It's been a while since we've given a status update. To be fair, we have been a little busy moving about the world. But we have not forgotten or given up on our trailer. In this episode, we install most of the electrical system.
Like everything else, we started with a need. In this case, it is a need to see our way about a campsite when we're setting up at night, relaxing around the fire, midnight pee runs, etc. We have headlamps, of course, and they contain white and red lights. We've found we use the red quite a bit more than we initially anticipated; it's great when you only need a little bit of visual aid after your eyes have adapted to the dark of night.
We wanted to incorporate that feature into our trailer, so we purchased two sets of rock lights. Rock lights are usually a few LEDs contained in a small housing, and their design intent is to be installed on a rock-crawling off road vehicle, near each wheel, to help light rough terrain for off roading at night. We purchased one set of four with white LEDs, and another set with red LEDs. We also purchased a 2-way light switch, so we can toggle between white and red with a single switch.
We thought that was going to be the tricky part of the wiring, and wanted to get that out of the way first. So once the testing proved successful, we moved our focus to the trailer's road lights. You know, brake lights and turn signals and all that. Since every trailer has them, we figured it would be simple. It was not.
We agreed that the trailer should have orange turn signals, separate from the brake lights. It is common for trailers to condense running lights, turn signals, and brake lights all into a single dual-filament bulb. Separating the turn signals out helps to reduce ambiguity of the signaling going on in the back of the trailer. It increases safety. It also increases the amount of parts and wiring required to make it all work. It was a little confusing at first, but we worked it out!
After the road lights harness was completed, with running lights, brake lights, turn signals, side markers front and rear, and reverse lights, we bundled it all up for installation. We borrowed our friend's truck, which is wired for a trailer connection, to test the harness and make sure everything works. We were pumped to find that everything worked according to the plan!
All the electrical demand we'll be creating needs a source. We made a power budget; conservative, but not unreasonable. We began shopping for a battery in the size range of 100Ah, somewhat larger than a typical car battery. We explored myriad options - two 6V batteries in series, two or more small 12V batteries in parallel, etc. We researched battery chemistries - lead acid, lithium polymer, absorbent glass mat, etc. We shopped around so many manufacturers and vendors. In parallel, we revisited a discussion we'd had previously about how we'd be recharging the battery. The tow vehicle can maintain a charge in a full battery with a small demand on it. We were concerned this would probably be insufficient, so rather than install solar panels at some unknown future date, we decided to bundle solar panels, a battery charger, and battery all together. We could be confident that all the components will play nice together since they were all packaged as a kit from a single supplier.
We installed the system monitor and a battery kill switch inside the sleeping area, in the headboard. The monitor shows us information like battery charge as a percentage of full, how much electricity we're using, how much power the solar panels are generating, etc. The kill switch disconnects the battery from the trailer electronics, but it keeps the solar charger connected to the battery. The charger can be easily destroyed and catch fire if it is disconnected from the battery while the solar panels are connected.
We also installed a switch for a pair of lights which will get installed in the ceiling, and a pair of USB outlets, for charging cell phones and whatnot. There is a spare switch spot, in case we think of something we want to add in the future.
After the components were mounted, we set about connecting them all together. This part was pretty straightforward, although complicated slightly because the cold weather makes a lot of the wires quite stiff. Getting them to go where we wanted was somewhat difficult.
With the help of a couple of space heaters in the garage, the wiring eventually began to cooperate and we got everything in its correct place. Stay tuned for our next episode: storage spaces!
"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."
- Bilbo Baggins
We're just an adventure-loving couple with a puppy looking to share our stories with the world.