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Old 11-16-2020, 10:24 AM   #1
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Lithium/Solar combo

Hi, I am in the process of configuring a new 21C. I have the ability to go all in on the lithium/solar options, but I am not sure how much I really need. I know this is discussed a lot, but I am a complete newbie. I am not installing the air conditioner, instead going for 2 MAXX fans. My needs would look like this:
-3-5 days boondocking (rarely plugged in)
-would want to warm things up with microwave.
-make a pot of coffee
-make some toast
-will not have a TV
-no generator
-possibly run refrigeration off of 12v...I live at altitude (+7500ft) and I know propane can be fickle up hear.

Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!
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Old 11-16-2020, 10:47 AM   #2
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Might get more tailored responses if you also offer opinion on ....
  • Are your likely preferred camping locations shaded (e.g. in wooded sites)?
  • Are you likely to camp in winter when sun-angle is low?
  • Are you likely to camp in seasons / locations when it's overcast / cloudy?

Good luck with the steep 'all things solar' learning curve, I'm on it too!
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Old 11-16-2020, 11:07 AM   #3
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Hi Tom,

I am going through this process as well, but my trailer is a few days away from being completed.

I will be doing a reasonable amount of boondocking like yourself. I choose two Maxx fans, no air conditioner, a compressor fridge (AC only), two 190 watt panels and 2 x 6 volt batteries. While I use very little AC options, I did opt for the inverter because it is so much easier to have it then to plan for it later. For you, using your trailer at elevation, a compressor fridge is a good idea (lots of people will argue this point).

We all use our trailers differently. Since I wanted to use my camper year round in the wet and cloudy PNW, it became clear to me quickly that two 6 volt batteries wasnt enough, so I bought a generator. Then I figured out that I didnt want to be one of those guys that ran my generator every day so I was going to double the 6 volt batteries. However weight and where I put them became an issue so it became clear that 3 x 100 AH lithium batteries was in the works. Lol, have spent the last week researching lithium batteries.

It all depends on what you are doing. If you are using the trailer in sunny areas then you are probably good with two panels and 2 6 volt batteries, even with a compressor fridge. If you want to camp in the colder shoulder seasons, or in less sunny areas or use a lot of appliances then you might have to consider your power needs like I had to.

I ended up adding more options because I had the budget for it and I wanted it there in case I needed it. A last minute add for me was heating pads and a surge protector. I have little desire to camp in an RV park, but if a cold spell hits, I am heading to a park and plugging in....and both of those items will help a lot when that time comes.

Have fun with the process, even if it is a little overwhelming.

Julie
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Old 11-16-2020, 11:26 AM   #4
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I can give my results. I started with a pair of 160 watt panels on the roof & a portable 160 watt panel added as needed. Original batteries were the stock pair of 6V. I use between 30 - 50 amp hours per day. I found that with the 6V batteries, after using the microwave for dinner, the furnace overnight, general electrical usage (no TV) some mornings I was not able to use the microwave because the inverter shut down due to low voltage. I also usually make a pot of coffee & sometimes toast with a 900 watt electric toaster. Never had a problem with the coffee or toaster, just the microwave.

I switched to a pair of Battleborn 100 amp hour lithium batteries, I can, and do, tilt my panels for the correct angle for the Quartzsite mid winter sun angle, and still add the portable during December & January. I dry camp in the Long Term Visitor Areas in AZ & CA for the winter, months at a time without hookups.

I've had as many as 3-4 cloudy days in a row, but the desert usually has plenty of sun. The 480 watts of solar has produced as little as just a couple of amp hours to as much as 110 amp hours per day. The worst case last winter (and it was cloudier than normal) was 3 days of clouds & the batteries down to 65%. One full sun day was enough to get them back to full.

The number of lithium batteries depends on your maximum load. While one would have been enough to match the 6V batteries & produce a higher voltage when partially discharged, Battleborn has a maximum draw of 100 amps per battery. My microwave draws 140 amps at full power, so I went with two batteries. I believe that GoPower rates their 100 amp lithium batteries at a higher draw, and the stock Escape microwave draws less than mine, so one battery would probably be plenty unless you go for the 12V compressor refrigerator. If your plan is to run an absorption refrigerator on 12V, you will need far more batteries & solar. My Dometic DM2663LBX draws 27 amps on 12V & appears to run 24/7. That would be 648 amps hours per day...
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Old 11-16-2020, 11:29 AM   #5
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We can dry camp a week+ with our E21 w/ dual golf cart batts and solar.

we don't use the microwave, rather we use the propane oven for things that can be baked, and do a lot of stuff now on a outdoor propane bbq. in fact, even when we have power we rarely use the microwave.

I'm perfectly happy to boil water on the stove for hand pour-over or aeropress coffee. and I get my morning exercise with a hand grinder as we like our coffee fresh ground.

everywhere we've dry camped our fridge has run just fine on propane. the tall roof vent stack on the E21 undoubtedly helps.
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Old 11-17-2020, 09:24 AM   #6
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One of the big advantages to LiFePO4 battery technology is its relatively lower internal resistance compared to FLA. This translates into the ability to have higher charge and discharge rates which FLA can not match.

Relying solely upon 12v electricity for refrigerator, heating (water & air), cooking, etc., will get more expensive quickly than if you can sprinkle in propane powered devices.

We are all electric in our 15A, but fully was aware of the challenges at the onset. We have a 400Ah/6500w LiFePO4, spend 99% of our camping days in remote western lands and have relied upon 550w of combination solar (350w fixed on the roof + 200w portable) and its not enough for lower angle sun of shoulder months & winter certainly.

Currently moving to 750w roof and 340w portable which I think will work for us except during extended intervals of dense cloud cover.

As other's have stated: Its ALL about your electrical requirements and where you'll be camping regarding your choices of different forms of energy and how to replenish same.
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Old 11-17-2020, 10:50 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by dstreight View Post

We are all electric in our 15A, but fully was aware of the challenges at the onset. We have a 400Ah/6500w LiFePO4, spend 99% of our camping days in remote western lands and have relied upon 550w of combination solar (350w fixed on the roof + 200w portable) and its not enough for lower angle sun of shoulder months & winter certainly.
Just out of curiosity, what length of time are you referring to when you say "its not enough for lower angle sun of shoulder months & winter certainly?

How many days could you go with your setup without backup charging?
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Old 11-17-2020, 11:27 AM   #8
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My Bad

Quote:
Originally Posted by JulietF View Post
Hi Tom,

I will be doing a reasonable amount of boondocking like yourself. I choose two Maxx fans, no air conditioner, a compressor fridge (AC only), two 190 watt panels and 2 x 6 volt batteries. While I use very little AC options, I did opt for the inverter because it is so much easier to have it then to plan for it later. For you, using your trailer at elevation, a compressor fridge is a good idea (lots of people will argue this point).

Julie
Sorry, I should have said i am using my compressor fridge on DC only.
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Old 11-17-2020, 03:29 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Ronn View Post
Just out of curiosity, what length of time are you referring to when you say "its not enough for lower angle sun of shoulder months & winter certainly?

How many days could you go with your setup without backup charging?
3-4 days without any solar input without taxing the battery. The biggest draw on our system is the water heater (750w) and fridge (about 3Ah draw typically). We can keep good hot water temp, for military style showers (1-2 gallons total use which if used judiciously as we do is actually a nice shower), for 48-hours (longer in warm ambient temps and less in cold ambient temps).
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Old 11-17-2020, 06:16 PM   #10
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3-4 days without any solar input without taxing the battery. The biggest draw on our system is the water heater (750w) and fridge (about 3Ah draw typically). We can keep good hot water temp, for military style showers (1-2 gallons total use which if used judiciously as we do is actually a nice shower), for 48-hours (longer in warm ambient temps and less in cold ambient temps).
Great information Dan, thanks for the update.
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Old 11-18-2020, 02:55 AM   #11
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Here's some off the cuff example calculations of power usage.


A Battleboune holds 100 Amp Hours (Ah) at 12 volts (V).
Longevity of the battery is far greater if only 80% is used.
So 80 Amp Hours of energy stored in the battery.



Microwave:
1000W for 3 minutes (1/20 of an hour) is = 50 watt hours at 12V

= 4.2 Ah

MaxxFan:
.6 Amps at setting 5 (of 10)
So if you run at setting 5 for ten hours
= 6 Ah


A new 21C will have LED lights. Wattage varies.

10W for 10h at 12V = 8 Ah
20W for 10h at 12V = 16 Ah



A compressor fridge will generally draw less than 100W max.
Once it's cooled down, it'll draw some fraction of that.
For example: 30W for 24h = 720Wh at 12V

= 60 Ah



Now, these are rough estimates, but it illustrates which ones may be more significant relative to the battery capacity.


The fridge and electric range or toaster would be the higher power draws. However, they're still possible if you plan for enough solar power input.
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Old 11-18-2020, 05:20 PM   #12
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Since you're all on a roll, may I ask for advice too?

I live in Southern California and have 10 years before I retire. I work for a school district and therefore have the typical school schedule (spring break, 10 weeks at summer, Thanksgiving week and 2 week winter break.) Conditions would likely be sunny and warm.

I am ordering A/C, 2 lithium batteries, 2 solar panels on roof. Anticipate boondocking or rustic campgrounds. Planning to cook with propane aside from a quick burst in the microwave. Do my options make sense? The electrical requirements are the hardest part of this process for me.

Thanks in advance for insight.
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Old 11-18-2020, 10:08 PM   #13
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It sounds like 'worst case' solar power scenario is a concern.

Let's look at a specific worst case example:
Granby Colorado in December
400 watts of roof mounted horizontal solar panel

We can get an estimate of solar power at this site:
https://pvwatts.nrel.gov/pvwatts.php


First, enter "granby, co" and click "Go".




Then click on "system info"


Enter "0.4" for "DC System Size (kW)".
400 watts = 0.4 kilo watts.


Enter zero (0) for "tilt" and "asimuth".


Click "Results"



We can see that the estimated output is 18 kWh (kilo watt hours) for the entire month of December.
18,000 watt hours / month * 1 month/31 days = 580 watt hours per day
580 watt hours / 12 volts = 48.3 Amp Hours per day

So, for an average user, a horizontal 400 watt panel in Granby Colorado in December will generate around 48 Amp Hours of energy per day.

Likewise, the same panel in Quartzsite, Arizona in December, would generate 29 kWh for the month, which is 78 Amp Hours per day.

If it's a cloudy day, only a fraction of these amounts would be generated.

There is a more detailed guide here:
https://coastalsolar.com/how-to-use-...m-solar-power/
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Old 11-18-2020, 10:16 PM   #14
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so that $1000 battleborn battery has about 1000 watt*hours. (80AH safely usable times 12 volts)... thats 3400 BTU equivalent.

a 4.7 gallon propane bottle has about 430,000 BTU in it. and can be refilled for about $30 almost anywhere.
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Old 11-18-2020, 10:37 PM   #15
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a 4.7 gallon propane bottle has about 430,000 BTU in it. and can be refilled for about $30 almost anywhere.

Yes but, it has to be certified every ten years or you have to buy a new one for $40?
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Old 11-18-2020, 11:13 PM   #16
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yes, but do battleborn batteries last 10 years of daily charge/discharge cycles ?
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Old 11-19-2020, 12:24 AM   #17
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yes, but do battleborn batteries last 10 years of daily charge/discharge cycles ?
Actually, yes according to their FAQ: "Able to run 3,000 cycles, most people will have these batteries for 10 to 15 years." (https://battlebornbatteries.com/faq/)
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Old 12-02-2020, 11:07 PM   #18
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Thanks, Julie. I appreciate your insights!
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Old 12-02-2020, 11:10 PM   #19
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Thanks so much. Very valuable information.
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Old 12-02-2020, 11:13 PM   #20
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Hi John, thanks for your feedback. I saw you had to say goodbye to your beloved yellow lab last year. It’s tough to say goodbye to them. We have had 4 labs (to chacos and two blacks). Our older dog Rocket died while we were in Santa Barbara a couple of weeks ago and we have a new 6 month old black lab named Abby. Take care.
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