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skyguy
04-14-2014, 01:44 PM
This will be our 5th season in our Bighorn. We dry camp about 80-85% of the time. We have a 2k Honda generator that provides all the electricity we need. (if you camp in the mountains of Colorado, you hardly EVER need your air conditioner!) However, we are tired of the NOISE, even from a pretty quiet generator!

So I began our quest to install SOLAR power, to charge the batteries, and a inverter to provide AC power when we need it. The Heartland forum is an excellent resource, but severely lacking in solar information! So over the next couple of weeks, I hope to pass on some helpful information.

I don't have an endless bank account, so the plan is to setup solar and an inverter, all for under $2000. This may sound like an impossible task for that dollar amount, but to start with, I will not need to ever run our air conditioner, no coffee maker, and nothing else I can think of that will require LARGE amounts of power. We have a need for heat, in the early spring and late fall, I have budgeted for use of the Bighorn's furnace for that. Occasional use of the microwave. Several hours of TV for entertainment, and of course recharging LOTS of electronics.

I used a calculator at GO-Power's website (https://tools.carmanah.com/src.web/GoPowerCalculator.htm?state=RvDiv) and figured we would use about 60 AH (amphours) a day, AVERAGE. I sized the solar charging system to provide 60 AH of charge per day in the spring and fall, and up to 75 AH on days of maximum sunlight (summer). So we should be on an equal DAILY basis, and most times we are only camping for 2 - 3 days, so the system has 4 - 5 days to fully recover.

Here's a couple of blogs to get you started on information OVERLOAD:

http://www.jackdanmayer.com/rv_electrical_and_solar.htm
http://handybobsolar.wordpress.com/

Once I absorbed this information, I purchased:
200 watt solar panel system from Windy Nation (http://www.windynation.com/-Polycrystalline-Solar-Kits) I am a little suspect regarding the charge controller, but at $49 I'm not out much if it doesn't work properly.
2000 watt Samlex Pure Sine Wave inverter with remote. John Mayer insists you can get by with a MODIFIED sine wave inverter, I disagree.
5 feet of 2/0 gauge welding wire - to go from the batteries to the inverter.
Trimetric 2030 monitor. This is a must have on most lists. The 2030 has just started shipping, updating the 2020 and 2025. I'm hoping this will tell me if the $49 charge controller is doing its job, or if I will have to invest in a more expensive controller.
20 feet of 10 gauge stranded wire. This replaces the 12 gauge wire that shipped with the solar panel. One of the axioms I learned was to ALWAYS size up your wire!

So far, I'm in for around $1200. If this setup works, I'll be thrilled. Installation (and the ensuing reports/photos) will hopefully begin this coming weekend. I was going to install the solar panel system this last weekend, but our usual spring weather (in Colorado, that's the NICE way of saying 6 inches of snow) has me delayed.

To be continued.

Niles
04-14-2014, 04:32 PM
I'm looking forward to this thread, I've always wanted to have solar, just never wanted to blow the budget for it. We'll also enjoy hearing how you route your wiring down from the roof, as we have a 3670 also. Good luck with the install.

kakampers
04-14-2014, 05:58 PM
Will be watching too...wanted to see how the inverter works out. Already have 280 watts of solar and Morningstar controller. Our old batteries died along with our inverter...gonna replace batteries with AGM...need to figure out which inverter we want.

skyguy
04-14-2014, 07:08 PM
Where are the wires?

I decided to run the solar panel supply into the vent provided for the washer/dryer. The vent drops down between the (front) closet and the wall separating the closet and the dresser in the bedroom. We don't use the washer/dryer, even if we did, I think you could still use that, as I came out of the vent a good foot or more above where the washer/dryer water drain T's in.

The photos attached are looking through the left set of drawers in the dresser. Drawers are removed, and I (temporarily) removed the roller bars that support the three drawers on the left side. Then I CAREFULLY cut the panel out, exposing the vent. I sort of used what I call the Braille method of cutting, reaching in and feeling around, looking for pipe, and avoiding any electrical wiring present. You can see a very light colored panel at the bottom of the dresser - I may have to cut into that as well to properly run the wires into the basement. There is a string emerging from the black pipe - runs up and out the vent on the roof. I'll use the string to pull the wires that will connect to the charge controller up, then run the rest of the wires down into the basement to connect to the charge controller. Exact path - to be determined!

Right now, I have one 6 volt battery in the door side compartment, underneath the hydraulic pump. Second 6 volt battery in the front compartment, and battery cables pass through the wall behind the hydraulic pump. I plan to move the battery located in the door side compartment, to set next to the battery in the front compartment. There is a wall between the front compartment, and what many of us call "the basement", which is the main storage area, with access doors on both sides of the RV. The charge controller and the inverter will both mount on the wall, inside "the basement", and wires will pass through the wall and hook up to the battery.

Originally, I had considered mounting all controls above the AC outlet seen above the dresser. I decided I would not need the charge controller there - it would be better to locate the controller in the basement, and once I am accustomed to how it all works, probably hardly ever need to refer to that controller. So the controller for the inverter, and the Trimetic battery monitor will get mounted above the AC outlet.

KEN - if the cheapy charge controller dies, I more than likely will go with a Morningstar. I would go with a Magnum inverter, being made in the USA and all, but WOW, are they proud of those! Lastly, I can't be convinced to upgrade to AGM, but that is just MHO, and nothing more!

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PnR
04-16-2014, 11:51 AM
Hi Al,
You obviously seem to have done your research about load consumption as well as what power requirements will be needed to replenish your battery banks. I never go half way and buy cheap materials when you'll have to end up replacing them several months later because they just didn't fill the bill. I am planning on installing 4 Trojan 6 volt golf cart batteries which will give me 450 AH of power at 12 volts. I want to install a low frequency Pure Sine Wave Inverter/Charger that will put out between 3000 to 4000 watts of power. This is mainly to make my morning coffee and occasionally run the Microwave and TV when off grid. Since the Inverter will supply power from the battery bank, I would like to have it wired to all of the 120 VAC system in the RV. When plugged into the grid, the Charger part of the Inverter will recharge the batteries from shore power. Since I would like to do the installation myself, my question is where should the input and output of the 120 VAC to the Inverter be connected to? I am assuming that the output should be wired directly into the breaker panel, the same as shore power in order to supply power to all of the AC outlets. If the input to the inverter comes from shore power (which is the same as directly from the breaker panel) then am I not connecting them to the same source? Obviously I need guidance here.
My RV is a 2014 Bighorn 3585RL. Tks again for any suggestions.

Ron

skyguy
04-19-2014, 08:01 AM
Hi Ron

First of all, let me welcome you to the forum! This is an excellent resource for Heartland owners!

3000 watts sounds to me like overkill for power requirements, UNLESS you want to make coffe, run the microwave and watch TV all at the same time. But that's just my opinion!

My current plan (pun intended) is to run a very heavy duty extension cord from my inverter to my shore power hookup. This is a simple solution to get my AC from the inverter to the RV AC outlets. I might hardwire this later, the inverter I chose has hardwire capability lurking behind the AC outlets.

I think (from my research) in order to hardwire your AC, because of the 50 Amp circuitry, you can't just wire into the present panel - the proper solution is to setup a sub panel, with circuit breakers, and wire up either new AC outlets, or move the preferred outlets from the original AC panel to the new subpanel.

ALSO - you'll need a transfer switch that knows whether you are plugged into shore power or using the inverter, and blocks out the other accordingly. You definitely want to avoid any kind of LOOP in your circuitry that can quickly drain battery power or worse, damage equipment!

Lastly, I have disabled the converter/charger in my rig, by simply turning off it's breaker in the AC panel. If I need it, I can turn off the inverter, hook up my generator, turn on the converter, and charge up the batteries the old fashioned way. If my calculations are good, this will be a RARE occurrence!

Al

scottyb
04-19-2014, 09:28 AM
Most high-end inverter / chargers like the Magnum MS Series (http://magnumenergy.com/ms-series/) have internal transfer switches so you can hard wire your inverter, passing shore power through it. The output side goes to your panel or sub panel if you choose to separate the circuits you wish to operate off the inverter. There are also panels manufactured precisely for this purpose. Progressive Dynamics PD 5500 Series (http://www.progressivedyn.com/pd5500_2.html)

skyguy
04-20-2014, 04:38 PM
Step one: Remove ALL connections to the batteries, and make sure I have NO shore power!

Armed with several boxes of electronic goodies, I began the task of installation. I decided the first task was to decide where went what, and how would the wires get there. I cut a hole in the wall separating the "basement" from the front compartments, large enough to comfortably fit the two 2/0 welding cables and a host of smaller wires. The welding cables supply DC power to the inverter. I decided to mount the inverter, solar charge controller (is fed by the two solar panels, and in turn charges the batteries), and the breaker box, which holds the 20 AMP breaker for the solar charge controller to the battery, on the aforementioned wall. At this point, no wire connections were made.

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Big blue box on the left is the 2000 watt inverter. Grey box upper right is the Charge controller. Grey box lower right, breaker.

Tackled the charge controller first. That meant running 2 - 10 gauge wires from the roof down through the vent for the washer-dryer, out the hole in the vent I made, then underneath the dresser. There is a false bottom under the drawers of the dresser, I managed to lift that up, which revealed a slew of wires and hoses. I found a couple of VERY convenient holes already drilled through from the dresser bottom into the battery compartment, and they were large enough to pass through all the new wires I ran! THANK YOU Heartland! From the battery compartment, these two wires passed through the hole in the wall, and would eventually be hooked up to the charge controller. According to the charge controller instructions, I needed to run two wires from the charge controller to the battery (again 10 gauge), and make those connections first, so I did. The positive wire makes a detour to the 20 amp breaker, then was connected to the positive terminal of the battery. At this time, I reconnected the "house" cables to the battery.

Then up to the roof. Installed the two solar panels. I cut up cardboard box that the solar panels arrived in, and covered the solar panels temporarily with cardboard until I finished the solar install. Not a lot of fun crawling over the two panels, attaching them to the roof. Used plenty of Dicor sealant underneath, around, and on top of each bracket and screw - no water intrusion here! Hooked up the two wires, and got off the roof. Back down to the basement.Hooked up the two 10 gauge wires from the solar panels. One more trip back up to the roof to remove the carboard solar panel covers, then scurry down and see if they worked!

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(Notice there is no sunshine when this photo was taken - drat the luck!)

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Here is a shot of the controller - it reads 5.6 AMPS output from the solar panels. Looking forward to a sunny day! The black connector on the top of the controller leads to a temperature sensor attached to one battery. A very good eye may note the two wires on the left are BACKWARDS - positive is black and negative red. There is a good story behind that....

This was about 4 hours worth of time - not all work. When you pass 65 years of age, it seems I spend a fair share of time during the project finding a tool I JUST USED AND PUT DOWN!

It started to spit, so enough outdoor fun for one day. I packed up, and spent the hour inside, preparing the two 2/0 cables that would run from the batteries to the inverter.

More soon.

rjr6150
04-20-2014, 07:29 PM
Al
Looks great. Are you getting the install down and now offering to assist during the May mod rally in Denver?

TravelTiger
04-20-2014, 08:57 PM
Looks great! Might want to include in a future Heartland Highlights!


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

skyguy
04-22-2014, 09:18 AM
I prepared the two cables that would go from the batteries to the inverter. I ordered 5' each of red and black 2/0 welding cable. Welding cable is finely stranded, and bends pretty easily for such large cable. I cut to fit the pieces necessary - first a very short piece of red, which attaches to the positive battery terminal, then to the large fuse holder, and then the second piece which runs from the fuse holder to the positive terminal on the inverter. Each piece needed a connector soldered into one end. The other end trimmed back about 1/2 inch, which fit into the fuse holder. Once the red cable was constructed, I made a black cable the same length (including the fuse holder.) I soldered connectors onto both ends of the black cable.

I mounted the remote for the inverter above the AC socket, to the left of the dresser in the bedroom. The remote allows us to turn the inverter on/off from inside! (The least liked duty with a portable generator is having to go outside at night, in the dark, and cold, to shut the generator OFF - NO MORE!!) There are other useful functions on the remote as well, monitoring status of the inverter, volts watts amps in and out. As I prepared to run the 15 foot cable supplied with the remote, down to the inverter, I discovered a very nice sized hole drilled through the floor, under the dresser, into the battery compartment, which already had a couple wires leading through. The hole was large enough to allow the 10 pin RJ (like telephone or ethernet, only larger) to easily pass through. AGAIN, THANK YOU HEARTLAND!

Hooked up the positive (NO FUSE YET), and the negative cables from the battery to the inverter. Final step was to attach the fuse, to complete the connection. The instructions warned of a spark that would occur, as the connection was made, and the large capacitors in the inverter were armed. I carefully aligned the fuse, using electricians pliers to hold it, and sure enough, there was a good spark. Anchored the fuse with the nuts provided, and then reviewed my work.

Looked like everything was good to go! I hooked up an 10 gauge extension cord from the inverter to the shore power connection on the RV. Made sure everything was off in the RV. Turned on the inverter via the remote in the bedroom (How cool is that?). Still no smoke! Checked the batteries, solar, inverter. All is well.

Turned on the TV (No guts - no glory! Why didn't I just plug in a cheap lamp for the test??) TV worked just fine!!

ALL IS GOOD - solar charges batteries, batteries supply inverter, I got AC when I want it, anytime!

(One last step - I have a sophisticated battery monitor on order, to be installed on receipt) This will involve adding a "shunt" to the negative terminal of the batteries, and moving all of the connections currently on the negative terminal to the end of the shunt. The shunt is what enables the proper monitoring of the battery conditions - state of charge, last charge, rate of charge in, rate of flow out, etc etc. For more info see this Bogart Engineering (http://www.bogartengineering.com/products/trimetric) website. )

Current battery setup, sans the Trimetric shunt/controller... (reminder, clicking on photos will enlarge them)
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porthole
04-23-2014, 11:42 AM
Looks good.

2 suggestions. First is if you use an electrical management system like a Progressive EMS you cannot use an inverter to supply power through the EMS. That caveat is in the operation manual - now. The warning was not in the manual when I installed my EMS and subsequently used an inverter to do some testing.

Personally, I would move the fuse to the bulkhead and get it off the batteries. If you use it a lot you will be off gassing electrolyte and that won't be good for your connections.
I would add a marine battery switch in line. Although you can turn off the inverter remotely, a switch is the best method if you have a problem.

Just my 2 cents.

//heartlandowners.org/showthread.php/11365-And-so-it-begins?p=329212&highlight=inverter#post329212

Jim.Allison
05-21-2014, 11:00 PM
Glad to see some solar info. I just finished mine and had a great time doing it. As I was catching up with what was being said I noticed that someone brought up the EMS. At first I was concerned about the fitting of my EMS too, but I realized that my generator and my inverter were not sources of bad electricity. I only care about the quality of my shore power. Position it to monitor shore power and forget about it.

Batteries are the most puzzling aspect of the system IMHO. Nothing (affordable) beats lead acid for the application. My study concluded that pound for pound I would get more out of 2 Trojan 1275 12v at 150 ah each, in parallel. I could not justify the weight of four 6v GC batts. vs 2 or 3 1275 from either trojan or continental, I heard it said and I believe it, AH/LB/$.

In the Xantrex, either the 3000 watt or 2000 watt have an idle consumption of 3 ah. So I bought the 3000 for $100 more. MISTAKE. Weight is always a problem and my rig does not need 3000 watts. What one needs is a 2000 watt and a 800 watt. That way you can have the power you need to do the things you want during the day, then at night you can reduce your power consumption significantly by running only 800 watts for CPAP or other devices. Not exactly sure how to work it out but I know it can be done easily enough. Dual output would be a nice feature on an inverter.

.

skyguy
05-27-2014, 07:54 AM
Good info Jim - thanks for sharing!

We have used the system several weekends now, and pretty heavily over Memorial Day weekend. The Trimetric TM-2030 monitor is GOLD! This will give you pretty accurate instant readouts of how your system is performing.

FINDINGS:
Our system draws off 2 amps/hour with nothing but the inverter ON. That would include the inverter, 2 tv's, 2 DVD players, microwave, etc all plugged in, but not "on" .
Based on an Amp hour battery capacity of 240 ah (stated for my 6 volt golf cart batteries), we use an AVERAGE of 20% of capacity per day, mostly for entertainment. This last weekend the days would turn cloudy in the afternoon, our average recovery per day was in the 15% range. The Trimetric monitor can give you a "% full" reading at the touch of a button. Lowest reading during the weekend 72%. When we left Sunday we were back to 94% and the sun was still shining strong (charging like mad).

LIKES:
Electricity is available at THE TOUCH OF A BUTTON.
NO generator NOISE, no gasoline required.

Best $1500 I have spent in a while! Best mod for the RV! (You could save another $150 by avoiding the Trimetric monitor, but I wouldn't recommend it)

scottyb
05-27-2014, 11:41 AM
skyguy, very nice step by step. Sounds like it was a sucessful install and 1st outing? Do you feel like you are sustainable with 2 6V batteries and now that you have this working, do you feel like you might want to hardwire your inverter to a sub panel?

skyguy
05-27-2014, 03:09 PM
Howdy scottb!
Sustainable with just 2 - 6 volts? Questionable. Time will tell whether we feel "constrained" with only 240 amp hours of consumable power. (Actually 120ah? Using 50% as a guide.) We have not explored all of the options with the "consumables", for example, I have yet to hook up and subscribe to our DirecTV, so not sure how much more power that will require. It is interesting how much more cognizant of the current weather you become, as you become dependent on the sun. Colorado is known for abundant sunshine (85% sunny days) but that has NOT been the case for camping so far this year!

So far, I have no interest in setting up a sub-panel for certain AC outlets. Right now, to connect the inverter, I run a rather healthy extension cord from the shore power connection to a gfci outlet on the inverter. Not any more difficult than hooking up to shore power in a RV park. (Actually, much easier, when you consider it's probably 1/2 the weight, or less, of the 50AMP cord supplied with our Bighorns.) I think the conversion to a sub-panel could be a lengthy task, not to mention expensive. Having the option to switch some outlets from shore power or inverter power would add more cost, if that is even possible. And lastly, there is the WF - wife factor. If I split the outlets, I can guarantee I would hear "How come you put THAT outlet on the INVERTER (or SHORE POWER)???? Just kidding, dear!!

porthole
05-29-2014, 10:16 AM
Depending on my inverter a bit for this week. We are at Dover Speedway for the upcoming race. We use a mix of the onboard genset, Honda 3000IS and a xantrex 1800 inverter (auto transfer switch style).

xantrex customer service stinks and I have been in contact with them several times with this unit. The battery voltage the inverter reads is consistently .6 to .8 volts less then actual battery voltage. That causes a problem when the inverter shuts down due to low battery voltage yet you still have plenty of reserve in the bank.

I am running several dedicated outlets on the inverter:
Garage - one outlet on each side, feeding a Dometic ice maker, Dometic cooler - freezer, charger for Dyson stick vac and a Verizon broadband router.
Main TV cubby feeding a 32" LCD and DirecTV DVR
Bedroom TV cubby, 27" LCD abd DirecTV Genie
Basement, an outlet for the DirecTV power inserter.

Obviously not everything is on at the same times and the 1800 has been sufficient - so far.

We can watch SAT TV while on the inverter and since it is the auto transfer style it allows switching between generators or shore power with no power interruption. Good for devices that reset every time you lose power (SAT TV).

The inverter did shut down the other night though due to the "battery voltage" issue. In addition to the normal stuff we also had 2 Fantastic Fan portables running all night.
A voltage check in the morning showed 12-12.1 volts with digital meters at the batteries, .01 volt less at the inverter input and the inverter display read 11.4 volts, so, in shut down.

KitKat
06-05-2014, 08:37 AM
I have no shore power where my trailer is parked so I went with solar panels (and a back up generator). Basically, it is two 50 watts panels (total 100 watts) that charge two deep cycle batteries with a charge controller to prevent over charging and a 600 watt inverter. We don't watch TV or run microwaves and vacuums so this setup works for me.

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chrissands
09-28-2014, 10:33 AM
I tend to agree with on the Pure Sine Wave aspect of an inverter. Back in the day,when there weren't as many electronics devices being power by an inverter, MSW (modified sine wave) was generally sufficient. PSW (Pure Sine Wave) Inverters cost significantly more. The price gap has narrowed some, and you can get a better deal on a PSW unit if you only go with an "inverter" instead of an "inverter/charger"

Some electronics don't play well on MSW power. I remember that Dewalt cordless tool battery chargers would usually "smoke test" when plugged in to MSW.

With all the electronics we power these days, if a person can afford it, I too would recommend a PSW inverter... and highly recommend an inverter/charger. Why? The charger section in the combo units is a 3 stage charger, which will charge the batteries much faster when you are relying on generator as a power source. The benefit being that you don't have to run the generator as long to charger the batteries as you would if using the "converter" (charger) that RV Factories install.
installing a combo unit can be quite a bit more complicated though, so another option is a standalone 3 stage charger.

tampabikeracer
02-25-2015, 02:01 PM
Where are the wires?

I decided to run the solar panel supply into the vent provided for the washer/dryer. The vent drops down between the (front) closet and the wall separating the closet and the dresser in the bedroom. We don't use the washer/dryer, even if we did, I think you could still use that, as I came out of the vent a good foot or more above where the washer/dryer water drain T's in.

The photos attached are looking through the left set of drawers in the dresser. Drawers are removed, and I (temporarily) removed the roller bars that support the three drawers on the left side. Then I CAREFULLY cut the panel out, exposing the vent. I sort of used what I call the Braille method of cutting, reaching in and feeling around, looking for pipe, and avoiding any electrical wiring present. You can see a very light colored panel at the bottom of the dresser - I may have to cut into that as well to properly run the wires into the basement. There is a string emerging from the black pipe - runs up and out the vent on the roof. I'll use the string to pull the wires that will connect to the charge controller up, then run the rest of the wires down into the basement to connect to the charge controller. Exact path - to be determined!

Right now, I have one 6 volt battery in the door side compartment, underneath the hydraulic pump. Second 6 volt battery in the front compartment, and battery cables pass through the wall behind the hydraulic pump. I plan to move the battery located in the door side compartment, to set next to the battery in the front compartment. There is a wall between the front compartment, and what many of us call "the basement", which is the main storage area, with access doors on both sides of the RV. The charge controller and the inverter will both mount on the wall, inside "the basement", and wires will pass through the wall and hook up to the battery.

Originally, I had considered mounting all controls above the AC outlet seen above the dresser. I decided I would not need the charge controller there - it would be better to locate the controller in the basement, and once I am accustomed to how it all works, probably hardly ever need to refer to that controller. So the controller for the inverter, and the Trimetic battery monitor will get mounted above the AC outlet.

KEN - if the cheapy charge controller dies, I more than likely will go with a Morningstar. I would go with a Magnum inverter, being made in the USA and all, but WOW, are they proud of those! Lastly, I can't be convinced to upgrade to AGM, but that is just MHO, and nothing more!

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Very nice write up on your installation. I'm planning on buying a new Landmark Newport and want to do a large amount of boondocking, so solar is a must. I, too, have followed the sites of Jack Meyer and Handy Bob. There's also lots of information on Technomadia's website. My question to you is how did you know exactly where the washer vent was? Did you just trace it down from the roof? I think I'd be really nervous to go cutting into my new coach's wall! lol Thanks!

skyguy
02-25-2015, 05:29 PM
Thanks for the kudos!

In my 3670RL, the washer hookup is located in the front closet (very front end of the RV) on the passenger side. AS I recall, there was a small access panel on that closet wall. The vent WASN'T behind that access panel (of course), but I could see it located slightly to the rear of the access panel. I also used the window in the master bedroom, again located on the passenger side, as a point to measure FROM. I dropped a weighted string down from the washer vent, over the outside wall, from the roof, (assuming the vent went straight up), and figured out how far forward of the window the vent was located. I also measured how far away from the outside wall the vent was. That told me about where the vent SHOULD be.

Then I took drawers out of our "dresser", and that gave me access to the wall that covered the vent and washer pipes. (Now I am working from inside the bedroom, and inside the dresser, not in the closet.) I felt I could cut out pieces of the wall, and not worry too much about it, since this part of the wall was hidden by the built in dresser. I made sure my initial cuts were a small distance from where the pipes were - I didn't want to cut up the pipes!! Since there is an exposed AC outlet above the left end of the dresser, I made sure to disconnect any AC or battery before I started cutting! I used a jig saw, and cut a small hole, then enlarged that once I knew "where to go"!!

Hope this helps. More questions???

Al

tampabikeracer
02-25-2015, 07:48 PM
Thanks for that detailed reply. Now I can see a way to get the cabling from the roof down to the battery compartment. My vent is on the street side of the coach, but I'm sure the same technique will work there, too. By the time I install my solar, make my water manifold, and have MORryde install my IS, I'm gonna know my rig inside and out!