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Old 08-11-2022, 05:48 PM   #1
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RV Electrical System Confusion

Ok, this is going to probably be a long post. I need some help understanding how all of this works together.

First I own a 2022 Flagstaff ePro 19FD. Almost everything in the trailer is 12V with the exception of the Microwave, Coleman AC, and the Water Heater (Dual fuel Propane or Electric). It is equipped with:

Solar
  • Go Power GP-PWM-30 Controller
  • Go Power GP-PV-190M Solar Panel
  • Arterra WF-5110R Inverter
Electrical
  • WFCO WF-8735 Converter
So here is my first assumption, solar:
Electricity generated by the solar panel goes through the controller to charge the batteries. The controller has different charging "profiles" to match the batteries you have installed. If you are not hooked up to "shore power" all power comes from the batteries. If 120VAC is needed, (outlets to plug appliances into, the microwave, etc), the 12VDC power from the batteries feeds the inverter which converts it to 120VAC for use above.

Here is where I can get confused.
If I plug into shore power obviously the power from the pedestal goes to the Converter. This unit has breakers for 120VAC power but also fuses for 12VDC power. I also know that the converter will convert the 120VAC to 12VDC.

I guess where I am confused is what controls what? It would seem to me that the WFCO Converter is the main and deciding "distribution" center. If it is being powered by shore power then those items needing 120VAC get it directly from the converter (not needing the inverter). It then converts the 120VAC to 12VDC to send to all the 12VDC items. It would know if its power is coming from the pedestal or not (auto-switch), if not, it draws off the batteries converting the 12VDC to 120VAC (with the inverter) where necessary (3 items + outlets). I also am aware that my (2) 70AH AGM batteries will not supply enough power to run the AC for very long if at all (I have never and don't intend to try).

So besides confirming in general how this system operates I have the following questions:
  1. First there is a plug on the outside of the trailer to plug in "solar". If I have the right "Plug" can I plug in a solar panel (I have a small 100W panel I wouldn't mind using) and will its power (along with my rooftop panel's power) go to the existing controller or do I have to use a separate controller for the plug in panel?
  2. Second when you plug into shore power is the solar controller prevented by the converter from sending power to the batteries? Thus now the converter is charging the batteries. Or does it cut off the power from the panels and the converter supplies the power to the controller? Thus the controller using its battery profiles always charges the batteries regardless if it is getting power from the panels or the converter.
  3. If I am plugged into shore power does the inverter need to be on, off, or does it matter?
  4. There is a battery disconnect switch mounted on the trailer tongue. Should I disconnect the batteries with just the switch (as opposed to taking the actual wires off the terminals) when in storage? Note we try to take at least a 4/5 day trip every other month and we live near Houston, TX so winter is not really a long term issue.

Any and all comments, advice, and suggestions welcome.
Regards
Chuck
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Old 08-11-2022, 07:13 PM   #2
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#1 The plug on the side is probably connected to the battery. You can verify this by checking if you have battery voltage at the plug. If you determine that the plug is connected to the battery you will need a solar charge controller between your panel and the plug. Multiple charge controllers connected to 1 battery should not be a problem.

#2 The converter should still send power to the battery if needed.

#3 Your inverter has an internal transfer switch so you shouldn't have to do anything.

#4 If your TT is stored where it gets some sun I wouldn't do anything, I'd let the solar take care of it. But if not I'd disconnect the negative cable. The battery disconnect doesn't remove all loads.

If you have a 12v fridge you will need more amp hours.
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Old 08-11-2022, 07:24 PM   #3
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i'll try to help but it will be simple and generic . i have no solar so others will have to respond, but my understanding is that solar is just another 12 volt power source that will power 12 needs up to the limit of the solar panels.


Quote:
Originally Posted by cfrudolphy View Post
Ok, this is going to probably be a long post. I need some help understanding how all of this works together.

First I own a 2022 Flagstaff ePro 19FD. Almost everything in the trailer is 12V with the exception of the Microwave, Coleman AC, and the Water Heater (Dual fuel Propane or Electric). It is equipped with:

Solar
  • Go Power GP-PWM-30 Controller
  • Go Power GP-PV-190M Solar Panel
  • Arterra WF-5110R Inverter
Electrical
  • WFCO WF-8735 Converter
So here is my first assumption, solar:
Electricity generated by the solar panel goes through the controller to charge the batteries. The controller has different charging "profiles" to match the batteries you have installed. If you are not hooked up to "shore power" all power comes from the batteries. If 120VAC is needed, (outlets to plug appliances into, the microwave, etc), the 12VDC power from the batteries feeds the inverter which converts it to 120VAC for use above.

the inverter probably does not supply 120 volt power to all 120 devices and receptacles. if you have a residential refrigerator the inverter may only provide 120 volt power to it and nothing else. this will vary model by model/



Here is where I can get confused.
If I plug into shore power obviously the power from the pedestal goes to the Converter. This unit has breakers for 120VAC power but also fuses for 12VDC power. I also know that the converter will convert the 120VAC to 12VDC.


I guess where I am confused is what controls what? It would seem to me that the WFCO Converter is the main and deciding "distribution" center. If it is being powered by shore power then those items needing 120VAC get it directly from the converter (not needing the inverter). It then converts the 120VAC to 12VDC to send to all the 12VDC items. It would know if its power is coming from the pedestal or not (auto-switch), if not, it draws off the batteries converting the 12VDC to 120VAC (with the inverter) where necessary (3 items + outlets). I also am aware that my (2) 70AH AGM batteries will not supply enough power to run the AC for very long if at all (I have never and don't intend to try).

the converter is not all that smart. it senses the charge within the batteries and provides power to recharge them. if you try to run 12 volt devices you they will get powered with a combination of the batteries and the converter. in some cases you can power the 12 volt devices even without a battery. some 12 volt device draw o many amps that the converter cannot supply them by itselt and the battery is needed to supply these large loads.

So besides confirming in general how this system operates I have the following questions:
  1. First there is a plug on the outside of the trailer to plug in "solar". If I have the right "Plug" can I plug in a solar panel (I have a small 100W panel I wouldn't mind using) and will its power (along with my rooftop panel's power) go to the existing controller or do I have to use a separate controller for the plug in panel?
  2. Second when you plug into shore power is the solar controller prevented by the converter from sending power to the batteries? Thus now the converter is charging the batteries. Or does it cut off the power from the panels and the converter supplies the power to the controller? Thus the controller using its battery profiles always charges the batteries regardless if it is getting power from the panels or the converter.

    converter does not control the solar. both can be supplying 12 volt power at the same time.


  3. If I am plugged into shore power does the inverter need to be on, off, or does it matter?

    does not matter from a technical point of view. there will be a small transfer switch (bypass relay) either within or attached to the inverter that will select shore power if present and pass it to the output 120 load. if no shore power present this switch will pass inverter power to the load, the load will see power from on or the other power source (shore power or inverter0 but not both.

  4. There is a battery disconnect switch mounted on the trailer tongue. Should I disconnect the batteries with just the switch (as opposed to taking the actual wires off the terminals) when in storage? Note we try to take at least a 4/5 day trip every other month and we live near Houston, TX so winter is not really a long term issue.

    much debate on this but in general that disconnect switch doe not disconnect all loads from the batteries. things like propane or co monitor, and radio generally stay connected and while they are small loads they will drain a battery in a few days. i had this problem. i install my own disconnect switch right at the battery terminal and since i did that the batteries stay fully charged for months. taking the battery cable off does the same thing, as long as you disconnect all positive or negative cables. with multiple batteries sometimes you have cables attached to each battery.


Any and all comments, advice, and suggestions welcome.
Regards
Chuck
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Old 08-11-2022, 07:28 PM   #4
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OK, you are correct that it is long. I'm going to also give links that may help if you read them. Let's start with what the converter is first, as you do have it somewhat confused since it only part of the electrical distribution panel in WFCO panels. Some converters are deck mount and are separate from the electrical panel. Please read this link below first.


https://www.forestriverforums.com/fo...ml#post1727027



OK, now See my replies inserted in red below


Quote:
Originally Posted by cfrudolphy View Post
Ok, this is going to probably be a long post. I need some help understanding how all of this works together.

First I own a 2022 Flagstaff ePro 19FD. Almost everything in the trailer is 12V with the exception of the Microwave, Coleman AC, and the Water Heater (Dual fuel Propane or Electric). It is equipped with:


Only the electric heating element works on 120 volt AC, the propane side works on 12 volt DC. You can use one or both modes simultaneously.


https://www.forestriverforums.com/fo...tml#post327988


Solar
  • Go Power GP-PWM-30 Controller
  • Go Power GP-PV-190M Solar Panel
  • Arterra WF-5110R Inverter
Electrical
  • WFCO WF-8735 Converter
So here is my first assumption, solar:
Electricity generated by the solar panel goes through the controller to charge the batteries. The controller has different charging "profiles" to match the batteries you have installed. If you are not hooked up to "shore power" all power comes from the batteries.


Not all power, just power to the connected 12 volt DC part of the electrical distribution panel (it will have fuses like a car)


If 120VAC is needed, (outlets to plug appliances into, the microwave, etc), the 12VDC power from the batteries feeds the inverter which converts it to 120VAC for use above.


The inverter only will power up a very small limited amount of 120 volt AC items. Stuff like an air conditioner, microwave, etc are too big an energy consumer for most inverters and solar. You may have a few outlets connected to the inverter, but not much else usually. You do not want to drain your batteries with high energy items. If you are not connected to shore power or a generator, do not expect to be able to use your air conditioner, microwave, or other larger energy consumers.


Here is where I can get confused.
If I plug into shore power obviously the power from the pedestal goes to the Converter. This unit has breakers for 120VAC power but also fuses for 12VDC power. I also know that the converter will convert the 120VAC to 12VDC.


The 120 volt AC goes to the distribution panel. The converter MBA (main board assembly) in a WFCO panel is "part" of this distribution panel but not the main part. You could take out the MBA and the 120 volt AC items would still function as normal. The converter is only for the 12 volt DC items. This is what you need to wrap your head around. If you read that first link above, it will help.


I guess where I am confused is what controls what? It would seem to me that the WFCO Converter is the main and deciding "distribution" center.


Not all all, the converter is just a piece that powers the 12 volt DC items in your RV, when connected to shore power so your battery doesn't have to. The converter also recharges the battery. Like I said, the converter can fail or be taken out, and you can still use your RV.



If it is being powered by shore power then those items needing 120VAC get it directly from the converter (not needing the inverter) They get it from the electrical distribution panel, not the converter.



It then converts the 120VAC to 12VDC to send to all the 12VDC items. It would know if its power is coming from the pedestal or not (auto-switch), NO auto switch cause it doesn't do what you think it it does.


if not, it draws off the batteries converting the 12VDC to 120VAC (with the inverter) where necessary (3 items + outlets). NO, the inverter may be connected to a few outlets, and usually not even all of them. Explained above. The inverter will not be connected tot he air conditioner, microwave, water heater electric element, etc.



I also am aware that my (2) 70AH AGM batteries will not supply enough power to run the AC for very long if at all (I have never and don't intend to try). NOpe, not at all


So besides confirming in general how this system operates I have the following questions:
  1. First there is a plug on the outside of the trailer to plug in "solar". If I have the right "Plug" can I plug in a solar panel (I have a small 100W panel I wouldn't mind using) and will its power (along with my rooftop panel's power) go to the existing controller or do I have to use a separate controller for the plug in panel? Depends on panel, some may or may not
  2. Second when you plug into shore power is the solar controller prevented by the converter from sending power to the batteries? Thus now the converter is charging the batteries. Or does it cut off the power from the panels and the converter supplies the power to the controller? Thus the controller using its battery profiles always charges the batteries regardless if it is getting power from the panels or the converter.
  3. If I am plugged into shore power does the inverter need to be on, off, or does it matter?
  4. There is a battery disconnect switch mounted on the trailer tongue. Should I disconnect the batteries with just the switch (as opposed to taking the actual wires off the terminals) when in storage? Note we try to take at least a 4/5 day trip every other month and we live near Houston, TX so winter is not really a long term issue.

Any and all comments, advice, and suggestions welcome.
Regards
Chuck
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Old 08-11-2022, 07:29 PM   #5
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It looks like me and CHICKDOE were both typing up a lot. LOL
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Old 08-12-2022, 12:31 PM   #6
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THANKS

Thanks to all of you that have replied. WMTIRE your explanation and links were very informative. I went and read all of them in their entirety!

I do have a 12V refrigerator and I know that the batteries will keep it running as it keeps everything cold on our travel days.

I will now keep the battery disconnect switch on while in storage. It is outside storage so the solar panel can keep the batteries charged up from the parasitic loads placed on them.

I didn't differentiate between the distribution panel and the converter in my original post. Forest River gave me a BOM of parts used on my trailer with model and serial numbers. I went through the list and didn't see an entry for the "distribution" panel just the "converter". I assumed that referring to the converter included the distribution panel.

Due to the small size of my inverter (1000 Watts) I now understand why it would only be hooked up to certain things and not all or why it doesn't feed power into the distribution panel. My trailer has a remote on/off switch for the inverter. It now won't turn off. Don't know if it is the inverter itself or just the switch. I have a scheduled visit to my dealer to repair under warranty (we purchased 01/2022). I also now understand why the "auto-switch" or "by-pass relay" is at the inverter rather than at the distribution panel.

Besides outlets the only 120VAC items in the trailer are the AC, Microwave, and Water Heater. Everything else including refrigerator and TV are 12VDC.

Your separate post regarding the Suburban Water Heater was very informative! I have the SW6DELC model. I had no idea that the electric heating element could be burned up like that. I also didn't know that you could run both (as long as the tank has water) at the same time. I do have two switches inside the trailer for the water heater. One marked as electric and the other marked as gas or propane (not sure). We have always used the propane switch. I think I remember seeing the switch on the face of the water heater itself. I don't remember a fault light but will check. If I have one I sure didn't know what it was showing me. Now I know!

We are very happy with our trailer. As we have used it more and become more familiar with its systems it raises questions such as these, so our knowledge and use can grow. Thanks loads.

Chuck
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Old 08-12-2022, 01:45 PM   #7
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Glad you are happy with your trailer.
Solar is fairly new on rigs, so some of us have no experience using a rig with solar or inverters. (like me)
When you take it in, you might ask questions of the service writer or technician or salesperson. Since they are looking at your specific rig, they are likely to know the answers.
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Old 08-12-2022, 03:53 PM   #8
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Just an update to my original post.

First the water heater. I have a Suburban SW6DELC. It is both 120VAC electric and propane with a 12VDC igniter. WMTIRE's post contains a link to a very informative series of posts regarding Suburban water heaters. I want to thank him for his great information. My water heater differs from his desciption.
  1. I don't have the separate switch on the face of the water heater itself.
  2. My inside panel that has switches to control various things on the trailer has two switches for the water heater. One is marked "Water Heater Gas" and the other is marked "Water Heater Electric".
  3. I have no fault light. EDIT: I do have a fault light. If you look at the picture below top left next to the tank/battery indicator lights there is a light labeled "flt". I had never seen this (paid enough attention) nor have I ever noticed it lit up.

I have photos attached.

In regards to the plug on the side to add a solar panel, misery1, wrote that if there was battery voltage at the plug then I would need a charge controller between the panel and the plug, as the plug would be wired directly to the battery. I took my multimeter with me to the trailer and checked and I got 13VDC at the plug. Therefore based on misery1's post I the plug is directly wired to the battery and any solar panel to be used in conjunction with this plug would need a charge controller between it and the plug.

Just thought I would update all who might find this post informative and it answer some questions for them.

Regards,
Chuck
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Old 08-12-2022, 04:13 PM   #9
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You've received excellent answers to your questions regarding your camper's 12-volt (battery voltage) system.
I'll just add this; the system is easier to understand if you think of it as being powered by the battery and the battery is being recharged by the converter-charger.
Be advised that the refrigerator manufacturer does not recommend running the fridge without the battery connected, specifically relying solely on the converter-charger to power the fridge.
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Old 08-12-2022, 04:22 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cfrudolphy View Post
Just an update to my original post.

First the water heater. I have a Suburban SW6DELC. It is both 120VAC electric and propane with a 12VDC igniter. WMTIRE's post contains a link to a very informative series of posts regarding Suburban water heaters. I want to thank him for his great information. My water heater differs from his desciption.
  1. I don't have the separate switch on the face of the water heater itself.
Cool deal and thanks for the update on what Suburban, it seems, has changed recently on newer models.....with the deletion of the outside electric switch. Will have to update the tutorial now. I plan to use your pic if you don't have it copyrighted.

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Old 08-13-2022, 05:36 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wmtire View Post
Cool deal and thanks for the update on what Suburban, it seems, has changed recently on newer models.....with the deletion of the outside electric switch. Will have to update the tutorial now. I plan to use your pic if you don't have it copyrighted.

Don't know if it's necessary to add to your tutorial but the fault light in some installs is the illuminated water heater switch itself. When set to on the switch light will illuminate till ignition and will stay off if ignition is successful. if ignition is not successful the switch light will illuminate, and the switch needs to be set to off and back on for a retry. Just a thought.
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Old 08-13-2022, 08:34 AM   #12
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Quote:
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Don't know if it's necessary to add to your tutorial but the fault light in some installs is the illuminated water heater switch itself. When set to on the switch light will illuminate till ignition and will stay off if ignition is successful. if ignition is not successful the switch light will illuminate, and the switch needs to be set to off and back on for a retry. Just a thought.
Thats interesting. Is it on Suburbans though or is this an Atwood/Dometic feature?
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Old 08-13-2022, 09:41 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bubbles View Post
Don't know if it's necessary to add to your tutorial but the fault light in some installs is the illuminated water heater switch itself. When set to on the switch light will illuminate till ignition and will stay off if ignition is successful. if ignition is not successful the switch light will illuminate, and the switch needs to be set to off and back on for a retry. Just a thought.
If you notice there is a FLT light on the control panel. I know mine blinks for a second when I flip on the propane water heater.

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Old 08-13-2022, 10:49 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wmtire View Post
Thats interesting. Is it on Suburbans though or is this an Atwood/Dometic feature?
I may have mentioned something that would not be applicable to the level of the RV's on this forum. It was a Suburban 16 gallon water heater on a high-end motorcoach. Drifted off on a tangent, just disregard.
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Old 08-18-2022, 12:47 PM   #15
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WMTIRE. Photo is not copyrighted. Please feel free to use it. If this is necessary you definitely have my permission to use as you see fit.

Regards,

Chuck
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Old 08-18-2022, 01:11 PM   #16
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Maintenance

Just as a comment:

It appears in the pictures above the drain plug or anode rod location, to the right of the heating element, with all the rust around it needs some serious attention regarding maintenance.

Bob
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