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Old 05-31-2016, 10:48 PM   #43
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If you configure 600Ah of battery & 960w of panels - youíll run the generator every 2-3 days.
There's a guy who has my same coach and about that amount of batteries and solar, and after installing a residential refrigerator, he has reported that he runs the generator every few days.

In my case, with the Norcold and a little bit more solar, I wouldn't have to run the generator at all.

Also, people have been known to turn off their residential refrigerators overnight to save electricity.


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If you configure 1000Ah of battery & 2000w of panels - all the forest animals will be at your coach to enjoy some air conditioning.


Except if you're in the forest, you're probably being compromised on solar by the trees.

Something else to consider in the configuration is getting a pure sine wave inverter. Ours is modified sine wave (waiting for it to die to replace it), and I think our microwave/convection has taken a beating by being used on the MSW so much. The computers and chargers (except DeWalt drill charger) work fine, but the microwave heats at about half power on the inverter, and for a while now, even on shore power the convection part doesn't get anywhere near as hot as it should.

We're actually a little over-solared for our needs; at our favored boondocking site, the batteries are generally fully charged by around noon. Which I like, but acknowledge that it's not necessary. We have moved the propane/electric water heater to the inverter circuit and divert the excess solar production to heating water via the use of a solid state relay.
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Old 05-31-2016, 11:01 PM   #44
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Although, I'm going to have to say that switching out the residential fridge for a propane/electric would seriously stretch the time you could go without having to "poke the dragon" and run the generator.
The Wynns had a pretty good analysis comparing residential to RV fridges:

Residential Fridge

• Pros: Way more capacity. More efficient at maintaining temperature and staying cool under any conditions. Generally, less expensive. Better built in ice makers. No propane flame to worry about catching fire. No drip tray to worry about freezing and clogging. No vent cut-out on the RV exterior sidewall. Less humidity inside the fridge. No pesky “fridge aerator” needed.

• Cons: Most refrigerator manufacturers require a pure sine wave inverter. Inverter must always be left “on” to supply power. Inverters are not 100% efficient, so there will be some ‘lost’ power when inverting the power from 12v to 120v. Needs a lot of battery and solar power to compensate for the power draw.

RV Fridge

• Pros: Technology in conventional RV LP/Electric refrigerators allows you more flexibility because you can switch them to “propane” mode to drastically reduce the power consumption.

• Cons: Not as efficient in higher elevation, humid or hot climates. Takes longer to get cool again once doors have been opened. You have to defrost both the fridge and freezer once every month or two. Have to fill up the RV propane tank more often. Propane flame can be dangerous when the RV is not parked level. Need to regulate internal air flow to ensure the gravity-fed system can keep things cold.

RV Residential Refrigerator - How Much Power Does It Use

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... but I'm looking in to a 48v A/C and you can get some decent 48v solar panels out there so I may go that way,...
A 48v dc air conditioner… please keep us posted on that.
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Old 05-31-2016, 11:46 PM   #45
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Another con of an RV propane/electric fridge is when it's on electric. Residential refrigerators use about 1.5 kwh/day, while a 4-door Norcold uses almost 7 kwh/day.

So don't be tempted to put it on the inverter if you're boondocking on solar in order to save on propane. And by the way, I've calculated the propane usage of my Norcold at about 1/2 gallon per day, if anybody's curious.

I do have to defrost the freezer section on my Norcold, but I've never defrosted the refrigerator section. I have a fan clipped on the fins and they stay ice-free all the time.
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Old 06-01-2016, 06:41 AM   #46
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Originally Posted by 99phantoms View Post
The Wynns had a pretty good analysis comparing residential to RV fridges:

...>whack<...

RV Residential Refrigerator - How Much Power Does It Use

A 48v dc air conditioner… please keep us posted on that.
That video was one of the first I saw that started me thinking this was possible. If you take the results of that, though, and combine it with the results of this one: https://youtu.be/B0rZY5uotKI it looks like "normal" life would be pushing the envelope for more than 24 hours on battery alone. Doing both residential fridge AND maybe needing hours of A/C simultaneously with computer, coffee, etc. may take a tow along trailer full of batteries, even using lithium :P

Anyway, here's some info I've run across lately you may find handy:

Here's one of the A/C units... I can't seem to find the link to the rooftop version, but someone has recently started offering one: Solar & DC Air Conditioners | 48v DC Solar & Telecom Air Conditioner Heat Pump | Off-Grid Air Conditioning

Here's a complete 48v battery from folks with a good name: Elite Power Solutions

And here's another vendor selling "complete" systems: 100% Off Grid 48V DC Inverter Solar Air Conditioner They have some great specifics here: http://solairworld.com/pdf/split%20w...els%20Intl.pdf

Lots of panel vendors out there... controllers, inverters, left-handed muffler bearings... the whole nine.

I'm currently talking to this gentleman: Precision RV - Specializing in RV Solar Power Systems and Repair who comes highly recommended from AM Solar: Landing ‚€” AM Solar and we'll see what he recommends. Since my builder is still busier than a cat covering up I'm going slowly, but this gentleman: RV Solar will gladly design something custom fit for $500, good toward materials purchase and installation cost of course :P

These folks have some great information in general, but a rather pessimistic approach to A/C on battery: http://www.technomadia.com/2015/02/t...-conditioning/ The weight of a 10kwh lithium pack is only 220lbs. if you want to stick with 12v and get 4 of these: http://elitepowersolutions.com/produ...roducts_id=269

I've got a bunch of other "parts" links ... back when I was foolish enough to believe I could learn what I would need to know for a "handyman" installation. Depending on how granular you want to get with your knowledge base before enlisting professional design aid, I'd be happy to send them along
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Old 06-01-2016, 06:42 AM   #47
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Another con of an RV propane/electric fridge is when it's on electric. Residential refrigerators use about 1.5 kwh/day, while a 4-door Norcold uses almost 7 kwh/day.

So don't be tempted to put it on the inverter if you're boondocking on solar in order to save on propane. And by the way, I've calculated the propane usage of my Norcold at about 1/2 gallon per day, if anybody's curious.

I do have to defrost the freezer section on my Norcold, but I've never defrosted the refrigerator section. I have a fan clipped on the fins and they stay ice-free all the time.
What size is that fridge please? They seem to have a pretty wide range :P
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Old 06-01-2016, 08:14 AM   #48
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OK, yet MORE information...

Found some good info ina couple more places. Here is a comment from last year from someone that was going back and forth with Reed Cundiff about 48v. Apparently Reed has quite a system but I haven't yet found where he details exactly what the components are:

Originally Posted by Reed Cundiff View Post
Groovy
Excellent article. Strongly suggest running at higher voltages. We have 1400 W of solar on 5th wheel. This is two sets of 3 x 235 W (30 V) panels in series which are then set in parallel to provide 1400 W (in high summer) at 90 V. This is only 15.5 amps which leads to lower power loss, smaller cabling, and a much smaller and less expensive MPPT controller. This is only 15.5 amps at 90 V but would be 116 amps at 12 V. Our battery suite is a nominal 48 V so amperage from MPPT is 29 amps. Our TriStar MPPT-45 handles this nicely. Solar autonomy makes for an enjoyable lifestyle. We have tied into line power one day in last two and a half years and have not had to use generator at all.
Reed and Elaine

Reed, I've read a few of your postings over the past year and have to say that so far it sounds like you've got the closest thing to what I think should be the new paradigm for RV solar design, i.e. 48V system with LiFe batteries, etc.. Fortunately, there are a few new technological developments that are encouraging for this type of system, specifically Sharp announcing that they will be marketing a DC mini-split AC unit in late 2015, and some of the new hydronic heating systems that use far less energy (especially electricity) than their traditional forced-air counterparts. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of design factors that work against an effective system, especially on smaller RV's and truck campers.

As it is, the old-fashioned RV air conditioners ("tree snaggers") eat up too much roof space, create shading issues for PV modules, and use too much energy. Roof vents and skylights scattered about also add to the same problem. The lack of viable module mounting points on some rigs makes it a headache to come up with racking systems that can support the modules and keep things attached to the roof under high wind loads. Also, the lack of an industry standard form factor(s) for solar modules makes every installation a one-off design to an extent.

While a few manufacturers are starting to design some of their RVs with true boondocking capabilities in mind, most of them still rely on 50 year-old technology for just about everything.

Giving this a bit of thought, here are some of the things I'd like to see in an RV relative to real four-season boondocking capabilities:

1) 48 VDC MPPT solar power system with advanced battery technology and full monitoring. 2) 48VDC mini-split air conditioning system with no roof mounted components. 3) Thermopane, awning type windows. 4) Maximized roof space with provisions for and documentation for the installation of solar modules. 5) Better yet, fairly priced, factory designed tiltable solar panels/mounts with remote control. 6) 1.5-2 inches of closed cell foam insulation throughout. 7) Hydronic heating system (48V). 8) Heated black and gray tanks via the hydronic system. 9) Diesel fueled hydronic system and cooking appliances. 10) Auxilliary solar input port for portable solar panels. 11) Dimmable LED lighting. 12) 48-12VDC converters throughout with Anderson Powepole connectors for 12V appliances. 13) USB sockets throughout. 14) Outdoor propane connection for outdoor stove/grill. 15) Insulating window treatments.

Well that's the beginning of the list. I'd be interested to hear the thoughts of some other folks as to anything they'd add.

They seem to have moved the conversation to this thread:

In Search of a New RV Paradigm

Which I'm reading now

Also, great article here: RV Solar Panels - Off Grid - Flexible or Rigid? 12 or 24 volt?

I particularly like this quote here:

"If you have loads of space on a big motorhome roof or fifth wheel trailer roof, and you are setting it up for full-time use, you may be best off with three or four 200+ watt 24 volt rigid solar panels wired in parallel. If you have a little tear drop camper you use on weekends and store in the garage, a single flexible 100 watt 12 volt panel may be just the ticket for you."

I think taking that concept to the next level and parallel wiring 48v panels into a 48v battery bank has got to be the berries.
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Old 06-01-2016, 04:04 PM   #49
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First of all, for the naysayers (many who own $100K plus rigs) on the cost of solar... If cost was a issue I would stay in a tent, better yet just stay home.....


I started with a 26' Winne with gas fridge and 405W of solar. I dry camped in Quartzite for almost a full week without using the genny, sunny every day but in Jan when the sun was low and daylight hours were short. Rarely ran TV or any 120VAC devices.


Sold that RV and got a Journey with res fridge. Added extra panels and now at 695 watts of solar with 4 batteries. I need to run my generator for an hour or so every other day. All depends on how much solar energy I collect that day. Cloudy skies, daylight hours, ect... all determine battery consumption. Was out in full sun the last 2 days and never had to run the genny. So if I decide not to boil water for my coffee and use a maker instead I just fire up the genny for a hour or so in the morning. Not only does it run the coffee pot, but because it puts out more amps then my solar it will give my batteries a better boost in the morning vs later in the day when the batteries are almost full. I would also look at other power consuming items. In my 2014 Journey with LED equipped lights, not all lights were LED. The closets, bays and shower light was not LED, in fact the shower light was halogen. All three TV's consumed power in the off state, put switches on all of them. The front console was illuminated 24/7, able to wire a switch to turn it off. Its amazing how many energy vampires there are in this thing.


So you can do all the math formulas you want, but shade, time of year, angle of sun, external temperature, battery bank size, temp you keep fridge at, how many times you open the door, how often you run other devices is just to much to think about. If your goal is to not use a genny, fill the roof with as much solar as you can and do the same with your batteries. The more solar you have, the less you need to worry about as far as shade, angle of sun, ect...


Res Fridges are energy hogs, I can not imagine boondocking without having solar. I boondock a lot and love my res fridge.
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Old 06-01-2016, 08:43 PM   #50
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What size is that fridge please? They seem to have a pretty wide range :P
Oh, sorry. I thought the "4-door" would identify it--it's the Norcold that a lot of RVs have. Model 1200LR with two refrigerator doors and two freezer doors.

Mine was made in 2002, but I replaced the cooling unit a couple of years ago with an Amish cooling unit. The original one used 1/2 gallon of propane a day or 7 kwh of electricity per day. The new cooling unit might use a little less electricity--I think I put the kill-a-watt on it for a while and got a little lower number, but I couldn't swear to it.
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Old 06-02-2016, 06:11 AM   #51
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Oh, sorry. I thought the "4-door" would identify it--it's the Norcold that a lot of RVs have. Model 1200LR with two refrigerator doors and two freezer doors.

Mine was made in 2002, but I replaced the cooling unit a couple of years ago with an Amish cooling unit. The original one used 1/2 gallon of propane a day or 7 kwh of electricity per day. The new cooling unit might use a little less electricity--I think I put the kill-a-watt on it for a while and got a little lower number, but I couldn't swear to it.
I've been using this page for my reference when comparing to Dometic Large RV Refrigerators | Products | Thetford Corporation and would seem they're offering a couple different models now I also note that they've started offering the 12 cu. ft. model in electric only which is interesting.

I've been considering going with a 2-way unit (110/propane) to give myself more flexibility in how I use my resources when boondocking but am hesitant based on some of what I've read in forums. It seems they're not able to keep ice cream well? For me, this is a deal breaker on a fridge/freezer

At the risk of being accused of thread hijacking, what's been your experience with your Norcold re: it's ability to do the job in various conditions?
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Old 06-02-2016, 06:51 AM   #52
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I've been using this page for my reference when comparing to Dometic Large RV Refrigerators | Products | Thetford Corporation and would seem they're offering a couple different models now I also note that they've started offering the 12 cu. ft. model in electric only which is interesting.

The electric-only model is still an absorption refrigerator, with all of its advantages and disadvantages. It is virtually silent in operation. Regardless of heat source, the absorption cooling unit will never match the performance of a compressor-based fridge. IMHO, if you opt for the absorption unit, and you already have a propane system for cooking and coach heat, you might as well get the dual-mode AC/propane model. It gives you a choice of which to use. I ditched both and went to a 12V compressor fridge.


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Old 06-02-2016, 11:15 AM   #53
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How well does the 12v dc fridge compare the the 120v ac fridge in terms of cost, performance, and energy consumption?
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Old 06-02-2016, 12:38 PM   #54
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You can research 12 volt refrigerators for comparison on boating sites.

Unattended gas appliances are not allowed on boats.

My understanding is that 12 volt compressor style fridges are more energy efficient than 120 volt, cost the same as gas/electric and perform as well as 120 volt units.
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Old 06-02-2016, 12:50 PM   #55
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How well does the 12v dc fridge compare the the 120v ac fridge in terms of cost, performance, and energy consumption?

Mine is a Novakool 9000. Nine cubic feet. It is really made for the marine market, so the motion and vibration while driving are no concern. Level parking is no concern. It has a full-perimeter mounting flange for attaching to cabinetry, and requires zero clearance at top, bottom, sides and rear. The compressor, cooling fins, and fan are on the bottom. Air intake and exhaust are through a grille on the front. At 12V and 5.2A (with no inverter overhead) energy consumption is significantly lower than a 120V unit. It has a built-in 120V to 12V converter, so it can be configured to run on shore power or the generator. I have it wired only for 12V. It weighs 95 pounds, as opposed to 250 for the Norcold 1200 that it replaced. The cost (around $1700) is much higher than a residential fridge unless you have to buy an inverter to run it. My only complaint so far is that, like the Norcold, it must be defrosted manually. It has no icemaker, but will make ice in trays as well as any residential unit. We use a stand-alone ice maker. Things in the freezer stay frozen in all ambient temps, which has never happened with any of the half-dozen absorption fridges I've had. I never worry about dairy or meat products spoiling in the fridge.


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Old 06-02-2016, 07:10 PM   #56
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I've been considering going with a 2-way unit (110/propane) to give myself more flexibility in how I use my resources when boondocking but am hesitant based on some of what I've read in forums. It seems they're not able to keep ice cream well? For me, this is a deal breaker on a fridge/freezer

At the risk of being accused of thread hijacking, what's been your experience with your Norcold re: it's ability to do the job in various conditions?
The thing about getting a 2-way refrigerator to give yourself more flexibility is that you actually won't be gaining flexibility because you will be tied to using it on propane when boondocking because the electric use is so high. Since we have excess solar in good conditions, I had thought about plugging the Norcold into the inverter circuit when the batteries were full but the sun was still good, but that was before I measured the actual usage.

One thing I did at about the 8-year mark was examine the chimney of my Norcold, and I discovered that the moho manufacturer didn't install it to spec. I added some baffles, and that improved the performance.

This is a very common problem, and is something everyone should look at if they have a gas absorption refrigerator.

Before I did that, I did have trouble keeping ice cream rock hard, but I haven't had ice cream in there in many years, so I can't say if fixing the installation remedied that.

I also think that installing gas absorption refrigerators in a slide might make compromise them somewhat because they can't have a good chimney, and I learned that chimney is key.

And as I said, I put a new Amish cooling unit in it not long ago, and I still don't know about ice cream, but the food I put in the freezer is definitely rock hard, and I'm pretty sure it's an improvement over what I had before. I've never had trouble with anything spoiling in the refrigerator compartment.

One other thing about gas absorption refrigerators is that they can stop working if the outside temperature is in the 0 degree range. It's happened to me twice. Something in the workings freezes up. It can be prevented (or even remedied) by putting an incandescent (hot) light bulb in the outside compartment. Not boondocking related, but something that most people don't know.

My conclusion after trying to decide what to replace my broken refrigerator with was that there's no really good solution for people who like to boondock. I'm sticking with propane because there's a place I go where I simply will not use my generator, period. Everybody's packed in there real tight, and it's perfect for solar, and I'm just not going to be that guy running a generator.
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