I work for EXPLORIST.life, which is the go-to resource for DIY campers on YouTube! We also sell DIY electrical kits which provide everything you need to wire your own system, from the solar panels and inverters down to the heat shrink and mounting hardware. We are currently planning/designing a smaller, compact, all-in-one style boxed system geared more towards the Overlanding community like yourselves (I am also a GFC owner). The system would be much more sophisticated and powerful than say an EcoFlow or GoalZero but not as extensive as most of the systems we are typically installing in camper vans or RVs. Would love to get some ideas and feedback from you all in terms of what you would like to see in this type of system. Or from the members in this group who I’ve seen building their own systems, what didn’t you like or what would you change in your current setup? I will be installing the final product in my GFC when it is all said and done, so I will be sure to share our progress along the way and we will have YouTube content on this as well.
@Hawaiiantyle13 Awesome to see someone from that website on this forum! I used your wire/fuse calculator to assist in finishing up my wiring. I think it would be neat to see both a portable or fixed system.
As for portable, a way to plug in solar, some usb/cig ports, and voltmeter I would see as bare minimum. Seems like most guys with a fixed system use solar, lights upstairs/downstairs and then usb/cig for fridge and other accessories.
Would be awesome if y’all could provide wiring diagrams for these style setups like you do for rv/vans! I’ll provide a basic diagram of what I did to assist with any other ideas your looking for!
I paid for plans from Explorist Life on my GFC build. The plans and their videos were super helpful. Honestly, I think it took me longer to figure out how to tile print the plans via the free Adobe reader software on my computer (in the print menu, it’s called poster now). Figuring out the plans was easier.
I didn’t use their parts store though. I got my Victron and Battery stuff through Battleborn. I think when I was ordering stuff, it was right in the middle of all the Covid supply chain problems and a couple components I needed were out of stock. I’m sure it’s all sorted now.
Whoever you order thru though, get it from someone that will help update/pre-program the Victron stuff if you can. Saves a lot of headaches. This photo was when I was just trying to figure out how I was going to lay things out. the photo doesn’t show the 2nd battery I have. The black box on the left is the ac/dc progressive pd4100 distribution panel. That’s where you’ll wire in all your 12volt dc lights, cigarette lighter socket outlets, usb ports, etc. I got their smallest one.
I forgot to say, I mostly did the system above so I could power my Dometic cfx3 35liter cooler. It consumes about 20-30amps/day at ~12volts just keeping things cold (maintaining). It pulls a max of 7amps if it has to cool things down (like if I do a beer run). My battery bank of 200 amp hours gives me plenty of boondocking time, and I usually drive enough during the week to keep the batteries happy, because the system above adds 30amps (at 14.4 volts) when I’m driving. I have a heavy and bulky 200 watt portable solar panel that doesn’t even add half of that in the best conditions (11-12amps), and I don’t like sitting around on sunny days recharging my batteries. Maybe I’m paranoid, but I worry someone might steal it if I go off biking/hiking. I also have a fixed 100 solar panel, but I usually park in the shade when camping. It’s mostly there to keep the batteries topped off when it’s parked at home.
Finally, the 2000 watt inverter and 2nd battery is overkill for what i need for the cooler, but it lets me run a corded chainsaw and some kitchen gadgets. Definitely a splurge, but I plan on doing some 1-2 month long overlanding/road trips, so having some cooking luxuries gets easier to justify.
Love the feedback so far! Our store really has only been up and running since the beginning of this year so I forgive you for not getting components and parts from us But now we are fully outfitted and settled into our new warehouse in Steamboat Springs, CO.
Just to get the ideas flowing a little more, I’ll share a few details about the specs we are currently looking at. For those who don’t know, we are partnered and work closely with only the best, Victron and Battleborn, so our systems are designed with those components.
200-300Ah battery bank (with battery add-on capability)
1200-2000 watt inverter (possibly dual 1200w)
Roof mounted and ground deploy solar array MPPT inputs
30A DC-DC charging input
15A AC charging input
All quick connect input connections for portability
Standard 120v and 12v outlets (cig and usb)
We will definitely create wiring diagrams and cut lists for our final product(s) like we do for our other projects.
Sorry for any confusion, the system is all done and working. I just like that layout photo above because it’s easier to see the components I used. The tricky bit in my build was leaving an aisle to fit a bike inside when I want. My Ranger is the 6ft bed, extended cab.
Woodworking slideshows on the boxes are here, but not everyone has a woodworking shop or my tools. I think using plastic tool storage boxes is also a smart way to do it, or paying you guys to do the 80/20.
I’m also happy with how my solar panel/ wind fairing turned out. Photos here If you guys are into 80/20, you might like what I did with 20/20, which is similar, just smaller.
The video above doesn’t show everything you need to know, and I’m sure I said something stupid/wrong in the video, so don’t build your system off what i did. I did kind of talk about how your positive, negative wires need to be the same length and how you should have the positive start in one corner of the battery bank, and the negative in the other corner. Go to the professionals for help Explorist Life. Their youtube channel is here, EXPLORIST life - DIY Campers - YouTube
I do kind of wish my distribution panel’s wires were a bit beefier to hookup to the bus bar, but the wires are short, so I’m probably just being paranoid. And when I’m talking about WAGO connectors, i mean these. https://a.co/d/eRtQ96G the ones I linked are for 12-24 awg gauge wire. Which is probably what you want for wiring in DC lights, outlets, usb ports and stuff.
I want a simple system that allows me to use AGM under the hood for starting, possibility of keeping my current underhood dual battery system (both AGM with a RedArc BCDC thing), and add a lithium 100ah in the back as a house battery.
The original plan was the second underhood battery is house battery but it is not good enough to power up my heater or run the fridge for very long. Since it’s already installed and wasn’t cheap - wondering if I can just keep 'er as is and tie in a second dual battery system.
Seems like if I just ran right off the primary battery with a second fuse and essentially repeated the DCDC charger to a different battery with the proper voltage specified that I could end up with a dual - dual battery system.
Looking for advice - don’t want to buy expensive stuff that doesn’t work and don’t want to burn the car down.
I’ve got an 80AH AGM as my starter/house and I’ve been able to run my heater for 12+ hrs and easily started the truck in ~20° weather. Usually brings me to about 12.5v. I haven’t tried heater and fridge but usually when it’s cold enough to need a heater, a fridge isn’t needed. I also have a 175w panel on the roof to catch any sun rays.
More testing is needed as I am still installing the heater (last weekend’s project but waiting on a couple more parts) - but 3 times I went to test the heater it started the glowplug warming and then kicked a battery voltage error. Battery is relatively new (year or two, not too much usage). Could be a bad battery. Could be undercharged - but I have had similar issue with the Dometic fridge when the battery was first installed. Runs for a couple hours then the volts start to drop into danger zone. Also don’t totally plan to use both at same time - just similar issues.
Those diesel heaters tend to draw a lot of power at startup. I usually start the truck for a couple minutes while the heater turns on and gets to temp to keep the battery topped off. I’d also make sure you have thick enough gauge wire ran to those accessories to prevent voltage drop. You may need to size up, check out explore.life; they have a great calculator for it!
6awg from house battery to panel in back. Voltage is there. With truck running, heater starts up great and after initial draw, no problem. Just seems like one of the few items I have that will regularly draw power is too much for my system so might want to upsize the AH a bit.
Just kicking around ideas - not opposed to running the truck for 5-10 minutes while it starts up and then letting the isolated battery handle it from there.
Wonder if you just need something to convert the battery’s voltage to be closer to 12v When I wire 12volt stuff, it goes to a circuit in my distrubution panel first, and the panel does voltage regulation. There’s this cheaper gizmo, but I don’t know how well they work https://a.co/d/3yXgQCD