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Old 02-20-2024, 10:50 AM   #1
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Adding solar capacity

We just changed out our Dometic RMD8555 to a Norcold 2175 compressor fridge. In all likelihood, we'll need to add additional solar and thinking about lithium as well. I have several questions about this. Currently have 2x 6v golfcart batteries, 160w panel on top, with the solar controller above the fridge. I'm thinking about adding a "suitcase" of panels for 200w more, and plugging into the zamp port that's is present. Running the wires to the existing solar controller would be a major undertaking that I want to avoid. Can two separate solar systems coexist using 2 controllers, or would they 'see' each others current and shut down what's going into the battery?
If I were to go down the lithium path I was told by another owner that a dc-dc charger needs to be added to protect the TV alternator. What other essentials are there to make the transition?
Thanks in advance for any advice. FYI, thinking 200-300 ah bank.
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Old 02-20-2024, 11:11 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sailor now Trailer View Post
We just changed out our Dometic RMD8555 to a Norcold 2175 compressor fridge. In all likelihood, we'll need to add additional solar and thinking about lithium as well. I have several questions about this. Currently have 2x 6v golfcart batteries, 160w panel on top, with the solar controller above the fridge. I'm thinking about adding a "suitcase" of panels for 200w more, and plugging into the zamp port that's is present. Running the wires to the existing solar controller would be a major undertaking that I want to avoid. Can two separate solar systems coexist using 2 controllers, or would they 'see' each others current and shut down what's going into the battery?
If I were to go down the lithium path I was told by another owner that a dc-dc charger needs to be added to protect the TV alternator. What other essentials are there to make the transition?
Thanks in advance for any advice. FYI, thinking 200-300 ah bank.
We ran a Victron 100/30 for our rooftop solar panels and a Victron 100/20 for our portable, both connected directly to our batteries with a breaker in between. We now have a Victron 100/50 for the 600 watts on our roof and the 100/20 from our 5.0 is now in our Bigfoot for the portable.

In other words, no problem. When using a single controller, one problem that can occur is if your portable panels are a different VMP from your rooftop panels reducing output to the lowest VMP.

Enjoy,

Perry
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Old 02-20-2024, 04:15 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Sailor now Trailer View Post
We just changed out our Dometic RMD8555 to a Norcold 2175 compressor fridge. In all likelihood, we'll need to add additional solar and thinking about lithium as well. I have several questions about this. Currently have 2x 6v golfcart batteries, 160w panel on top, with the solar controller above the fridge. I'm thinking about adding a "suitcase" of panels for 200w more, and plugging into the zamp port that's is present. Running the wires to the existing solar controller would be a major undertaking that I want to avoid. Can two separate solar systems coexist using 2 controllers, or would they 'see' each others current and shut down what's going into the battery?
If I were to go down the lithium path I was told by another owner that a dc-dc charger needs to be added to protect the TV alternator. What other essentials are there to make the transition?
Thanks in advance for any advice. FYI, thinking 200-300 ah bank.
Perry Butler's recommendation is the way to go. That way you not only don't have to worry about the panel with a lower VMP reducing the output of the other panel but if the roof solar is in shade, that can also, reduce the output of controller shared by two panels. Your best option is having the controller inside the trailer and wired between the batteries and the zamp port. You may also want to install a circuit breaker between the controller and the batteries so that when you don't have a panel connected to the zamp port you can disconnect the power to the controller. I've used the following:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...e?ie=UTF8&th=1

If you mostly boondock then lithium might be a good upgrade also depending on your electrical usage. The need for the DC-DC charger if you go lithium may depend on your tow vehicle. I have one as part of the full lithium package I got with my trailer. I also have a 3-way frig which I run on 12 volt when traveling. It probably uses more ah than a compressor frig. My 2021 F-150 has a smart alternator and from what I can tell so far is that it contributes very little juice to the batteries. That may in part be due to the setting on the charger. On a good sunny day, the solar keeps my batteries at 100% or very close while traveling. If you have an older vehicle then the DC-DC charger may be a good investment to protect your alternator.

Many people who go to lithium batteries change the charger in the power center. Again, if you boondock a lot, your solar panels can fully recharge lithium batteries. If you mostly camp where you have shore power, then upgrading the power center charger may be worthwhile. I mostly boondock and my 190 watt solar keeps the batteries fully charge even on the rare occasion when I have shore power. I also installed a solar disconnect switch for my roof solar so it's easier to work on the electrical system. I mounted the breaker below into a small circuit breaker distribution box. There are lots of options on this Amazon and DIY solar sites.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

The photo below shows my current solar setup. Over the holidays I got a great deal on a Victron 100/30. I connected that to my roof solar and dedicated the 100/20 that came with my trailer to the zamp port. I'm sure others here will share their own experiences.

Good luck
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Old 02-20-2024, 11:09 PM   #4
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If you go Lithium, I recommend you buy from Current Connected (https://www.currentconnected.com). I purchased our Lithium batteries directly from SOK and have been disappointed in the technical assistance, but Current Connected provides great support. I wish I purchased from Current Connected and will be buying a 3rd 100Ah from them to give us a total of 300Ah this summer. They sell BattleBorn and SOK and the prices have come down nicely, especially the SOK's. Good luck on your decision!
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Old 02-21-2024, 04:53 AM   #5
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If I were to go down the lithium path I was told by another owner that a dc-dc charger needs to be added to protect the TV alternator.
WARNING!
Bear in mind that the charging line from the tow vehicle is a two way line (reverse flow occurs). In the event of a break-away, the power to the break away switch which will activate the trailer brakes comes from the battery bank to activate the trailer’s brakes. A DC to DC charger prevents reverse flow. Should you install a DC to DC charger without using a separate power cable to the break-away switch, you will DISABLE the extremely important function of the trailer’s emergency brake function. I WOULD NOT WANT TO LOSE THAT FUNCTION!

That being said, if you do not boondock very much, I have the same Norcold DC compressor refrigerator and two 12v lithium batteries. Typically, I cool the refrigerator down on shore power when prepping for a trip. After installing the refrigerator, I was advised (by a very knowledgeable person to install a Victron Smart Shunt to monitor the batteries. I cooled the Norcold down and switched to battery power. After 24 hours, the Victron Shunt indicated I was at 78% State Of Charge. That means I could go 3+ days off grid without losing refrigeration. Since I rarely stay off grid, that’s all I need. On sunny days, my single 165 watt solar panel provides some additional charge to the batteries. To prevent damage to the alternator, I disconnected the charging line from the tow vehicle at the junction box, leaving the wire to the break-away switch connected to the cable continuing to the battery. The charging line never provided much to the batteries anyway. I would highly recommend upgrading the Escapes charging circuits from 10 AWG to 8 AWG (my local NAPA sells it by the foot) because lithium batteries are power pigs and charging faster, pull a lot of amperage. I have noted 17 amps ac on the EMS and 47 amps dc on the Victron Shunt after running on battery power alone.
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Old 02-21-2024, 08:08 AM   #6
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WARNING!
Bear in mind that the charging line from the tow vehicle is a two way line (reverse flow occurs). In the event of a break-away, the power to the break away switch which will activate the trailer brakes comes from the battery bank to activate the trailer’s brakes. A DC to DC charger prevents reverse flow. Should you install a DC to DC charger without using a separate power cable to the break-away switch, you will DISABLE the extremely important function of the trailer’s emergency brake function. I WOULD NOT WANT TO LOSE THAT FUNCTION!

That being said, if you do not boondock very much, I have the same Norcold DC compressor refrigerator and two 12v lithium batteries. Typically, I cool the refrigerator down on shore power when prepping for a trip. After installing the refrigerator, I was advised (by a very knowledgeable person to install a Victron Smart Shunt to monitor the batteries. I cooled the Norcold down and switched to battery power. After 24 hours, the Victron Shunt indicated I was at 78% State Of Charge. That means I could go 3+ days off grid without losing refrigeration. Since I rarely stay off grid, that’s all I need. On sunny days, my single 165 watt solar panel provides some additional charge to the batteries. To prevent damage to the alternator, I disconnected the charging line from the tow vehicle at the junction box, leaving the wire to the break-away switch connected to the cable continuing to the battery. The charging line never provided much to the batteries anyway. I would highly recommend upgrading the Escapes charging circuits from 10 AWG to 8 AWG (my local NAPA sells it by the foot) because lithium batteries are power pigs and charging faster, pull a lot of amperage. I have noted 17 amps ac on the EMS and 47 amps dc on the Victron Shunt after running on battery power alone.
Thank you, very usefull information.
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Old 02-21-2024, 08:43 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by C&G in FL View Post
WARNING!
Bear in mind that the charging line from the tow vehicle is a two way line (reverse flow occurs). In the event of a break-away, the power to the break away switch which will activate the trailer brakes comes from the battery bank to activate the trailerís brakes. A DC to DC charger prevents reverse flow. Should you install a DC to DC charger without using a separate power cable to the break-away switch, you will DISABLE the extremely important function of the trailerís emergency brake function. I WOULD NOT WANT TO LOSE THAT FUNCTION!

That being said, if you do not boondock very much, I have the same Norcold DC compressor refrigerator and two 12v lithium batteries. Typically, I cool the refrigerator down on shore power when prepping for a trip. After installing the refrigerator, I was advised (by a very knowledgeable person to install a Victron Smart Shunt to monitor the batteries. I cooled the Norcold down and switched to battery power. After 24 hours, the Victron Shunt indicated I was at 78% State Of Charge. That means I could go 3+ days off grid without losing refrigeration. Since I rarely stay off grid, thatís all I need. On sunny days, my single 165 watt solar panel provides some additional charge to the batteries. To prevent damage to the alternator, I disconnected the charging line from the tow vehicle at the junction box, leaving the wire to the break-away switch connected to the cable continuing to the battery. The charging line never provided much to the batteries anyway. I would highly recommend upgrading the Escapes charging circuits from 10 AWG to 8 AWG (my local NAPA sells it by the foot) because lithium batteries are power pigs and charging faster, pull a lot of amperage. I have noted 17 amps ac on the EMS and 47 amps dc on the Victron Shunt after running on battery power alone.
Good points there. FWIW, Escape ran 8 awg wire from the pinbox for the 7 pin plug and cable to the DC-DC charger and from their to the batteries. They also installed a 10 awg wire from the output side of the charger back to the pinbox to power the breakaway pin.
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Old 02-21-2024, 09:37 AM   #8
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Good points there. FWIW, Escape ran 8 awg wire from the pinbox for the 7 pin plug and cable to the DC-DC charger and from their to the batteries. They also installed a 10 awg wire from the output side of the charger back to the pinbox to power the breakaway pin.
ETI did it properly in your 2022 Escape 17. However, the OP indicates he has a 2016 Escape 21, and in 2016 I do not believe lithium batteries were an option. In my 2015 5.0TA the battery charging circuit was 10 AWG, so I changed it out for 8 AWG. For those before lithium ready Escapes, converting to lithium and installing a DC to DC charger using the 12 vdc accessory (charging) line the power to the break-away switch will be cut when the 7-pin umbilical cord gets disconnected. Another point I would emphasize is that you do not need a DC to DC charger with a 12 vdc compressor refrigerator if you have dual 100 AH lithium batteries AND you DONíT boondock for extended periods.
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Old 02-21-2024, 11:39 AM   #9
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Another point I would emphasize is that you do not need a DC to DC charger with a 12 vdc compressor refrigerator if you have dual 100 AH lithium batteries AND you DON’T boondock for extended periods.
Thanks for the info C&G. I get my E19 next month with a standard battery, solar, and a compressor fridge. I am ordering my own parts to upgrade to lithium. Based on your real-world experience I am starting to regret purchasing my Victron Orion XS DC-DC charger. I got this model because of its ability to throttle current in as well as out. Also, it runs cooler, if you believe the reviews and specs. I may have opted for none at all. I was considering it.
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Old 02-21-2024, 12:31 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by C&G in FL View Post
WARNING!
Bear in mind that the charging line from the tow vehicle is a two way line (reverse flow occurs). In the event of a break-away, the power to the break away switch which will activate the trailer brakes comes from the battery bank to activate the trailerís brakes. A DC to DC charger prevents reverse flow. Should you install a DC to DC charger without using a separate power cable to the break-away switch, you will DISABLE the extremely important function of the trailerís emergency brake function. I WOULD NOT WANT TO LOSE THAT FUNCTION!
This is a valid warning, but easily fixed. Simply move the breakaway switch power lead to the trailer battery side when installing a DC-DC converter in the charge line.
Many people do not install a DC-DC converter, as it does not contribute a lot of power due to tow vehicle wiring limitations. However, since Lithium batteries operate at a slightly higher voltage than lead acid batteries, they will back feed into the tow vehicle battery without a DC-DC converter. This is easily resolved by disconnecting the tow vehicle charge line. Make sure the breakaway switch receives power from the trailer battery.
I have a 180 watt solar panel and a DC compressor fridge. The solar panel can just keep up with the fridge in ideal conditions. You may want to add additional solar panels if you will be off grid for many days.
I converted my trailer to Lithium batteries three years ago, and they are great.
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Old 02-21-2024, 12:35 PM   #11
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My setup and experience

I have a battery bank of four Battleborn lithium batteries, giving me 400 Ah of battery capacity. The installation was completed in March 2021. I have three 12V solar panels on my trailer's roof, installed in stages by ETI and AM Solar. They total 355W. I also have a flimsy folding 200W portable panel. It plugs into the same controller as the rooftop panels. I installed a Norcold 2175 fridge in November 2022.

I take long trips in my trailer, traveling for months at a time. I try to boondock when I can. On my current trip I am in my fifth straight week without shore power.

My fridge seems to draw about 4.5-5 amps when running. That is a substantial draw. I have found that from March to October my rooftop panels will keep my batteries charged enough to run the fridge. From October through to the next March they aren't sufficient and I have to use the portable panel as well. At the Quartzsite gathering this year we had several days of bad weather. At one point my battery charge got down to 14% and I had to use a generator to charge them up a bit.

Overall my setup will do for now, but ideally I should have about double the rooftop solar capacity that I have now.
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Old 02-21-2024, 05:54 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Sailor now Trailer View Post
We just changed out our Dometic RMD8555 to a Norcold 2175 compressor fridge. In all likelihood, we'll need to add additional solar and thinking about lithium as well. I have several questions about this. Currently have 2x 6v golfcart batteries, 160w panel on top, with the solar controller above the fridge. I'm thinking about adding a "suitcase" of panels for 200w more, and plugging into the zamp port that's is present. Running the wires to the existing solar controller would be a major undertaking that I want to avoid. Can two separate solar systems coexist using 2 controllers, or would they 'see' each others current and shut down what's going into the battery?
If I were to go down the lithium path I was told by another owner that a dc-dc charger needs to be added to protect the TV alternator. What other essentials are there to make the transition?
Thanks in advance for any advice. FYI, thinking 200-300 ah bank.
I just made the switch from RMD8555 to 2175 - late fall 2023, so untested until camping season rolls around. At the time I was using a pair of 100AH lithium batteries but am thinking to add another 200AH. To keep these charged I intend to use our existing 160W roof panel and my 150W "portable". Since my tow vehicle automatically disconnects power when the key is turned to the "off" position, and since I have never relied on my tow to charge the batteries, I do not feel the need for a DC/DC converter. So to charge my batteries I either intend to use the GoPower solar controller or the standard 110VAC converter.** Note that the converter is likely to not charge the batteries to 100%, which is a good thing since we stay connected for months at a time and Lithiums don't like to be maintained at 100%. (This from various sources and my new iPhone which gives me the option of only charging to 100% every 10 days or so.)++

Keeping the batteries and the 'fridge happy while boondocking will take both solar panels plus my modified GoPower controller. When I ordered the trailer I had an additional access port installed near the battery compartment under the passenger side seat. To reach the controller I only needed a few feet of cable attached to a 50Amp Anderson Powerpole plug. As the panels are wired in parallel, only one controller is needed. In fall/spring - low sun angle seasons - the portable can provide double the power of the roof panel so this should be sufficient. Again, not proven yet so time will tell.


++(I have been using a 100AH lithium battery for my electric fishing motor for 5 years now. I leave it discharged until the day before a fishing trip so it spends 90% of its lifetime at 50%. So far, so good.)

**(Having a DC/DC converter might come in very handy for charging my fishing battery on multi-day trips.)
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Old 02-21-2024, 05:59 PM   #13
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I have a battery bank of four Battleborn lithium batteries, giving me 400 Ah of battery capacity. The installation was completed in March 2021. I have three 12V solar panels on my trailer's roof, installed in stages by ETI and AM Solar. They total 355W. I also have a flimsy folding 200W portable panel.
...
At the Quartzsite gathering this year we had several days of bad weather. At one point my battery charge got down to 14% and I had to use a generator to charge them up a bit.

Overall my setup will do for now, but ideally I should have about double the rooftop solar capacity that I have now.
Double the 355W rooftop is 700W, plus the 200W portable brings you to 900W. I remember when camping meant just a flashlight. Wouldn't it be easier to just avoid "several days of bad weather"?
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Old 02-21-2024, 06:23 PM   #14
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Double the 355W rooftop is 700W, plus the 200W portable brings you to 900W. I remember when camping meant just a flashlight. Wouldn't it be easier to just avoid "several days of bad weather"?
If I had 700W on the roof I'd leave the portable panel at home. I don't think my controller would handle that much wattage anyway.

The simplest and cheapest thing to do would be to stay with what I have. My portable panel is really unwieldy though and it likes to hit the ground when a wind comes up. I saw nicer portable panels at Quartzsite but I didn't get a chance to ask the owners about them because the weather was bad and I stayed inside most of the time.
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Old 02-21-2024, 09:05 PM   #15
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...

The simplest and cheapest thing to do would be to stay with what I have. My portable panel is really unwieldy though and it likes to hit the ground when a wind comes up. I saw nicer portable panels at Quartzsite but I didn't get a chance to ask the owners about them because the weather was bad and I stayed inside most of the time.
My so-called portable is just a regular panel with an A-frame welded on. Held to the ground with a couple of ground screws and locking chain. Neither the average wind nor the average thief-of-opportunity is moving it.
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Old 02-21-2024, 10:56 PM   #16
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Once we added 300 watts to the170 watts ETI installed on our 5.0 (463 watts after factoring the slight IMP difference) we never used our portable again.

With 160 watts on our Bigfoot, last winter we needed our 100 watt portable. Last June, after removing our 160 watt panel and installing three 200 watt 24v Rich Solar panels we have yet to use the portable. Terry started needing a CPAP last spring, so we use another 15-20 amps every night. We do carry the portable with us though, just in case.

We have 200 amps of SOK batteries, and so far that’s enough. We’re light users though with our microwave removed and stored at home, make pour-over coffee, and only use our inverter for the toaster. We are buying a 22” 12v TV with built-in DVD player that we’ll use probably once a week at best.

We boondock as much as possible, and are out with the camper 5-6 months a year.

Enjoy,

Perry
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Old 02-22-2024, 07:31 AM   #17
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I was second guessing the 800W on the roof of my upcoming E23, thinking I might never need it. This thread has restored my confidence - you can never have too much! Thanks everyone.
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Old 02-22-2024, 09:46 AM   #18
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I was second guessing the 800W on the roof of my upcoming E23, thinking I might never need it. This thread has restored my confidence - you can never have too much! Thanks everyone.
I actually said, ďYou can never have too much solarĒ a year or so ago, and got chewed out for my statement by a guy who now has over 400 ahís in batteries. Donít get me wrong, I can understand his decision, but sometimes people canít see beyond their own little world.

Enjoy,

Perry
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Old 02-22-2024, 10:44 AM   #19
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My so-called portable is just a regular panel with an A-frame welded on. Held to the ground with a couple of ground screws and locking chain. Neither the average wind nor the average thief-of-opportunity is moving it.

Where can you get ground screws small enough for this job?
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Old 02-22-2024, 11:02 AM   #20
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Where can you get ground screws small enough for this job?
Where else? The utopia for the shopping addict: https://www.amazon.com/Orange-Screw-...A1ZOIFM2KEOG84
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