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Old 12-01-2021, 08:59 AM   #1
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Adding a inverter/charger and lithium batteries

Hello Everyone,

I am getting ready to add an inverter/charger and lithium batteries to my motorhome. It did not come with one. It is a 2012 Tiffin 34 TGA. It is a 50-amp RV. It has an Onan generator. I also have an RV refrigerator. I also have a Victron battery monitor.

In doing my research a lot of it points to Victron inverters and Battle Born batteries. I am considering these products, but I have some questions. If I go this route, I will probably get the Muti plus 2 3000-amp as it has full 50-amp capability and 2 BB 100-amp batteries. If I go this way is 2 batteries enough to power the inverter? Victron and BB are very pricy, so I am looking for alternatives.

I donít need to power a lot. I will want a couple of outlets for phones charging, which could be done by the motorhome while traveling, a TV for a couple of hours a night, a Roku for the same and maybe the microwave in rare occasions for just a minute or two. And of course, lights, which are LED and the other 12-volt stuff. We would only do this at overnight stops or maybe a couple of nights boondocking.

I am also considering a 200-amp suitcase solar set up. I can always use the generator to charge the batteries when needed. Plus, the alternator will charge them while driving.

My alternate battery choice is SOK 206-amp hour battery. It is several hundred dollars less than 2 BB. It gets a lot of good reviews including Will Prowse. It will have a smaller footprint than 2 BB

I also feel I could use a 2000-watt inverter for my needs. Victron makes a couple but the price difference is not much less than the 3000-watt.

If anyone has an alternative inverter/charger suggestion I would like to know about them. There are several other possibilities, Aims, Renogy, Tripp lite and Sunglow to name a few. Has anyone had experience with any of these? Would you recommend them or another brand? I think I could save a lot if money with components other than Victron and BB.

Like I said the Victron and BB seem great and a lot of people use them. If I full timed, I would probably go that route. I am a part timer and will only boondock on occasion. I want to have an inverter seems strange Tiffin didnít put one in. The other reason for this is I am planning an Alaska trip this coming summer and want to take advantage of the dry camping along the way.

As always, all recommendations and insight are appreciated.

Thank you
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Old 12-01-2021, 10:31 AM   #2
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I don't have much to add regarding inverter options, but one thing to consider is whether you have sufficient wire gauges to/from the inverter location for a 3KW unit, vs 2KW. If the original inverter was 2KW, you might not.

For RV use, a battery with a BMS with low-temp cut-off is highly recommended.

Another consideration is whether the lithium bank will be connected / charged by the Alternator. If so, a DC-DC charger between the chassis lead acid battery and lithium bank is a good idea.
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Old 12-01-2021, 10:34 AM   #3
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It would seem you're going through all this for a few minutes' of occasional microwave operation. Not saying you shouldn't but since you will need to run a genset to charge batteries anyway, some situational awareness (operating the microwave when running the generator) might make the system simpler and less expensive. My solution was to transition to the propane cooktop and EZ bake oven for heating tasks. Now I only need a 300W inverter instead of 3000W one, no solar, no lithium, no system revamp.

That aside, one thing I'd look at is the quiescent current and efficiency of the inverters at the power they would be most used. Using a smaller inverter might net a power savings that make it a desirable choice. Then you still want to transition as many devices to 12V as you can, with the goal to turn the inverter on only when specific 120V devices require it.

Suitcase solar (probably 200W, not 200A) can't hurt, but you'd need a detailed energy budget to know how much it will help for your use.

Mark B.
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Old 12-01-2021, 10:45 AM   #4
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Battleborn and Victron are top of the line, but I think others that you have mentioned are good- SOK for batteries in particular. Renogy would be an intermediate cost choice.

Not sure how you plan to wire the inverter. A first class way would be to buy one with an internal transfer switch for two legs of 50A power so the whole coach could be powered from the inverter. Not sure if anyone but Victron offers a 50A two phase inverter or even if they do, but if anyone does, they would.

Or as long as the TV outlet and the microwave are on the same AC leg then you could use a simpler single phase inverter and only power the outlets connected to that phase. That opens up simpler and cheaper inverters. But I would also get one with a transfer switch.

Make sure that the charger part of the inverter has settings for lithium batteries. Again I am sure Victron will.

Is 200 Ah of batteries enough? Well probably given a few hours of TV/Roku watching plus a few minutes of microwaving plus the minor DC loads you mention. Depends on how many days of dry camping you want to go without running your generator.

When you get it hooked up measure the current from the chassis alternator with the Li batteries well discharged. I suspect you will be under 50A which should be ok for your chassis alternator. Some with larger batteries have reported high current which necessitates a DC to DC charger to limit current.

David
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Old 12-01-2021, 10:48 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RoadTrip2084 View Post
I don't have much to add regarding inverter options, but one thing to consider is whether you have sufficient wire gauges to/from the inverter location for a 3KW unit, vs 2KW. If the original inverter was 2KW, you might not.

For RV use, a battery with a BMS with low-temp cut-off is highly recommended.

Another consideration is whether the lithium bank will be connected / charged by the Alternator. If so, a DC-DC charger between the chassis lead acid battery and lithium bank is a good idea.
Yeah what he said. I would add since you started with Victron stay with their other stuff. Everything they make is compatible with each other and you can monitor it all with one setup/display/app.

My #1 worry is protecting the alternator while driving. As the LifePro batteries will take as much power as you can put to the, it is easy to destroy alternators.

Iím setting mine up to disable the alternator charging while driving. I seldom spend more than 1-2 nights boondocking and now I run the generator. So if I can cut it back to a couple hours charging that beats destroying an alternator. Dead batteries or low fuel are easy to deal with. Alternators are not.
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Old 12-01-2021, 02:03 PM   #6
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I am probably going to have to put in a battery insolation manager B.I.M. to protect the alternator. Although I saw that if there is less than 300 amp hours you don't need it. That was from a Battle Born video

Thanks
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Old 12-01-2021, 02:24 PM   #7
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One year after installing them, I’ll swear by my Xantrex XC2000 inverter/charger paired with a Bigbattery 170ah (now called) Owl. The Xantrex can charge the LiFePo4 at up to 80amps, and it costs substantially less than the Victron (which is also much larger). When I purchased the BigBattery, it was less than half the cost of Battleborn, and it has Anderson terminals, built in fusing, built in LED Voltage display, and a really good BMS. Made(assembled) in USA. Will Prowse originally rated it best in tear down, but subsequently canned it because one of the cells failed (which would have gone undetected by any battery manufacturer). Bigbattery promptly replaced it, even though Prowse never paid for the first one. I don’t like the Xantrex Bluetooth app and remote, as the connection is lost whenever you phone goes out of range. Doesn’t matter much because the Victron software in their shunt talks to all things Victron, including solar charge controllers. Whatever you decide, mount inverter/charger as close as possible to battery, and use fat 1/0 or better) wire. I also advise other to put a dedicated cutoff switch on the inverter, in addition to other cutoffs and isolators. You can “size-up” both Xantrex and Bigbattery.
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Old 12-01-2021, 02:27 PM   #8
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I am probably going to have to put in a battery insolation manager B.I.M. to protect the alternator. Although I saw that if there is less than 300 amp hours you don't need it. That was from a Battle Born video

Thanks
Just a point on terminology: A BIM will not necessarily limit charging current and is not the same as a DC to DC charger. The Li version of Precision Circuits BIM simply turns off and on every 15 minutes which sort of limits current but I suspect that you can destroy an alternator in dozens of 15 minute slugs.

A DC to DC charger which is not a BIM absolutely limits current to its rated limit, usually 20, 30 or 40 amps. Generally you have to remove the BIM and replace it with a DC to DC charger as you can't have both.

Reports I have seen confirm Battleborn's video that up to 300 Ahs of batteries does not draw enough current to harm a chassis alternator. One guy reported that his 600 Ah bank would draw 100 amps from the chassis alternator which I think is way too much.

My advice would be to hook up your new Li batteries and measure the current. If it is below 50A then you are ok.

David
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Old 12-01-2021, 02:35 PM   #9
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I donít like the Xantrex Bluetooth app and remote, as the connection is lost whenever you phone goes out of range.
There is a firmware fix for the bluetooth problem.

https://www.xantrex.com/power-produc...motepanel.aspx
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Old 12-01-2021, 02:51 PM   #10
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Thanks Harry!
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Old 12-01-2021, 06:56 PM   #11
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I went through the same sort of upgrades to a TT, except that I had a 30-amp rig. My motivation was the ability to make a single slice of toast for breakfast each morning, and the system provided the ability to warm the butter for that toast in the microwave. Yes, it is expensive toast, but I have spent more on sillier things 😁

Two 100 AH Battleborn batteries and a Victron 3Kw hybrid inverter worked just fine, but if I tried to run a toaster and my microwave at the same time I would exceed the output limits of my batteries and they would shut down. That was not a big deal, as It was easy to avoid running them at the same time.

All wiring was 1/0 welding cable, and the runs were short (5 or 6 feet, as I recall).

By the way, if the batteries shut down power to the battery monitor is lost. The monitor resets to 100% state of charge.

I have since them moved it all to a new rig, added a third battery, and upgraded the cabling to 4/0. It still works, and probably would have worked without the added battery.

I started with one 170-watt roof-mounted solar panel, which was not very effective due to shading. I added two more panels spread out over the roof, which seemed to help. I left those panels on my old trailer, so need to get more for my new rig.

Since I am going into so much detail anyway, I will add that I use Daveís Killer Bread for my toast 😉
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Old 12-01-2021, 08:43 PM   #12
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If your goals are to only watch TV, stream a few shows, charge phones, run lights, furnace and other typical RV loads, it can be done MUCH cheaper than with any of the premium level equipment you have listed. Adding running a microwave does take a bit more, but can certainly be done with equipment that cost less.


I just finished upgrading my 2002 coach to 420 AH of LiFePo4 batteries, though I had a somewhat different starting point as I already had 400 watts worth of solar panels on the roof, along with a 2,000 watt pure sine wave inverter and a converter that is reasonably compatible with LiFePo4 batteries (A Progressive Dynamics PD9260 with charge wizard). I opted for ReBel batteries with smart Bluetooth BMS, not the cheapest, but good middle of the road option with 5 year warranty.


As I see it one of your big issues is going to be finding a pair of batteries that will sustain 200 amp output to run the inverter powering the microwave, as you will either need a pair of batteries with 100 amp or higher BMS or a single larger battery with a 200 amp BMS. 200 amp BMS's for 200-300AH prebuilt Drop in LiFePo4 batteries are just starting to show up on the market now. Most 200-300 AH batteries today have either a 100 or 150 amp BMS.



Having said that here is my suggestion for an as cheap as practical system


1, a pair of cheap 100 ah LiFePo4 batteries with 100 AH BMS, one of the cheapest out there at the moment is from a company called Global Power which ships out of Tennessee and sells on ebay, these are getting good review online, best bang for the buck out there at the moment currently $299 each: https://www.ebay.com/itm/373490407212


2, In addition to that I would get a Renogy DC-DC charger with integrated MPPT solar charger, I just bought the 50 amp version of this unit, they also make a 30 amp version that is a bit cheaper. The 50 amp is currently selling for $230, add on the BT-2 Bluetooth module which ads several customizable settings for charge rate, and monitoring for $25 this will get you alternator charging, and a solar controller all in one. https://smile.amazon.com/Renogy-DC-C...dp/B093BB5JKF/


3, I would skip the solar suitcase, if you want portable solar, get a couple of flat flexible solar panel, an MC4 fan out connector and a length of solar wiring with MC4 connector that you can wire up to the Renogy DC-DC charger with MPPT. Something like this kit, just throw out the cheap PWM solar controller https://smile.amazon.com/XINPUGUANG-.../dp/B07HK1W7V2 Though if money is not tight I would go with at least 300 watts of solar in a kit like: https://www.amazon.com/Flexible-Batt.../dp/B09LTVFGT2


4, Add in a LiFePo4 friendly converter with fixed charging voltage option that can be tuned for LiFePo4 optimal voltage, this is one of the cheaper ones https://www.amazon.com/Powermax-Supp...dp/B00F8MC440/


5, add a cheap 2000 watt pure sine wave inverter, here is one from Renogy https://www.amazon.com/Renogy-Invert...dp/B07H9SXV61/


6, various bits of cable, fuses, maybe a transfer switch to automatically switch to the inverter, ...
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Old 12-02-2021, 05:33 PM   #13
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I'll be the voice of unreason and vote for a full meal deal. I tried to go simpler at first and it just ended up more complicated and cost a lot more to get to where I really wanted to be. If you have the dough, get the Multiplus II 12/3000 2x120. It is so simple ton install on a 50A rig and it does amazing things. I went with SOK batteries (2x206Ah) and they work well. I also went full Cerbo GX and Victron solar charge controllers so everything talks to each other. All of this wasn't cheap but now I can run anything I want off the batteries and it is a very compact and simple installation.

Below are some pics and my wiring diagram. I will add 2 more solar panels at some point to get to 1200W of solar.
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Old 12-08-2021, 08:40 AM   #14
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Thanks for all the input. I am still trying to decide what to do. I am leaning toward the Victron 2000 watt compact inverter and the SOK 206 amp battery. All additional advise is welcome.

Thank you
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