How to add an inverter, satellite and other comforts (or how to be more like the big boys!)


About a month ago I purchased a new Edge M22. We've actually been pretty happy with it, but since every other RV I have owned in the past was either a full-fledged motorhome or a fifth wheel, I admit to missing some of the typical things found on bigger coaches...

Most of all (since we enjoy dry camping) I missed having the typical inverter, bigger battery bank, genset, etc. that support comfortable camping (I like my wilderness with all the comforts of home!).

So, I decided to try and make my Edge a bit more like it's big brother by completing some modifications. Since budget was an issue (and space/weight as well) I did have to make some compromises, but I think overall I was able to end up with a fair amount of enhanced livability at a fairly low cost.

In case it's helpful to others, here's what I ended up doing (after quite a bit of head-scratching and shopping for the right parts). Pictures follow at the end of the text:

1) I upgraded the battery bank by adding a 2nd Interstate (marine-type) battery and the appropriate cabling. Total cost = $100 +/-.

2) Because I did not like the looks, safety or anti-theft aspects of having exposed batteries sitting on the battery tray I also added two standard battery boxes and new (longer) straps. However, since the space is so tight, I had to "hack off" the side handles on both boxes - which allowed them to just fit on the tray and under the front cap. I was not thrilled with this "kludge", but it actually works fine and you can't really even see the cut off ends as they are recessed under the cap anyway. Total cost = $12 for the 2 cases (walmart), + $4 for a pair of new straps (harbor freight).

3) I also missed having a disconnect switch that would allow me to totally shut down the trailer and be sure the batteries would not be drained by parasitic loads when parked and unplugged. So, I obtained a marine style disconnect switch (Camping World $25) and an extra battery cable ($5 walmart) and than rewired the battery bank so that the new switch breaks the circuit on the red (positive) side between the battery bank and the lead going into the trailer to power all the 12 volt items. This switch was mounted inside the front (pass thru) storage bay on the front wall (for more details see pix and description of inverter install below) where it is behind lock and key to keep it clean looking and tamper proof. The switch now controls all 12 volt power leaving the battery bank except for the power jack I added (see below) which I left wired direct so that I don't have to take the time to "power up" before hitchin' up (as I figured it's pretty unlikely that anyone is going to run down the battery playing with it).

4) Next I tackled the lack of an inverter. After carefully considering various "simple" solutions, and even trying a few out, I concluded that it was really a pain to use the plug and play type, that doing so would always involve unsightly wires inside my coach, and that the quality/quantity of power produced was both marginal and also not very efficient (wasting too much battery reserve on the conversion). My solution was to go to a "whole house" type inverter with a permanent installation. This cost a bit more, and was more work, but it created a very clean install with no exposed wiring and also allowed me to use a pure sine wave inverter (which is not absolutely necessary but guarantees that there will be no problems running whatever type of gadgets you want).

Due to cost and the limited size of my battery bank I went with a 600 watt (steady) / 1200 watt (peak) invertor - I really would have liked to get the 1000 watt one but just couldn't justify spending almost twice as much for it. The inverter investment was only $200 (Camping World) this way. I went with a Xantrex Prowatt SW which seems to be very well built, has a great rep, and was by far the best value I found. However, be aware that you need more than just an inverter to do this right: First, you need some massive #0 cables - don't settle for lighter weight ones as you'll waste a lot of your battery power on resistance if you do - and in my case 3' long was the shortest I could possibly make work. For awhile these stymied me - custom made ones were close to $200 a pair, stock ones were too light and I was getting really frustrated. But, I finally found just what I needed by searching for "inverter cables" not "battery cables" - my friends at Amazon fixed me up with a perfect pair for less than $50! The next challenge was the very heavy fuse that was needed, and how to hook it up with these heavy cables as I did not want to buy a third expensive cable. Once again I found the solution at Amazon - I was able to purchase an ANL fuse holder in a weatherproof holder that is designed to clamp onto #0 cable directly (just $10), and paired in with an appropriately sized ANL fuse link ($4/pair at Amazon).

With all the parts in hand, it was relatively simple to cut the red cable with bolt cutters, cut back the installation, and than "splice" the fuse holder into the positive line using the built-in cable clamps. I than installed the fused cables between the inverter and the battery bank (note that they run directly to the batteries, not thru the disconnect switch, as I wanted minimal resistance and no electrical interference and the inverter has it's own switch anyway). Finally, I ran a very heavy ground wire from the inverter grounding post (I actually stripped a lugged conductor from an old stove power cord so this was $0) to the factory supplied frame ground screw below the hitch.

If you take a look at the pictures you can see pretty much how I ran the cables so that they are hidden, protected and as short as possible - in a nutshell, the inverter gets mounted on the front wall of the storage compartment directly behind the battery bank; the cables feed thru small holes drilled through the wall on each side of the inverter (so that they line up close to the red and black sides of the battery bank) in a location that can be reached from below the trailer and that is behind the hollow front cap; the holes get carefully caulked; and the cable eyes get terminated on the battery and inverter posts. Once everything is run, the fuse holder gets mounted to the wall below the inverter; the cables get clamped down and all the connections are double-checked. If all looks good, just insert a fuse in the holder, button that up as well and give it a smoke test!

With all this done I added the final piece of the puzzle by clamping a 30 amp to 20 amp adaptor ($7 walmart) to the compartment wall so that it runs over to near the compartment door. This allows you to simply run your shore cable from the back of the trailer to the front (hidden underneath) and plug it directly into the adaptor coming off of the inverter. When you do so, you'll have 110 volt power present at any standard electrical outlet in the trailer (just like the big boys) - so no need to run extension cords, etc. or power only certain gadgets - they all will work just like at home (subject to power limits of course - you obviously should not try to run the A/C or any large heat generating appliance - check the watts/amps before using it on inverter power). Best of all, you don't need any expensive transfer switch, and it's impossible to fry the electrical by being plugged into shore power with the inverter feeding the circuits as well since there is only one shore cord, and it can only be plugged into one or the other! And, doing it this way there is no need to even touch any interior electrical, the breaker box, etc. so no chance of issues arising from messin' around with the factory stuff.

My final touch was to install a remote control panel for the inverter - it just plugs right in and uses a "telephone" type cord which can be easily fished from the front compartment into the trailer interior, and thus allows you to turn the inverter on and off as needed without going outside (which saves the little bit of stand by power it consumes when idling).

5) Now that I had good, stable, convenient power I was bale to tackle the most important gadget of all - satellite TV (yes, I'm addicted). I added a low-power drawing 22" flatscreen, and bought an additional plain vanilla HD Dish receiver to keep in the trailer (more convenient) and also because all my home receivers are HD DVR units which are very prone to issues from vibration and which draw way more power (due to hard drives). These two run great now off the inverter and will operate for many, many hours this way.

I feed the receiver with a portable dish. After trying out a standard dish, I ended up opting for the new Wingard MP1 (Camping World $200) which works great, packs up small, and is totally hassle-free compared to the mess I had before. My final headache was that you can't use the built in cable to hook up the dish to the receiver, and I hated the idea of running a cable out the window or something. So, I went inside the corner cabinet the TV sits on, drilled a small hole in the floor, ran a coax cable thru it and clamped the connector behind the side wall exterior trim, beneath the floor. The other end of the cable runs thru existing grommets/holes and right into the receiver. Now I can just run the dish cable right into the new connector and have it installed quickly, and with no dangling wires. Finally, I hooked up the built in antenna to the Dish receiver, and the TV as well - and I now get my satellite channels and the over-the-air channels with auto switching, no AC shore power requirement and no need to run the genset. So, I'm a happy couch potato!

6) Even with the inverter I really felt like I needed a genset - mostly for battery re-charging, A/C use when in the boonies, and things like the coffee maker that will quickly kill my battery bank. I did not see any good way to build one in, so I went with the usual choice and bought the Honda 2000i ($1000 Camping World). I would have like to have the 3000i, but it was too heavy and too pricey for me to justify. This generator is sweet - starts with half a pull every time, and is pretty quiet too boot.

7) I also added a power hitch jack. Great investment - it makes it sooooo much easier to hitch and un-hitch. It is wired directly into the battery bank (not through the disconnect switch) for convenience sake.

That pretty much covers my changes so far - in the future I plan to swap out all the 12 volt incandescent lights for LED ones (to cut battery drain), and maybe try to squeeze in 6 volt golf cart batteries instead of the 12 volt marine ones (to gain more reserve power).

Hope these tips will help others to upgrade as well - and not have as much trouble as I did figuring out the right parts and methods.

Happy trails!

Pictures showing the above work:



Well-known member
You need to remember to turn off the AC breaker for the power convertor when using your inverter. Otherwise, your battery will be discharging trying to charge itself, and using up some of the capacity of the inverter.