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Power Inverter installation

Discussion in 'The Tech Shop' started by Looney2, Mar 7, 2007.

  1. Looney2

    Looney2 New Recruit

    I have a 2500w 5000w peak power inverter I want to install. Is it better to hook that directly to your existing battery on you vehicle. I have two battery's in my E350 Ford van, although they are very hard to get to as they are under the vehicle is a couple of drop down boxes. I was thinking maybe I could just get a couple of mountable battery boxes and a couple deep cycle battery and mount them on the wheel wells in the inside back of van. Was thinking about how I could charge them also when they start to get weak.. I have a small plug into the cigarette lighter inverter that is 75 watts. Could I use a standard car battery charger on like a 2 amp setting and charge the batterys as Iam driving down the road?? I could really use some suggestions I have been brainstorming for a few days now and dont know what will work and what wont. Looney:)
  2. highway star

    highway star Seasoned Expediter

    That seems like a big inverter for a van. Do you really need that much? You absolutely need to hook that to the battery, and I would never turn it on without the engine running. It's gonna suck a lot of juice.
  3. Looney2

    Looney2 New Recruit

    Highwaystar- LOL I know its a bit much.. My dad baught it for me when he thaught I was going to freeze to death in the back of the van..Guess he figured since Iam by trade a plumber, that I was going to hook up a furnace in the back..Guess I probally got enough juice to power just about anything I would need. Hooking that thing up to the regular battery's is going to be a real pain in the rear. Thats why I was thinking I could bypass those battery's and hook it up to some additional battery's. Probally wont work.. I was just hoping to get out of idling at night. Then charge up the extra battery's while I was going down the road with a battery charger plugged into a 75 watt inverter.. Well I will keep brainstorming and if you have any more ideas lemme know.. Thanks for the input Iam sure when it comes down to it, the inverter will probally get hooked up the way you suggested.. Looney
  4. redytrk

    redytrk Active Expediter

    I think you will find that a electric heater will draw even 3 batteries (that I use)down to where the inverter will cut off.

    Lots of drivers are using small propane heaters. Mr.Heater or Coleman should work.
  5. John6546

    John6546 New Recruit

    You need to wire it directly to a battery that is wired in line with your charging system. You should consider a deep cycle marine battery. This battery should be the last battery wired in parallel to your system. Also after you install battery you need to install a in line fuse , between the battery and the inverter. I know this sounds like a lot for a simple inverter, but if you do not do this you risk a possible fire from overheat of the system. You may want to consider a low volt regulator inline so you can never fully discharge the battery and kill it. Also you pay for what you get if you have cheap inverter you most likely wont be happy with the life of it or ability to use it. I recommend you find a good place to have it professionally installed it worth the price. Believe it or not many large trucking company now will not allow inverters in there trucks, because they have lost trucks in fires. Also the ones that allow it require it professionally installed.
  6. Turtle

    Turtle Administrator Staff Member

    You want to keep the main batteries and the auxiliary batteries isolated from each other, so that if you draw down the aux batteries completely, your starting battery(ies) will still start the van. This is the same configuration as having a Starting Battery Bank and a House Battery Bank on a boat or an RV. The starting batteries are for starting and running the electrical loads of the vehicle (radio, headlights, whatever), the house bank is for everything else that doesn't have to do with the vehicle (computer, fridge, lights, whatever). Some isolators either automatically or with a manual switch will connect the main and house batteries so that you can start the van using the house batteries if the main battery is dead.

    A battery isolator ( or gets installed, usually near the battery in the engine compartment. The alternator is connected to the isolator, and then a connection from the isolator goes to the main battery, and then one to the house bank. When the engine is running, the alternator charges both the starting and house bank batteries, but the batteries are isolated from each other, so that if you deplete the house bank, the starting batteries are left untouched. And visa versa.

    Hellroaring has some good diagrams and explanations of the scenarios.
  7. Looney2

    Looney2 New Recruit

    Thanks..Thats great info. Sounds like thats exactly what I need to do. My starting battery's right now are under the side doors of the cargo van. There are two of them. They are in some steel boxes mounted to the underside of the van. They are actually a real pain to get to. I couldn't even figure out how to jump start the van if I needed to because I can't figure out how to get into the boxes. Guess I better learn in case I need to. Any recommendations on where the inverter battery's should be located or mounted? Above the wheel wells on the inside of the van, underneith the van like the other battery's are located, maybe on the steel cargo cage up high so they wont be in the way of freight? Anyone know anybody in Michigan, northern Michigan preferably, that would be qualified to hook something up like this?? For some reason I just dont think I can trust my local mechanic to get it hooked up right...Thanks again. Looney2:)
  8. Turtle

    Turtle Administrator Staff Member

    Well, I would mount them inside the van somewhere, if for no other reason it will keep the batteries at a reasonable temperature. Outside they get too hit, or too cold. Inside is juuuuust right. hehe

    Also, you want to mount the inverter as close to the batteries as possible, really close. You want the cable from the batteries to the inverter to be as short as possible, certainly no longer than 4 feet. The farther away you have it, the bigger the cables you will need to minimize voltage (and amps) drop. Basically, mount the inverter next to the batteries, or as close as practical, then run extension cords to the appliances.

    In most cargo vans, especially the E350's, the aux batteries are simply mounted along the side wall somewhere out of the way. Most I've seen are mounted between the wheel well and the driver's seat, but anyplace they are out of the way would do fine. Again, though, because of having to run a cable from the isolator to the aux battery, I'd keep it near the floor instead of mounting it high. That way you can run the cable under the van and drill a hole in the floor (sealed well with silicone or something) for the cable, or run the cable through the firewall inside the van.

    The way I did mine if the E350 was, I removed the passenger seat and built a box, a desk, really, that also served double duty as a battery box that covered the batteries up. I then mounted the inverter to the front of the box. You can see it here:
    Doesn't show it very well, but should give you an idea. Not that I'm recommending that, unless you plan on making a box/desk. Along the side wall behind the seats is definitely the easiest mounting.

    You'll want to secure the batteries so they don't move around or become a blunt projectile in an accident. Battery trays or some other fashioned bracket will do fine. I would recommend building a simple wooden box to cover them up, so as to eliminate risk of anything metal falling on them and shorting the batteries. The box can serve as a mount for the inverter, as well.

    As for who can install it, most RV places could, and many of the better car audio installers can do that, as aux batteries are the life blood of today's new watt-sucking, mind-numbing, butt-thumping audio systems. :)

    Ask around. If someone can't, or is too busy (as may very well be the case with an RV place), they will probably know someone who can do it for you. Ask an auto electric guy (alternator repair) if he can do it, or if he knows someone who can.
  9. Looney2

    Looney2 New Recruit

    Turtle- That van looks good..Iam now wondering why my plywood floor and tracks looks like garbage..LOL. Iam diggin the insulation too. Since you have so much practice with the E350 already, when can I get my van into your schedule??? :) Well the pic gives me some good ideas. I will see if I can find someone familiar with that kind of installation stuff. Probally have to drive downstate as I live in the boonies... Looney2
  10. Turtle

    Turtle Administrator Staff Member

    hehe That insulation took five days. Five. Days. And they were really long, deep into the night/morning days. So much for the 3-5 hours I had planned.

    The deck and e-track is on the floor is one of the easiest things about outfitting a van, yet a lot of people make it really hard. If the plywood is at least 1/2 thick (which will actually be 9/16 inch) and it is mounted to the same floor as the e-track, the deck will sit above the 1/2" high e-track just enough that pallets won't ride on the track.

    You need a minimum of 48 inches for skids, so you lay the e-track so that you have at least 48" from the outside edge of one track to the outside edge of the other track. Measure the width between the inside edges of the e-track, and cut a slice off the 4x8 plywood so that it just fits inside the e-track. Screw it. Done.

    Those pics are from my old van, it at the time they were taking is was most definitely a work in progress. I added another sidewall, a foot high, along the driver's side from gthe wheel well to near the driver's seat, and added a piece on the other end, like as was done on the passenger side. That made for some great storage. It's also a great place to sit the aux batteries in your case.

    To mount those side walls, I used rivets to secure the wood to the wheel wells (self tapping screws, or drill and use nuts and bolts would work, too). To secure the free part of the wall to the floor I used 1/4" thick (or there abouts) 90 degree brackets, mounted inside where you can't see them (where a skid won't get hung on it) with a couple of screws into the wood and a couple into the floor.

    I had plenty of forklift operators slide skids in at a angle and pushed those sidewalls pretty good and they held up great.

    Another thing I did that doesn't show in the picture (cause it's not in it) was that I used clear plastic floor runner (like a carpet runner, only without the spikes on the bottom) and cut and taped it to the bottom half of the walls all aroung, right on top of the silver insulation. All the way around. On the sides and the back doors, over the wheel wells, and on the floor inside those walled off areas (where e-track straps, load bars, junk, gets thrown). That protected the insulation from tearing and ripping with me bumbling around in there, throwing this or that over there, whatever.

    The floor runner also had the added benefit of adding to the insulation. That insulation is pretty good, but not really great when used in this application. It's much better when used in an application like stapled to the joists in an attic where you can have a few inches of airspace between it and the wall or roof. When you glue that stuff to the metal walls of the van, you're gonna get perhaps an R-4 insulating value.

    Because it's minimal insulation, it's critical to ensure that each and every seam on the insulation is covered with the foil tape. No exceptions. A slight hole or tear should be immediately covered up, as well. If you don't, the entire section of insulation is rendered essentially useless. That's why it took 5 days. lol

    I think I went through 2 full rolls of 500' foil tape in there. Way more than I would have thought. More of everything. Loctite glue, spray glue, the insulation. A lot of it. But it was all worth it in the end. For a relatively poor insulator in this application, it worked much better than my expectations.

    In any event, I sure hope you're not planning on running an electric heater off the inverter to keep warm. You'll be rudely disappointed.
  11. Looney2

    Looney2 New Recruit

    Well I was thinking of running electric heaters at first, but if I have to keep the van running to keep the inverter going then why bother?? If Iam going to idle then I might as well use the heater on the van right?? I used it before and It acutally gets really hot back in the cargo area. Probally just use my ice fishing heater. MR. Buddy with some propane.. Think its about 3,000 BTU. I think that should be sufficient to take the chill off the back. Plan on using the inverter for TV, fan, Playstation, and that sorta thing...Really would like to get that van into your shop though..LOL.. Sounds like you have lots of experience hookin all the goodies up..Maybe a new carreer??LOL. LOONEY2 :7
  12. darkunicorn

    darkunicorn New Recruit

    even with 4 truck batteries in my truck and only a 1500w inverter tv/playstation my APU kicks on after about 4hrs so might want to still start the truck every few hrs and charge the batteries althouh I have it set at 12.4 they say can go to 11.7 with out hurting them but with todays batteries I wouldn't chance it!
  13. Looney2

    Looney2 New Recruit

    Thats what I really need is one of those fancy generators that run off the diesel fuel. I just passed my CDL B so Iam not sure how long Iam going to stay in my cargo van and since spring is around the corner I probally wont bother until next year if at all. Iam sure I will hook up the inverter but will probally invest in the apu for my straight truck...Looney:)

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