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Old 02-16-2018, 09:39 AM   #1
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2015 Interstate Grand Tour
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Lithium Alternative - Goal Zero Yeti 3000

Pardon the long post, but I figure I'd head off a lot of questions by giving lots of details up front.

If you're like us, you need more power in the coach but can't justify spending $8k to $20k for a full blown solar and maybe lithium-iron battery setup. We just want to occasionally stay one or two nights without shore power without running the generator and preferably without starting and idling the engine for a long time, which I understand can be hazardous to the health of the emissions system.

I was on the verge of adding another pair of 220Ah AGMs but that step alone was going to cost $1500: batteries, extra battery holders, modifications to them and installation. And, at the advised 50% AGM depth of discharge, that's only an extra 110Ah usable. It was also going to add another 160 lbs, cutting into my cargo carrying capacity. Add the extra solar at $4k-$5k. Then I'm still hobbled by the Magnum 1000W inverter. I'd rather not start my noisy generator in a campground to run the Instant Pot or microwave or to recharge batteries so I would want to upgrade that too. Sigh.

So I bought a 68lb Goal Zero Lithium Yeti 3000 for plugging the coach into, as if I was plugging into a 110v 20A outlet (well, 12.5A in this case). The Yeti has a capacity of 3000Wh (at 12v it works out to 200Ah usable) and is rated for 1500W continuous. It will permit a 3000W surge for 30 seconds before resetting itself. Yes, I do understand there are some power losses going from 12v batteries to AC, then into the coach, which then converts back again to 12v.

I could have run a power cord out the side awning window and into the side of the coach. Not desirable. Enter Kelli, the electronics wiz at Portland's Airstream Adventures NW. She came up with a nice solution for me, installing a second transfer switch so that the Yeti and the generator feed into the new transfer switch which then hooks up to the old generator input on the original transfer switch. $400. Works like a charm !

Yes I know this device is Li-ion and not Lithium Iron, which limits the advised 80% depth of discharge routine (before degrading to 80% of original capacity) to 500 cycles and not 2500 cycles. However, being on the road six months per year and dry camping two nights per week = 52 times per year that I need to run down the Yeti. This equals nine+ years of usefulness.

Considering that kind of light usage and long life span, I plan to exercise this device a lot more as long as I'm not dry camping for long. I ran an extension cord direct to the microwave and it works great! The Interstate microwave on high pulls 1875W. I ran it for one minute without tripping the Yeti protection circuit. More testing to come.

When I tested it powering the coach, I had all the lights on along with the fridge and freezer running. It was drawing 330W from the Yeti and 12A was going into the coach batteries at 14.6V on an Absorb charge. More testing to come.

When dry camping, I plan to feed direct power to our Instant Pot or microwave or hair dryer or coffeemaker. Without starting the engine or generator. I'm going to place this just behind the little access doors under the sofa, with an extension cord hidden there at the ready. The footprint is 10x15 and it stands 13 inches tall.

Goal Zero sells portable solar panels and this is already equipped with two MPPT solar charge controllers for up to 360W of input (not to exceed 22V). I like the idea of some kind of portable panels that I can use to replenish the Yeti. You could do as iaqstuff suggested in another thread and have a plug-in interface on the outside of the coach so you don't have to run a cord through the side awning window or the rear doors. I definitely don't want to set this baby outside for thieves to see. At $3000, it's far more valuable than a couple of solar panels.

The AC recharging is dog slow but you can feed it with four of their power supplies (two come standard) for a total of 270W of input. If you discharge 80% you need to put 2400Wh back in. So it will recharge from shore power from a 110v outlet inside the coach overnight no problem.... in nine hours. Of course, you can also replenish it while driving.

I haven't added solar beyond the single 100W panel... yet... but I think it's inevitable especially since I can add it economically without using an installer. We'll see how it goes when we hit the road full time later this year (well, for several months so not full - full time). I'll let you know.

In summary, it's a power setup that I can run independent of the onboard system, or use it to feed and recharge the onboard system as needed. With this option there are no high expenses for wiring, installation, charge controllers, a beefier inverter, etc.

Advantages:

1) If/when I sell this coach, I keep the Yeti.
2) I can pull the Yeti out and store it in my garage and use it at home or at a remote site.
3) Saves weight (for me, 80 lbs).
4) Saves thou$ands.
5) Provides more usable Ah than the extra AGMs I was about to install.
6) Cheap and easy to add solar to extend the dry camping time. Plug and play. No additional charge controller needed. Rooftop or portable panels.
7) Goal Zero sells a manual transfer switch for your home that permits you to use the Yeti to power up to four circuits in your home when there's an outage.

Disadvantages:

1) Not a perfectly elegant solution; requires once in a while manual cord hookup to power some of your items.
2) To some degree you pay a power conversion penalty.
3) It uses up a little over one cubic foot of my precious "garage" space under the sofa.
4) Wife will spend some of the $avings on a real kitchen faucet in the galley, and maybe a new sink if we can fit one in. That will be another thread soon.

If I've missed something, I'm sure we'll all learn about it here soon. In the picture below, the two transfer switches are in the black cube where the cord comes from.
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Old 02-16-2018, 10:31 AM   #2
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Thanks much for taking the time to post this. I suspect MANY will be interested in this solution.

If I may, I do have a few questions:

- You said you can charge it while driving. How do you do that with your setup? Via the coach's inverter into the Yeti AC input, or some sort of direct DC input? If it's the latter, where does the DC come from, and how do you limit the current?

- How have you modified your microwave/AC bus such that you can plug the microwave directly into the Yeti? Same question for the fridge, or do you just run that via the OEM wiring and have the Yeti feeding power to the coach via the new transfer switch? If it's the latter, why not do the same thing for the microwave (i.e. just let it run off the AC bus via the new transfer switch....as long as you don't use the browning feature the microwave only pulls about 1000W).

- Is the new transfer switch automatic or manual (i.e. do you need access to it to flip it when using the Yeti)?
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Old 02-16-2018, 10:47 AM   #3
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Fantastic write up!

We just purchased a Yeti 1000 from CostCo as well as the 100W solar briefcase for our Basecamp. Our big limiter is that the Basecamp only has the capacity for 2 batteries so upgrading / expanding the solar doesn't make sense at this time.

In my initial tests with the 1000 it appears it's going to work perfect for our trips this year. I'm really looking forward to putting it through it's paces.
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Old 02-16-2018, 11:18 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FlyFishinRVr View Post


Thanks much for taking the time to post this. I suspect MANY will be interested in this solution.

If I may, I do have a few questions:

- You said you can charge it while driving. How do you do that with your setup? Via the coach's inverter into the Yeti AC input, or some sort of direct DC input? If it's the latter, where does the DC come from, and how do you limit the current?

Truthfully, I haven't driven with it plugged in yet, but yes I plan to charge from a live 110v outlet when driving.

- How have you modified your microwave/AC bus such that you can plug the microwave directly into the Yeti? Same question for the fridge, or do you just run that via the OEM wiring and have the Yeti feeding power to the coach via the new transfer switch? If it's the latter, why not do the same thing for the microwave (i.e. just let it run off the AC bus via the new transfer switch....as long as you don't use the browning feature the microwave only pulls about 1000W).

No modifications. I would enjoy just powering the fridge and freezer directly off of 12v but haven't gotten that far. I opened the large drawer to the left of the micro, reached back in and unplugged it, connecting it to an extension cord coming from the Yeti. I did try and run the micro off house power while the Yeti was feeding the coach and the Yeti(?) tripped after a few seconds, resetting itself within one minute. This unplugging is an acrobatic feat so will work on making that process easier, maybe use a stubby extension cord that makes my reach less of an issue.

- Is the new transfer switch automatic or manual (i.e. do you need access to it to flip it when using the Yeti)?

The transfer switch is automatic and seamless, with the characteristic 30-60 second time delay before engaging the Yeti.
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Old 02-16-2018, 11:22 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by YoungishJedi View Post
Fantastic write up!

We just purchased a Yeti 1000 from CostCo as well as the 100W solar briefcase for our Basecamp.
I also have a Basecamp with 2 batteries and solar. Please share your experiences with your setup when you can. I am looking for a simple solution to running a hair dryer in the morning, and a CPAP machine at night.
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Old 02-16-2018, 11:38 AM   #6
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Thanks for all the details. For everyone's information, there have been a few earlier mentions of Goal Zero units of various sizes:

https://www.google.com/search?q=goal...=airforums.com

Two recent threads are near the top of the search results.

We plan to get a unit like this to carry in our tow vehicle van as a backup battery of sorts, which will permit various 12-volt uses centered on the van, like tea kettle, mini oven, and so forth --borrowing from the marine galley appliances which have been on the market for years.

FWIW
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Old 02-16-2018, 11:58 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tronadora View Post

The transfer switch is automatic and seamless, with the characteristic 30-60 second time delay before engaging the Yeti.
OK, thanks.

Couple thoughts:

- Re. the microwave, try setting it to half power vs. full power. The default if you just turn it on is likely full power (level 10), but selecting 5 or less should help. Also, not sure if your Interstate has the convection microwave, but if it does, make sure the browning feature is OFF.

- Re. charging....OK, so you're going to be limited by the coach inverter, which is going to limit you to 10A max. The Yeti specs say that's going to take 25hrs to fully charge it, so don't expect miracles in 8-10hrs of driving. Given that, you may want to rethink charging while driving and look into a way to pull DC directly off that beefy 220A alternator, just be sure to put something in the current path to limit it to something reasonable (for the sake of the alternator and the wiring!).
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Old 02-16-2018, 01:10 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FlyFishinRVr View Post
OK, thanks.

Couple thoughts:

- Re. the microwave, try setting it to half power vs. full power. The default if you just turn it on is likely full power (level 10), but selecting 5 or less should help. Also, not sure if your Interstate has the convection microwave, but if it does, make sure the browning feature is OFF.

- Re. charging....OK, so you're going to be limited by the coach inverter, which is going to limit you to 10A max. The Yeti specs say that's going to take 25hrs to fully charge it, so don't expect miracles in 8-10hrs of driving. Given that, you may want to rethink charging while driving and look into a way to pull DC directly off that beefy 220A alternator, just be sure to put something in the current path to limit it to something reasonable (for the sake of the alternator and the wiring!).
Agree about the micro; lower setting for long cook times if it becomes required after more testing.

You're right... I'm not expecting to fully recharge a depleted Yeti between campsites, but it helps. Then whip out the panels upon arrival, if I have them. Maxing out the AC input only accepts 270W so it won't tax the onboard inverter.
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Old 02-17-2018, 02:24 PM   #9
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I have used the smaller Yeti 400 (old style with AGM battery) to charge my electric bikes. Works very well, I plug into the Yeti 120 volt outlet with the charger. I use portable suitcase solar to charge and try to keep the wire between the solar and Yeti to a minimum so I don’t lose a lot of power. I also use an small inverter to charge the Yeti while driving. I previously changed my house batteries to 2—6volt AGM configurations.
You have done a great job going to the larger Yeti. AEW
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Old 02-17-2018, 03:04 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by unifreck View Post
I also use an small inverter to charge the Yeti while driving.
How do you have this connected?

@Tronadora - you may want to reach out to amirm on this forum and ask him about ideas re. tapping that big alternator for power to charge up your massive Yeti while driving. I keep forgetting how he set his Lithium charging system up, but I want to say he used something like the Sterling Battery-to-battery charger to limit the current. I'm sure the Sterling Alternator-to-battery charger would work as well, but I think those are bit more expensive. Anyway, one of these could push a lot more current into your Yeti vs. trickling charge in through the inverter. Just a thought, as you could, conceivably, fully recharge your Yeti via it's "power pole" input (30A max) in a day of driving......
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Old 02-18-2018, 07:34 AM   #11
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LIthium Battery Charging

To all who use lithium batteries and those who are thinking about doing so:

Charging lithium batteries requires VOLTAGE LIMITING ! ! !
Not just current limiting.

PLEASE CHECK manufacturer instructions and/or use the manufacturer recommended charger/or chargeing recommdations !

OVER VOLTAGE in Lithium battery charging causes FIRES!

Hooking lithium ion or lithium polimer batteries up directley to automotive charging systems may
exceed their voltage limit. Depends on their design/number of cells.
Voltage per cell is different from other battery types, and differs between different types of lithium battery technology. Several types are available.
Typical type for automotive/motorcycle is Li Fe: Not Li Ion or Li Po. They each have different voltage and charging requirements

PLEASE BE VERY CAREFUL WITH LITHIUM BATTERY CHARGING ! ! !

Not trying to scare anybody unnecesssarily: Done right, lithium batteries are great. More energy per unit of weight than other types.
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Old 02-18-2018, 06:24 PM   #12
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Yeti 1000 Lithium and 3000 Lithium

I purchased a Yeti 1000 in April, 2017 (from Costco). We exclusively dry camp with our 25' Airstream. The electronics, inverter, etc. in the Yeti 1000 and the Yeti 3000 are identical, but the Yeti 3000 has 3 times the battery capacity of the Yeti 1000. Costco's price for the Yeti 1000 is $1,000. Goal Zero's price for the Yeti 3000 is $3,000.

About usage: We have 300 watts of solar on our AS (it came with 100 watts, and this last year I added two flexible 100 watt panels, and the addition was surprisingly easy). The installed inverter we have is 600 watts, true sine wave. The Yeti's come with a 65 watt AC charger, but both the 1000 and the 3000 can take a second charger, so when charging the Yeti, I use one or two chargers, depending on how much solar I have, and also I top off the coach batteries (2- 6volt Trojans) before I start recharging the Yeti. When I have pretty good sun I'll start charging the Yeti (from the 600 watt inverter) with one charger, and when things are getting good I'll plug in the second charger (so charging at 130 watts going into the Yeti). These Yeti's are rated at 1500 watts continuous and 3000 watts surge. I did a load test at 2200 watts for 30 seconds, driving the microwave and coach hotel loads, but decided to not keep that heavy of a load on it. It did not trip off on overload.

I have the Yeti just sitting on the counter in the AS, and the wife just plugs the toaster and other appliances directly into it. We don't try to run a coffee pot because that is a long enough draw that we don't want to do a major discharge and decrease the remaining battery availability. The Yeti 1000 has 1000 watt-hour capacity and the 3000 has 3000 watt-hour capacity. If I run the coffee pot at 1500 watts for 20 minutes, that in itself would consume 500 watt-hours.

When I want to run the microwave 1200 watts, I just run an extension cord from the output of the Yeti to the 30 amp trailer input (need an adaptor), such that then supplying the entire trailer with 120 volts. The problem with this is the "hotel" loads in the trailer are also being supplied (Refrigerator, etc), so running the microwave in this manner puts about a 2200 watt load on the Yeti. There are ways to get around powering the extra loads, but if I just need a couple of minutes to heat my coffee cup, etc. I just use the connection referenced. So as to not draw greater than 1500 watts for a long period of time I just run the microwave at less than 100%.


I can't say enough about how Great these lithium Yeti's are for both adding battery capacity and for their great inverters. I was dreading running the heavier wires to upgrade my 600 watt inverter, but with the Yeti, it was all taken care of with their included 1500 watt true sine wave inverter
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Old 02-18-2018, 06:36 PM   #13
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Additional comments on the Yeti's.
1. They have a built-solar controller, so you cannot charge them downstream of an existing solar controller. I believe the low end of the charging input is 16 volts, such that you really cannot charge them directly off of a 12 volt system.
2. With 300 watts of solar, I tried paralleling the Yeti with my existing solar controller, so each would see at least 16 volts as an input. I noticed oscillations, so quickly abandoned that methodology. Yeti suggested that I use one or two solar panels for the trailer and one or two for charging the Yeti. That made no sense to me because it wouldn't be utilizing the solar to 100%. That's why I left the solar going directly to the Airstream solar controller and effectively let the power run through the Airstream's 12 volt system to the 600 watt inverter and then just charged the Yeti with the output of the 600 watt inverter (one charger = 65 watts, two chargers (purchased a second one) = 130 watts).
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Old 02-18-2018, 07:39 PM   #14
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Quote:
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I believe the low end of the charging input is 16 volts, such that you really cannot charge them directly off of a 12 volt system.
According to Goalzero:
  • Charging port (input, 8mm): 14-22V, up to 10A (120W max)
  • Power Pole Charging port (input): 14-22V, up to 30A (360W max)
If you want to charge your lithium Yeti from a 12v source, you can do it, but as you say, not directly. You need to go through something like a Sterling battery-to-battery charger so it can correctly set the output voltage and limit the current. The Sterling alternator-to-battery charger would also work if you want to take advantage of that beefy 220A alternator on the modern Sprinters.
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