Electrical Ignorance may be bliss, but won't keep your power going!!

Boots in Action

Well-Known Member
Mar 13, 2017
974
851
93
Ferny Grove, Queensland
#1
Another true story from the field.

Whilst camping off grid just before Christmas, met a fellow camper, wife and his 3 young children. Seems they had purchased a Jayco Swan OB nearly 12 months ago and this was only the second time they had used it. Loving wife decided to buy a Kick Ass 120 litre compressor fridge to meet the growing needs of family as 90 Litre Dometic 3 way was not big enough. Whilst looking at this great piece of kit, I asked how much current it drew when running, but the details are on the Kick Ass app which he had not checked up on. As the Swan only had the standard 120 W solar panel on the roof, and he had no other panels, he had no idea of what was happening. Unfortunately for them, there had been 4 days of showery weather and heavy cloudy skies and he had parked in the dimmest position in the park to get van out of sun, as "forecast" had been for 30C plus days of sunny weather. Actually max temp only reached 22C and min of 18C and very humid!. Decided he may need help - the Kick Ass fridge was on the lowest setting for fridge protection too. Checked inside and found that there was a 96ah Bosch Gel battery (standard??) connected in parallel with a Toyarama 150ah gel battery (added???) A Coast to Coast water tank gauge had been fitted which included a series of lights for battery voltage if button was pushed. The lowest yellow light was on too! When I asked about not knowing what was coming in, he indicated to me a Top Ray solar controller TPS 1230, which he said was not working. It was - but only voltage was showing at 11.9 volts. As afternoon light had gone (they had to use the internal light/s during the day because of where they parked too!) , I said I would be over first thing after breakfast next day to see what I could do for him and his family as they were hoping to stay a further 3 or 4 days.

Next morning armed with the necessary multimeter, spare wiring and slide on connectors, checked out the situation. The last light on Coast to Coast was still on but voltage on Top Ray controller was now down to 11.8 volts. Cleaned roof panel and with a bit of sunlight managed to get 2.5A charge going into battery which then rose to 12.0 volts. There was no indication of amps out because THERE WERE NO WIRES CONNECTED TO THE LOAD TERMINALS - same old story of Jayco not connecting up these wires!! This meant that there was no way output current could be monitored. My favorite subject in explaining my setup on this forum!!! Aaahhhhh!!

With the permission of fellow camper, decided to do a "field repair". Easily done when you know how and NO SMOKE either!! Opened up the back area behind the Setec ST 20 series III where all the connections were, removed the two wires (Bat Pos and the Bat Neg opposite it) and taped the ends even though they were insulated connectors. Then connected two wires using female spade connectors( bound with insulation tape) from Bat Pos and Bat Neg (the same terminals where wires had been removed) to the Pos and Neg LOAD terminals on solar controller. All done in a couple of minutes!! Top Ray solar now showing Amps IN and Amps OUT as well as voltage available. Found out that Kick Ass compressor fridge was pulling 3.8A on run, and the LED lights in the van pulled approx 580 ma each when on. Also decided to move up the battery protection to mid position to protect batteries a little more. The van had been in their storage shed for the last 6 months and power was only connected 36 hours before they departed from Hervey Bay - a 3 hour drive and also NO connection to TUG to charge batteries for compressor fridge. In fact compressor fridge was not connected until they set up camp although all food was loaded cold before they left home.Talk about unprepared!!

The next day a lot more sun but temp now up to 29C. The situation improved a little and family still had refrigeration when they left. Batteries would have been low!! Fellow camper took pictures of wiring with his camera and disconnected my wires, reconnecting original before departing. Thanked me profusely for my help and went away a lot wiser too. The moral of this story is to make sure you can monitor electrical usage and remember that every added piece requiring power needs to be considered in the whole scheme of things. As @mikerezny said in an earlier post, if you have compressor fridge, you need to chase the sun for max power and if fixed panels on roof, have a portable solar panel properly connected to back up the roof panels. @Drover has been boasting about his arrangement like that.

For all those members with Top Ray (Camec) solar controller TPS 1230, and no wires connected to the load terminals ( and therefore no display for amps OUT), this is an easy fix and I intend to do a really clear instruction with easy to follow wiring diagrams so you too can have the benefits of what this ordinary PWM controller can do. The links put out on how to use this product are INCORRECT and one should only refer to the proper directions as below.

https://www.caravansplus.com.au/pdf/solar_reg.pdf

Watch under Solar Posts for these instructions which should be there in the next day or so.
 

mikerezny

Well-Known Member
Sep 11, 2016
1,010
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Mount Waverley, VIC
#2
Well done @Boots in Action.

Whether it is a small setup with a 40W solar panel or a 1MW system, the basics are pretty much the same: solar available, power consumed, and storage capacity. You cannot manage any of these systems without the tools to measure and analyse what is going on.

I hope your camping neighbour was able to absorb at least some of the information you were feeding him at the rate of a fire hose!

cheers
Mike
 

rags

Well-Known Member
#3
Well done Boots in Action, you make it all so simple but unfortunately some will always struggle to understand.
I'm about to embark on a expanda reno ( new fridge, hot water, another water tank, gas and water pipe replacement and a few other ideas) in the coming weeks and which will include a learning curve for me about the black art of installing 2 new batteries and 2x solarpanels.
I have been reading yours and other wise people's posts on this subject in another thread to better equip myself.
However, I sure I may have a question or two for you as I proceed!
 

Boots in Action

Well-Known Member
Mar 13, 2017
974
851
93
Ferny Grove, Queensland
#4
Well done Boots in Action, you make it all so simple but unfortunately some will always struggle to understand.
I'm about to embark on a expanda reno ( new fridge, hot water, another water tank, gas and water pipe replacement and a few other ideas) in the coming weeks and which will include a learning curve for me about the black art of installing 2 new batteries and 2x solarpanels.
I have been reading yours and other wise people's posts on this subject in another thread to better equip myself.
However, I sure I may have a question or two for you as I proceed!
Thanks @rags and @mikerezny for your positive compliments. The first part of your expanda reno may be a challenge for me, but I am sure I can help you (with the assistance of a lot of the other "Tech Heads"on this forum) on the matter of battery connections and solar power and controllers. Just put up your questions/ideas and help will be forthcoming. The hardest part will be making decisions on what way you want to go and your own particular needs. Cheers
 

Boots in Action

Well-Known Member
Mar 13, 2017
974
851
93
Ferny Grove, Queensland
#5
Well done @Boots in Action.

Whether it is a small setup with a 40W solar panel or a 1MW system, the basics are pretty much the same: solar available, power consumed, and storage capacity. You cannot manage any of these systems without the tools to measure and analyse what is going on.

I hope your camping neighbour was able to absorb at least some of the information you were feeding him at the rate of a fire hose!

cheers
Mike
Thanks Mike @mikerezny for your comments. Yes, there were so many potential problems that could arise because of his lack of knowledge and so much to advise him on (at fire hose rate!!!), but hopefully he will absorb some of it. I was a little worried when he removed the wires I had connected and reconnected the original ones without supervision. I do not know if he was aware of the electrical potential of the battery/ies power still available when he did this. I forgot to remind him to switch off the Load switch and make sure there was no solar power coming in and no load on the electrical system when he does that. Hopefully, he won't make a mistake when his batteries are fully charged, IF he gets them recharged immediately after getting home and connecting up to 240 volt power. Some people are DANGEROUS with a little knowledge!!
 

rags

Well-Known Member
#6
Thanks @rags and @mikerezny for your positive compliments. The first part of your expanda reno may be a challenge for me, but I am sure I can help you (with the assistance of a lot of the other "Tech Heads"on this forum) on the matter of battery connections and solar power and controllers. Just put up your questions/ideas and help will be forthcoming. The hardest part will be making decisions on what way you want to go and your own particular needs. Cheers
I'm all sorted into the direction I'm taking and have made all the purchases consisting of a Waeco 110 litre compressor fridge, a Camec instantaneous gas water heater, 90 litre water tank, shower mixer set etc. My plumbing experience along with building background will see me ok completing those tasks.

For the power tasks, I'm doing 2 x 140 amp/hr AGM batteries along with 2 x190 watt panels and to keep those working I'm using a Enerdrive DC2DC 40 amp charger as a MPPT solar regulator with a supplementary feed from tug alternator, along with a Enerdrive AC 40 amp charger for when we have 240volt available. I also intend to have a 'remote' Anderson plug to run my portable solar panel when the van maybe parked under a tree.
Following what I read on this site to arm and prepare myself I then sort advice from 2 different solar places near home on the Brisbane north side and both suggested similar equipment and outcomes, both were happy for me to pay them to install but I figured I can get the gear and start to do all the hard work and when I'm stumped then take it to one of them to sort me out.
My first decision is where and how to house the above as I have 3 options and need to consider balancing the weight of an extra battery ( already have a 120 amp battery install which is being removed). Mounting the Enerdrive gear is the big decision, option 1 housed in a storage cupboard or 2 surface mount on the wall of van whilst being in close proximatety to the batteries.

I've got a couple of weeks off work so will make a start and see how I go.
I probably should do a build thread as there are also a couple of other ideas in my head and depending on quotes may do,. The 1st cutting the front hatch out and replacing with a purpose built lockup box and 2nd a suspension conversion to Cruise-master suspension whilst raising the ATM above the current 1500kg.
The van is the 2010 - 12.37 outback, which we love. We considered selling and upgrade to a new hybrid, but in reality couldn't find anything that suited our needs and tight arse budgets. This van suits our needs and with a splash of cash should see us through until we may consider something more suitable for our retirement years a bit further down the track.
 
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mikerezny

Well-Known Member
Sep 11, 2016
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Mount Waverley, VIC
#7
I'm all sorted into the direction I'm taking and have made all the purchases consisting of a Waeco 110 litre compressor fridge, a Camec instantaneous gas water heater, 90 litre water tank, shower mixer set etc. My plumbing experience along with building background will see me ok completing those tasks.

For the power tasks, I'm doing 2 x 140 amp/hr AGM batteries along with 2 x190 watt panels and to keep those working I'm using a Enerdrive DC2DC 40 amp charger as a MPPT solar regulator with a supplementary feed from tug alternator, along with a Enerdrive AC 40 amp charger for when we have 240volt available. I also intend to have a 'remote' Anderson plug to run my portable solar panel when the van maybe parked under a tree.
Following what I read on this site to arm and prepare myself I then sort advice from 2 different solar places near home on the Brisbane north side and both suggested similar equipment and outcomes, both were happy for me to pay them to install but I figured I can get the gear and start to do all the hard work and when I'm stumped then take it to one of them to sort me out.
My first decision is where and how to house the above as I have 3 options and need to consider balancing the weight of an extra battery ( already have a 120 amp battery install which is being removed). Mounting the Enerdrive gear is the big decision, option 1 housed in a storage cupboard or 2 surface mount on the wall of van whilst being in close proximatety to the batteries.

I've got a couple of weeks off work so will make a start and see how I go.
I probably should do a build thread as there are also a couple of other ideas in my head and depending on quotes may do,. The 1st cutting the front hatch out and replacing with a purpose built lockup box and 2nd a suspension conversion to Cruise-master suspension whilst raising the ATM above the current 1500kg.
The van is the 2010 - 12.37 outback, which we love. We considered selling and upgrade to a new hybrid, but in reality couldn't find anything that suited our needs and tight arse budgets. This van suits our needs and with a splash of cash should see us through until we may consider something more suitable for our retirement years a bit further down the track.
Hi,
I think a thread related to your design, installation, pro and cons of various options, and subsequent results of just your power system would be of great value.

cheers
Mike
 
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Boots in Action

Well-Known Member
Mar 13, 2017
974
851
93
Ferny Grove, Queensland
#8
I'm all sorted into the direction I'm taking and have made all the purchases consisting of a Waeco 110 litre compressor fridge, a Camec instantaneous gas water heater, 90 litre water tank, shower mixer set etc. My plumbing experience along with building background will see me ok completing those tasks.

For the power tasks, I'm doing 2 x 140 amp/hr AGM batteries along with 2 x190 watt panels and to keep those working I'm using a Enerdrive DC2DC 40 amp charger as a MPPT solar regulator with a supplementary feed from tug alternator, along with a Enerdrive AC 40 amp charger for when we have 240volt available. I also intend to have a 'remote' Anderson plug to run my portable solar panel when the van maybe parked under a tree.
Following what I read on this site to arm and prepare myself I then sort advice from 2 different solar places near home on the Brisbane north side and both suggested similar equipment and outcomes, both were happy for me to pay them to install but I figured I can get the gear and start to do all the hard work and when I'm stumped then take it to one of them to sort me out.
My first decision is where and how to house the above as I have 3 options and need to consider balancing the weight of an extra battery ( already have a 120 amp battery install which is being removed). Mounting the Enerdrive gear is the big decision, option 1 housed in a storage cupboard or 2 surface mount on the wall of van whilst being in close proximatety to the batteries.

I've got a couple of weeks off work so will make a start and see how I go.
I probably should do a build thread as there are also a couple of other ideas in my head and depending on quotes may do,. The 1st cutting the front hatch out and replacing with a purpose built lockup box and 2nd a suspension conversion to Cruise-master suspension whilst raising the ATM above the current 1500kg.
The van is the 2010 - 12.37 outback, which we love. We considered selling and upgrade to a new hybrid, but in reality couldn't find anything that suited our needs and tight arse budgets. This van suits our needs and with a splash of cash should see us through until we may consider something more suitable for our retirement years a bit further down the track.
Lots to think about @rags. Just a few things tonight before I give full thought tomorrow:
Solar panels - fixed or portable?? Are you thinking of series or parallel connections to controller?? Advantages and disadvantages in both methods. Your controller can handle up to 45 volts so no problems with a series hook up for two panels. If solar panels have their own controller on back of them, you will need to bypass these controllers and direct all solar power (whether series or parallel hook up) to the one controller inside - Enerdrive unit??
Controller is better on a wall where it will get plenty of airflow and is easily seen all the time. Locked away in a cupboard is tidy but not the best option as the unit has a fan in it and needs air circulation.
Controller should be as close to battery/ies as possible to avoid voltage drop and wiring should be capable of handling at least 40A continuously to be safe. If connecting panels in series, lighter cabling between panels and controller is possible, but you must have heavy cabling from controller to battery bank. Batteries to be connected in Parallel. Weight distribution will have to be sorted out.
You seem confident in all the build work and plumbing including the gas connections too. As you are on the north side of Brisbane, perhaps if you send me a PM with your address, I can make arrangements to call and offer my 2 cents' worth??

Regards
 

Boots in Action

Well-Known Member
Mar 13, 2017
974
851
93
Ferny Grove, Queensland
#9
Hi,
I think a thread related to your design, installation, pro and cons of various options, and subsequent results of just your power system would be of great value.

cheers
Mike
Hi Mike @mikerezny , have a look at the PDF instructions on the Enerdrive unit, particularly on the charging and power supply when in "float" phase. It brings up one of your thoughts on charging whilst supplying a load. Now it makes more sense to me why my LD MPPT solar controller does not switch to bulk/absorbe charge if a light load is applied whilst in this mode. My unit will remain in "float" phase for up to 2 hours cumulatively before moving to bulk/absorbe charge if a series of light loads is applied. However, if voltage drops below the set point, the 2 hour limit is over-ridden for the moment until full charge is obtained and "float" mode attained. Seems like this unit has such a system and explains it pretty well. Very sophisticated and so it should be for the price too!!.
 

Drover

Well-Known Member
Nov 7, 2013
8,770
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QLD
www.expandasdownunder.com
#10
You should mention @Boots in Action that connecting to the load only provides information, most would have no idea what it means and it won't improve a poorly designed system.

On some I have looked at you would need to run a Buss Bar to connect all the extra cables that have been fitted to the battery then have a run from it to the load.

Sounds like a great project @rags I would certainly start a build thread, buy cable and connectors and stuff online, some good shops on Ebay that are electrical places in Australia which have good gear and will save big $$$ ......
 

Boots in Action

Well-Known Member
Mar 13, 2017
974
851
93
Ferny Grove, Queensland
#12
You should mention @Boots in Action that connecting to the load only provides information, most would have no idea what it means and it won't improve a poorly designed system.

On some I have looked at you would need to run a Buss Bar to connect all the extra cables that have been fitted to the battery then have a run from it to the load.

Sounds like a great project @rags I would certainly start a build thread, buy cable and connectors and stuff online, some good shops on Ebay that are electrical places in Australia which have good gear and will save big $$$ ......
Hello @Drover , I hope you had a great Christmas and I look forward to conversing with you on this forum throughout 2019! In relation to your reply, unfortunately your first paragraph may be true, but I try to help others, just as you do. Perhaps I can use less "tech talk" and relate to a more simple terminology.

Your second paragraph may apply to some, but for those with a Setec or similar, there is no need to do anything about the battery connections at the battery itself. The Setec distribution point is an all blade type connections for each circuit each with their own fuse (a type of bus bar if you like) and so no extra cabling needed. Only if you are running high current devices is there a need to connect directly to the battery with their own fused line. However, as you said, not all systems are the same, so I will be discussing ONLY the most common connections ie. those persons who have a Setec or similar power supply unit with connections at back, with a solar panel/s, and an INSIDE solar controller, whatever the type- even your Morning Star!!
The last and most important thing is the desire or NEED to monitor battery input and consumption as voltage alone is only a guide. The other existing problem is getting people to understand what is displayed and its relevance to their operation. I do not like seeing people with good gear misunderstanding or ignorant of what is/could be happening, and possibly avoid costly mistakes which were overlooked. Such a waste!!

Like a female friend who never checked the oil level on her car because it was not 6 months since servicing and she had not traveled 10,000 kms. When car stopped (seized!!) and RACQ member asked her about the oil warning light coming on, her reply was "Oh, it only came on when I went around corners!!!" I am sorry to say that a lot of caravanners have the same mentality!
 
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Drover

Well-Known Member
Nov 7, 2013
8,770
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QLD
www.expandasdownunder.com
#13
True booties but even with a Setek or the later BM35 ? systems I have seen extra wires hanging off the battery, stuff added at the dealers, laziness I thought actually..Good luck with your mammoth project, panadol at hand.


I do think heaps of storage, heaps of panels means one can ignore things.
 

Boots in Action

Well-Known Member
Mar 13, 2017
974
851
93
Ferny Grove, Queensland
#14
Well done Boots in Action, you make it all so simple but unfortunately some will always struggle to understand.
I'm about to embark on a expanda reno ( new fridge, hot water, another water tank, gas and water pipe replacement and a few other ideas) in the coming weeks and which will include a learning curve for me about the black art of installing 2 new batteries and 2x solarpanels.
I have been reading yours and other wise people's posts on this subject in another thread to better equip myself.
However, I sure I may have a question or two for you as I proceed!
Hello @rags, @Bluey, @Drover, and @mikerezny and others following "this white man magic show", there is no magic I can assure you (and no smoke or flame either!!)
As promised, here is a simple instruction on how to wire your load circuit through your solar controller instead of through the Setec (or other type) of distribution system, IF you have your solar controller (any brand) inside your van and have a Setec ST 20 or 35 Series II or III. The only difference between these two is that the Series II has only 6 distribution points and the Series III has 8. Other types of controllers are probably similar. When you take the cover off to expose the top of the distribution panel box ( Not the metal cover on unit itself), you will see the following:

Terminals L1 to L8 (or 6) +ve are on one side and terminals L1 to L8 (or 6) -ve are on the other side. These are the distribution points for each of the loads in the fuse box. The only ones YOU have to worry about are Bat ve+ and Bat ve -- . Ignore Aux In +ve as that is for the controlled power from the tug alternator. I have clearly marked the ones I am referring to. There are two wires to the van battery connected here. These should be removed (just spade terminals) BUT BE AWARE THESE WIRES ARE ACTIVE (still connected to van battery) AND SHOULD NOT BE TOUCHED TOGETHER OR ANY OTHER METAL OR WIRES!! To be safe, DISCONNECT the load by switching OFF the MANUAL BATTERY ISOLATION SWITCH which should disconnect the battery from the load circuit.
The two wires you have disconnected should have insulated female spade connectors and can be taped separately with insulation tape and set aside in a safe place.
These are the terminals for connecting wires to the load terminals on your solar controller. See wiring diagram later.

Here is what you will look at doing. The two wires shown are connected from Bat +ve and Bat -ve to the solar controller LOAD terminals Pos and Neg. Note connections below: The two thick red and black wires are the connections that now go to the pos and neg LOAD terminals on the solar controller.
You will have to make/provide these - insulated female spade terminals on Setec end and bared ends for connection to pos and neg terminals on solar controller. Suggest 6mm which can carry 38A, anything more than this is overkill as the load on this circuit is limited by 20A limitation on mine. Thereis no need to have battery disconnected when attaching the load wires to the solar controller, but best if no power being drawn. In fact when connecting wires to any solar controller, they say to connect battery first, then solar panels (not generating?)and then the load terminals.

Here is the wiring diagram for the existing circuit you probably have where the load wires are taken directly from the van battery and no wires are connected to the solar controller Load terminals.
The second diagram shows how the wiring is connected through the solar controller LOAD Terminals to the actual distribution points. In this way, electrical power for the loads mentioned is via the solar controller connections to the battery and not from the van battery directly to the distribution point.
Advantages are that you will now have a display reading on your controller showing AMPS OUT when before you had no information. Other advantages now are that the solar controller has its own LVD and LVR settings which will operate on that circuit LONG before the Setec disconnects the load to save battery from permanent damage. Check specs on your own controller for this information.
 

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rags

Well-Known Member
#16
Thanks Boots,
I have progressed significantly with my re-wiring project. I have assigned the Setec to the spare parts department removing it entirely and utilising the box it was located in to housing the 2 Enerdrive controllers to that location. The Enerdrive units are mounted on top of each other, with 100mm clear air gap between each unit whilst the lower units controls and display still visible. The box will have a vented grill mesh installed over the cutout intended for the Setec fascia and the rear vent remains. I spoke with Enerdrive who offer a great tech support line about the mounting and they were satisfied with my method of installation. Each unit can easily be removed as they are mounted on ply bases.
I have re-wired all existing wires for lights etc to a new fuse box, what a mess of wires that Jayco installed, I have reconnected but buried the mess below the fuse box mounting board.
I am still to mount the solar panels on roof and will be back on the job later in the week.
Some quick pics of progress, ignore the wrong colour heat shrink on terminal 6, the day was late and the body weary, will be rectified soon.
 

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DRW

Well-Known Member
May 29, 2013
2,158
3,437
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65
Beautiful Burrum Heads QLD
#17
I have just completed a wiring install on my neighbours new 22’ van, we used a 40A Enerdrive charger and a 40A DC-DC/solar regulator with 300W solar, works a treat with 3 x 120Ah batteries 12v fridge and all LED internal lights, Fox, Vast etc completed in just over 3 days. That Enerdrive stuff is the ducks nuts IMO
 

Boots in Action

Well-Known Member
Mar 13, 2017
974
851
93
Ferny Grove, Queensland
#19
I have just completed a wiring install on my neighbours new 22’ van, we used a 40A Enerdrive charger and a 40A DC-DC/solar regulator with 300W solar, works a treat with 3 x 120Ah batteries 12v fridge and all LED internal lights, Fox, Vast etc completed in just over 3 days. That Enerdrive stuff is the ducks nuts IMO
Now that is what I call a "real power plant set up"!! Great work there @DRW. Does your neighbor understand what you have done so well and how it all works?? You will need to supply him with an Owner's Manual and maybe a list of problem solvers - if he ever has any. Fantastic, but expensive.
 

Boots in Action

Well-Known Member
Mar 13, 2017
974
851
93
Ferny Grove, Queensland
#20
Same Enerdrive gear as I used. Solar to be mounted then the fridge and water heater.I have spent around 2.5 days plus a bit of running around for last minute supplies. I did a lot of sitting and pondering on mounting options before proceeding.
Yes @rags , always better to sit and ponder before acting. "Measure (consider all options?) thrice and cut once". Looks as though you have it all perfect in theory anyway. Only when it is all completed and put through its paces will you really know. Going well so far! Cheers.
PS. I am only working on "the simple stuff" and modifications at basic level compared to your electrical work.