A few years ago, when we started revitalizing The Nonsuch, we made an important decision. As our first RV AND a renovation effort, we agreed to stick to as tight a budget as possible.
Building a brand new 12v power system, if you follow any of the thousands of pages of advice out there, can be a very expensive undertaking. I decided to make use of my minimal but sufficient understanding of electrical systems and do it on the cheap. My thought process was simple - I could invest more than what I paid for the entire camper on a rock-solid system that would make everyone gasp in awe, or I could slap something together that would be adequate for our beginning adventures and not break the bank. The more I read and studied, the more I became convinced I could do a pretty solid system on a shoestring budget.
The original charger in the 1973 model Holiday Vacationer was still working, but was flaky - power output would vary from 14v to as much as 19v, with no obvious cause for the variance. A 3 year old marine battery was in the camper when we got it, and all the lights were original incandescent bulbs.
My testing of the existing setup revealed - on a full charge, we could maybe squeeze out two nights before the battery was spent.
So, out came the battery, the old charger, and all the lights. I installed the following:
Two Interstate 210ah 6v golf cart batteries (from Costco)
New LED lights
These 12v under-cabinet lights became the new bathroom lights
4.2A USB charging port is awesome to charge phones and keep an eye on our power level
All I needed now was a charger, and man are they expensive. So, I decided to just start off with the commodity charger I had on hand to keep my motorcycle/lawnmower topped off over the wintertime.
The new setup is, frankly, pretty stinking amazing. They have meh reviews so I’m not officially recommending it, but the charger has been running for two years now without a problem. The battery bank can run the lights in the camper for normal evening usage literally for weeks before needing a charge. Fans and the old-school incandescent bulb on the range hood take a faster toll, but we’ve camped for a full week without a charge.
Total cost for my entire electrical system - $50 (charger) + $13 (USB port) + $21 (bathroom lights) + $60 (dome lights) + $180 (batteries) = $324.00