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Old 07-29-2016, 11:14 AM   #1
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Join Date: Jun 2015
Location: Alaska
Posts: 246
My Inverter Story

The Brand
This past winter the original Heart inverter/charger in my 1999 40' FDS fried a circuit board. Looked briefly into repairing it but quickly decided to upgrade to a pure sine wave inverter. Here are the bands I read-up on: Magnum, AIMS, Go Power, Newmar, Kisae, Samlex, Tripp Lite, Outback and Xantrex. I limited my search to 2000 and 3000 watt UL Listed inverter/charger units (for simplicity sake I will just call inverter). Read manufacture literature, specs and all the reviews I could find. There is some high-tech cool stuff available but I was looking for reliability, enough features to get the job done, customer service and price. Admittedly, in the end, the decision comes down to a judgement call. There were positive reviews on all the brands and some negative regarding customer service. So I place an order for an AIMS UL listed 3000 watt unit. The price was attractive and had solid specs, but later learned AIMS was a bad choice.

The AIMS inverter did not function correctly right out of the box, customer service was OK, but in the end I decided to uninstall the unit and return it. Now it was back to more research. Seeing the many homes in the area with solar arrays, it occurred to me to look into what inverters are popular in residential applications. Two bands suitable for mobile applications surfaced, Magnum and Samlex. It appeared that Magnum was also popular in the marine world. Go Power's new, but not yet in production, GP-IC-2000-12 also caught my attention with its 50 amp internal transfer switch, but the unit would not be available in time. The deciding factor came down to a phone call. With questions in hand, called Samlex and was immediately transferred to a long time employee who was the engineer and designer of the Samlex model I was focused on. A real pleasure to talk with someone who could answer questions I didn't even think to ask. Settled on the Samlex EVOLUTION EVO-2212 2200 Watt unit -- Samlex America -- Products. Now for the second, really third, installation.

Before I even thought about removing the old inverter, I unplug the shore power, turned off the circuit breaker to isolate from the generator (I even pulled the breaker out of the panel for added safety) and since there is no off switch for the battery bank, I disconnected the DC cables from the battery bank. This separates the inverter from all power sources.

The first installation was in the original location inside the coach next to the bedroom. A confined and hard to get to space when having to grapple with a 60 pound box and wrestle 8 AWG AC wire and 4/0 AWG DC cabling. Made all the connections including grounding wire and secured the unit and fired it up. Immediately it was evident the fan noise was going to be a problem and the heat generated while the inverter was in bulk charging mode. On a cool day the heat may not be an issue, however, on a hot day (in my estimation) there is not enough air volume in that particular location. But the fan noise in proximity to the bedroom was just not going to work.

Second installation began with scoping out suitable space in the basement as close to the battery bank as possible. On a 1999 40 foot Alpine that would be the compartment just forward of the drive axle with the battery compartment just aft of the drive axle. The challenge, how to safely route the wire and cable over the axle while staying within the recommended 10 foot maximum cable length. The solution turned out to be through the existing, yet abandoned, heat duct intended for the bedroom. An easy path from the battery bank to the duct which provided a safe and protected route forward over the axle through the bulkhead to the basement compartment to the inverter, 11 feet in total. After consulting with an electrical engineer, the additional foot of DC cable length was not an issue. With cooling louvers on the bottom of the unit, thought it would be a good idea to elevate it about 3 inches for better venting and in the event that of water intrusion in the basement.

The third installation was to replace the defective AIMS inverter/charger with the Samlex. The Samlex build quality was evident right away. It had correct size lugs for the AC input and output wire and appropriate size lugs for DC cabling. It is highly configurable (requires remote panel), detailed owner's manual and a micro SD card slot for software upgrades. And as of this writing, the unit is functioning flawlessly. By this time, I had become adept at removal and installation. Certainly not my choice.

After making the wire connections on the inverter itself, the next step was connecting the AC wires to the breaker and inserting the breaker into AC panel. Keeping track of the wires is important. The AC side of things has an input and output (power to the inverter and power from the inverter). My coach has two AC panels, one that supplies power to the inverter. The power in is for the charger function and also passes through the inverter when connect to an AC source, shore power or generator. The other panel is for power from the inverter (DC inverted to AC) when not connected to an AC source. The next to the last step was to route the remote cable over the holding tanks to the underside and up the back of the refrigerator to the cabinet where the control panel is mounted next the refrigerator. Not too difficult. The final step, connecting the DC cables to the battery bank. After double checking polarity I made the connection, got a little arcing (spark). Even knowing some arcing is normal, it still makes you heart skip a beat. Now it was time to set the AC breakers to the "on" position and reconnect the AC power at the pedestal. Via the control panel, powered up the unit and it sprang to life and immediately began a charging cycle. Very satisfying result.

DIY Things to Consider
It is worth the time to read the installation manual and call customer service with questions. Operationally, it was important to remember that the inverter needed to be configured for battery type, battery bank size, input voltage etc. None of it complicated and the typical factory default settings are a middle of the road to by in the short term.

Consider the placement of the inverter. If the inverter is mounted inside the coach anywhere where noise will be an issue, consider moving it to the basement. Extra time and work for sure, however in the long haul, the quiet comfort was worth the effort. However, the Samlex fan is running much less than the previous brand. Frequent fan noise may be an indication of a ventilation issue. This was a concern regarding the original location. The space was too confined for the amount of heat the inverter puts out. I am of the opinion the larger air space/volume in the basement will be better for cooling in hot weather.

Wire considerations. Had one simple rule, no short cuts regarding cable/wire size -- DC as well as AC. Replaced the old DC cable with custom length 4/0 AWG Superflex Blue with a temperature performance from -67 to 221 for a cost of $10.00 per foot. Replaced the main DC fuse and block that looked like the 15-year-old original. To be on the safe side, installed a new Blue Sea fuse block and UL Class T 350A fast acting fuse. Then replaced the old AC wire with new 8 AWG outdoor/exterior wire. One thing I would do differently concerning the AC wire, is to use braided copper wire instead of the solid copper residential wire. The solid wire is so hard to work with.

When shopping for a new inverter, I considered only UL Listed inverters. Xantrex has a YouTube video on this topic that is worth watching. A rigorously tested unit is a must.
In general, the install is straight forward. I don't believe it requires an in-depth electrical knowledge to take on a project like this. With common sense and the willingness to ask questions and a little do-it-yourself confidence, you can save the cost of shop labor. Around here that is $135.00 per hour. However, the overall cost of such a project is not limited to the inverter. There may be replacement wire, cable, fuse block and fuse. The cost for a remote control and other small miscellaneous items.

The final reward is a sense of accomplishment, the knowledge the installation was done correctly and reduced burden on the wallet. Oh, and a little bit of a stiff back.

Tim & Ruth
Alpine Coach 1999 40FDS, 350 ISC
Project Restoration
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Old 07-29-2016, 05:08 PM   #2
Join Date: Oct 2012
Posts: 36
Great post!

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Old 07-29-2016, 05:30 PM   #3
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Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 1,020
Very nicely written post. Nice when things turn out like you plan them.
2001 34' Alpine Coach
2008 Jeep Rubicon or 2012 Ford F150 4x4 Lariat towds
or a couple of different trailers
Retired in Apple Valley, California
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