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Old 12-06-2023, 09:05 AM   #1
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Soon-To-Be Escape Owner Looking for Advice on Solar/Batteries

Hi all. We've just made the decision to purchase an Escape 19 and join the club. Deposit is down on a custom build and now heading into the very interesting final configuration stage. Hoping we can draw from the wisdom of the Escape owner community for advice and recommendations on power-related components and alternatives we are considering.

My questions relate to the type of solar/battery options we should consider. Here is how and where we expect to use the trailer:

- The vast majority of our camping will be boondocking in western and northern Canada (we live on the pacific coast on Vancouver Island in British Columbia) so typically lots of trees and parking in shaded areas. So will rarely have access to shore power.

- Also expect many of our trips to be in the spring/early fall so more cloudy and rainy days than in the summer. So regular sun intensity and availability to be somewhat inconsistent although we do expect occasional extended trips to sunnier southern locations as well.

- Many of our trips will typically be 4-6 weeks with the longest stay in one place likely no more than 7-10 days max.

- Overall I expect our power requirements are quite straightforward and manageable. Outside of the standard trailer 12V DC components, we will not be using any 120V AC appliances (e.g., microwave, oven, coffee makers, blow dryers, TV). No inverter since we're only looking to charge things like phones, tablets, laptops, etc. using USB. No A/C (we're going with the two MaxxAir fans instead) or compressor fridge And we would like to avoid having to bring and use a generator for trailer battery charging if at all possible.

- Off season the trailer will be stored with access to shore power for battery trickle charging if necessary.

- Given our primarily off-the-grid power requirements, we're considering two options: either two lithium batteries and two roof top solar panels; or two 6V AGM batteries with two roof top solar panels. In addition, given the small incremental cost, we would also look to have the external solar port installed in case a portable solar panel may be helpful in the future.

- I'm somewhat familiar with the issue of charging and using lithium batteries at low temperatures i.e., below 0 degrees C or 32 F. But we will normally not be camping when temperatures get close to freezing so it is more about storage with shore power in the off-season (lowest winter temperatures where the trailer will be stored will generally be around 0 degrees C but can occasionally drop down to -10 C). I'm hoping the temperature issue with lithium is not a significant concern especially given the batteries I believe are now installed in the trailer itself.

- We expect to have the trailer for 10-15 years so would anticipate two sets of AGM batteries versus one set of lithium over the length of ownership. So the cost saving differential with the AGMs over lithium starts to shrink.

We would really appreciate any insights from other owners in terms of their experience with usage similar to what we expect. And, in particular, from those who have and use the lithium battery/solar option that we are considering. And, finally, if anyone has had other issues/failures with lithium batteries that are important to consider.
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Old 12-06-2023, 11:55 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by MarkFD View Post
I'm somewhat familiar with the issue of charging and using lithium batteries at low temperatures i.e., below 0 degrees C or 32 F. But we will normally not be camping when temperatures get close to freezing so it is more about storage with shore power in the off-season (lowest winter temperatures where the trailer will be stored will generally be around 0 degrees C but can occasionally drop down to -10 C). I'm hoping the temperature issue with lithium is not a significant concern especially given the batteries I believe are now installed in the trailer itself.

- We expect to have the trailer for 10-15 years so would anticipate two sets of AGM batteries versus one set of lithium over the length of ownership. So the cost saving differential with the AGMs over lithium starts to shrink.

We would really appreciate any insights from other owners in terms of their experience with usage similar to what we expect. And, in particular, from those who have and use the lithium battery/solar option that we are considering. And, finally, if anyone has had other issues/failures with lithium batteries that are important to consider.
Over the past 40 years we've owned 17 trailers/5th wheels. Plus many batteries on the farm.

First of all, the life of a LiFePO4 battery (lithium) is just theory. The first lithiums failed quite often. It's not so much on how long the lithium storage will last, but how soon the BMS will fail. Will Prouse took down a Battleborn failure thread that had over 200 posts a few years ago. I've seen Battleborn take down posts on their Facebook forums. Even Battleborn is not perfect.

In my working life I was the computer department in our small school, so settings are commonplace for me. Previously, I've had flooded, AGM, and Silicon Dioxide (SiO2) batteries and now have two 200ah SOK LiFePO4 batteries. Go up on the Facebook forums and read all the setting problems with lithium and especially with DC-DC's. I knew the problems with lithiums, yet I bought two.

I now have to make sure our LiFePO4 batteries don't freeze, since living in Minnesota it easily gets to -20 and below, where lithiums will freeze and be destroyed. That's a PITA, since I don't want to be moving my batteries in and out of our camper for winter storage. However, we traditionally leave January 15 for Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah, where we will camp without services 80% of the time. Our batteries reside underneath the dinette seat, where we have a 375 watt Vornado heater, so once we start to heat our camper (on January 14th) they will be warm enough to charge and we can disconnect the Vornado. SiO2 batteries can charge down to -40, so don't have to worry about freezing.

If I had it to do over again I would have bought another pair of Soneil SiO2 batteries like we had in our 5.0. SiO2's charge like lithiums, but don't have the settings/interface problems common with lithiums. Plus they also claim (yeah right) a life span similar to the promise of lithium (also, yeah right). However, my experience with both is SiO2's charge extremely fast, like lithium. Their only downside is they have lead plates, so a pair is 130 pounds. That was no problem with our Escape 5.0. Frontal area has much more to do with gas mileage than a little extra weight.

There is no such thing as too much solar on your roof! You're on the right track by purchasing your Escape with two 200 watt solar panels. We originally had 17 watts on the roof of our 5.0 and had to use our 100 watt portable all the time. After adding three 100 watt Renogy panels to the roof, giving technically 463 watts available we never had to take out the portable again. Our 260 available ah SiO2 batteries never ran out of juice, in fact they never went below 130 available. With your minimal use 2-300 ah's of batteries should work for a week or more in summer shade.

Since you're not getting air conditioning, but another MaxxFan (good move) you should be able to install a third 200 watt panel if you wish. I doubt you'll need it thought.

If it's not standard, I would ask Escape for Victron products, probably a 100/30 solar controller, but make sure you buy a Victron BMV-712 shunt to monitor your expensive solar/battery system.

DC-DC only works when driving down the road. Our problem has always been at the end or a stay. We've never had DC-DC and see no good reason to get one, unless you're under-paneled (you won't be).

For the past 30 years we've always carried a battery charger. When we bought our SOK's from Current Connected we also bought a new Victron IP22 30 amp battery charger. This can operate at 25 amps using the 400 watt inverter in our F150. The two together is essentially a generator. It came in handy last fall when I accidently left our inverter on and had to charge the batteries after 4 nights running the furnace and Terry's CPAP (both run on 12v) in 30F weather.

Since we own a 100 watt portable we take it with us, as it stores easily in the rear cab seat area of our F150 quad cab. Once we had 460 watts of solar on our 5.0 we didn't need the portable. Unless we had broadleaf leaves within 10' of the solar panels we seemed to always get 40-80 watts in shade, enough to keep us full. However, sooner or later we'll need that portable.

Food for thought,

Perry
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Old 12-06-2023, 11:23 PM   #3
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We live down-island from you in Victoria. Let me give you a real-life example of solar production on our 2018 17B with a factory 170W rooftop panel and a 160W portable wired directly to the batteries via its own solar controller. We took a recent short trip this last first week of October to Rathtrevor Beach Prov Park campground near Parksville. It was cloudy, rainy, cool and as you probably well know, heavily forested. The rooftop panel produced nothing - nada. The portable, if I could find a sliver of weak obscured sunlight, almost nothing. So, plan your battery capacity around getting almost no solar refill when on the BC coast off-season .

On the other hand, in more summery conditions, I find the portable extremely helpful. For example, when placed in direct sunlight it sometimes produces 5-8 amps vs the rooftop's 2 when that one's not in direct sunlight but it's still bright out. So, I would recommend you get the factory solar port as you seem to be leaning to doing. A port can always be added but doing it via the factory is simpler in my opinion. Keeps your options open.

We have the 1500W factory inverter and do make use of it, but I'm always worried about the draw on our dual 6V flooded batteries, something I really, really wish I didn't have to constantly fret about. Your draws on just 12V usage sound manageable, BUT, be aware that the furnace can be a fairly heavy draw overnight. So.. if you're expecting to be using the furnace a lot then plan your battery capacity accordingly.

I'm glad to hear you would really like to avoid having to bring a generator. On that same trip to Rathtrevor there I was, sitting outside by the campfire (which I love) in the rain (don't love so much), having to listen for FOUR long hours (despite a 2 hr limit) to an excruciatingly loud generator in the site next door. Never saw that person outside once. So, if you do need a generator (and you probably will), please, please don't get a cheap loud one. I'm afraid the subject of generators might open a can of worms here on the Forum, but I was so upset that I almost decided to sell my trailer and quit camping that night.

Lastly, welcome to the Forum, and I'm jealous of your 19. I would have gotten that model but the 17 was the only one I can fit down my driveway.

Lawrence
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Old 12-07-2023, 02:30 AM   #4
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I have three 100AH lithium batteries and 180 watts of solar panel on my trailer. Nearly all my travels are dry camping. The lithium batteries are far superior to the flooded lead acid batteries they replaced. Like Laurence A, I recommend you get all the solar you can, including the remote panel port. Parking in the shade significantly reduces or eliminates charging from the rooftop solar panels, so a remote port allows you to put a portable panel in the sun. I have a 12V compressor refrigerator, and if I'm parked in full sun in the summer, the 180W solar panel can just barely keep the batteries charged. Enjoy your new trailer!
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Old 12-07-2023, 11:49 AM   #5
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Hi MarkFD, congrats on making the decision to purchase an Escape. You made a great a choice. Your use case closely matches ours with two exceptions:
1- We live in the desert southwest so sun is more the norm than clouds,
2- We tend to use more 120V AC than you plan: coffee maker, microwave, light 120V AC
appliances. So we have an ETI installed 1500watt inverter that is wired to all 120V
outlets.
We have two rooftop panels for 380watts of solar and 4@100ah lithium batteries. We boondock 99% of the time. In the last year of probably 20+ stops, we have plugged in a total of 3 times. We've been trailer camping for about 10years.

With no uncertainty, I can say we would never go back to lead acid batteries. With our lithium setup and our power usage, we have never been below 85% capacity. If you are in a heavily treed or shaded area, I would suggest a 100watt-200watt portable solar panel to supplement your rooftop panels. We have a 130watt but have only used it once since our rooftop panels have been able to scavenge plenty of power. Again, the caveat we live in the desert.

With the power usage you descibe, 200ah of lithium will more than meet your needs.
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Old 12-07-2023, 04:31 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkFD View Post
Hi all. We've just made the decision to purchase an Escape 19 and join the club. Deposit is down on a custom build and now heading into the very interesting final configuration stage. Hoping we can draw from the wisdom of the Escape owner community for advice and recommendations on power-related components and alternatives we are considering.

My questions relate to the type of solar/battery options we should consider. Here is how and where we expect to use the trailer:

- The vast majority of our camping will be boondocking in western and northern Canada (we live on the pacific coast on Vancouver Island in British Columbia) so typically lots of trees and parking in shaded areas. So will rarely have access to shore power.

- Also expect many of our trips to be in the spring/early fall so more cloudy and rainy days than in the summer. So regular sun intensity and availability to be somewhat inconsistent although we do expect occasional extended trips to sunnier southern locations as well.

- Many of our trips will typically be 4-6 weeks with the longest stay in one place likely no more than 7-10 days max.

- Overall I expect our power requirements are quite straightforward and manageable. Outside of the standard trailer 12V DC components, we will not be using any 120V AC appliances (e.g., microwave, oven, coffee makers, blow dryers, TV). No inverter since we're only looking to charge things like phones, tablets, laptops, etc. using USB. No A/C (we're going with the two MaxxAir fans instead) or compressor fridge And we would like to avoid having to bring and use a generator for trailer battery charging if at all possible.

- Off season the trailer will be stored with access to shore power for battery trickle charging if necessary.

- Given our primarily off-the-grid power requirements, we're considering two options: either two lithium batteries and two roof top solar panels; or two 6V AGM batteries with two roof top solar panels. In addition, given the small incremental cost, we would also look to have the external solar port installed in case a portable solar panel may be helpful in the future.

- I'm somewhat familiar with the issue of charging and using lithium batteries at low temperatures i.e., below 0 degrees C or 32 F. But we will normally not be camping when temperatures get close to freezing so it is more about storage with shore power in the off-season (lowest winter temperatures where the trailer will be stored will generally be around 0 degrees C but can occasionally drop down to -10 C). I'm hoping the temperature issue with lithium is not a significant concern especially given the batteries I believe are now installed in the trailer itself.

- We expect to have the trailer for 10-15 years so would anticipate two sets of AGM batteries versus one set of lithium over the length of ownership. So the cost saving differential with the AGMs over lithium starts to shrink.

We would really appreciate any insights from other owners in terms of their experience with usage similar to what we expect. And, in particular, from those who have and use the lithium battery/solar option that we are considering. And, finally, if anyone has had other issues/failures with lithium batteries that are important to consider.
Dual 6 volt batteries simply won't cut it with a compressor refrigerator. Get the trailer 'Lithium Ready' and go with a lower cost LiFePO4 battery.

I have a 300ah Chins Smart Battery (with internal heater) in the front storage box of my 2020 Escape 19. It just fits with a one inch piece of XPS foam insulation under it to raise it to the slightly wider part of the storage box. The link is to the 280ah version which is currently $725 on Amazon.

I originally went with dual 6 volt batteries. Even with a propane refrigerator and nightly travel CPAP use (no humidifier) the dual 6 volt batteries just weren't cutting it. In my experience transitioning from lead acid to LiFePO4. Lead acid batteries hold power like a sponge holds water. And LiFePO4 batteries hold power like a container. I still have Lifeline AGMs as general house batteries in my Sprinter thanks to a generous donation of a replacement set from a member here. My original Lifeline AGMs weren't holding up very well after just 5 years.
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Old 12-07-2023, 08:15 PM   #7
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We installed 4x100A Battleborn Lithium batteries. We have 190W on the roof and we have 2 x100W portables. We used to plug the portables into the Zamp port and use the onboard solar controller. The problem with that is the solar panels work to the level of the least efficient solar panel. So if your roof top panel is in the shade, your portable panels are not helping much as they will think they are in the shade. However if you get a separate solar controller and hook up your portables to it and directly to the batteries, then you get the best of both worlds. We do have a 12V compressor fridge, but don't have AC or use any 120V applicances. In poor weather and very little sun we can get about 5 days, but that was before I switched to having the portables go directly to the battery. Haven't yet tried it out but hope it will give me time. I also have the DC-DC charger and that does help if you are travelling.
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Old 12-07-2023, 08:19 PM   #8
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Because Lithium batteries hold their charge a long time without being charged, there should be no need for a trickle charger. You can store your trailer with say an 80% charge and leave it for 6 months and you will come back to batteries that are in a similar state of charge. I did speak with Battleborn and they said to disconnect the batteries so the solar panels don't continually charge the batteries. They said they will last long if the batteries are resting
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Old 12-07-2023, 10:41 PM   #9
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I'm glad to hear you would really like to avoid having to bring a generator. On that same trip to Rathtrevor there I was, sitting outside by the campfire (which I love) in the rain (don't love so much), having to listen for FOUR long hours (despite a 2 hr limit) to an excruciatingly loud generator in the site next door. Never saw that person outside once. So, if you do need a generator (and you probably will), please, please don't get a cheap loud one. I'm afraid the subject of generators might open a can of worms here on the Forum, but I was so upset that I almost decided to sell my trailer and quit camping that night. Lawrence
Hate generators-period, or Full Stop as that phrase seems to be in vogue now. Our joke (which sadly probably isn't for many) is they're watching Porn.

We cruise through campgrounds looking for a site and if we see a Champion or similar ilk....aka Rack Jobs- we move on.

We will complain when people ignore rules regarding generators. Once at Horsethief in Canyonlands where it was like 6 AM to 10 PM hours for generators the Camp Host said "that doesn't mean it can run all day" and had a talk with Generator Joe. They were fast friends and guess what-he turned it off.
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Old 12-07-2023, 10:52 PM   #10
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We cruise through campgrounds looking for a site and if we see a Champion or similar ilk....aka Rack Jobs- we move on.
I also glance into the bushes next to a potential campsite to see if a generator owner has conveniently moved it almost into that campsite so that he can't hear it.

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Old 12-07-2023, 10:59 PM   #11
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I also glance into the bushes next to a potential campsite to see if a generator owner has conveniently moved it almost into that campsite so that he can't hear it. Ron
Yeah, not so funny that generator folk often move their Genset as far away from themselves as possible.
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Old 12-08-2023, 08:26 AM   #12
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I don’t mind generators appropriately used. Sometimes solar is not effective. I own a Honda inverter genset. Since 2002, I have used it maybe 15 times camping and never more than 3 or 4 hours maximum each time. It mostly gets used for maintenance work. Depending on the trip, it may or may not travel with us. If I don’t want to hear a generator, I camp where generators are not permitted, or at least heavily restricted. Since 2002 that’s approximately 2100 nights RV’ing.
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Old 12-08-2023, 12:52 PM   #13
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If I donít want to hear a generator, I camp where generators are not permitted, or at least heavily restricted.
Not really reality. There are campgrounds that have generator loops. But the sound of cheap generators is still audible in the non-generator loops.

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Old 12-08-2023, 01:35 PM   #14
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I will be the first to raise my hand and say I was dependent on generators when boondocking in our previous camper. Within a few months of owning the Escape with plenty of battery and solar, the generators were listed on Craigslist and we haven't looked back. Somewhat surprising is my increasing lack of tolerance to generators in the campgrounds. Even the darling Honda EU2200 is obnoxiously loud to me know. I keep reminding myself I was once generator dependent, but it is getting harder. I am seeking professional help.
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Old 12-08-2023, 01:44 PM   #15
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Hi all, some great info here. Thank you all very much for sharing your experience.

Sounds like our plan to go with more access (or potential access with the solar port) to solar is preferred, nothwithstanding charging issues with parking in the shade. And Perry Butler, appreciate the intro to the Silicon Dioxide (SiO2) batteries. Was not aware of them before. And did want to clarify that we are sticking with the standard absorption fridge, not the compressor version.

Quick question to all: assuming we ask Escape to provide us with the standard external solar port which I believe is wired into the Victron 100/30 standard controller they are now using, what is the easiest way to add a second controller wired to the battery if we subsequently add a portable solar panel and want to optimize its use?

Hearing lots of support for lithium batteries. In particular, CE Vogel and Sean Murry, sounds like you both have and are very happy with your lithium batteries. Since we live in similar climates when it comes to winter weather and temperatures, how do you handle the issue of charging/storing and/or potentially using them during the shoulder or off season when temps can drop to 0 Celsius or below?
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Old 12-08-2023, 01:58 PM   #16
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MarkFD -

My camping style is very similar to yours - I have no inverter and use 120VAC only if I have hookups. I often camp in Forest Service campgrounds with no hookups and lots of trees. The first two years of camping, I had only my two 6V flooded lead-acid batteries with no solar, and often camped up to 5 days with no problems. I have since added 220W of flexible panels on the roof, but have found they don't add a lot of power unless I camp out in the open, but they do provide enough for me leave my trailer unplugged while at home (where my trailer is in the open). When traveling, between the solar panels and tow vehicle charging, I have plenty of battery power every day. I guess my advice to you is that if you feel that AGM batteries may be less hassle, you should feel comfortable that they will be adequate for your needs as long as you get some sun on your panels every few days.
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Old 12-08-2023, 02:00 PM   #17
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Quick question to all:... what is the easiest way to add a second controller wired to the battery if we subsequently add a portable solar panel and want to optimize its use?
IMHO, the absolute easiest way is to purchase a portable solar panel kit that already has a controller wired in and wire the pig-tail usually provided with the kit directly to the battery bank. You can access the pigtail through the side hatch. Probably not the most elegant, but definitely the easiest.
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Old 12-08-2023, 02:15 PM   #18
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Hi all, some great info here. Thank you all very much for sharing your experience.

Quick question to all: assuming we ask Escape to provide us with the standard external solar port which I believe is wired into the Victron 100/30 standard controller they are now using, what is the easiest way to add a second controller wired to the battery if we subsequently add a portable solar panel and want to optimize its use?
Yeah, sorry for being the one to bring up the generator thing. Maybe I can make up for it. Check out this portable panel sold by Princess Auto. It's the one I have. It has its own controller and can plug into the trailer wiring thru the 7-pin connector. Being large, is pretty heavy though.

https://www.princessauto.com/en/180w...t/PA0009067455

Having a 17, my batteries are on the rear bumper. I also put a solar port into a piece of wood jambed into the rear bike receiver below the spare tire. It's then a short wire connection to the dual 6 volts. This way, I can connect my panel to either the front or rear of the trailer depending on where the best sun is and/or is the best place to hide the panel from potential theft while away. I believe a 19's batteries are at the front, so this idea likely isn't that practical for you.
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Old 12-08-2023, 03:02 PM   #19
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And did want to clarify that we are sticking with the standard absorption fridge, not the compressor version.

Quick question to all: assuming we ask Escape to provide us with the standard external solar port which I believe is wired into the Victron 100/30 standard controller they are now using, what is the easiest way to add a second controller wired to the battery if we subsequently add a portable solar panel and want to optimize its use?
We've had great results with all our absorption fridges over the past 30+ years. Only once did mud daubers decide to muck up our flame.

We have a Victron 100/50 for our rooftop panels and a Victron 100/20 for our portable. Both are hooked to the camper batteries identically. A portable will lose some power when the controller is on the solar panel providing a lower voltage current to the trailer. There is less line loss with 18v vs 14v. That's the reason we installed a SAE port (Zamp wired backwards) to our Victron 100/20 in our 5.0 and now in our Bigfoot. Both controllers sat underneath the rear dinette seat in our 5.0.

We have three 15' 10awg cords with SAE plugs. Most of the time we use only two of the cords, and have only used all three a couple of times. Rarely a single 15' cord is enough.

Food for thought,

Perry
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Old 12-08-2023, 07:27 PM   #20
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Hi all, some great info here. Thank you all very much for sharing your experience.

Sounds like our plan to go with more access (or potential access with the solar port) to solar is preferred, nothwithstanding charging issues with parking in the shade. And Perry Butler, appreciate the intro to the Silicon Dioxide (SiO2) batteries. Was not aware of them before. And did want to clarify that we are sticking with the standard absorption fridge, not the compressor version.

Quick question to all: assuming we ask Escape to provide us with the standard external solar port which I believe is wired into the Victron 100/30 standard controller they are now using, what is the easiest way to add a second controller wired to the battery if we subsequently add a portable solar panel and want to optimize its use?

Hearing lots of support for lithium batteries. In particular, CE Vogel and Sean Murry, sounds like you both have and are very happy with your lithium batteries. Since we live in similar climates when it comes to winter weather and temperatures, how do you handle the issue of charging/storing and/or potentially using them during the shoulder or off season when temps can drop to 0 Celsius or below?
If you use the Zamp Port that Escape provides, then your portable solar panels should not have a controller. Also check the polarity of the panels with the Zamp Port. I have Renogy potable panels and the Zamp ports polarity is reversed. A very simple adaptor fixes that, just something to be aware of.
For my solar controller that is connected to the batteries, I installed it in the front storage box. Very simple. By having a separate controller for the portable panels, without a controller built into the solar panel, allows my solar panels to be via the Zamp Port or direct to the batteries.
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