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Old 07-18-2021, 04:09 PM   #1
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General comments on solar and batteries...

Just a few general comments/thoughts on solar and batteries...
(Note: Might not apply to those who live in their RV for 100+ days per year and have huge power/battery demands...)



I'm of the opinion that 95%+ of all RVers should be fine with inexpensive deep cycle lead acid batteries in the house and some basic solar.


I think it is a GREAT idea to have SOME amount of solar on your RV, even if it is just 100w for when in storage most of the year.


Lithium batteries seem so expensive to me, and unnecessary for most, especially when you consider you might need to change your converter/charger/etc.



Most people spend less than 20-30 days per year in their RV. Keep it simple.



Most people camp where they are plugged in a good percentage of time and don't even need batteries.


If you are driving for a few hours every couple of days, your lead acid house batteries will likely get up to 90%+ charged during the drive.


Assuming you have 200-300AH of battery capacity (...which probably covers about 90% of RVers)...if you have 300-500w of solar panels they will get your batteries charged up to 90%+ each day unless you are in the shade or it's not very sunny.



AND, If all else fails and you have a generator, then you always have a backup source of power and charging to cover you for most strange scenarios that aren't covered with your other sources of charging (ie. sunshine, driving, plugging in). I have 200AH of lead acid batteries and 500w (overkill) of solar. I have boondocked for 3-4 days at a time and I have never once needed my generator to charge my batteries.


I do love solar as it keeps your batteries fully charged just about all the time. You should definitely have some solar. I like 150w of solar for each 100AH battery as a rule of thumb.


An inexpensive way to add solar to your RV is by finding some good used solar panels. You should be able to look on your local craigslist or equivalent and find 100w-300w used panels for as low as $50. I personally got my used 250w panels (10 years old) for $35 each. They will easily last another 10-20 years which is longer than I will keep the RV! I've yet to hear anyone ever complain about a solar panel "wearing out". Consider used residential solar panels and an MPPT controller and your are good to go.


Don't worry about your lead acid batteries getting drained down to even as low as 20% from time to time. Provided they get charged back up within a couple of days they will be fine. Let's call a "cycle" a night of boondocking where your batteries drop down to somewhere in the range of 30% - 70% state of charge. You should get several hundred battery cycles at least from a lead acid battery assuming you charge those batteries back up the next day or two. Let's assume your battery lifetime is JUST 300 cycles. If you spend 20 nights boondocking in your RV each year, then your batteries would last ~15 years. Maybe less, maybe not. But are you going to even have your RV in 15 years? Most will not.



And a final note.... Buying 2-3 new cheap deep cycle lead acid batteries only costs $200-$300 total (Walmart or Costco) when the time comes, and is just about the easiest Do-It-Yourself swap on an RV. So who cares!



Summary: If you are only going to be using a max of 50-200AH of battery per day (most people), use inexpensive deep cycle lead acid batteries with solar to keep them charged most of the time. Use the money you save to buy your wife/significant other some cool camping gadgets/gizmos such that they enjoy camping more so you can go camping more!


Happy Camping!
Chris
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Old 07-19-2021, 06:02 AM   #2
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I'm glad those opinions work for you, but mostly just apply to weekend campers. Many here boondock for days or months. Many here have seen their standard, cheap flooded batteries fail in the middle of nowhere. Many here have watched their fridge or furnace fail from repeated low voltage use. I could go on.

Enjoy,

Perry
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Old 07-19-2021, 06:51 AM   #3
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I would offer for those full timing and relying on batteries they wouldn't be the ones posting about neglected and failing batteries. It's the weekend warriors that discover the untimely failure of their batteries due to inattention and neglect. Anyone that uses their batteries consistently knows all about their operation and upkeep but it's easy to have something go unnoticed when they're idle for weeks or months at a time. There are usually no "sudden" battery failures, they're in the making well before and often with symptoms that went unobserved.

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Old 07-19-2021, 08:14 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark_K5LXP View Post
I would offer for those full timing and relying on batteries they wouldn't be the ones posting about neglected and failing batteries.
Unless you're one with a WFCO that fails when it decides to put out 21 volts to your battery. It wouldn't do that all the time, but just occasionally (perhaps only once). It took a Victron BMV-712 to find the problem. There have been numerous WFCO failures, because it's just a cheap charger.

Besides no battery is immune to failure, including Battle Born's. Read Battle Born battery issues

Enjoy,

Perry
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Old 07-19-2021, 11:09 AM   #5
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I am a “weekend warrior”. A five-day trip is a long one for me. I dealt with FLA for almost 30 years, and upgrading to LiFePo and a good battery monitor was the best improvement I have ever made. The convenience is worth every dime I spent at Battleborn.

* less time running a generator, because the lithium’s charge much faster
* no more lugging batteries to and from my trailer to put them on a battery tender
* the battery compartment on every trailer I have had is smaller than the previous trailer, so it is harder and harder to get batteries on an off the trailer
* no worries about temperature, because the batteries are inside. If it gets below 27F inside my trailer I am going home!

Sure, I could have continued using FLA. Camping is for fun, though, and the lithium batteries reduce the workload for me.
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Old 07-19-2021, 01:13 PM   #6
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I don't disagree with the overall sentiment in the proper situation...but here's the difference; these days you can now do 100A of Lithium for $400 vs $100 for FLA. So yes it is 4X the price on purchase but.....you do have anywhere from 50 to 100% more usable capacity as I do take exception with taking FLA batteries down 80%....but we can argue about that another day.

Additionally LiFePO4 batteries will charge to 100% in approx 1/3 the time it take to go all the way through an absorbtion charge and....... LiFePO4 batteries do not need to be recharged to 100% after use to avoid long term degradation... you can argue but it's physics, cant argue with that.

Lastly you can get something like 8-10X the number of charges/discharges throughout the life of a typical battery.

So to summerize LA vs LiFePO4;
  • You only need 50 - 75% of the total amount of batteries with LiFePO4 to get the same usable capacity
  • LiFePO4 charges 3-4X faster when charging with a generator or on shore power
  • LiFePO4 batteries will last 3-4X longer in most cases

So............for 50 - 75% more initial investment ($400 vs $1200) you get all the benefits listed above with LiFePO4.

Personally, I would NEVER go back to all the issues with FLA, but I know better because I have made the change to lithium

PS..... Do a search and try to find any post on this forum from someone who made the change to LiFePO4 and regrets it
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Old 07-19-2021, 01:33 PM   #7
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For those who will be sticking with conventional FLA batteries, an indispensable add-on is a Flow-Rite battery watering system. It's not automatic but makes topping off your batteries clean and easy:

https://www.amazon.com/Flow-Rite-RV2...s%2C266&sr=8-2

Make sure you get the filling kit as well (IMHO, it shouldn't be an add-on but should be included with the above).

And, anyone considering LiFePO4 batteries should take the time to educate themselves by reading as much as possible. Buyers should beware of many of the inexpensive LiFePO4 that are coming on the market, which aren't necessarily of the highest quality. Will Prowse's tests many of these batteries, including tearing them down to assess build quality. You can learn a lot by watching some of his Youtube videos.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoj...q8kmJme-5dnN0Q
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Old 07-19-2021, 02:22 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SJ-Chris View Post


Summary: If you are only going to be using a max of 50-200AH of battery per day (most people), use inexpensive deep cycle lead acid batteries with solar to keep them charged most of the time. Use the money you save to buy your wife/significant other some cool camping gadgets/gizmos such that they enjoy camping more so you can go camping more!


Happy Camping!
Chris
Chris, we have to work on getting you to come out of your shell and tell us what you think!....................ROTFLMAO
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Old 07-19-2021, 03:34 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Perryb67 View Post
I'm glad those opinions work for you, but mostly just apply to weekend campers. Many here boondock for days or months. Many here have seen their standard, cheap flooded batteries fail in the middle of nowhere. Many here have watched their fridge or furnace fail from repeated low voltage use. I could go on.

Enjoy,

Perry

Yes, this opinion is for weekend warriors. I mention in my post in the first paragraph that this doesn't apply to those who spend lots and lots of time living in their RV during the year, or for those who have large battery bank needs.


I would guestimate that 90-95% of RV owners use their RV less than 30 days per year.


Having some solar should keep your batteries fully charged almost always.


Yes, a battery monitor is a no-brainer (I use the Aili monitor and it seems to work great). Knowing the state of your batteries is important when using your RV.



Most people will NEVER cycle their batteries 300+ times.



Everyone is welcome to spend their money however they want of course!


Happy Camping!
Chris
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Old 07-20-2021, 02:54 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by paul65k View Post

Personally, I would NEVER go back to all the issues with FLA, but I know better because I have made the change to lithium

PS..... Do a search and try to find any post on this forum from someone who made the change to LiFePO4 and regrets it

I for one, will also NEVER buy another lead battery for power storage.



Our LI/Solar install gave us a 24/7/365 second refer at home and 3-days back up for our home fridge if the world went black


I think that people that poopoo it are just trying to justify NOT spending the money
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Old 07-20-2021, 04:50 PM   #11
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I use my trailer's solar/battery and inverter/charger daily as a 8.4 kilowatt UPS for several circuits in my house. I power shift about $30 a month off my grid power to the trailer. I have run my house circuits during power outages several times over the last year.

The system works great and I don't worry about power when I travel. I have plenty.
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Old 07-20-2021, 06:59 PM   #12
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I for one, will also NEVER buy another lead battery for power storage.

Our LI/Solar install gave us a 24/7/365 second refer at home and 3-days back up for our home fridge if the world went black

I think that people that poopoo it are just trying to justify NOT spending the money

I'm not poopoo'ing the idea at all! For those who USE their RV a lot for boondocking and have more than ~100-150AH of need/day then Lithium is fine. I agree that if you have large power needs or especially if you boondock lots and lots and expect to cycle your batteries 50-200 times per year then Lithium makes sense and could cost about the same or less in the long run.



I'm just saying that for MOST RV owners, 200-300AH of lead acid batteries with 300-500w of solar will cover their needs probably 95% of the time (....and when they don't, most have a generator to save the day). 95% of the time means that if you use your RV 20 days in a year BOONDOCKING, on just one day out of 20 you worried about your batteries (...and then they either dipped below the "magical" 50% SOC level for a day or you run your generator for an hour or two to put 30-60AH back into your batteries...not a big deal and in my opinion not worth the ~$500-1000 extra cost of Lithium).



Think about the typical RV owner.....They probably only use their RV for 2-3 vacations per year for a few long weekends or maybe a week or two. Most of those typical RV owners will be plugging in or driving most days. Most will not be in a situation where their battery being LA vs Lithium will have much affect on them and their vacation at all. For these type of RV owners, I'm simply saying that lead acid batteries and some solar will likely be good enough and the cost for Lithium wouldn't be as worth it in my opinion.


Sometimes I see posts from people who sound like they just got an RV or are getting an RV and they are immediately thinking the must upgrade to expensive Lithium. I would suggest most of these people should start small and use their RV several times before jumping into Lithium to see if for their use the extra initial expense is justified. Most weekend warriors who only use their RV for 10-20 days per year and much of that isn't even boondocking won't justify the extra expense of Lithium.



Finally.....If you are adding solar and Lithium and using it to power your home and not just your RV and use your RV fridge as a 2nd home refrigerator for 100-300 days per year....hat's off to you (I think it's a great idea). But recognize that you are among 0.01% of RV owners (aka Not a typical RV owner....the kind that puts their RV in the storage yard for 345 days out of the year). I have considered using my RVs and their generators at my house in the event of a long lasting power outage. But fortunately where I live the power is almost never out.



Happy Camping!
Chris
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Old 07-20-2021, 08:05 PM   #13
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Long ago, I used to wrench for a living. And so I bought the best tools I could find. I still have my Snap-On wrenches half-a-century later. They're amazing. They made my work easier, and they made me money, even though they cost five times what a Craftsman tool would cost.

But I would never tell the average work-on-your-own-lawnmower-and-car guy to buy such tools. They would be overkill.

So I completely see SJ-Chris's point here.
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Old 07-20-2021, 11:22 PM   #14
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I get what he is saying within the context of the occasional user.

People really need to do an honest energy audit before upgrading their power systems and make an honest assessment of their number of times they'll actually use the trailer
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