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RV Update / Upgrade Thread

I had mentioned on one of my threads (Purchasing 46.5 Acres Near Kingman, AZ) that I had the inverter/charger fail on the RV while camping. Its a Prosine 2.0 made by Xantrex and lasted about 15 years so I can't complain. I purchased a new unit from Xantrex and its being shipped. Most of the camping I do is dry or boondocking. RV has 600 watt solar system along with the inverter so it does very well for extended stays off grid. I pulled the old unit out and don't like the way the batteries are wired, so I think that's going to be a redo and relocation of half of them. RV is a 35' Class A that is a very well maintained 18 years old.
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The batteries for the system are 4 GS2 group size or golf cart batteries. I am upgrading to AGM's because they last twice as long, charge faster, discharge slower and have no maintenance. They are still heavy mothers though, about 65 pounds each. The current set up which was not installed by me has the inverter/charger in the storage compartment directly in front of the entry door, where most of the electronics are located. Good protected spot. There are two batteries in the entry step well, along with the chassis battery. There are two more in the storage compartment directly behind the step well. What I don't like about that is all the weight of the batteries is all in one spot, on one side. I also don't like how it was wired. I am going to relocate the batteries in the storage compartment to the driver side storage compartment directly across from the step well. It will even out the weight distribution, and free up valuable storage real estate since that is one of the few compartments you can easily access with the slides out. That part should be relatively simple; get a new battery box that is in line instead of side by side, mount it and install the batteries.

The wiring should be simple as well. The current set up has one in line 300 amp fuse that is located in the step well. The batteries in the step well connect to that fuse lug with a very short length of 4/0 welding wire, all good. The batteries in the storage compartment connect to that same lug with about a 4-5' length of same type/gauge wire that runs along with the main wiring harness for the coach. Not so good as there is nothing to protect that section of wire from shorting. From the 300 amp fuse is another 5-6' length of same type/gauge wire that goes to the inverter. Also not so good as there is nothing to protect that section of wire from shorting and frying the inverter. To make it much safer, there should be two more 300 amp in line fuses, one at the other set of batteries and one just before the inverter. The wiring from both battery locations should meet at that fuse with a short length of wire to the inverter. The relocated batteries will have the wiring inside the storage area, since its a full width pass through type compartment. I can use the existing wiring from the step well battery location that already goes to the inverter location for that half.

I found everything on eBay, can't believe how much wire has gone up in the past few months. $4 a foot for 4/0.
 



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Those bars do have a torque setting and you can get a square bit adapter to fit a typical 3/8 or 1/4 torque wrench. I always wiggle wires like this as I tighten them.
 



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I had the RV outbox my Arizona property for 2 weeks dry camping and everything worked very well. I left the inverter on for several days straight and it doesn't run down the batteries when there is no load on it. It runs the microwave and movie nights just fine.

The only issue I noticed with this inverter/charger is there is no way to turn off the charge function. If it's getting shore power, it's charging. The way the system is wired (and its wired correctly), shore or generator power comes into the main fuse panel, then is directed to the inverter/charger through a 20 amp circuit. The wiring for the outlets, fridge, media and microwave come off that same circuit when there is shore power, because they go through the inverter. If it's charging at bulk, it's pulling too many amps. It will run the fridge but not the microwave. Pop's the 20 amp circuit. I think I'm going to call Xantrex one more time to see if they have a workaround that would be worth the trouble.

Solar panels charged the batteries to 12.7 volts every day, peak it charges at about 13.5. Next project with the RV (hopefully) will be new solar panels. It currently has 5 120 watt flexible panels with a 1/2" air gap taped to the roof with Eternabond. I don't think they charge as efficiently as they should. I am waiting for the price on 200 watt standard panels to drop a little more, then the plan is to use 3 of them to replace the 5 120 watt panels. If I'm out for an extended stay I can tilt them into the sun.

Overall, I'm pleased with how it all works for now.
 






Camped on the Arizona property for 18 days last month and everything worked great. Solar charged up the batteries even with the sun at a low angle due to the time of year. I ran the generator a few times at the end of cloudy days to give the batteries a little boost so I could run the entertainment systems without any worry of running them down. I don't think it was necessary. My huge dog was shedding like crazy. I would brush him two twice daily and the RV would still have dog hair all over after 4-5 days. I have a small canister vacuum in the RV, but it couldn't handle Ranger's hair. I bought a cheap upright small vacuum at WalMart and ran the vacuum every three days to stay on top of the hair. A couple times I used the inverter to run the vacuum just to see if it could handle it and it worked fine. It would push the batteries down to under 12 volts, but after the vacuum was off they would go back up. The rest of the time I ran the generator when cleaning.

As far as the issue I brought up in the previous post, I just don't run the microwave with the generator on until the inverter goes off the initial high charge rate. Or, I just flip off the breaker so the inverter isn't getting power.

The AGM batteries really hold a charge. I ran the microwave just about every evening, sometimes for 7-8 minutes at a time. It would draw the batteries down to 11 volts at the lowest, but they would bounce back to over 12 after I was finished cooking. 200 watt solar panels are almost to the point of being worth the money to purchase, but I decided to not mess with anything I don't have too until I get farther along with the new house.
 






I haven't updated this in a while. Still haven't pulled the trigger on new solar panels because the prices keep dropping and mine are acceptable for now.

I've been working on upgrading the communications. I looked into Starlink RV, but the monthly fee is too high. It would be acceptable if I was a full-time RV'er. I've had a Weebost Drive X RV cell phone signal booster for a few years
It doesn't work very well stationary. It's limited by FCC regulations. I have to hold the phone against the antenna just to text or have a conversation. Downloads time out most of the time, no streaming. When I bought it, a tech at Wilson tried to explain to me how much more powerful the stationary unit is, but I didn't want to deal with set up and take down. Costly mistake.

I spent some time the past few weeks looking at stationary boosters, watching videos, and speaking with tech support people. Ended up ordering the Weboost Destination RV stationary unit. It has a antenna mounted on a 25' tall telescoping pole, then a multi-room house booster, then a internal antenna that claims to project many times more signal strength than my current mobile unit. 5G compatable. I ordered off Amazon for the easy returns and free shipping. I'll have 30 days to return it for free. Plenty of time to see if it works on the Arizona property, since I'll be heading there the middle of the month. If it doesn't work out, I can return it through any UPS store in Kingman. I rarely make or take phone calls while in motion, so will either sell the old booster or maybe move it into the Explorer. Big maybe because there is enough stuff in there already, and the antenna would have to be folded down unless being used or it wouldn't last very long on the roof.

I know there is a strong signal just a few hundred yards up and behind the property. I have a nice "sitting rock" that I walk up to in the mornings to make phone calls, look at the news, and of course check Explorerforum.com, and just enjoy the views. Hopefully with the antenna 25' up it will be able to grab that.
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I already figured out the best way to install the booster "dry" to make sure it will work for me before hard mounting anything. I'll report back, hopefully while streaming data through the booster.

Amazon orders and digital music. I've gotten in the habit of ordering one item that will take a few days to ship, then ordering the rest of the stuff I need in several orders, or bunching smaller stuff together, to have it arrive the same day as the first order. Amazon gives credit for their music download store. Got $12 yesterday and $6 today doing that. That's almost two complete albums in the download store

Edit: I did have to get new tires for the RV last time I was in Kingman. They are about 25% cheaper than in San Diego, no reason, just California. Michelins were showing hairline sidewall cracks and 12 years old. They are the only manufacturer that makes a 235/80/22.5 tire. Toyo makes a soft ride RV tire in 245/75/22.5, which is what I bought. They are $200 less a tire, X6. Can't tell the difference between them when the tires are mounted and next to each other. Little more width, little less sidewall. They ride very smooth. I messed around with the pressure on the way to San Diego. They rode the best at the recommended 90 PSI listed on Toyo's chart, 5 more than the Michelin's. It's tricky with Class A coaches and tire pressure. A few pounds of pressure can cause the steering to be very twitchy or mushy.
 






I stopped a few times on the way out to Arizona to mess with the tire and airbags pressure. I figured out it drives the best with 90PSI in the front tires, 95 in the duals, with 45 in the front air bags and 100 in the rear bags. I was getting some wander, which is usually from the rear so I added pressure to the tires and bags until it went away. Twitchy or sluggish steering is all front tire pressure related. 85 was sluggish, 95 was way too twitchy.

I spent a few hours installing the pole mounted cell phone signal booster this morning. It's very picky about the way the antennas are orientated. I set it up in multiple spots getting the red light of Doom (or in this case oscillation) from the booster. I ended up strapping it to the front awning pole, running the cable underneath the coach and into through the slide rubber. Have the internal antenna in the dinette corner. Works. Getting a good enough signal to upload pictures and have a mobile hot spot. Haven't tried Netflix yet.
Booster temp location. I used wire nuts and a charge plug on the 12 volt power source so if it didn't work I could return it. I'll let it run for at least a few days to make sure it all works before I modify anything. I'm thinking the only modification I'll make is using soldier connectors on the plug wiring for this trip.
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Inside antenna. Cable is behind the cushions, then behind the couch over to the booster.
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The outside pole has mounting tabs that stick onto the side of the coach. I don't see that being practical since it has to be moved all over to find a spot for it to work. I have a alternate spot for the pole, I can strap it to the side of the roof ladder in the back, run the cable under to the back of the slide. It should work if the nearest cell tower is in the opposite direction.
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The pole collapses down to about 7'. Need to find a traveling spot for it that won't be in the way if I'm not using it. I think it will fit somewhere in the basement pass through storage.
 






Tried streaming Netflix with a mobile hot spot. I think the streaming interferes with the booster. Got a red light on the booster and it stopped streaming after a few minutes. I set my phone on the dash directly under the TV and it went green and started streaming again. So it works.
 






Watched a few movies on Netflix last night using the phone as a mobile hot spot. Uploading pictures is a little slow. I'm outside the RV posting this so it's working better than expected.
 






The telescoping pole for the outside antenna on the signal booster has some type of twist lock to lock out the sections. It doesn't work very well. Last night in the wind, it unlocked itself and two section collapsed. No damage except loss of signal. I left alone until today, because it was icy rain and very windy, and when I looked the pole was iced over. Brrrr

The sun came out, melted most of the snow in about an hour. I pulled the pole down and locked the sections as hard as I could turn them. I wrapped the joints in a few layers of gaffers tape to hopefully keep them from untwisting. That stuff won't leave very much residue. If that works, when I'm home I'll look into a more permanent solution, maybe set screws.
 






The gaffers tape has been keeping the pole sections from twisting and then unlocking. Have had a good signal, good enough to stream Netflix and post pictures on explorerforum.com. I couldn't download or even check emails with the old booster so it's a vast improvement.

Within five feet or so of the inside antenna I'm getting -85dBm, but sitting on the couch it's-112dBm. I can receive and send text messages in the bedroom, and even outside the coach.
 






Interesting issue I've noticed with the signal booster. The status indicator on the booster goes red as the sun is coming up. Sun comes up in same direction as the outside antenna is pointed, which is at the nearest cell tower. Red signifies interference. It has done the same thing every morning, even if it's cloudy, then goes back to green after about 30 minutes. Rising sun must interfere with the signal somehow.
 






It’s normally not an issue, but with a booster all of the interference is magnified with the signal, which will include direct sun rays.
 






at least with satellites sometimes energy fro sun can overpower its signal. the heat when the satellite passes in front of the sun is large amount of thermal noise, so it cannot distinguish between sun signal and satellite signal. id speculate this is similiar. based on beam width location and bandwidth that can affect when these things occur. soemtimes it could just be interference other times outages if its that indistinguishable
 






Thanks. It's not the device, it's the sun.

I was thinking about the twist lock and how to keep them from unlocking in the wind we get here. There are more windy days than otherwise. Tape is a temp solution, but it works. Set screws won't work, as the sections would have to lock into the exact same spot every time to line up the holes.

Was thinking about some type of rubber straps that are easy to remove and install. Looking for other options. Anybody, Buehler, anybody??

Another option I have been considering is making my own pole. Something that the sections screw, or otherwise lock together. This way, I could add say one more section to make it 30' tall, if I ever am in a place where I would need a little more height. It might also make it easier to set up with a taller pole, to separate the antennas by height, instead of combined vertical and horizontal distance (they need to be at least 25' apart). Would need to be in no more than 7.5' long sections to easily store then in the RV basement storage. It would also need to be as light weight as possible, yet not very flexible.
 






Thanks. It's not the device, it's the sun.
yeah im pretty sure its the sun interference and that issue is amplified since its a booster. probably sun energy overpowers cell tower energy, but dunno. are they on similiar frequencies? id have to do more digging
 






No reason to try to figure out the why, since the what was all I was concerned about. Unless you just have to know.
 






No reason to try to figure out the why, since the what was all I was concerned about. Unless you just have to know.
ahh ok :thumbsup: i like knowing the why, but ill do that on my own time, not on EF ;)
 






The more I think about the pole for the booster and it's issue of unlocking, I think the best solution is to use gaffers tape when setting it up. It appears to be just enough to keep the sections from wiggling lose. This has been the test trip. It's currently 37 degrees, high winds, lots of freezing rain and snow flurries. Actually seeing a little water running in the big wash.

The solar panels are not working as well as they should. I have five 120 watt ebay panels. They worked great for a few years, but I end up running the generator for 30-45 minutes towards the end of the day to charge the batteries. Looking at three Renogy 200 watt panels, since the prices have dropped recently. Need to do some research into new panels, cost versus output.
 






I mentioned in an earlier post that my eBay flexible solar panels were failing. Unless the sun was high in the sky, they were not sending any power to the controller on my last trip. I decided to go back to rigid panels for durability and they are better suited to being on the roof of a RV. The flexible panels are meant to be mounted directly to the roof, which means no air gap. I made an 1/2" air gap with some plastic I had and that super-duper RV two-sided tape. It will be a pain to remove, but I figure I can use a heat gun, get off what I can and just pretend the rest isn't there, or tape over it, since it's a roof and I won't see it unless I go up there. I currently have five "120 watt" panels, which never put out more than ten amps total, so they are not even close to their stated output.

In any case, I did some research and was either going with Renogy or HQST. Watching several reviews, they are the same panels, same output, same warranty, same everything. HQST is $40 less each for their 190-watt panels. I ordered two HQST panels, new mounts, all new wiring, new breakers and connectors for the solar to the controller and the controller to the batteries. I am using 10/2 tinned O2 free copper marine wire for the controller to battery wiring, and tinned O2 free copper solar wire for the panel to controller wiring, which is a very short run, maybe 10'. Controller to batteries should be less than 15' because I figured I can run the wire to the relocated second set of batteries, which is on that side of the coach. I already have a Renogy Wanderer 30-amp controller. I like it because all it displays are lights to tell me if its charging/working. I got enough panels to read as is. The panels wired parallel should produce a little over 20 amps peak, which should be plenty to keep my four AGM six-volt golf cart batteries charged. If not, I will add one more panel and probably have to spring for a higher amp controller.

This is the first upgrade in a few I need to do to the coach soon. One other main upgrade is I am thinking of getting a track bar for the front axle to help with the wander. It's always liked to wander, and from what I can find out doing research on-line, is the track bar is the most bang for the buck to reduce wander. I also need to get new front shocks as they are starting to bounce more than I like. I am a huge fan of the KONI FSD RV shocks. They are the only shocks that seem to work very well with heavy RV's. I will be dropping some bucks on the coach over the next month or so.
 






I figured out the Roadmaster track bar's frame side mount will want to share the same space as the front air bags, so a track bar is out. Might figure out and fab my own someday. For now, I'm going to hope the replacement shocks I'm getting through Stic-O will take care of some of the wander. If it's acceptable with the new shocks, I can forget about the track bar. There are also a couple of nifty steering stabilizers I can get for the coach, but they are in the $600 range.

The issue I am having with the inverter/charger popping the 20-amp breaker when I run it and the microwave with the generator has a simple fix, get a bigger breaker. The wiring for the microwave goes through the inverter/charger, so when the fuse pops, it uses straight battery power for the microwave and doesn't charge the batteries. Defeats the purpose of running the generator when microwaving if it's not charging the batteries or running the micro. The Xantrex instruction manual shows that it's wired correctly, but I need a larger breaker. Since the incoming to panel wiring is all 50 amp, and the wiring to and from the inverter/charger is all the orange stuff, I can use a 30-amp breaker. I'll stop by Home Depot today and pick up a new breaker. Xantrex recommends a 30-amp minimum breaker for the 3,000 watt inverter. All the other AC systems that run through the inverter/charger, besides the inverter/charger itself, are on separate 15- or 20-amp breakers. I don't run the generator for more than an hour a day, usually 30-45 minutes to top off the batteries, heat up a microwave dinner, or run the vacuum cleaner. If I turn the generator on, I let it run for at least 30 minutes just to get it up to operating temperature and give it some exercise. Keeps them happy and it's been running very well since I replaced the fuel pump last year.
 



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Parts for the solar redo have been coming in, the last item was the panels. They got delivered today. When I picked them up, I could hear the broken glass in one of the boxes. Yep, one of the two was damaged. Already initiated a return. I'm going to test the other panel before I head over to the UPS store. Now I have to wait another week for the replacement panel. Was hoping to get this finished this weekend, but nope.
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I was surprised at how heavy they are. The frames are very solid. Packaged with foam corner and side inserts in heavy cardboard. Must have really chucked it around to break one.
 






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