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 > DC power issue after installing inverter

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bchoate

Monticello, UT

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Posted: 07/26/20 09:21am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Hi everyone, first post here.

This question is in regards to an early 2000s Gulf Stream Seahawk 5th wheel RV.

I've never owned an RV myself, but I've lived in trailer that I gutted and customized with AC power, water, etc.

I was trying to help a friend get AC power to her outlets while off grid, and thought I could just connect an inverter to her battery and then run an extension cord to the shore power plug. What I didn't realize was that there is a DC converter/charger that tries to charge the battery and provides DC power while shore power is connected.

Having hooked it all up and trying it, AC and DC power were now both working, however, after turning the inverter off (after seeing a pretty big voltage drop on the battery due to the charging loop) the DC power no longer works while the inverter isn't running.

I've looked through every panel I can find, and I did locate the main fuse/breaker panel, but all of the fuses were intact, and no breakers were tripped. However, I've tested the blocks where the DC power comes to the panel and it isn't receiving any voltage.

I was able to find one point where the heavy gauge DC wiring terminates (where it connects to the hydraulic pump) and was able to find the expected voltage there, but somewhere between there and the main panel something has burned out or tripped, but I'm not able to find it.

Does anyone know the solution to this, or can you point me in the right direction?

I'm planning to call Gulf Stream tomorrow, but I thought I'd try my luck here in the mean time.

Thanks!
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WNYBob

Tonawanda, NY

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Posted: 07/26/20 09:27am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Get a Generator/Inverter and power the rig through the shore power connection. Then the converter will do its job of providing AC and DC.

bchoate

Monticello, UT

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Posted: 07/26/20 09:35am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thanks Bob,

The problem I'm trying to fix is that I'm not able to "go back" to the pre-inverter setup. When shore power is disconnected the previous DC-only setup no longer works. It seems like something is tripped or burned out and DC power is no longer reaching the main fuse block from the battery.

But it DOES work if shore power is connected. I'd like the option of being able to use that setup because inverting, then converting back to DC wastes a lot of power when off-grid and relying on solar/battery power.

time2roll

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Posted: 07/26/20 09:37am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Assuming you are trying to run on battery power only... measure the battery voltage. Then check the voltage along the path to the stack of 12v fuses. Somewhere you will find the voltage drops to zero. Tighten, clean, adjust, repair, replace the issue at that point. BTW if battery voltage is less than 12.4 get a charger on it.

Otherwise if you are plugged in you should see 120v at all the branch circuit breakers. You should also have about 13.6 volts DC coming out of the converter, 13.6 VDC at the stack of 12v fuses, and 13.6 VDC on the battery. Again poke around with your voltmeter to find the point of issue if power is not getting to all components.


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larry cad

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Posted: 07/26/20 10:00am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I’m confused, if you can plug into shore power, why do you need an inverter?


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Posted: 07/26/20 10:00am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Look for fuse or CB near the battery. Could also be wiring issue including ground.

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Posted: 07/26/20 10:10am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Your final results will vary depending upon battery capacity, inverter size and AC load. It already sounds like an inadequate battery.

It's best to start with a energy audit to determine the needs etc especially in this case the AC draw. Are you aware that an inverter will draw about 11A DC for every 1A AC produced?

And yes some use a manual setup and turn off the charger when using the inverter as you tried. Others have a automated system.

theoldwizard1

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Posted: 07/26/20 10:44am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

bchoate wrote:

I've looked through every panel I can find, and I did locate the main fuse/breaker panel, but all of the fuses were intact, and no breakers were tripped. However, I've tested the blocks where the DC power comes to the panel and it isn't receiving any voltage.

Your original concept was valid except for leaving the converter in the loop. Sounds like the converter is dead, but I am not sure why what you did killed it.

Off the top of my head, what you need are two DPDT relays and a way to turn them both on at the same time (switch).

The first relay will disconnect the converter from the AC input power when the switch is on. The second relay will switch the input to the DC distribution panel from the converter directly to the battery.

If you are not proficient doing this kind of wiring, find some one who is.

bchoate

Monticello, UT

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Posted: 07/26/20 11:31am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thanks for all the responses, everyone. I had to go haul some rocks for a bit, so I didn't catch all these responses coming in, but I'll now try to respond to everyone in turn here.

Just a quick note: Initially while testing I disconnected the inverter from the battery, and applied a charging voltage from my car's alternator, just in case there was some kind of low-voltage shutoff involved. When we gave up for the night I then disconnected the positive wire from the battery for the RV DC wiring in order to allow using the inverter with the shore power plug (now the only way DC appliances work via the converter) without the charging loop occurring.

time2roll:
That was the idea I was going with when I started troubleshooting. I followed the heavy gauge dc wires from the battery and the first place they went was to the hydraulic pump, where I was able to test and verify that it was showing the same DC voltage as the battery. However, the wiring disappears up into some kind of pocket and I haven't been able to find another place to test the voltage. I do have access to the fridge panel (which has two modes, DC/LP and AC), but it has its own fuse in the main panel, so I know that if the panel isn't getting DC current, then the fridge also won't, so testing there is unnecessary. I did see a little carpet-covered conduit box thing in the bedroom that looks like it might be carrying wires, but I assumed that what I need to find is some kind of DC circuit breaker or main fuse, and such a thing wouldn't be located in a permanently sealed location.

larry cad:
Hi Larry, I can see where the confusion is coming from. The "shore power" I'm referring to is the inverted AC power, that I'm running from the battery to the shore power plug. I now understand that it created a "charging loop" (battery > inverter > shower power plug > converter/dc charger > battery), and I think that's caused something to trip/burn out/break. I hope that helps clear it up?

CA Traveler:
Thanks, this is what I've been thinking I needed to find, however, I haven't been able to find anything like that near the battery. I'm able to trace that wires from the battery, through a wall, into a cavity where the hydraulic pump sits (voltage tests fine there), but then the wires run up into the bedroom, and I can't trace them any further. The next area I'm able to find them is the fuse/cb panel in the kitchen (other side of the RV) and test there shows no voltage (unless the inverter is running and providing shore power, which powers the DC converter/charger, which provides that DC now to the panel). I have been using my multi-meter for testing.

Regarding the battery, by the look of it, it's less than a 100ah 12 volt battery, and completely agree that it's unsufficient. I'm working with the owner on designing a solar/battery system for the tiny home she's planning to build, but in the mean time I'm just trying to repair whatever it is I screwed up. [emoticon]

theoldwizard1:
Thank you for confirming that. However, the converter is actually still working- in fact using the shore power plug with the converter is now the ONLY way that the trailer gets DC power now.
I apologize if my earlier explanation was hard to follow. The main fuse/cb panel DOESN'T read DC voltage on the blocks when relying on battery/DC alone. It DOES read DC voltage if shore power is connected and the converter/charger is powered.
There IS a hard on/off switch for the converter/charger, and if I had known prior to switching it on, what I now know, I would have flipped that switch off, prior to plugging in the inverter. :/

Thanks again for the responses everyone.

Just to clarify, what I'm REALLY trying to get assistance with at this point, is figuring out where the DC power from the battery is being interrupted. It seems like there should be some kind of fuse or DC breaker or something that's been burned out or tripped, but I've searched through every panel and storage space I can find and not seen anything like it.

Again, I HAVE located the main power panel, where the DC fuses are, as well as several power switches (I can't tell if they're just switches, or breakers) are, but the entire DC side of that panel, where the fuses are, does not receive power FROM THE BATTERY. When shore power is connected (in this case, when I turn on the inverter and plug it into the shore power plug) then that DC/fuse side of the panel DOES have power.

I hope this helps clear things up. Thanks again.

BFL13

Victoria, BC

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Posted: 07/26/20 12:11pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Is there a "battery disconnect switch" that got switched to "open" in all the excitement?

Sometimes these are mounted inside near the door.

Not everything gets shut off by that switch (LP alarm, eg) so the hydraulic pump must not be on it either if that is the problem here. Also that pump working means your "battery fuse" (or DC CB) close to the battery must be ok.

Only thing after the battery fuse and the DC panel is the battery disconnect switch, so suspect that.


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