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Adding a 12v outlet using existing lighting


Solo18

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I am being driven crazy having to take my laptop back to my bedroom and recharging it using the 12 volt outlet in my closet. I work online, so I really need my laptop even when I am dry camping. I really want a 12 volt outlet to recharge it in the living area where I actually work.

 

Is there some way, I can "easily" replace a light with a combination 12 volt outlet/lamp?? The light has two bulbs and is the typical kind where you can switch one on at a time. Could I steal Power from one side? The wiring for this lamp, of course, is buried in the cabinet above, I assume under a false floor of some sort.

 

Other option is using something from area where my big TV is, in the right front cabover area.

 

I am an older lady and not exactly handy, but I have replaced lights in the past. If I can't do this, I supposed I can find an RV service place that can help me.

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You can easily add on a 12 volt outlet but you need to check on how much power the circuit you choose to use has available. Wire size and the fuse size will tell you how much that circuit can supply, then subtract the power draw of anything else on the circuit that will be in use while charging the laptop so see how much you have left.

 

Quite often you'll find a reasonable amount of power available at your TV antenna amplifier, usually near the TV. You can just add a 12 volt connector there by connecting it to the existing supply lines.

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Find your LP detector. This is typically on a 12v circuit all by itself. My LP detector is located on my center island near the floor in the kitchen. I tapped into that line and added a couple of 12v receptacles just below the counter above the LP detector. It was an easy and very useful addition.

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Adding a 12V-dc power outlet isn't all that difficult, but easy or difficult is largely in the abilities of the person doing the work. I'm wondering just how "older" you are as many of us are probably in your age group and for this it should be more a matter of what tools you have and the access to things.

 

In your class C, as with any RV the cabinets that have lights or other electrical things on the bottom of them do have a false floor on the inside. It is probably just stapled into the interior and can likely be pried out, but it may damage the material the floor is made of, but should not show when completed. Like Stanley, I'm not sure that a light circuit is your best choice of supply but you need to look at wire size to be sure. The power supply for your computer should say on it what the output is and if you have a 12V supply it will also state what the input is. If it is more than 1A or so, it might be a bit much for the wire sizes, particularly if that circuit also supplies other lights.

 

What about connecting an outlet to the battery for the coach? If you were to get one such as the picture, it is really quite easy to install.

51snIl66zvL._AA160_.jpg

If you happen to have a cabinet inside that backs on the battery box it would be quite easy to just drill a hole through that is large enough to pass that wire through and then connect it that way. You could even keep the plug inside, out of sight when not in use.

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If it is more than 1A or so, it might be a bit much for the wire sizes, particularly if that circuit also supplies other lights.

 

What about connecting an outlet to the battery for the coach? If you were to get one such as the picture, it is really quite easy to install.

51snIl66zvL._AA160_.jpg

 

X2.

 

I generally don't ever recommend adding a socket into an existing 12v coach circuit. Your safest bet would be on the LP circuit, but then that's going to be an "always on" circuit (in most factory installed cases) unless you also add a switch in-line. I say "safest bet", but I still wouldn't recommend it.

 

Wiring in a new 12v socket in-line from the battery or better yet.. from the power distribution panel is, as Kirk pointed out, a fairly simple operation. If you're panel is full, it's simple and inexpensive to add an additional circuit. Plug-n-play!

 

Another option might be to just add an extension cord and run it where ever you want.

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Solo, yours is a very good and most practical question as many electronic devices utilize 12 VDC or 5 VDC USB for charging small electronic devices. However to provide an anywhere near exact answer, we would need to know the current draw of any devices you need to charge or operate PLUS the ampacity of the circuits you intend to tap 12 volts from. That being said, however, I will stick my neck out and make some educated guesses and assumptions based on RV and electrical experience and offer some advice.

 

 

1) I will "guess" your laptop doesn't require much if any more power them my 17 inch screen unit and its power supply is rated around 60 watts. That doesn't mean it takes any full 60 watts, but lets just use that for estimating purposes. 60 watts at lets use 12 volts means 5 amps of current are required. Your actual use may be say 2 to 8 amps as a guess, I just cant say setting here, but I don't envision it ever being over 10 amps, but if that much (I doubt) that starts to crowd 14 gauge wire especially tucked up under thin wood panels.

 

2) Based on some RV lighting circuits Ive observed, many use only 14 (or less) gauge wire which isnt so bad, but those wires are in between light duty plywood or paneling with wire nuts and maybe not enclosed as well as I prefer and I would be leary of adding an additional 5 amps of current (if lights are also in use), although, if you converted any old 15 watt incandescent light bulbs to LED's I would be less concerned I STRONGLY ADVISE THAT IF YOU TAP A LIGHT CIRCUIT. I'm NOT saying tapping 5 amps off an existing light circuit wont work, I just hesitate to offer it as my first choice even if others are willing to do so.

 

3) If you choose its not rocket science to properly parallel splice tap Red n Black or Positive and Negative wires from a light down to your 12 VDC outlet using wire nuts or other methods and Id use 14 gauge color coded twin lead copper stranded wire. Often the light wires come out of a hole in the ceiling and the splice and wire nuts are tucked up in between the false and top ceiling. Something like Kirk posted is what I envision given proper taps and splices with wire ran down to your outlet BE SURE AND GET THE + AND - POLARITY CORRECT FOR YOUR OUTLET. Its outer case is - while the small inner center pin is +

 

4) HOWEVER you mentioned another TV location. Some of those have an built in 12 VDC outlet. If it does Id prefer its use versus jury rigging and tapping off a light circuit. IS THERE ONE NEAR????????? Some of those typical 12 VDC outlets are max rated at 300 watts with some even less, say 200 watts, which is like 16 amps and Id guess that's plenty to operate your laptop charger. They make all sorts of dual or triple 12 VDC outlet adapters and splitters and combinations in the event you need more then one outlet at a time, look at Wally World or Radio Shack or Auto Parts houses or Big Box Home Appliance

 

5) If your not sure about tapping and splicing into a light circuit with something like Kirk showed you, I strongly advise using an existing 12 VDC outlet with the appropriate adapters and additions as I suspect it has more ampacity and doesn't require splices. If you do splice and tap a light circuit, be sure the wire and splices are good and protected and strong and use a fuse (like in Kirks example) and Id feel better if you converted all the circuits lights top LED's

 

Not to be nosy lol but in the RV parks we stay in a lady in distress may call on a gentleman to do such a job and maybe in return some home made cookies ??? LOL

 

John T

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Thanks for all the help. I am not very knowledgeable when it comes to electricity. By LP detector, do you mean the carbon monoxide detector or the fire alarm?? Or something else??

 

I like the battery option. When I bought my Class C, I had the dealer remove the front dinette and that is where I put my leather recliner from home. OK, I do like my comfort. I use my recliner as an office and have done so for umpteen years. (The arm makes a good mouse pad.) So the chair faces forward and the exit door and battery are just behind it. It would be very easy to slip a wire through there and run it along the floor next to the wall to a small cabinet I have where I could attach it.

 

I have a special 12v charger for my laptop, but I have never seen an extension cord for 12v that I could use for it. It looks something like this, but was a LOT more expensive 3.5 years ago!! http://www.amazon.com/Laptop-Car-Charger-Dell-Inspiron-15-3520-17-3721-XPS-Studio-15/dp/B002UI2Y8Q/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1449186383&sr=8-1&keywords=12+volt+laptop+charger Mine says Input = 11.5-15.0 v. 10 amp; Max output : 19.5 v 4.62A.

 

I used to plug into my car battery until I could not start my vehicle after that!! Not going to do that again.

 

And, yes, I am a 72 year old female who is still teaching online. I had more tools, but left all but a minimum in my storage locker. I do have a son to whose house I am heading in California, but he is the wrong son--biology teacher. Engineer son is back in Ohio!!

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Many RV's have 1) LP Gas Detector 2) Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detector 3) Smoke Detector (but maybe battery or 12 VDC) or some sort of combinations. Most of those might provide a higher ampacity easily accessible 12 VDC tap then a lighting circuit (a reason why they may be a better source of 12 VDC) but its impossible to know that setting here.

 

A battery is a good 12 VDC source provided the wires are properly rated and located and fuse protected PROVIDED you don't discharge it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Make the engineer son visit !!!!!!!!!! Id do it for my mother!!!!!

 

John T

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John, I have replaced all bulbs in my RV with LEDs!

 

And I do have a TV up front, but it has several problems. First, you have to fold down the cabover bunk, which I have trouble doing myself because I am so darn short!! Second, then you have get the ladder out to climb onto the bunk, crawl to the end, and try to untangle and figure out all the cables up there. Somebody who designed this Fleetwood Tioga Ranger decided to partially hide them behind a wooden box of sorts built in the corner. Some of them are very hard to even see--takes a flashlight because they face toward the front of the vehicle and you are laying on your stomach or crunched into an awkward sitting position.

 

Earlier this year, I cleaned up the tangle from the TV, the DVD player, satellite receiver, and satellite, plus the panel that controls the rear bedroom TV and the hall TV! It was impossible to unplug anything so I screwed in a small cord with a surge protector and then put the satellite, the receiver, and the TV on it so I could turn all off with one reach. Then I wound up all the extra cords, taped them, and hung a couple onto hooks on the wall.

 

When I was up there, I searched for any hidden 12 v outlets and could find none.

 

And what campground are you in, John?? I have very occasionally called for help, but this is really not an emergency. I was hoping my big, tall and handy cousin would be here this week, but he is not. Leaving in a couple of days, so maybe this will wait until I get to my son's house. Even if he is a biology teacher, he did solve my problem about why my HD tv was not getting HD satellite a couple of years ago--installers had put in really cheap cables, so he had me buy good HDMI cable and that fixed it instantly!!

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Not to be nosy lol but in the RV parks we stay in a lady in distress may call on a gentleman to do such a job and maybe in return some home made cookies ??? LOL

 

X2. If I saw a "need help with 12v socket in exchange for home made baked good" I would be all over that in a heartbeat! ;)

 

By LP detector, do you mean the carbon monoxide detector or the fire alarm??

battery are just behind it. It would be very easy to slip a wire through there and run it along the floor next to the wall to a small cabinet I have where I could attach it.

 

Mine says Input = 11.5-15.0 v. 10 amp; Max output : 19.5 v 4.62A.

 

Yes. Carbon monoxide detector.

 

With the battery location, that sounds, by far, a great option for you. My laptop charger and printer have very similar 12v adapters and can pull a fair amount of amperage. I wouldn't trust it on anything but a dedicated 12v socket. It's also important to ensure that the socket is rated for the amperage you intent to pull through it.

 

The extension cord I linked to previously is rated up to 15amps. You could cut the plug end off, wire that to your battery with an in-line 5amp fuse, then have 12' to run your plug as you mentioned above.

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Unfortunately, engineer son has three small kids and travels a lot as it is. I am in Las Vegas, and he is in Ohio, so long way away. Plus, understandably, his wife works and does not like to be stuck with all three kids by herself for very long. They admit three kids in 36 months was not as good an idea as they thought it was at the time!!!

 

Anyway, thanks for advice. That gives me stuff to think about. Got to get back to those end-of-semester papers.

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CO detector is in bad place since it is on end of kitchen slide on opposite side of RV. I will find a dealer somewhere near Napa and check with them. Might even call Fleetwood. If I could hook into the front TV, that would be ideal. They put sockets near the other two TVs, why not there???

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Solo18, on 03 Dec 2015 - 4:54 PM, said:snapback.png

By LP detector, do you mean the carbon monoxide detector or the fire alarm??


battery are just behind it. It would be very easy to slip a wire through there and run it along the floor next to the wall to a small cabinet I have where I could attach it.

 

Mine says Input = 11.5-15.0 v. 10 amp; Max output : 19.5 v 4.62A.

Yes. Carbon monoxide detector.

Umm, no. An LP detector is the propane detector. Carbon Monoxide is CO.

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If I'm reading this correctly, wouldn't the op have a cig light receptacle already installed in the front of her, I'm assuming class a or c or does she have 5th wheel of trailer?

Per pictures on her blog, she has a Tioga Ranger CL C MH on a Ford chassis. I would be quite surprised if it doesn't have a cigar lighter socket on the dash.

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If one to were wire up a new outlet that used 60-100w what gauge wire and fuse would you recommend?

 

Wire gauge would depend on how long of a wire was needed to reach the source. Fuses are generally sized by the maximum current rating of the wire.. rather than the load.. but for 100 watt load the smallest you would want to do would be a 10 amp fuse.

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I do have two cigarette lighter sockets on my dash, and it is very convenient, but twice while using the dash sockets to charge my laptop, I ended up running my vehicle battery dead and then had to use the emergency generator to start it. First time, I got stuck in Joshua Tree National Park and almost couldn't get started. (Long story, but I am "known" there for locking my keys in my RV once and having to have them call CoachNet over their radios and having to wait for hours for someone to come. It is getting embarrassing.) The last time I tried using emergency start battery was so bad, it did not work and I had to replace the battery.

 

On the other hand, I have two very nice coach batteries that always have plenty of charge, even when I am dry camping. (I admit I don't do that often.) I would really prefer NOT to pull current from my vehicle battery, but to pull it from the coach batteries.

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K rum

 

"If one to were wire up a new outlet that used 60-100w what gauge wire and fuse would you recommend?"

 

I agree with Yarome. 100 watts at 12 volts corresponds to 8.3 amps for which I would use no less the 14 Gauge (typically 15 amp rated subject to certain factors) wire, provided the run isn't so long that voltage drops becomes excessive, which I doubt in a small RV. Like him, I would protect such an 8.3 max amp current draw circuit with a 10 amp fuse or circuit breaker at the source. In the rare unlikely event any sort of initial or start up surge (as an inductive load power supply possibly could, still I doubt) blows a 10 amp fuse, you could bump that up slightly but no greater, of course, then the wires ampacity

 

Solo18

 

Hey youre gonna be a seasoned electrician by the time this is over and people will come to you for electrical help (provided you also furnish baked goodies)

 

I agree I do NOT like to power RV convenience loads from the engine starting battery, but the house batteries instead that's a WELL DUH lol so you're back to perhaps (subject to load) 14 gauge twin lead wire 10 amp fuse protected from the coach battery,,,,,,,,,,,Or an existing 12 VDC house battery fed outlet (if conveniently located),,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, Or the closest LP Gas or Carbon Monoxide 12 VDC Detector,,,,,,,,,,,,,Or a lighting circuit in that preference is my advice.

 

John T Still in Indiana but South Central Florida bound soon

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