries (100 Ah).  There are other options for a lower price, but the Battle Born batteries appear to have consistently received good ratings.  The battery management keeps the unit from being charged at freezing temperatures, which can ruin the battery.  The batteries are "designed and fabricated" in the U.S...  Although the cells probably came from someplace outside the country, customer support is more available and there appears to be a wider knowledge base.
-    Progressive Dynamics PD9145AL (AC to DC) Power Converter.  This is a deck-mount version that supports Lithium batteries only.  Progressive Dynamics makes a Lithium compatible unit that could have been inserted directly into my existing PD4045 Power Control Center, but that unit only supports "single stage" charging.  The PD9145AL supports "two stage" charging, which can help extend the life of Lithium batteries. 
-    Victron BlueSolar charge controller MPPT 100|50.  A MPPT 100|30 would have probably done the job just fine (even if I added another couple of panels to the three 100W panels that I already have), but I ample room in case I decided to use even more panels.
-    Victron Orion-Tr Smart Isolated DC-DC charger.  It was this beast that initiated the "Bluetooth" discussion, because there is no other way to configure it other than with a Bluetooth connection.
-    Blue Sea Bussmann Surface Mount 187 series DC circuit breaker (80A).  I could have also used a panel mount circuit breaker, but I wanted to be able to see as many of the connections as possible, literally "above the board".
-    Blue Sea MaxiBus BusBar (Pat No. 2126).  I got two of these, one for positive and one for negative.  Each bus bar has six 5/16" posts.  This may be a little overkill, but it allows me to troubleshoot components without removing the cabling for other components. 

Did I mention that I have a Livin' Lite Camplite 14DBS?  Although this is great for my wife and two dogs, space is at a premium.  I was reluctant to give up an entire cabinet, and my wife didn't want to give up space for the dog food.  Nonetheless, I wanted to keep the batteries indoors... to keep them from freezing, and to keep honest folks honest!  The other components mentioned above also take up more space than what was there before.  Therefore, I decided to make a "circuit board" that would fit in the space that divides one of the cabinets under the sink with the "power/fuse/breaker" cabinet directly adjacent to it.

The "circuit board" is made out of sheet PVC.  I used this because it is non-metallic and easy to work with.  Also, you can glue pieces together (think plywood) in order to make it stronger.  Since PVC contains chlorine, it can generate dioxin if it burns.  However, it is my understanding that PVC has a much higher ignition temperature than wood, and does not stay lit unless something else (like wood) is burning it.  CAVEAT:  I'm not a expert on this, so you should investigate this yourself if you consider using sheet PVC for this purpose.  Since I have an aluminum camper, I figure that I will have other things to worry about if the camper frame is hot enough to begin to burn.

Basic Cicuit Board.jpg

The circuit breaker is at the top left corner of the circuit board.  The solar charge controller and the DC/DC converter are in the middle, and the bus bars are on either side.  Holes below the charge controller and the DC/DC converter allow for cables from the AC/DC power converter, the DC distribution panel, the TV DC entrance, and the solar panel entrance.  The notch in the lower right is for the wheel well of the 14DBS.  The funny squiggle above that is to allow room for the hot/cold PEX tubing that goes to the galley sink.

This is the rear side of the circuit board.  There are up to three layers of sheet PVC, each 3/8" thick.  The sheets are held together with plumbing PVC cement (I didn't use the PVC primer, but I did clean the pieces with acetone).  Components are held in place with tee-nuts (which were glued in place with cyanoacrylate).  CA and PVC seem to love each other... I tested one tee-nut before using this approach, and the nut actually deformed rather than come away from the PVC.

The user manuals for the solar charge controller and the DC/DC converter recommend having more space than you see from the front of the board to allow for air flow across the heat fins on the back of the components.  For this reason, I cut out the portions of the PVC immediately behind the components to allow for more air flow.  I also chamfered the top/bottom edges of the second layer to facilitate air flow.

Cicuit Board Back.jpg

Since the components have a high profile, they partially blocked the opening of the cabinet in which they were being installed.  I managed to offset them with "spacers" made out of layers of sheet PVC.  The layers were held together with PVC glue and CA glue.  The edges were filed away in some places to account for welds in the adjacent aluminum tubing.

Spacer bars.jpg

This is where the components will be installed.  Due to the "spacers" mentioned above, the components will actually occupy space behind or above aluminum tubes. 

Where circuit board will sit.jpg

This is what the circuit board looks like after install.  The lithium batteries are sitting on the wheel well.  Ultimately, they will need to be held in place with a battery tray (which I haven't made yet).  The components are recessed enough that they did not stand out beyond the edges of the cabinet door, and there is enough space the slide the batteries in and out if I need to.

After install.jpg

This is from the inside of the cabinet.  I installed the shunt (can I mount this directly to the bus bar?).  I have not installed cables to the batteries yet.  Holes below the charge controller and the DC/DC converter allow for cables from the AC/DC power converter, the DC distribution panel, the TV DC entrance, and the solar panel entrance.  I'll be adding these cables after I install and connect to those components.

From Inside.jpg

Finally, this is from the top.  The existing PD4145 (with DC distribution and fuse box) is at the bottom of the picture.  The PD9145AL will be installed right where the flashlight is sitting.  This is above the wheel well.  I'll need to make a mount for this as well.

From the top.jpg

Many thanks to those that have provided help so far.  Thanks also to those that made it possible to imbed pictures within the text of posts on this forum!

My next step will be making the battery tray and the mount for the PD9145AL AC/DC converter.  I'm hoping to use some tips from #Pinstriper for this.











#5
Does bluetooth work in an aluminum camper?  Ideally, I'd like to monitor bluetooth-enabled devices in my trailer, while I'm driving in my TV.

I've recently purchases a couple of lithium batteries for my Camplite 14DBS.  I know that I need a DCDC converter to charge the battery from the TV.  I also need a solar charge controller that will be compatible with the lithium batteries.

I've been considering two combinations of equipment:
1) Victron Smart Orion DCDC converter (18A) + Victron Bluesolar charge controller (30A with bluetooth dongle)
2) Renogy 20A DCDC converter (no bluetooth) + Renogy Rover charge controller (40A with bluetooth dongle).

The Victron equipment is considerably more expensive, but there are a few things that are making me consider it nonetheless.  My concern is that, unlike the Renogy Rover (which has a built-in display), the Victron relies entirely on bluetooth for configuration and monitoring.  I know that the Victron Bluesolar has an optional display module, but I'll likely be using that port for a bluetooth dongle... I like the idea of bluetooth dongles, because it allows me to "turn off" bluetooth when I am not using it.

It would be a real bummer to spend additional money for equipment that depends on bluetooth, only to realize that it will only work if I'm holding my cellphone next to it!

General comments about Victron vs. Renogy are welcome too!  Thanks!
#6
I've recently purchased two lithium batteries to replace the lead-acid battery that was outdoors, on the frame just behind the LP tanks.  I plan to mount the new batteries inside my Camplite 14DBS.  Each battery weighs around 30 pounds... so two would weigh 60 pounds.  It's okay to put lithium batteries indoors... in fact, it seems that most folks do for a number of reasons.

There isn't much space to do this, so my options are limited.  I'm thinking of mounting them on top of the passenger-side wheel well.  This would be behind the lowest of the two cabinet doors underneath the sink.  I've attached a picture.

The batteries fit there (assuming that I can secure them somehow), but I'm concerned about the weight.  Even though lithium batteries are much lighter than lead-acid, 60 pounds is still significant.  I've had problems with leaking on the driver's side (which I've sealed, based on recommendations from this forum), but I don't want to invite trouble on the passenger's side.

What I see on top of the wheel well appears to be thin sheet metal that is folded at an angle to cover the top and side of the wheel well.  However, I do not see any sheet metal screws connecting it to something underneath.  What is underneath this sheet metal?  Can I screw into it in order to attach mounting hardware for the batteries?  If not, can I use square tube stock to create a battery tray that would connect to the existing 1" square tube stock on either side of the cabinet?  As you can see from the picture, it's going to be snug!  The batteries are hard to see because they are the same color as the sheet metal. 

It would be a bummer to give up the floor of the cabinet though.  The dogs wouldn't forgive me... that's where we store the kibble.




#7
Recently while camping, rainwater began to leak in on both sides of my 14DBS.  At first, I thought that the rain was leaking through the aluminum roof that I had sealed last year (with DICOR self-leveling compound).  Yesterday I went up on the roof with a hose.  The DICOR seemed to be holding up.  However, I noticed that water seemed to be finding its way in when I aimed the hose at the *corner molding* that runs down the front of the 14DBS.  The molding starts at the roof, and then gently arcs down the "nose" of the trailer.  Underneath the molding is a black rubbery caulk or tape that is getting old and brittle, and is beginning to chip away.

I suspect that my leaks are the result of this old caulk.  Should I replace the caulk (a real chore that might cause me to ruin the corner molding, since it is bent in an arc), or patch it somehow?  Since the molding is running down the front of the trailer, I do not want to use self-leveling sealant. I have clear ProFlex RV, but am concerned that it may be harder to repair the next time if the ProFlex doesn't work. 

Any recommendations?  Is there something similar to roofing caulk that might be best used over the existing black caulk/tape?
#8
I have a 2014 14DBS.  I hope to install a porch light under the awning... similar to what was originally installed next to the door.  If I install the new light at the same height as the original light, the hole for the wiring will be around 5" below the tray that conceals the wiring for the ceiling and running lights.  This would be an eyesore.  Does anyone have any tips for have to run the wiring through the external wall, without making too many holes in the aluminum framing?  If someone had a diagram of the aluminum framing, that would be great!