The Prairie Schooner’s solar system’s interior work is going to be pretty detailed, so we will break it out into a few niblets for ease of reading.
Our plan is to have three 3-port outlets placed along the 12′ back wall of the Ford Transit Cargo Van that we are working to convert into our teeny Tiny Home.
Let’s discuss the wiring, wire, outlets and ports before we move on to the mounting of the Fuse Block, Charge Controller and Inverter, etc.
Since the van is only about 11 feel long across the back wall, the consideration for wires to handle the power will be easier and cheaper than were we powering a cabin or house. The gauge of wire needed is dictated by the length that you are moving and the power that you are stuffing through the wires!
Wire has an on-going debate about stranded or solid-core. Having worked with wire for decades, I am a fan of stranded wire for this application. I feel that there is more potential for good contact (thus, continuity) with stranded wire. Copper, of course.
There is a table that helps break down how far you can push how much power before your wires begin melting… This is a serious concern, so do NOT underestimate the values, err on the side of OVERestimating. (Note: Your measurement for length is both the positive run PLUS the negative run.)
The chart says: if we are moving our power 24′ (across the bottom) and pushing under 20 Amps (up the left), then we use as small as 10 ga wire.
We will have a couple runs that are much shorter than the 12′ maximum width of the van wall, so that will increase our power capability to 50 amps on those closer runs, and we could even (realistically, not irrationally ‘fraidy cat) go as high as 85 amps on the shortest run because we are using 10 gauge wire… Not gonna happen, but it *could*. 🙂
(Remember when I told you that you would need to know AMPs when collecting your spreadsheet data? This is one of those reasons. You need to know the amperage you are going to want to stuff through these wires.)
One spool of 100′ of 10 gauge stranded copper wire runs just under $30, Home Depot had this same wire, but it was $3 more!
I would like to run the positive in RED and the negative in BLACK. I need to pick up a second spool in black… It was late and I was tired when we grabbed the wire, and I failed to snag the second color. (If you tie into your starter battery, you can use the van’s chassis ground; if you keep your house batteries separate from the starter battery, you need to run a negative wire back to the house batteries to complete the circuit.)
We found a 12v triple outlet that has two cigarette-lighter style receptacles and one dual-USB receptacle – it is for boat or motorcycle use, but I really like the features of them. They have little dust/dirt flaps that seal off the ciggie ports that are a wonderful addition — although the same little flap for the USB ports looks like it is going to be über annoying, so we removed it. They were kind of pricey, at $22 each, but these three outlets are going to be what makes living in a van acceptable for us.
To mount these in the van, we looked around at several options. We want two of the outlets to be flanking the mattress, so we can use our cell phones as alarm clocks. One of the outlets will then be accessible to the back doors when they’re open. The mounting needs to be sturdy and secure, but also needs to be semi-pleasing aesthetically. After much hunting, and looking, and brainstorming – we found the perfect solution! We selected a PVC “LB” series Conduit Body with a removable cover. (LB means one of the holes is on the back. There is also LR and LL for right and left holes.) It is long/wide enough to house all three receptacles and has a pretty clean line that kinda-sorta looks good. They are under $5 each at Home Depot, and about three times that price on Amazon!
PVC “LB” series Conduit Body at Home Depot $5
Today, while Rock was off at work, I worked up the three outlet boxes. It was a fun, little chickie project that allowed me to spend the better part of the day hanging out on the back patio with the dogs in the warm Spring sunshine… Life is good!
I marked the covers using the original faceplate that came with the outlets. Once I had the spacing correct, I drilled a 1″ paddle bit hole. Shortly thereafter, I realized that it needed to be a 1.25″ hole, so I adjusted them with the Dremel tool. I then spray painted them with flat black Rustoleum for Plastic paint. (We just happened to have some on-hand from a previous project.) After letting them dry in the sunshine while I grabbed a much needed nap, I inserted the receptacles. I then stepped back to admire how great they turned out! These will look pretty good in the ol’ Prairie Schooner, and will work perfectly!
Had I verified the paddle bit size, initially, this would have been an hour project, not counting hanging out the laundry or taking a nap. 😀
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