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Old 11-19-2019, 08:58 AM   #1
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Converter and Inverter Upgrades

We recently purchased our 2011 27ft. FB Flying Cloud and are getting ready to set off on a 3 Month trip south. Looking for some advice on how to upgrade the stock Battery, Converter and Inverter setup. We would like to be able to do some Boondocking (3-6 days) now and then so I want to upgrade the Batteries and add 400+wt of Solar.
From what I can gather an Inverter was an option on the 2011 27FB and I don't think I have one, is that right?
What would be a good Inverter to buy and does the Converter need to be changed also?
I have read many of the posts concerning Electronics but didn't find any on starting with a stock system. Any help is greatly appreciated.
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Old 11-19-2019, 09:08 AM   #2
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Your answers will be all over the map!! Gonna do this yourself? If so, there are many threads on this forum to read about your choices. Better buckle up and spend some time studying those threads.
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Old 11-19-2019, 02:41 PM   #3
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Yes, Plan to do the mods myself, fairly handy at fabricating and repairs. DK
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Old 11-19-2019, 02:52 PM   #4
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OK, well you need to read a bunch of threads telling what people have done. There is no single way to answer your question. You are in for a lot of research. There are pro's who would recommend a certain way, but it depends on your needs, your wallet, and your skills. This forum has all of those answers.
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Old 11-19-2019, 05:20 PM   #5
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Hi

There are a *lot* of strange paths to noodle down on this sort of thing. A very basic question to ask yourself is: am I planning on this being a $200 sort of thing or is $20,000 ok as a budget?

Next question would be: Am I really up for a project of this magnitude? It's not just the work, there is also design and analysis involved. That ranges from crawling around on the roof putting on a bunch of panels (and how) to snaking wires here and there for this and that. If it goes to a pro, get him involved early.

Solar wise, you are talking about 4 panels on the roof. Simple question would be: will they fit? Will more fit? I'd put up as many as you can in one pass. If that is 400W, fine. If you can get to 500 or 600, better still. Cost wise, it's way better to do it all at once.

The cool kids are playing with lithium batteries these days. The traditional approach is a bunch of Trojan T-105's (that brand / that model). Fitting in 400AH usable of either will be exciting. The lithiums will be a bit easier on the space / weight allowance and much harder on the credit card. Do you *need* 400AH? It depends on *your* power budget .... back to the design phase ....

So, what will you be using on your inverter? The normal "entertainment system" stuff does not take much. A coffee grinder also is at the low end as well. A Coffee maker, a microwave, or a hair dryer all get you into much higher power levels. Inverters (more or less) come in 1, 2 and 3 KW sizes. 2KW is about the smallest if you want to run the microwave or a hair dryer. Pretty big batteries come with this as well.

Once you have that worked out, you have a couple choices. One is to go with a combo inverter / charger ( = a hybrid unit). A lot of us have gone with the Victron 2 and 3KW units. They work quite well. They are not cheap. A basic converter to get things done is maybe $200. A 1KW inverter is maybe $400 to $800. The combo units start in at $1200.

Solar wise, again, Victron makes some pretty good stuff. You would size it to match however many panels fit on the roof. Even with them, I would go for "one size larger" than the minimum required to get the job done.

Past that there are a nearly infinite number of bits and pieces you can add on. Each of them has its plusses and cost.

Time wise, doing all this stuff took me a couple months on a DIY basis. I let others play on the roof. A pro can get it all done in a week or two.

Lots of decisions .....

Bob
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Old 11-19-2019, 06:09 PM   #6
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Agree with Uncle_Bob's suggestion to put as many panels as will fit on the roof. Solar panels are addicting. I fit 600W on my 27' Airstream. Here is a picture of the roof: http://www.airforums.com/forums/f448...ml#post2288336
Here is a parts list (with links) to do this 600W solar install: http://www.airforums.com/forums/f448...ml#post2288472 You will also need a rooftop combiner box on a pre-2017 Airstream: https://amsolar.com/rv-combiner-box/20-roof and probably 4GA cable from the rooftop combiner box to the solar controller. See this AmSolar package and installation schematic: https://amsolar.com/rv-controller-sy...30s-vt-mpp-50a

I also agree with Uncle_Bob's suggestions on inverters. First determine how much inverter power is desired. If you want to run the microwave, a 2000W "pure sine wave" inverter is the minimum and I would get at least two 100AH Lithium batteries: https://battlebornbatteries.com/shop...cycle-battery/ This complete install will be in the $5000 range. The next step up would be a 3000W pure sine wave inverter and four 100AH Lithium batteries in the $8,000 range. Both of these setups need heavy duty 12V battery cable upgrades and a new converter capable of charging Lithium batteries. Its pricey to run the microwave.

If you want to only run electronics, such as a TV, laptop and cellphone charging, a 1000W pure sine wave inverter and a pair of Trojan T105 or Duracell EGC2 batteries will work. My wife uses the hairdryer on this setup with low-heat and medium fan successfully (under 5 minutes run time). We use a generator to power the microwave or A/C. This setup will cost in the $2,500 range including solar, inverter and converter. Plus another $1,000 for a generator, which is probably needed with the above pricier setups too.

So the key to this upgrade is how much inverter is needed. The bigger the inverter, the larger the price tag. It costs an additional $2,500 to run a microwave. So I chose the budget package since I already had a quiet inverter generator which could be used to power the microwave and A/C.
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Old 11-19-2019, 06:57 PM   #7
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following this idea with interest, but for now...

I am smitten by the solar bug and use a 320W array and two 90# silicone electrolyte batteries at our remote cabin for the lights, fridge, Dyson vac and battery powered hand tool charger - oh, and the cattle fence to discourage bears. We have to fly fuel to the cabin - so that is the ruling economic factor in that case.

One day will go big into solar and lithium or the latest light electrical storage on the AS. But for now, I can't beat the economics of the Champion inverter/generator with the wireless remote. Works great for the boondock spots we find all over AK. Just a thought.
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Old 11-19-2019, 07:39 PM   #8
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we run 200 watts of solar on the roof and 160 watt suitcase when we are hunting for the sun with two Trojan t105 batteries. we are able to actually boondock for 10-12 days no problem whatsoever. With this setup we're only running the power requirements for fridge, lights and charging /running our misc 12v systems such as computers, cell phones etc. I will be installing a thousand watt inverter for miscellaneous AC appliances this summer . but up until know it really hasn't been a requirement for our particular Boondock camping. I should mention we do have a 3400 watt champion generator that we use very very seldom only when we're finding our solar is not sufficient to charge our batteries. of course what works for us may not work for you. this is one of those things that you really have to make a decision between what you need and what you want, they are two different things.
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Old 11-20-2019, 07:31 AM   #9
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Hi

What gets this very confusing right at the start is the power budget.

A "stock" trailer may have 80 to 100AH of usable battery capacity depending on options. Indeed some have 40 to 50 if they only got one battery. That gives you a range of 40 to 100AH capacity just on a stock unit.

Most of us run the fridge when we are in the trailer. It mostly runs on propane when off grid. There is a control board that pulls current off of the 12V system. Most fridges get a setup that pulls about 1A off of the 12V. A few lucky ones get one that pulls a half amp.

So, just running the fridge and nothing else, you could be off grid for 40 hours (on the smallest stock battery / typical fridge) up to 200 hours (largest battery / best fridge). If indeed you never turn on a light or run the water pump, these *could* be real numbers.

In some trailers the furnace pulls 7A when running. If it runs for 12 hours that is 84 AH. Anything other than the large stock battery setup is long gone at that point. Getting a day or two of furnace operation at 30 to 50% duty cycle is about it.

Our trailer runs between 2 and 4 A of drain depending on how things are configured. In a day, we burn off 50 to 100AH of battery. With 400AH of usable capacity, we can go for 4 to 8 days with no external boost. With the 400W of solar on the roof, running for a week and still having 50% to spare is not at all unusual.

For some, 50AH a day would be a crazy large power spend. For others, getting down to 100AH would mean major changes in how they do things.

Lots of variables.

Bob
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Old 11-20-2019, 08:35 AM   #10
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Toward equipment in the trailer, the owner's manual should detail OE equipment (even optional). If the trailer did not come with the owner's manual, soft copies are available for download from Airstream for free.


Back to that engineering and requirements aspect.

As others have mentioned, the question focuses on what the inverter needs to power and, without that detail, all of us are simply guessing on how to respond.

I am going break from the crowd a bit regarding comments on smaller / entertainment items and inverter use. Some appliances convert 110 AC back to DC, so the end result with an inverter in these cases is going from DC (battery) to AC (inverter) to DC (device or device's power cord). Point is that from a perspective of minimizing power loss from multiple conversions, it is possible to focus on DC-only systems like a 12v DC TV along with 12v chargers for the phone. For systems that need something other than 12v DC, it is possible to step-up / down the voltage and remain DC; although, doing this will require that the device gets voltage inside its desirable range. End result is less power loss from conversion which makes more power available for use.

There are also ways around electric consumption. Example: coffee. Many grocery stores and coffee resellers offer grinding, so that is one less power consumption item for the battery system. Making the coffee by using stove-top instead of plug-in electric makes for no electric use (except for maybe using the venting fan).
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Old 11-20-2019, 09:42 AM   #11
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Hi

Probably good to hear from the OP so we can steer this a bit more to their needs .... assuming we haven't totally scared somebody to death (yet again )

Bob
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Old 11-20-2019, 10:50 AM   #12
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DYI info

https://amsolar.com/rv-solar/support
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Old 11-21-2019, 02:15 PM   #13
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Thanks

Thanks to all for the information. I have a good idea of whats involved now. Sounds like getting as many panels as possible on the roof is the way to go. That way there is enough wattage to run the basic items (fridge, pump, lights) and still be able to charge the batteries for the night.
Im thinking 2 lithium batteries, 5ea 100wt panels with a Renogy controller and monitor might be the way to go.
Best to all.
DK
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Old 11-21-2019, 02:30 PM   #14
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I like Victron better. Based on some help I gave an owner, the Renogy documentation was very poor.

Larry
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Old 11-21-2019, 03:19 PM   #15
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I think Renogy panels are great (its what I used) but like Larry and others here I'd go with a Victron multiplex inverter-charger, solar controller, and battery monitor. --Frank
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Old 11-21-2019, 06:32 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dkoelfgen View Post
Thanks to all for the information. I have a good idea of what’s involved now. Sounds like getting as many panels as possible on the roof is the way to go. That way there is enough wattage to run the basic items (fridge, pump, lights) and still be able to charge the batteries for the night.
I’m thinking 2 lithium batteries, 5ea 100wt panels with a Renogy controller and monitor might be the way to go.
Best to all.
DK
I would also recommend Victron SmartSolar Controllers (not BlueSolar)! The SmartSolar controller has the built in bluetooth capability where you can monitor the solar on a cellphone. I had a Victron 100/30 SmartSolar controller in my 25' with 400W of panels. I now have a Victron 100/50 SmartSolar controller in my 27' with 600W of panels. Both of my installations were done on the factory prewire with an even number of series-parallel configured panels.

With 500W of solar panels, you will need to configure in Parallel and run a 4 gauge duplex wire from a rooftop combiner box to the solar controller, and then to the busbars or batteries. There's another thread where we are discussing the a path for this wire on a 27' Airstream. http://www.airforums.com/forums/f37/...ac-203001.html .

With Lithium batteries, you will want a Victron BMV-712 instead of the Victron Smart Battery Sense Module like I used with my wet-cell batteries. I was told these two components are mutually exclusive since they both provide temperature to the SmartSolar controller. If you put your LI batteries under the bed with short thick battery cables that can handle 200A, the Victron Smart Battery Sense is unnecessary but a BMV-712 is considered mandatory.

Lots of things to contemplate through the winter. Definitely spend some time on the AmSolar website studying their configurations and recommendations. Here's a link to their blog that posts many pictures of their installations and articles that teach about solar installations: https://amsolar.com/solar-panels-for-rv .
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Old 11-22-2019, 07:22 AM   #17
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Hi

One interesting thing about the Renogy lithiums and controllers is this "Lithium wakeup signal". If indeed it is documented somewhere ( = what sort of signal *is* it) that documentation is well hidden. It also seems to have been hidden from those designing even the Renogy controllers until fairly recently. It could be very simple (some posts suggest it is).

Clouding things up more than a little, they apparently had some teething pains with the batteries early on. Some simply would not wake up, no matter what you did. Early issues with just about anything are to be expected. They seem to have worked them out at this point.

Documentation wise, it's a bit unclear what's what. One example is their spec of a charging voltage of 14.4 +/- 0.02V. If indeed you need a charger that is accurate to 20 mv while charging the batteries .... good luck with that. I see giant bus bars in your future . It is also *very* likely that somebody got an extra zero in that number and it really is +/- 0.2V. That would put them at 14.2 to 14.6 like just about everybody else.

Until all this sort of dust settles, anybody heading this way is taking a bit of a risk. That is in no way to say it's not going to work out. Only that there may be some surprises here or there. Version 3 may be the one you want to wait for

Bob
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Old 11-27-2019, 11:49 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dkoelfgen View Post
We recently purchased our 2011 27ft. FB Flying Cloud and are getting ready to set off on a 3 Month trip south. Looking for some advice on how to upgrade the stock Battery, Converter and Inverter setup. We would like to be able to do some Boondocking (3-6 days) now and then so I want to upgrade the Batteries and add 400+wt of Solar.
From what I can gather an Inverter was an option on the 2011 27FB and I don't think I have one, is that right?
What would be a good Inverter to buy and does the Converter need to be changed also?
I have read many of the posts concerning Electronics but didn't find any on starting with a stock system. Any help is greatly appreciated.
..save your money...
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Old 11-27-2019, 12:18 PM   #19
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Here's our install in a nutshell. I tried to keep a handle on budget as much as possible, but given the nature of lithium battery pricing, that became a challenge. We have a 2007 Safari 25FB so our configuration is similar to yours. I mounted 400W of Renogy panels on the roof, with room for 2 more in a pinch. Under the bed I have 400AH of Battleborn Lithiums placed near the centerline of the trailer and on the other side of the bulkhead, a Renogy 40A charge controller, all of the fuses and disconnects, shunt and busbars. On the floor of that space is a 3K Renogy Inverter/ charger. The lines from the roof came down the triangular chase that houses the black tank vent. Our control panels are located on the end of the kitchen cabinet by the door. Our total cost came in under $5500 doing all the work myself and buying our batteries during Battleborn's last blem sale, which BTW they are having again on cybermonday!!!. Have fun and please message me if I can help in any way. I'm a newly retired Electrical Engineer...


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Old 11-27-2019, 12:43 PM   #20
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..save your money...

Investing in solar saves money if you use your Airstream frequently and enjoy staying in remote locations without shore power. For example, you could stay at a Grand Canyon Trailer Village Campground electric site for $54 per night or, with solar, you can stay at the non-electric Ten-X Campground for $10 per night. That's a savings of $44 per night or $308 per week. It doesn't take long to justify the $1,500 cost for a 400W solar upgrade with wet-cell golf cart batteries. You also have the option to boondock for free at the roadside sites in the Kaibab National Forest next to the Grand Canyon for extra savings. I've stayed in my solar-powered Airstreams for 250 nights since adding solar, mostly at non-electric campgrounds. My solar has paid for itself multiple times over.

Some will say "just buy a generator". A generator is an option that is also recommended with a solar-powered Airstream. But, I hate hearing my generator run almost as much as I hate hearing my neighbor's generator run. I haven't needed to run my generator to charge my batteries in over 150 days of camping in the past year. The peace and quiet of not hearing a generator running is priceless to me. Also, many campgrounds are getting very restrictive of when generators can be used. Before installing solar, these generator restrictions kept me from charging my batteries while camping at Glacier and Yellowstone, since I was out exploring during the limited generator hours. With roof mounted solar, my batteries get charged while I go exploring without making a sound. My solar investment basically provides free perpetual battery power with no noise, no smell, and no hassle.
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