RV Gadgets and Tech

Some Projects Planned (Will be updating soon)

Inverter Installation

We have a  vision in our head (well, at least one of us does) of the RV always pulled up on a beach somewhere or just some amazing viewpoint with no one else around, for the whole trip.  While it’s impractical for us to completely avoid crowded RV parks and campsites with full amenities,  we will both be spending a lot of time with our laptop’s on and that means we need AC power for a good chunk of the day.   When we are at that amazing beach or viewpoint or other fantastic primitive spot with no “hook ups” where we need AC power – and to do that without running the generator all day long, it means we need two things:  Lots of 12V battery capacity and an inverter, which converts 12V DC power into 120V AC power.

Our RV came with two good sized golf cart batteries (Interstate u1800).  They are each approximately 208 amp-hours total @ 6V. Under ideal conditions, these will power a laptop for 23 or so hours (60 watts / .8 efficiency factor) / 6V = 12.5A, and you don’t want to take the batteries below ~30%, so (208Ah*2 batteries *70% capacity / 12.5Amps) = 23.3hours   So, as a starting point, I think we’re good on the battery front – although I reserve the right to upgrade later.. as always 🙂

For the inverter, I did a bunch of research and eventually happened upon this guy’s site which has basically three key messages:   Use big wire.  Get a good charger.  Don’t listen to sales people.

He also recommends there a brand of inverter that I ended up doing research on and really liked what I saw.   I ended up buying a Magnum Energy MM1512AE.  The best part about this inverter is it has high efficiency (less waste), and a fantastic 4-stage battery charger (70 amps!)

The inverter installation was fairly straightforward, a diagram of the whole system is below.

While it looks complicated, it was really a matter of deleting the existing battery charger, running AC from the transfer switch to the inverter, and sending power wires back from the inverter to a circuit in the RV that powers a few outlets.   Many thanks to my Dad Jim and my brother Sean for helping me out on this one.  Couldn’t have done it without them.

A few pictures of the inverter, cabling, and final installation are below

Internet Connectivity

Since we are both working virtually during this adventure, we wanted to ensure we had connectivity.

The primary connectivity system we are planning to use a Verizon Mi-Fi 4510L device, but we’ve installed some additional hardware to help in those hard-for-radiowaves-to-reach places.

The overall installation includes the Mifi Device, an Amplifier, and an External Antenna.

We chose verizon as they appear to have the best coverage, but in addition to high-tailing it to the nearest starbucks, we have a backup plan with AT&T to use my phone, which will operate as a WiFi hotspot.

The installation was pretty straightforward.  The antenna is mounted near the back of the RV, far enough from other roof-mounted systems.

The amplifier and mifi were mounted in the closet below the antenna.

Towbar and Braking System

Suzanne and I had a number of discussions about what type of RV to buy, we were debating the merits of a travel trailer or 5th wheel because we would be taking our car with us, but in the end, given our plan is really just for 6 months, we ended up with the decision to buy a Class A motorhome and stick a small scooter and bicycles on the back of it.

Then we remembered we had two old dogs that need to go to the vet a lot and we both have jobs that we will have to occasionally fly for.
So we decided to tow our 2000 Toyota 4Runner.  One note about tow vehicles, certain tow vehicles cannot be towed with all four wheels rolling (including our 4Runner, which required us to temporarily convert it to from 4WD to FWD)  See here for a guide as to different cars.

The next step was determining a decent tow bar and that led to some research about braking systems. There seemed to be two kinds, one which was electronic and basically used an electric motor to press on the brake pedal and the second type was “surge” style. I found a company that offered an integrated system, NSA RV Products and ended up going that route. The system they have is really really simple and quite robust in terms of construction.

Overall installation went like this:

  • Install the baseplate (about 10 minutes)
  • Install the ready brake cable the actuates the brake pedal (about 2 hours)
  • Wire the 4runner existing tail lights, including diodes (about 2 hours)
  • Install a 6″  drop receiver to make the towbar reasonably level (no time at all)
  • Remove rear driveshaft (about 10 minutes)
  • Connect tow bar to RV and car to tow bar!
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4 thoughts on “RV Gadgets and Tech

  1. Hi, what is the exact model number of the Wilson cellular amplifier that you are using with the MiFi? The link takes me to a page with a couple different options, I’d like to re-create what you have going here for myself. Thanks much!

      1. The two areas I plan on using this are 3G only zones so I’m good with duplicating what you have there. I was able to find the exact same amplifier, antenna, and MiFi you have there all on eBay for about $120 total so far. Now I’ll just need to get the adapter and antenna cables (which I’ll get new when the other parts all arrive and I verify connections & required length.)

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