One of the big problems we found with our electrical supply was the lack of power camping during the winter months. When the temperatures are dropping to minus 15 Celsius and lower the furnace runs a lot. Our Northern Lite is what they call a true four-season camper but let’s face it no camper is insulated to our Northern Saskatchewan winters.
So you ask why bother in that weather. Well we cannot resist as the north is just too beautiful in winter and just needs to be photographed and shared with all those who will not put themselves through that. Snowshoeing and skiing also being another reason. During the summer my two 6 volt 100 amp/hr. flooded batteries with the 100 watt solar panel on the roof is more than adequate for our power needs. However we love those well treed private spots with lots of shade, throw in two or three days of little to no sunshine and we need the generator. I hate listening to generators and especially mine, we camp to get rid of the noise and listen to the wind and birds, not a generator grinding away.
Having read posts on RV sites written by someone who knows more about the electrical side of RVing, I ran across this DC to DC charger system that many recommended. This is my solution! I got to get one of these, so I ran down to my local RV dealerships wanting to purchase one and get it installed. Well after three dealerships I was told they never heard of a DC to DC charger and I did not need one as my batteries charged from the truck while driving. Yes a slow charge and if I drove 10 hours a day that may work, not acceptable for me. After I spent $25 worth of gas and two days running around trying to purchase locally (support local) and getting nowhere, I turn to on line direct to Renogy. Yes, four days later I have my 40 amp Renogy battery charger delivered and ready for install. If memory serves me right it was approximately $165.
Next problem I had to solve was where to mount the charger as they recommended close to the camper batteries as possible. Finally I decided to mount it under the closet panel in the rear closet of our 2017 9.6 Northern Lite. The big shock came when I discovered the cost of 4 gauge wire recommended to be run from my truck battery to a fuse then back to the charger, then from the charger to the batteries. My truck is a 2013 Ford F350 Super Duty with crew cab and eight foot box. That’s 20 some feet to the back of the truck only and still had to get to my charger and batteries times two for positive and negative wires. After pricing the cable individually by the foot I was shocked, copper is expensive. I then discovered at my local Princess Auto store 4 gauge booster cables 20 feet long for less money. I now have several booster clamps in the shop less wire. These worked perfectly to run side by side from the battery down my truck frame just reaching the back, these were about $36 each pair. Locally I could not find the connectors to connect the camper to the truck (Orion Motor Tech wire connector, 2-4 gauge x 2) these worked well. Also needed the Renogy, 60 amp fuse x 2 ($13 each) as well as two spare fuses which I found on Amazon. Also needed is a way to turn on the power to the charger from either the camper batteries or the truck battery, I chose to wire it to my existing truck switches and run it to the charger in the back. This required about 30 feet of 10 gauge wire and a wire connector from camper to the truck.
This part is specific to our 9.6 NL camper. Next I did not want to drill holes in the camper so I ran the wiring up through the battery compartment using the bottom vent to enter the battery compartment, under the batteries as they sit on slats up through into the area under the closet to the charger. From the charger to a fuse then back to the battery compartment to the batteries. I connected the camper with the Orion wire connector attached to the camper under the battery compartment to the truck connector at the rear of the box along with the 12v wire to start the charger. This allows for a quick disconnect for unloading a truck camper and not necessary for other applications. The connectors would probably not be needed on a van, class A or C. I would only recommend this system for someone who moves their home with them when they drive from place to place, if you are disconnected from the source it will not benefit you unless you want to sit and run your vehicle.
I am not going to try and get into the technical end of the system as I do not understand everything, so do your own research there is lot of help on line as well as Renogy themselves. My truck alternator was large enough to handle the 40 amp charger but some applications may require a larger alternator.
So far we have only used the system in late fall while running the furnace, which we keep at 21 Celsius, our water pump and a few LED lights. Our days are shorter here and less sunlight at a very low angle for our rooftop solar panel. Now when we use our camper to get supplies or just to explore an area I am pumping full charge into my two 6 volt in the camper. In a 30 km drive I can bring my batteries from 12 to full charge. This would have never happened before. I never run my batteries below 11.5 so if I am close, even Idling for 15 to 20 minutes, has topped them back up to around 12.5 to 12.7. I like having the switch in the cab to turn the charger on if I need it and not have to have it on when not necessary. Being as the switches are tied to the ignition when the key is off I am not draining the truck battery to power the charger and house batteries, something to watch for.
There are sites out there that have the technical information, all I know is for the investment and trouble to install this charger we have a lot more options and it will also work on all kinds of batteries, so when I can afford to upgrade to lithium it’s going to work even better. So far 100% happy with Renogy and the system and would not hesitate to recommend it. Hope the photos explain it better.
Your comments and questions are more than welcome if the questions are not too tough or techy.
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Hope to see you down the road…Gerry