I am an engineer, and nothing bothers me more than the inability to know what is happening in any of the systems. Probably the system I had the least information on was the 12 volt electrical system. The only information I had on the battery usage was the very coarse indicators on the charger panel. The LED's here are in 3/4 volt increments and 3 to 100 amp increments. There was no indicator of actual battery usage.
At an FMCA convention I looked at all the electrical component vendors to see what was available in electrical system monitoring units. There were a couple small meters that would have done the job by displaying volts, amps and amp-hours. However I saw one unit that seemed to be built to a much higher standard (and price). It is the Emon II produced by Ample Power Products, a company specializing mainly in marine power systems..
This monitor reads voltage from either battery system, house battery amps in or out, battery temperature, amp hours used or remaining, and a fuel type guage that indicates how full the battery is. It is set up to operate with solar panels and with an optional 3 stage regulator for the engine alternator. It will display any single item, scan your selected list of readings, or quickly select any of the 4 most commonly wanted values. It keeps many totals and allows the setting of a number of alarms. There is a computer interface and software to allow the keeping of data on a laptop computer.
The battery level circuitry tracks incoming and outgoing amp-hours. It processes this data through an equation known as Peukert's Equation. This takes into consideration the rate of discharge. A battery will produce far fewer amp-hours at a high rate of discharge than at a low rate. This is all compensated for in this instrument.
Installation consisted of mounting the instrument, installing a current measuring shunt, and running quite a few wires to the two battery banks and the 12 volt panel in the main cargo bay. I got quite familiar with the way wires are run fore and aft in the center of the coach over the various bays.
I now can keep very close track of my battery usage and level of recharge when I am dry camping. One thing tht really suprised me was how slowly the batteries recharge while driving. An all day drive will only replace about 20 amp hours of use. The charger in the Prosine inverter is very much faster.
This is a very high quality instrument!
AC Power Monitor
Foretravel supplies an AC monitor panel in all their motorhomes. This panel contains two digital AC voltmeters and two sets of neon bulbs to verify correct connections to the campground pedestal. In normal usage, where all connections are correct, each bank displays 2 green lights and no red lights. By the time the rig was about 2 1/2 years old, the green neon lights were flickering fairly badly, and would not light at all at low line voltages. Foretravel replaced the monitor on warranty, but warned that "they all tend to do that".
Not wanting to have them fail again, I opened the monitor and replaced the light bulb series resistors with ones 10 times the resistance. If I remember correctly, they were 47k and I changed them to 470k. This reduced the intensity somewhat, but they are still plenty bright. Their life should now be extended by a large factor. It is now over two years after making this change and the lights are still rock solid.
Note of 3/25/12
is now almost 10 years since replacing the resistors in the
monitor and the lights are still bright and flikker free. I
highly recommend increasing these resistor values as most other
Foretravel owners are reporting failure of these light in less than 3
years! The ForeForums had a very extensive thread on this subject
a couple years ago. I have included a couple of my posts on this
subject here: Both were written on June 15, 2010.
Kitty Liter Cubbyhole
We travel with our cat Muffy. One problem in a motorhome is where
do you put the cat box? We decided that we could do with only one
full length wardrobe. I had a door made that was the same length
as the center doors and mounted it in place of the right hand wardrobe
door. I made a shelf at the bottom of this door. We now had
a shirt length cupboard at the top and an open area at the bottom.
Her litter box fits nicely in the bottom and is well out of the way.
Satellite Dish and Mount
When we first bought our motorhome, there was no satellite dish installed. This meant I had to use my tripod and set up the dish on it at each stop. I modified my portable dish by putting wingnuts on the dish adjustment points, epoxying the bolts that mount the dish to the LNB arm, and replacing the nuts with wingnuts. I installed a short piece of coax to the LNB so there is always a pigtail ready to connect without further disassembly. I can now very quickly assemble or disassemble the dish and the LNB arm. The separate pieces store very easily under the couch.
I wanted something easier to handle and sturdier than the tripod. I desighed a support made of two pieces of telescoping square tubing that will mount the dish at the end of the inner piece. The end of the outer piece has a flat plate and a bolt tightened "L" bracket that allows me to clamp it to a flat surface edge. I can clamp it to the bottom of a square frame member at either side in the rear of the coach, or to the generator mounting rail in the front at either side. I can also clamp it to a frame member through the front opening of the rear fender well. This gives me 6 locations around the coach to mount the dish, each of which allows a certain amount of "swing" and in-out adjustment. The dish is firmly mounted to the motorhome and is not in danger of blowing over in the wind.
Now that I have my roof mounted auto-seeking dish, I still use this
mount occasionally when one of my 6 mounting locations gives me a shot
at the satellite, but the roof antenna does not. Of course there
are still occasions where I need to set the dish some distance from the
motorhome. I use my tripod on these occasions.
Richard Mason, Prescott, AZ 1/15/05