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Old 10-01-2017, 09:21 PM   #1
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Solar Alternative Thoughts

We have a 2013 AI Ext. I replaced the batteries a year ago. I also replaced the factory solar controller under warranty. It's home-based in our RV barn hooked up to a 3w trickle via battery leads through the battery vault vent.

I've been thinking about replacing the AI 50w panel with a 100w to 120w panel and the solar controller with a MPPT.

But, wait! About six months ago, we purchased a Yeti 1000 from Costco for home use (emergency gen for home ofc). We also bought 2 GoalZero 100w suitcases for the Yeti 1000.

Now I'm thinking why not use a combiner inside the coach (with leads to outdoors) and simply plug in those suitcases (and maybe the 12v outlet on the Yeti 1000) when boondocking.

What's wrong with this alternative thinking?
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Old 10-02-2017, 11:35 AM   #2
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Now I'm thinking why not use a combiner inside the coach (with leads to outdoors) and simply plug in those suitcases (and maybe the 12v outlet on the Yeti 1000) when boondocking.

What's wrong with this alternative thinking?
Couple things to consider. First, the Goal Zero stuff is purpose made to be used with other Goal Zero stuff (typically). For example, your suitcases may only have the proprietary 8mm plugs and not something useful like MC4 connectors. As a result, to chain them you'll need their 8mm combiner, which has an APP (Anderson PowerPole) connector on the other end, but that's still not terribly useful because it doesn't give you a great way to get the power into your coach. A temporary solution is just through an open door or window. A more permanent solution is through something like a SAE connector mounted somewhere (so you'll need an APP to SAE adapter...check out Powerwerx, they carry them). Now that the power is coming into the coach, you will need to add a solar charge controller to allow it to charge your batteries. Lots of choices here, and I still recommend any of the "big name" MPPT controllers. With this setup you could plug your suitcases into your coach and charge the house batteries (and the chassis if your BIM cooperates or you can swap it out for a better relay, check out the Blue Sea ML-ACR) or just plug them into your Yeti and charge it.

As for the Yeti, I think you would need to get "creative" to tie it into the coach electrical system. You can't just plug the 12v into the house 12v bus. You need some way to isolate it and ensure power is only flowing one way (Yeti -> coach). There are several solutions to this (Sterling Power battery/battery charger, etc). You may also just want to keep the Yeti as a standalone, secondary system. I think it might be cool to install a plug that allows it to combine with the house power for emergencies (something goes bonkers and drains your house and chassis batteries, plug in the Yeti and use the dash switch to get your engine started), and otherwise act as a separate system for something like an induction plate for cooking (just don't set the plate over 1000W), charging devices, etc. You may also be able to use it as a low amp "shore power" substitute using a 15A -> 30A adapter in case your house batteries die so you can still run your propane and furnace, start your genset, etc. At only 1000W it's not able to run big loads (no microwave or A/C), but it can still be useful.
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Old 10-02-2017, 09:42 PM   #3
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[QUOTE=FlyFishinRVr;2016423]" . . . you will need to add a solar charge controller to allow it to charge your batteries. Lots of choices here, and I still recommend any of the "big name" MPPT controllers. With this setup you could plug your suitcases into your coach and charge the house batteries (and the chassis if your BIM cooperates or you can swap it out for a better relay, check out the Blue Sea ML-ACR) or just plug them into your Yeti and charge it."

I have been waiting for my local dealer to obtain additional battery cases and batteries to increase the total Ah of my 2015 AI Lounge. Based on the above comment, could I instead wire a high capacity lithium battery to my solar controller in an effort to add more Ah? Sounds appealing even if I'd have to rely on a 110 volt charger rather than my existing Magnum charger/inverter to bring the lithium back up to full charge.

At first glance this would seem like an easy way to increase the Ah without going full lithium. Feel free to tell me it doesn't make sense somehow.
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Old 10-02-2017, 10:48 PM   #4
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Thanks! I'll check out the suggested components. And, I'll report back as I work through how to best utilize the Yeti 1000 and 2 100w suitcases. I had read that Goal Zero had helped others with their 8mm to APP connections. Anyway, thanks for the ideas and support.
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Old 10-02-2017, 11:20 PM   #5
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Based on the above comment, could I instead wire a high capacity lithium battery to my solar controller in an effort to add more Ah? Sounds appealing even if I'd have to rely on a 110 volt charger rather than my existing Magnum charger/inverter to bring the lithium back up to full charge.

At first glance this would seem like an easy way to increase the Ah without going full lithium. Feel free to tell me it doesn't make sense somehow.
Not quite sure what you mean. Are you talking about wiring a high capacity lithium bank into your 12v bus and charging it up with your existing solar controller (AND keep your old AGMs installed)? If so, that won't work because your solar controller will likely be set up to charge your AGMs, and that's a different charge profile than what lithiums want to see. Once you mix your battery chemistries, things get a little more complicated.

If you don't mind recharging the lithium another way (separate solar setup like suitcases w/ dedicated charge controller, Sterling alternator charger, etc), then sure, you can add in a bank of lithium batteries and still keep your existing AGMs. The simplest way to do it is to just use a bank A/B switch so you don't have to worry about tying the banks together and dealing with the isolation issues, charging issues, etc. When one bank gets low, just switch to the other one. You can even make it fancy and use remote switches and monitors that show you the SOC of each bank (Blue Sea, Victron, etc. all make this stuff). If you DO want to tie the banks together, then you'll need something like a Sterling battery to battery (BtoB) charger, but you'll need a lithium battery that has built in balancing like a Battle Born, etc. because the Sterling BtoB chargers don't have a BMS for balancing lithium cells (yeah, it gets a little complicated, LOL).
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Old 10-03-2017, 12:18 AM   #6
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If you don't mind recharging the lithium another way (separate solar setup like suitcases w/ dedicated charge controller, Sterling alternator charger, etc), then sure, you can add in a bank of lithium batteries and still keep your existing AGMs. The simplest way to do it is to just use a bank A/B switch so you don't have to worry about tying the banks together and dealing with the isolation issues, charging issues, etc. When one bank gets low, just switch to the other one. You can even make it fancy and use remote switches and monitors that show you the SOC of each bank (Blue Sea, Victron, etc. all make this stuff). If you DO want to tie the banks together, then you'll need something like a Sterling battery to battery (BtoB) charger, but you'll need a lithium battery that has built in balancing like a Battle Born, etc. because the Sterling BtoB chargers don't have a BMS for balancing lithium cells (yeah, it gets a little complicated, LOL).
My thought was indeed to set-up a separate charger for the lithium bank and then tie the banks together so that the lithium could keep the smaller batteries (2 group 24 flooded cell batteries in my case) charged.

In our travels we will typically be driving or plugged in at least every other day so I need enough Ah to last maybe 36 hours. After 36 hours we'd be either driving or plugged in and would in theory be able to recharge the lithiums with a dedicated 110v dedicated charger.
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Old 10-03-2017, 01:16 PM   #7
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My thought was indeed to set-up a separate charger for the lithium bank and then tie the banks together so that the lithium could keep the smaller batteries (2 group 24 flooded cell batteries in my case) charged.

In our travels we will typically be driving or plugged in at least every other day so I need enough Ah to last maybe 36 hours. After 36 hours we'd be either driving or plugged in and would in theory be able to recharge the lithiums with a dedicated 110v dedicated charger.
If you don't care about charging the lithiums while driving, then things get a bit easier. The Sterling alternator charger is pretty dang expensive! Also, if you're willing to manually switch banks, again, things get easier because you could get away with a simple A/B bank switch. I'd probably put in a couple displays that shows the SOC of each bank right next to the switch. When one gets low, switch over to the other one. Tying the banks together gets a bit more complex because of the need to isolate them during charging, so you may want to rethink that.

Charging the lithium bank could be pretty simple too if you just want to use a dedicated AC charger (no solar, genset, etc). When you get to a place with shore power, just plug your charger into one of the internal AC outlets (maybe the one back by the sofa). Remember to isolate the lithium bank from the coach's 12v system via the A/B switch before charging it though. I'm not sure how various components in the 12v electrical system would react to the 14.4v+ that a lithium charger puts out, and I don't know what kind of spike might come out of a lithium charger when it first turns on. I think it's best to be cautious vs. blowing a bunch of fuses.....
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Old 10-03-2017, 03:52 PM   #8
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Ports available on the Yeti 1000

There are a number ports on the Yeti 1000. Following this string, I can see multiple ways of utilizing the equipment.

Guess I'm just trying to figure out the easier, more convenient and safer ways. See Photos.

I WILL be replacing the Atkinson controller with a MPPT controller and a different SOC display.

I'm still thinking about replacing the Tripp-Lite inverter/charger - but that comes later.
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Old 10-03-2017, 04:52 PM   #9
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I just happened to see this thread in the Portal list, so I don't have much to truly add...but I wonder about usefulness of the Yeti and similar products. In looking at your photo for the "input" and "output", the red/black connectors appear to be just be Andersen Powerpole connectors. If those are what they install on the solar panel then you can actually buy those connectors pretty easily those look like the PP30 connectors, YMMV:

https://powerwerx.com/anderson-power...-sb-connectors

In the second photo, the small recessed blue connector looks like an EC5 connector. Both are used in the radio control hobby industry, as are a handful of others. The EC5 is rated for 125 amps, the Powerpole varies with model.
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Old 10-03-2017, 04:56 PM   #10
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For what its worth as a point of comparison, the Goal Zero Yeti 1000 offers 98.5Ah of capacity weighs 40# and MSRP is $1300. A BattleBorn 100Ah pack is $899 and weighs 29#. If you don't need all the fancy whizbang features of a Yeti thats pretty expensive.
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Old 10-03-2017, 06:45 PM   #11
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For what its worth as a point of comparison, the Goal Zero Yeti 1000 offers 98.5Ah of capacity weighs 40# and MSRP is $1300. A BattleBorn 100Ah pack is $899 and weighs 29#. If you don't need all the fancy whizbang features of a Yeti thats pretty expensive.
Costco had the Yeti's for a while, and maybe still do, for $1,000. Most folks who have them seem to have gotten them there. For that price, the combination of just under 100Ah of lithium battery plus a pure sine wave inverter is actually a good deal. A decent 1500W pure sine inverter will run $500+ by itself.....
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Old 10-05-2017, 01:40 AM   #12
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Costco had the Yeti's for a while, and maybe still do, for $1,000. Most folks who have them seem to have gotten them there. For that price, the combination of just under 100Ah of lithium battery plus a pure sine wave inverter is actually a good deal. A decent 1500W pure sine inverter will run $500+ by itself.....

Indeed, as of past weekend Costco in So. Cal still have the Yetis in stock for $1000. In REI they are $1300. I picked one up but was also wondering what / how AI owners intend to use them. I had planned to just use it for small appliances when my house batteries arenít sufficient. 
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Old 10-05-2017, 10:17 AM   #13
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Goal Zero announced their Yeti 3000 yesterday. Pricey.

The Yeti 1000 and 2 Boulder 100 suitcases? I plan to use the Yeti 1000 as a backup for my office equipment at home.
And I think they are small and light enough to take as a backup for the AI. I plan to use the two Boulder 100w suitcases as additional solar for the AI (with external leads). But, since lithiums take a separate or segregated charging system, I'll use the Yeti separate from the AI's system.
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Old 01-20-2018, 08:22 AM   #14
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I'd like to resurrect this topic to find out if anyone has cost effectively implemented a portable lithium source into the AI, whether that is a Goal Zero box, or a raw lithium battery. And I have an idea.

Last summer, I swapped my abused AGMs for a pair of Lifeline 4CTs. The dealer said sure they'll fit... nope.... so they cut and expanded my battery holders for about $200-250 and off I went. Well now I need more juice and my GT is at the dealer with two additional Lifeline 4CTs and a set of OEM battery holders waiting for my instructions. The holders were $300 (!) and they want something like $500 or more to cut and expand them, and install. That's about 2x what I got charged last year. So we're talking a total of $1500 for batteries, holders and labor and I'm thinking why not get a lithium expansion solution that I can keep when we sell our rig? And save about 100 lbs of precious CCC in the process !

I read the previous posts with important caveats mentioned. Since the refer combo in the GT sucks more juice than everything else combined... maybe I can rig a simple method of switching to the lithium source to power just those two devices whenever I go overnight without shore power. Maybe as simple as running the refer power cords to an outlet accessible behind the drivers seat and keep the lithium source right there for easy swap. At the moment I don't remember if the existing 110v outlet down there comes on only with shore power, or comes from the inverter, but another outlet can be installed for this purpose. Of course I could only charge the lithium source when I'm near shore power, but this could be a very workable solution for me.

What am I missing here?

In case anyone needs a set of battery holders, mine might be available soon....
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