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12 Volt DC Charging System Setup

A few years back, I installed a solar maintainer on my Starcraft pop-up camper. I thought it would be wise to add a similar system to the Sundowner.  In hindsight, 50% of the sites we visited last year did not have power in the horse area.


Knowing we needed some decent 12v charging system while off the grid, I re-implemented a similar system. This time, I chose to use a 100w panel.  I paired this with the appropriate maintainer/charge unit.  If we have any amount of daylight, we’ll be able to charge the 12v system.  This summer, we’ll be adding in 2, 12V deep cycles to keep up with lighting and device charging.   While I have decided to retro-fit the lighting to use LED, we’ll still want to charge up during the day without having to plug into Norris.


I found a great lockable enclosure at Jazz Sales to externally mount the batteries.  It appears identical to what you would find on a factory LQ model.  More details on that when I get to the installation topics.


Here are a few photos of what was added in:


I really dislike drilling thru the roof for anything. I made sure to use plenty of sealant so that nothing will leak in after the inside is finished.  To date, there has been no leakage around the wire inlet, or 4 bolt holes to hold the panel in place.  The last photo in the gallery above is just the hack job I did to get us thru the summer last year. It included the charging maintainer, load monitor and a pair of USB plugs to we can charge batteries.  I did replace the incandescent bulbs with LED to help ease the load. There was over 15A draw on the system with the LQ lights, stock lights and load lights, and there was no fuse in-line.  Going forward this summer, all of the electrical goodies will be placed in a nice enclosure/space for permanent mounting and ease of visibility.


In addition to just the maintainer and panel, I picked up a load monitor. Now we can see how much power we’re drawing and adjust if needed.  It won’t be an issue when on shore power with a 55A DC service. However, while on battery only, it will be important to keep an eye on usage.


Here is the list of parts for the 12V charging system:

There will be some more additions when we add in the 120/12v unit while on shore power, but this setup got us thru a weekend without shore power and a single 12V deep cycle.  Moving ahead, we’ll have 2 deep cycles, so without the introduction of any fans or heavy-load DC devices, there is no reason we can’t have an extended weekend off-the-grid with plenty of juice.