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My 5th-Wheel camper


Staff member
Jul 9, 2023
i have thrown ideas back and forth, and even tried to sell the currently gutted out camper... but i think i will keep it and somehow finish it. maybe i can live in it in summers, or even take it camping.

as it stands right now, it only has value to me. i need to finish my shop and get my CNC machine running in the new shop first. then maybe i will have money to work on my camper.

the bedroom is almost ready. just needs flooring and some new cabinet faces. the bathroom needs work. i need to put the tub back in and setup the plumbing. i need a new toilet, and vanity sink too. then we get to the kitchen and living room. both are gutted. the furnace needs to go back in, and a stove and sink. someplace for a cooler, and a couch or dinette that makes into a second bed, if needed.
batteries are going behind the hatch door i installed. i will make a floor pan that is water-proof, just in case. i can use a boat floor drain.
power will be routed back to near the batteries, along with solar.

i could setup a HomeAssistant install into it, using a Rpi CM4 board. that way i could track the solar system, and control things. i could setup my own router out there, and just pipe networking to it, making it so the HA install is only accessible from in the camper, home networking, or possibly internet, if it works.
the system will likely only be up when i am in the camper., and will be made so i can turn it off while dry-camping, to save power.

more ideas and updates to follow...
it would be a simple task to use my M4-ATX PSU in my camper for the HA install... just a thought...
the router could be powered by it as well... though it would need to be setup so when there is no internet, it still functions, or it is worthless. so i am thinking of a large-ish (512GB?) SD card for the Rpi CM4. it should run it's own MQTT, and i could use my alarm system with it, just to round things out. that would keep my camper more secure, but i would need to run the HA install full-time for it to work. at least while i have power, and/or enough battery power.

Batteries: i hope to load in as many as i can fit. i think 4 is about the max.
Solar: as many solar panels as i can fit on the roof.
maybe take the TV antenna off and mount a Ethernet PTP wireless bridge, so i can raise or lower it... may not, i don't know. it would make it convenient. would also make it easy to deploy and aim. it would need to stay vertical so rain couldn't destroy it. probably mount an Ethernet gland on the roof, that way i can just use a patch cord, and replace as needed (UV, rain, or mechanical failure).

i have debated on the idea of selling my CNC machine, but i don't think i could get the money out of it that i put into it. may have to anyway... if i become homeless, or die, it will go to waste anyway.

the benefit of the HA system, is i can pre-start the furnace in colder months, and turn lights on or off. would be handy if it was internet connected, so i can, say, turn on the outside light when entering at night.
i had thought of doing the kitchen where it was, but i am now thinking of having it right over the furnace. just a cook-top, and sink. then build a dinette in the back, U shaped, with the back against the (driver) side wall. the water heater will go somewhere in the kitchen cabinets. the former water heater hole will be blocked off., as will the hatch 90-degrees from it. that spot will be a good cooler storage spot. no fridge, at this time. perhaps in the cooler spot in the future.
having the water heater mounted higher than normal will possibly aid in winter drain-back.

no upper cabinets over the dinette. but there will be some over the kitchen, with a floor-to-ceiling one near the old fridge location, for wires into the ceiling. cabinet there, may be a good spot for the HA install.
with a Rpi CM4 HA install, i can use the USB to epever Tracer Modbus cable plugged directly into the Rpi USB port. that will save on hardware issues. no need for the RS485 to Ethernet server.
i will likely have just a single Arduino to control via MQTT, as the less that can go wrong, the better.
the arduino will control the furnace, and possibly the AC. and the lighting groups, like outside, kitchen, dinette, bedroom (aside from reading lights), and bathroom lights. all lights will also be manual control as well, like a 3-way switch. one remote switch relay, and one local switch for manual control. switch locations will imply entry from door, in. so switches for kitchen, outside, and dinette, on wall by door. bathroom switch just outside bedroom loft, on shower-side wall. bedroom light switch just inside door to bedroom.
switches can be low-volt. debating on 5v or 12v... 5v has less conversion, where 12v can be safe to connect any 12v power source. if i have a pull-down resistor on the analog inputs, i can use them with a voltage divider, and switch on with any value over, say, 100 (out of 1023), so i could connect 5V, up to battery-volts.
Solar/Wind power thoughts
for a stop switch, i can use a 60A-ish non-fused disconnect switch, 2 pole. just connect 2 phases to one side, and the third phase bridged to the other side, both poles, so when the switch is on, it shorts the turbine. this is after all an emergency stop function, not for regular stopping.
i can build a dump-load controller with an Arduino. it only needs to activate a relay or MOSFET to connect a dump load, when the voltage gets too high (40v?), and return to normal when voltage drops to say 18v (?). i can use a 16-bit ADC, and a voltage divider (20K-high, 1K-low). that would give me a max of 100V input, with a resolution of about 0.103v (if i did my math right).
then i can use a 100A 3-phase bridge diode as a combiner, and combine the solar and wind power into my MPPT charge controller.
for starters, i don't need to have the HA install actually in the camper. i can, while building up the camper, have the HA install in the house. the Epever MPPT controller can submit Modbus over my Ethernet RS485 device, while building. then, when ready, i have only to move the HA install into the camper.

  1. Patch leaks
    1. Fridge roof vent (seal and block-off)
    2. unused wall vents
  2. Battery Box
    1. 4 deep-cycle, approx. 100Ah
    2. fuse block
    3. heavy power disconnect
  3. Bedroom
    1. remove lift platform
    2. remove all carpet
    3. replace heat ducts
    4. add flooring (laminate or vinyl?)
    5. restore cabinets
  4. Bathroom
    1. run water supplies
      1. tub/shower
      2. toilet
      3. no vanity? (provisions for later?)
    2. install toilet
    3. re-install tub
    4. install tub/shower valve
    5. restore cabinets for master closet
  5. Kitchen
    1. water tank hookups
    2. re-mount furnace and ducting
    3. mount water heater
    4. frame out cabinets for layout
    5. run sink drain
    6. run sink supplies
    7. mount water pump
    8. electrical
      1. panel in divider "L" between kitchen and dinette. near floor.
      2. power converter/charger, above panel (vented cabinet), with solar charger.
      3. wind dump load in vented, metal-lined pocket (fridge vent panel?)
    9. counter-top (Formica, or polyurethane?)
    10. stove over furnace
    11. sink left of stove
    12. build cabinets
  6. Dinette
    1. "U" shaped
    2. back against drivers-side wall
    3. i have the table legs, i think
    4. birch-plywood table, with oak edge. heavy polyurethane.
  7. LED Lighting
    1. two over dinette for good lighting
    2. two in kitchen ceiling, with under-cabinet lighting
    3. two in bathroom
    4. two ceiling in bedroom, with two reading lights?
    5. at least one outside light, in front
    6. some in back for utility


  • camper_layout.pdf
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planning on 4 deep-cycle Group 29DC from Wal-Mart. they will be bought as i can afford, so i will label each with the date purchased, so i can track the older batteries and replace them.
the batteries are 13.00L x 6.80W x 10.00H Inches, and i will connect them each to a fuse block, 50A fused per battery. i think i have 8AWG wire to go from battery to fuse block, with Andersen SB-50 connectors for quick disconnect. no master disconnect, the SB-50 connectors will have to serve as such in the off-season.
i don't think i will need heavier wire for anything but charging from my 100A charger/converter. not even sure what the fuse panel can take, but i suspect max 6 or 8AWG. it is only a 50A master fuse panel.
the solar charger will handle solar and wind charging, but i will have no need to connect the load to the Epever load output. more of a PITA if somebody hits the off button.
i will need to run wire from the 50A AC inlet, all the way back to the power panel. i think i have enough wire. may have to use splicers, unless i can do without...
the front compartment will be for electrical and sewer hose, as well as drinking water hoses. i can build a partition to keep the drinking water and electrical side clean, and just put the sewer on the other side. likely in bags of some sort.
i have a pump and strainer, but they may need cleaning. should be simple. just pump some water with mild bleach in it, through the pump, and flush with clean water.

the hardest part will be installing the ceiling panels, and wall panels. i really should do that before much building, but after the roof weather-proofing.
for the roof vent for the fridge, i think i can just make a galv-steel cap, Geocel it on, and paint it for rust prevention.

things i need to buy, that other stuff depends on, other than lumber...
  • stove cook-top
  • sink (may have one)
  • water-heater
  • batteries (at least one to start)
  • toilet
  • vanity (?)
    • vanity valve
  • tub/shower valve
  • tub drain pipe
  • RV shower-head
i may actually install the water-heater where it was, as it is an easy location to make a hole. i would need to make the lines easy to drain back, as they would have a long run, and use pipe insulation on the HOT side. i would also need to route LP gas to the unit. i can just build something around the water-heater, and provide access to it. bench maybe?
on the note of LP gas, i think i will abandon the pipe that is there, and run some 3/8 soft-copper line back from the regulators, to the furnace and stove, and then to the water heater. the T connections will be outside, under the camper, with isolation valves inside the camper, by the appliance.

I think the sewer valves "may" need replacing, but i don't know for sure. i know the pull-cables are dead, so it may be a good reason to replace the valves. i may opt to move the valves, but it would be far easier not to. i would need to get a sewer drain tank, just to be able to flush the tanks.
it would be very nice if i had a way to dump the sewer too. maybe a maceration pump, and a long hose, run into a to-be installed sewer connection.
i think i can control the dump load with a Atmega328, and a large solid-state relay (with the load resistor i have already). i think the importance is in "de-bouncing" the logic. in other words, if the voltage is too high for say 500ms to 750ms, or less (experimental value), then switch on the dump load until it drops below a threshold level. and just keep turning it on and off as needed. but i can't use the relays for this, they will fail too soon. maybe to start off with, but in the end i will need to change it out for a SSR. the SSR will need cooling, so it can go in the compartment with the dump-load, with a heat-sink.
other than that, i should be able to pump the DC rectified turbine voltage right into the MPPT charge controller.
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not going to use my DC ATX PSU here, will use it elsewhere. it would be better to power each device (HA install, WiFi router, Konnected, MQTT Arduino) from their own DC to DC buck-boost converter. i think i have enough to go around... only need 2 or 3. the Konnected can be directly connected to the 12V camper power. for that matter, so can the HA install, and "maybe" the MQTT Arduino, too. but the WiFi router needs stable 12Vdc power. the WiFi router has 4 ethernet ports. so HA install, RS485-Ethernet server (also needs stable power, unsure of voltage), Konnected, and MQTT Arduino, all get an Ethernet port. i can't imagine i would need more, but if i do i could get an Ethernet switch that can be 12Vdc powered. the internet will come in over a wireless PTP Ethernet bridge, and enter the WiFi router into the WAN port. the router will either be in router mode, or i may just leave it in bridge mode for simplicity.

Still thinking of using the AV cabinet my father and i built. it will just make things easier.

i am almost debating on making the dump-load controller part of the MQTT Arduino install. it would be less cluttered, and i could have a voltage and dump-load state monitor, with software override ON.
i think i need differential ADC inputs for sensing the wind turbine voltage, as i am unsure if the ground connections are connected through the charge controller. i suspect they are, but can't be sure. that would require me to use a ADS1115 ADC, and it would be differential for two signals, so i could in the future measure wind-turbine current. i would still need two large DC-DC SSR modules. and may as well have one for the DC charger control, so if the battery capacity got below 50% or so, kick on the charger. i am not positive, but if i run it through the blocking diode, through the Epever charger, i can monitor charge level well enough to shut off the charger. this may be the best option, and just set the voltage high for the charger, and at constant voltage.
i really should figure out how much current each of the LED light fixtures i have, takes to light up. makes a difference on how many i can put on a single relay.

so, if i use the 5v MCP23017 relay board, i need a separate 5V PSU for the MCU and relay board, due to current requirements of the relay board. i think i will use the screw terminal shield on the Mega2560 for secure connections. the green one that is on my Giga right now. that way i can use an actual Ethernet shield, rather than the Ethernet module. i hope it will be secure enough not to lose connection under road transit. perhaps a bit of hot glue...
the MCU will then be replaceable, and i can add in circuits as needed for level shifting.
i know i wanted to go with a 3-way switch method, but that requires too many input pins. if i go the way the software is now, with one input pin per switch, and go with 5v switching, i don't have to change much in software. and hardware-wise, i don't need to convert any 12v down to logic levels. as long as i only use specific wire for 5v switches, it should be safe. i will have to mark the wires as 5v at both ends, like for example "Dinette 5v SW", for the dinette switch. i wonder too, i could make the switches as toggle buttons, and i would be able to have a button anywhere, several on the same circuit, as long as people don't fight over a button. ;-)
that would require a somewhat extensive redo of the software, but is possible to do. and i could make it a 3-5 second hold, to help with people bumping into a button.
but with the button idea, i can have a button set by the door for dinette, kitchen, and bathroom. a button for dinette over by the dinette... just as examples.
i need to add functions for the water-pump power too. maybe with monitoring of when the pump is actually on, too. could serve as a reminder that i left the pump on.

i want to have water filters for water entering the plumbing, either from the tank (pump) or the street inlet. something like: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07GBZ83HH/
they need to be somewhere easy to get to for changing, draining, and such. every winter i will pump them full of RV antifreeze, and then drain them, same as the rest of the system, but every spring, i will put new filters in, to get rid of the antifreeze. i need a pump diverter, so i can pump directly from an antifreeze bottle. one possible option is to buy a small water tank just for antifreeze, though that would be a lot of money for what it does.

with the monitoring system, i also need to add in for water levels. should be able to use analog inputs, and scale 0 to 100% full. 12V signal level, 3 channels (clear, grey, and black water). that way i can monitor the water levels with my phone. though i will also need a LED readout of water levels. 4 LEDs per tank (1/4, 1/2, 3/4, full). so the monitor MCU system will need to be made to work without the network, as well as with.
sorta resigned myself to using the DC ATX PSU for the Rpi CM4 HA install, and the Arduino MQTT install. the RS485 to Ethernet device needs full-time power, as does the WiFi router. but the HA install can be shut down to save power, if desired.
thinking there will be a power switch to turn the DC ATX PSU ignition wire signal on. but it will be inside the enclosure to save from accidental power off. i want to setup a MCU to handle software shutdown and power on of the PSU from the Rpi, via the ignition signal switch. but to start, it will just power on and off sharply, until i get the software and hardware sorted out. the idea is to prevent data corruption on the HA install.
enclosure fans will run weather the HA install is running or not.
planning a re-design of the panel slide-out idea. if i get some angle aluminum, i can add s piece to each side of the top of the shelf, to create a slot. then attach a piece on the side of the panel to slide into that slot. simple and effective. could also use a piece of wood to make the slot. the panels will slide back to stops, allowing for ventilation. the front will be the wire channels. the panels will fit snug to the door, with U-shaped cut-outs.
just checked the cabinet, it has a face-frame, so i will need to cut slots for the slide strips. the panels can slide right to the back, if i cut U-shaped cut-outs in back too. the rear exiting wires will need to be well bundled so they do not pinch, or block the slides. i can use the weather-pack connectors, providing i clearly label every group of wires so they don't get miss-connected. the heavy dust battery cables will need to have extra length so they can remain attached, though i do have Andersen SB50 connectors, if i can find them.
the cabinet will be a kick-space above the floor, so wires can enter through the bottom, and top if needed. i need to pick up some smaller feed wire for lights and buttons. something like 18AWG should be good. i have the single wire kit, but it would not last for long runs.

somehow i need to make this all compact. more compact than the cabinet in mind. maybe the solar controller can go into a thin ventilated cabinet in the side of the dinette, with the power panel and AC charger below it. the HA install could go into an upper cabinet, somewhere. maybe way over the stove, or in a thin cabinet just under the ceiling on the bathroom side wall. i would need a step ladder to get to it, but it would be out of the way. i can mount the WiFi router up there too. or the WiFi could mount on a panel on the over-stove soffit. if i make some aluminum plates that fit into the bottom screw mount holes, and allow to be slid sideways in the slots to lock it in, the router shouldn't fall down, in theory. the HA install could even be in an upper cabinet over the sink, just to hide it. a fairly shallow cabinet, that locks.

i can make access holes in paneling for wires and line the edges with tubing to soften the edge.
the Ethernet wire will be the exterior shielded CAT5e wire i have. i will need to terminate the ends, of course.
still thinking of mounting the Ethernet bridge to the TV antenna mast, though the future solar panels will be in the way. maybe if i just have panels on the drivers side of the roof.

i need block-off panels of aluminum for the old stove vent hole, and the old water street fill hole. i can use some 1/16in aluminum plate for those. the fridge wall-vent block-off will need to be aluminum trim-coil. the more holes i can seal up before the renovation, the better. should seal around the window tops too, just to be sure. several tubes of Geocel...
i really need to get the wall and ceiling insulation back in, so i can re-panel. the floor needs to be flattened, so i can have vinyl flooring put in. that and it will really clean it up, looks wise.

once those are complete, then i can start on the bedroom, and get that ready, followed by the bathroom, and then frame out the kitchen/dinette area.
it all seems so easy, but the problem is, i have no money. no income at all. i really need to get my CNC business going, at least in some way, so i can make money with projects.

i have several times thought about abandoning the camper, and installing the solar and wind out in the shop. if it was well insulated, i could use the excess 12V power to heat the shop... just saying.
ordered a pair of these: https://www.digikey.com/en/products/detail/tamura/L01Z200S05/529408
200A AC/DC Hall-Effect current sensors. one for load current sensing, the other for a spare, as you never know when something will fail.

the sensor is 4X what i need for the load sensing, but i intend to use a 16-bit ADC (ADS1115), so it should be able to detect small current loads. i could lower the range to the milliamp range float value, and i may yet, but i think the error would overwrite the valid readings
if the wind turbine dump load is inside the camper, it will need to be vented to the outside, as it may get very hot. i am thinking the fridge vents, plus some power-vent fans are very needed. and i should make the duct fire-resistant. in other words, line it with steel. i want a better louvered panel in place of the fridge access panel. something i can lock, and will keep blowing rain out better. or perhaps i could fully line the bottom, and setup a sort of drain. then i will need to screen the louvers for bugs, as well as the roof vent, that i will need to re-open and add a new topper... or make one. if i line the ducting right, even if the roof vent leaks, it will only get the duct wet, where it will drain at the bottom.
the duct will need some insulation, but likely no more than 1in foam. not looking to make a huge affair inside the camper. just room enough for the dump-load, and fire clearance. i may in the future pick up a second dump-load, in case the wind-turbine goes wild in a wind storm.

ideally, the turbine pole would be solid ground mounted, but i am trying to make it portable. i will need to make a base that secures to the camper frame somehow, as well as a roof-height brace that spreads the load for a distance, to prevent camper damage. i could rubber mount the upper brace to the pole for flexibility. i have some wire i could add to the turbine lead, if needed. depends on tower mount location.
to make the system portable, the roof brace will stick above the roof-line, and have a pivot. the pole is then laid down into a cradle near the front of the camper, and strapped down. the pole may need to be slid forward. because of the portable nature, the wire will be outside the pole. i will need to create a pole topper that starts with a pipe that slides into the pole, and has slide-stops to regulate how far it slides into the pole. the pipe will then rise up high enough to clear the blades, and be welded to the turbine mounting plate, with some gussets for strength. somehow the mounting bolts for the plate need to either be accessible from outside for bolting, or be welded to the plate (makes replacement hard).
if i take some gussets, 8-10in long, and about 1.5-2in wide, i can notch the plates around the mounting plate, so the weld is on more than just a butt weld, and bring the plates down and notched outside the topper pipe in a way that the bolt holes are reachable with a boxed-end wrench, or ratchet, with 4in of height to slide new bolts up into the holes. the middle will be open for the wire to pass, and smoothed to prevent wire chaffing. the wire will need to have the splice water-proofed. just some large shrink-tube at the top will do. if additional wire is added, the shrink-tube will need sealant. the wire will pass through the center of the topper pipe to protect it from the turbine blades, but will exit the topper before the topper joins the tower pole.
the topper will be removed for transport. the turbine blades will also be removed for transport. i will need to fine a 3-wire plug i can use for the connection between the turbine wire, and the lead into the camper. current turbine is 50A, 3-Phase. something like: https://www.amazon.com/Industrial-Socket-380V‑415V-Waterproof-Connector/dp/B09J2LQZF5/
i can use a R-2R resistor ladder for measuring the tank levels. simply apply 12V to the base terminal, and read the level from the other 3 based on height of water and terminal position...

makes me really wish it was warmer weather so i could work on my camper, and make sure the tank connections work... actually, just warmer weather and money to build with on my camper would be great. so many ideas, and it would be great to be able to put some into use.
it's like, if i sold my truck, i could afford to work on my camper, but i couldn't move it anymore. kind of a catch-22... because i have no way to get a bunch of money... i will just have to stop buying crap, and save more money for the camper. almost tempted to sell my CNC machine, but i couldn't get what i have into it...
re-arranging a bit... i want the batteries where i wanted them, the battery charger near them, but the power panel will be overhead the stove/sink area. i will make a bunch of flip up doors, and make the cabinets heavy for wiring. my solar charger will go up there too.
as for the HA install, i will back off on the lights, and just use it to monitor. maybe the outside light though... but it will go up overhead.
the thermostat i may just use a regular thermostat, to make it reliable.

having the electrical overhead will also give me a pace to run wire, and the AC hookup will be shorter run. i can have a small wire-wall beside the kitchen, or use the thicker bathroom wall, with the panel door, if it goes floor to ceiling. i want to re-panel that wall, so it wouldn't hurt to tear off the wall and re-do it better, with a swing door.

the water-heater could go in the fridge hole. that would mean a proper patch panel over the old hole.
also, debating on the flooring. there are some soft spots, but i don't want to put fasteners down into the tanks... makes it a little tricky. can't raise the floor much anyway, due to ceiling height. thinking of going with glue-down vinyl flooring.

in the bathroom, it needs a lot of work on the walls and floor... and fixtures. i will build a access panel by the entry door to get to the back of the shower valve.

i still have to make sure the tanks hold water, and are not "plugged", because that would put a damper on the whole project. i will have to get a portable dump tank to test with.

at some point, i need to get a longer power cable, though given the 30A 240V supply, i think i can make a cable from given materials to get me by. i have a length of 10awg X 3 w/ground cable i can put some ends onto.

i should climb up and see if my A/C is serviceable, and what it would take to repair the housing. because if it is not serviceable, i will need a new one, and that is a lot of $,$$$.

not sure if i have room to make the dinette a bed... but i want a big dinette. maybe extras can sleep in tents... and i get to enjoy my A/C. ;):cool:
but i want storage... for things like tents, outside chairs, table, coolers...

this all assumes my truck can two it well, without blowing out a back window in a tight turn...

i want this to not just be a home away from home, but also be able to be a home AWAY from home. IOW, running on just batteries, or park power. so i will need a RV surge protector, mandatory. and build this camper to run off batteries. with AC for battery charging, and A/C. but this also means building LIGHT and roadworthy. all cabinets will lock with travel locks, as will the drawers. no short stumpy screws for hardware, because it will wear out on the road, with weight in the drawer.
i should also build rodent resistant. easier to keep them out if they can't get in.
Sadly, i may never finish this renovation... if i ever lose or sell my truck, i will have no way to tow or move the camper. :cry: