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Old 09-17-2021, 08:36 AM   #1
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Inverter batteries and solar upgrade

Hi

Below is part of a thread I started about Next years Alaska trip. I am hoping reposting in this section may get more response on what I would need for my trip.



I want to thank everyone who shared their experience and suggestions about their Alaska trip. We will follow all the prevailing rules for each government so we can cross the boarders without any problems. Enough about that.

I do have a couple of more questions about the trip. We will most likely do some boondocking as it seem easy to do along the route and a way to save some money and it sounds like a lot of fun.

For those of you have done it. Did you have solar or use a generator? I have a Genny in the motorhome that will power everything. I only have 200 usable amp hours on my lead acid batteries. Do you think that would get me through a day or two. I am thinking about upgrading to 3 100 amp (300) hour lithium before the trip. If I do solar what would you all suggest as a minimum amount I would need. We don't full time and at most would be a couple of days off grid.

In Alaska I figure we will mostly run our lights RV refrigerator, water pump and water heater sparingly. We may watch a couple of hours of TV if it is available. I do think there will be a lot of TV in the boonies. We may bring some DVDs and a player. I figure I can charge cell phones and my laptop while we are driving.

I am thinking a 2000 watt inverter should do the trick. As for the solar panels I am wondering if I can use 2 200 Amp suite case type, 400 total . I really don't want to put panels on the roof.

I don't want to spend 5-10 grand on a solar system that will only be used every once and a while. Your experience thoughts and ideas are appreciated.

I would also like to hear more about places to go and things to see as well as places to stay.

Thanks again

I would like to add I want to add an inverter regardless of what I do with batteries and solar. There seems to be a lot of video's on Victron product. They seem very good but also expensive. I don't know that I need such a fancy unit for my needs. I do want something that will power a TV and a couple of outlets for charging phones and a laptop.

The more I read and watch about this topic the more confused I get. I don't think I will need a big full time system. At most we will be off grid for a few days, maybe a week. I do want to plan for future solar expansion if I decide to add more. I don't think I will need to power more than what I mentioned.

one more thing. My 2012 Tiffin 34TGA has a electronic fuse panel pictured below. I have never had this in my previous RVs. Do you thing there needs to be special consideration for it.

I look forward to the input
Thanks again
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Old 09-17-2021, 09:21 AM   #2
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Without an idea of your current usage this is pretty much a W.A.G. as to how much solar, if any, that you will need.

A shunt based battery monitor would be most helpful. Boondocking without one is like asking how long is a piece of string without seeing it. They start at about $45 at Amazon, Victron units are more but do communicate with your phone nicely.

An elephant in the closet is your fridge, residential will draw a lot of power, whatcha got?

Unless you're gonna make a habit out of boondocking I wouldn't consider solar for the infrequent use that you are talking. Keep in mind that the panels will only put out when deployed, no collecting going on while driving and low power output later in the day. For the week long parking just fire up the genny as needed.

You mentioned 200 AHs usable. I'm assuming here but a lot of people think the world will come to an end if you draw down more than 50%, not true. Drawing down to 20% will not harm the batteries although it will shorten their life somewhat.

https://batteryuniversity.com/



Our scenario for boondocking. We have an LP fridge, watch very little TV and sometimes camp where the furnace is needed or may run a single Fantastic Fan all day and some gizmo charging.

We have two 120 watt EcoWorthy portable suitcases, each rewired to provide 24 volts nominal to take advantage of the Victron SmartSolar 100/30 controller with remote temperature and voltage sensing. With 50' of 12 gauge wire and a cheap chain and lock we are all in for less than $600.

This setup brings the two group 31 LA batteries to float in the early afternoon using about 80AHs/day which includes some furnace time On a recent trip with no climate control needed I used about 25 AHs/day verified with a shunt based battery monitor.
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Old 09-17-2021, 10:57 AM   #3
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I have an RV ref. and I also have a Victron battery monitor. My RV charges the batteries while driving. I want to put in a inverter/charger regardless. I think it is better than a converter and basically needed if not using the generator.

Like I said above we will use a couple of lights, charge phones and maybe a laptop and maybe a couple of ours of TV/DVD. It sound like something similar to your setup might work. What do you have for an inverter and batteries.

Thanks
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Old 09-17-2021, 11:24 AM   #4
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I have two Battleborne 100 amp-hour batteries and a 3,000 watt Victron hybrid inverter with the VE.bus dongle. I have the Victron battery monitor also.

The inverter will draw more that the two batteries can supply, so I have to be careful what I run. So far, as long as I donít try to use my microwave and toaster at the same time I am OK.

The inverter will charge my batteries at 80 amps, using a Honda EU2000. It should go as high as 130 amps, if I recall correctly. Maybe if I had heavier cables it would charge faster.

A 2000 watt inverter would be more compatible with my batteries, but the cost of the 2000 and 3000 watt units were very close. I should get another battery anyway.

I like the way the Victron stuff works with a phone app. I get up in the morning, turn the inverter on with my phone long enough to warm up some butter in the microwave and make some toast, and then turn it off. No going outside to push buttons, and no generator to disturb my wifeís sleep.
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Old 09-17-2021, 11:33 AM   #5
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interesting, I am considering 3 Battleborn's and a Victron inverter. So you turn the inverter off at night. If you need the furnace I guess it just runs off 12v from the batteries correct? Everything else is shut down overnight.

Thanks
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Old 09-17-2021, 11:35 AM   #6
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Which Victron model do you have
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Old 09-17-2021, 11:54 AM   #7
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Which Victron model do you have
I have the Victron Multiplus 12/3000/120-50 (PMP123021102). It is about $1,350 if purchased through Battleborne. The VE.bus dongle is an extra item, and is necessary to have the Bluetooth connection to your phone.

The inverter draws power, so I keep it off unless I need A/C power for something. The only thing my previous trailer needed A/C power for was the microwave and any small appliances I plugged in. That is why the phone app is so useful.

Forgot about the air conditioner. It is 110 too, but I donít use it.

My new 5er has more A/C features, including a 110-volt ceiling fan. Apparently I need to have 110-volt power on to extend the footrest on the recliner couch 😟. That goofy thing may go away!
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Old 09-17-2021, 12:22 PM   #8
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Thanks you have been a big help. I think my boondocking will be similar to yours. I think For $3500 or so I can set it up.

I hope others will jump in with what they do.
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Old 09-17-2021, 01:45 PM   #9
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Been to Alaska twice in the RV. Boondocked the entire time; Canada, Yukon, Alaska. Most with solar figure 600watts, roof mounted is minimum. On our first trip we had less solar, thus ran gen as needed. I have an Lp fridge and a basement freezer that runs on AC&DC 12v.

As for places to visit in Alaska: Dawson City (visited the set for the National Geo "Gold Rush Show" Chicken on 4th of July, Fireworks & Local Pot Luck Fairbanks University Museum Anchorage River trip, Soldotna combat fishing for Salmon and shopping, Homer Halibut fishing, Valdez just because. Plus Denali NP.

My advice is to talk to the locals, they know where unique places are. That's how we got to visit the Gold Rush site with pictures standing next to Big Red. You can also catch the mail flight to Bettles Lodge which is about 100? miles north in the Arctic Circle. Flew out of Fairbanks. They even flew our dog in the main cabin. Go Whale watching and walk on a Glacier and/or from a tour boat watch Glacier Calving. Alaska sells a 2 for 1 coupon book which was $100 on our last visit, but gives you half off most tours. They can be hard to find, but most grocery stores have them.



Watch our for Bear, Moose (which I'm told kill more people than bear) and Mud Flats, which act like quick sand. People have been stuck and drown when the tide comes in.


Alaska is a great Trip, Enjoy!!
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Old 09-18-2021, 08:15 AM   #10
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We exclusively dry camp. We don't use a TV or an inverter to power it, so our DC usage will be less than yours- 30-35 amp hours daily. Yours will be another 10 Ahs for each hour of TV/DVR usage.

So with two hours of TV/DVR use, lets assume 50 Ah daily, with 200 Ah usable you can go 4 days without recharging. But how fast can you recharge? When you install your inverter, make it an inverter/charger with 100 amps charging capacity. Your lead acid batteries are probably 400 Ahs nominal if you have 200 Ah usable and that works ok with a 100 amp charger. Do make sure it can support LFP batteries if you decide to switch some day.

Solar is useful to top off your batteries. Lead acid batteries charging slows down once you reach 80% SOC. So the all day nature of solar can top them off. Up in the high latitudes of Alaska you will probably only get 25 Ahs out of a 100 watt panel each sunny day, so I would have at least 200 watts. Either portable or roof mounted works but in a partially shaded campsite you will be chasing the sun all day with portable although you will get little charging from roof mounted panels in a mostly shaded site.

David
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Old 09-18-2021, 08:35 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VC63 View Post
I have an RV ref. and I also have a Victron battery monitor. My RV charges the batteries while driving. I want to put in a inverter/charger regardless. I think it is better than a converter and basically needed if not using the generator.

Like I said above we will use a couple of lights, charge phones and maybe a laptop and maybe a couple of ours of TV/DVD. It sound like something similar to your setup might work. What do you have for an inverter and batteries.

Thanks
The RV fridge helps the equation a whole bunch.

We have two group 31 LA batteries. The inverter/charger is an obsolete Heart Freedom 10, 1000 watts continuous, modified sine wave, and a 50 amp multi stage charger with no apparent way to change it to lithium settings.

As you have a current battery monitor the whole "how much do I need" question is a lot easier to answer. Simply go camping, even at home, without plugging in and see how many AHs you use per day.

But just rough guessing it sounds like our modest system will work well for you. Our system capacity still has room for another 120 watt panel which we would likely get if we switch to a 12 volt "solar" fridge.
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Old 09-18-2021, 08:43 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VC63 View Post
Thanks you have been a big help. I think my boondocking will be similar to yours. I think For $3500 or so I can set it up.

I hope others will jump in with what they do.
That budget might get the big items, but depending on what you already have or donít have you might need more.

I added buss bars, fuse and fuse holder, the VE.bus dongle, cable and cable terminals (cable on the 0 to 000 sizes is really expensive!), shrink wrap, split loom, and other minor bits that drove the price up quite a bit.
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Old 09-18-2021, 09:39 AM   #13
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All good advice above.

Solar
There are lots of ways to install and use solar. However, current solar for RV use requires a significant battery bank. A significant battery bank can get you through 3 to 5 days of dry camping. So if you have a significant battery bank and don't camp for longer than three days, the solar is less useful.

Inverter
Inverters are relatively cheap to buy and the advice above is good. However, they do need battery support, proper 12 volt wiring, significant 120 volt wiring, and probably a 120 volt transfer switch.

Different battery design have different maximum output capacities. Lead acid typical work as follows:
A 50 amp 240 volt shore power system is 12000 watts.
Amp Volt Watts Bat.
50 X 240 = 12000 battery bank is too big for most RV's
30 120 3600 700 amp hour battery bank
25 120 3000 600
17 120 2000 400
8 120 1000 200

Transfer Switch
Many owners want to connect the inverter to all existing 120 volt outlets. This requires a transfer switch to prevent different AC power sources from damaging one another. Many big inverters have a built in transfer switch.

However, you can see from the table above that powering everything in the RV can be a problem. Either an excessive battery bank is required, or only a limited set of AC appliance can be run at one time.

Usually a 120 volt AC sub panel is added to the output of the inverter. Connections for appliances to be run on inverter power are removed from the main panel and added to the sub panel. This leaves things like electric water heater, and air conditioners on the main panel. Things like microwave and TV are wired to sub panel.

You probably need at least a 2000 watt inverter and 400 amp hour battery bank to power a 30 amp 120 volt RV shore power system. You will still have to practice careful power management with a 2000 watt system.

A 50 amp 240 volt RV system requires even more power management and would probably work better with a bigger inverter. It may also require a specifically designed transfer switch for whole house power.

For TV, computer, and phone charging, you can probably get by with a 200 amp hour battery and a 1000 watt inverter. Only connect a limited set of outlets to the inverter output. Microwave and electric coffee pot are not going to work.

I wish you good luck and happy trails ahead.
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Old 09-22-2021, 03:32 PM   #14
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You need to calculate how much power you will use daily and then build a system to store and generate that power.
That said, if Alaska is your primary trip I would lean heavy on Solar because you will get a ton of daylight and a ton of power from your solar panels on that trip. The panels are pretty cheap, the controller so so, but the money is in the batteries. Look at an SOK or Big Battery to get the best bang for your buck in LifePO4. You can do a DIY 400ah 600 watt system for $4k.
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