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Old 10-26-2013, 05:51 PM   #15
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Thanks to everyone for all the feedback. I feel very comfortable with the whole prospect now and have ordered the Vitrifrigo in stainless. Cost about $1600 plus shipping and should arrive late next week.

I am also doing a lot of research on battery to battery charging systems like the Xantrex Echocharge, Balmar Duo Charge, and the similar Sterling model.

These basically are multistage battery charging systems that run off 12 volts instead of shore power. They don't care what the incoming voltage is, as long as it is in range, and they put out a charge program for your specific battery type. The Xantrex is 15 amps, Balmar is 30 amps, and Sterling is 50 amps.

The Balmar has an issue where if your load pulled is over 30 amps, it will shout down. I've got to figure out of a severely drained battery bank can suck more than 30 amps via heavy cabling when it is connected. On the other hand, the actual LOAD from my trailer will likely never come close to 30 amps, so if they are not counting a drained battery bank as something that will pull amps, then it should be OK.

I need to get my tow vehicle setup to charge enough to at least run the fridge. If I don't install one of these systems right away, I will likely just setup some dedicated wiring and relays so the fridge runs off my tow vehicle when the engine is on. That will leave my solar alone to do its thing with charging the house batteries as it does now.

I think everyone should be using something like one of these rather than just straight up connecting the house batteries in parallel to the tow vehicle. The xantrex 15 amp unit might be able to be run via a tow connector, but a separate anderson style connector would be the safe way to go, not to mention more effective. I wouldn't run anything bigger than that via the tow connector, and probably wouldn't even do 15 amps either.

The marine market also has a ton of alternator controllers that they use on their boats. If I get greedy for power, I may try to go that route and also upgrade my alternator to high output.

These alternator controller systems seem like they could provide oodles of charging amps.
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Old 10-26-2013, 08:01 PM   #16
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Thanks to everyone for all the feedback. I feel very comfortable with the whole prospect now and have ordered the Vitrifrigo in stainless. Cost about $1600 plus shipping and should arrive late next week.

I am also doing a lot of research on battery to battery charging systems like the Xantrex Echocharge, Balmar Duo Charge, and the similar Sterling model.

These basically are multistage battery charging systems that run off 12 volts instead of shore power. They don't care what the incoming voltage is, as long as it is in range, and they put out a charge program for your specific battery type. The Xantrex is 15 amps, Balmar is 30 amps, and Sterling is 50 amps.

The Balmar has an issue where if your load pulled is over 30 amps, it will shout down. I've got to figure out of a severely drained battery bank can suck more than 30 amps via heavy cabling when it is connected. On the other hand, the actual LOAD from my trailer will likely never come close to 30 amps, so if they are not counting a drained battery bank as something that will pull amps, then it should be OK.

I need to get my tow vehicle setup to charge enough to at least run the fridge. If I don't install one of these systems right away, I will likely just setup some dedicated wiring and relays so the fridge runs off my tow vehicle when the engine is on. That will leave my solar alone to do its thing with charging the house batteries as it does now.

I think everyone should be using something like one of these rather than just straight up connecting the house batteries in parallel to the tow vehicle. The xantrex 15 amp unit might be able to be run via a tow connector, but a separate anderson style connector would be the safe way to go, not to mention more effective. I wouldn't run anything bigger than that via the tow connector, and probably wouldn't even do 15 amps either.

The marine market also has a ton of alternator controllers that they use on their boats. If I get greedy for power, I may try to go that route and also upgrade my alternator to high output.

These alternator controller systems seem like they could provide oodles of charging amps.
Don't forget the Magnum ME-SBC, or Smart Battery Combiner. It will take incoming '12VDC' current from one battery bank or source and and properly charge the second battery bank. Easy to set in/off parameters too.
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Old 10-26-2013, 10:30 PM   #17
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I think that I did look at that one, lewster. As far as I can gather, it doesn't do any voltage/amperage conversion to put out its own multistage charging program. The reason I like the others is that they all do that, so for use with a dumb alternator, I feel they will treat my batteries better.

These others (and I'm mostly taking about Sterlimg, and maybe Balmar, as I have not examined Xantrex closely enough) also monkey around to try to convince your alternator to put out more juice than it otherwise would. The Sterling unit claims to charge house batteries up to 5 times faster than just combining, and it says it can make your alternator work at close to capacity.

They go to great lengths to explain how they are DC to DC battery chargers, and NOT combiners. To me, it sounds like the magnum unit just combines during a certain set voltage window. On the other hand, I feel like the three brands I mentioned will be like hanging a 15 to 50 amp device on your tow vehicle and sending those amps to the trailer after some conversion.

From what I've read, it sounds like simply combining has a lot of risk especially if you connect batteries at different charge levels. The boating folks talk on their forums about the house battery bank sucking down the starting bank at inopportune times. And with the tow wiring most of us use, I could see it being unsafe if you have a large battery bank in the trailer and two batteries in a tow vehicle that are trying to equalize over a 12 or 14 gauge wire in a basic harness.

I suspect the magnum unit might help buffer that flow but maybe not as I'm not sure it was designed for this specific, mobile purpose.

What I'm after is a device that will aid in getting the amps to cross the wire. That seems to be the biggest challenge in charging from a tow vehicle. If I can push 30 amps back to the trailer, it seems like that would be far more than most people will get by combining. And if I can generate that much or even 50 to 100 over what I am doing now with a high output alternator, I figure there has GOT to be a way I can get that back to my battery bank.
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Old 10-26-2013, 11:07 PM   #18
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Here's a pretty good video from Sterling showing some of the technology in action. The unit they show is a bit more complicated than what I previously posted about. This is an "alternator to battery charger" that sits between both house/tow vehicle batteries and alternator.

http://youtu.be/hKURbJOoICk

But as he points out in the video, raising the charging voltage a bit helps tremendously with transferring the amps down the wire, especially with voltage drop on the wire run. And I think this video also illustrates how the device pulls a load from the tow vehicle system and makes the alternator work harder.
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Old 10-27-2013, 12:17 AM   #19
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Just came across another unit a bit unexpectedly. It even has a built in MPPT solar charge controller, so it can optimize/synchronize charging voltage from solar AND your tow vehicle at the same time. When your hose batteries are full, it can pass through solar to the tow vehicle to top up batteries there. Also the same with shore battery charger.

It's the CTEK D250S along with the SmartPass add on unit to expand capacity, the base capacity is 20 amps.

Here's a video about it....

http://youtu.be/TjqcOAjT4W4
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Old 10-27-2013, 01:38 AM   #20
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Two more companies popped up that seem to be competing against CTEK - they are Redarc and Projecta. They are Australian and I don't see the products coming up with US retailers though.

I love how compact and multifunctional these units are and that they could include MPPT solar but I'm kind of addicted to complexity and lots of flashing lights and info displays. Hmmm.

If I didn't already have a fancy outback solar controller, I might just jump all over the CTEK to at least start out.
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Old 10-27-2013, 08:10 AM   #21
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Sorry, I should have read your requirements a bit more closely.

The Me-SBC is for battery to battery charging, but it does have settings to prevent draining the main bank while charging the auxiliary one. Alternator to DC is a whole 'nuther issue.
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Old 10-30-2013, 06:11 PM   #22
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Big truck bearing gifts! Well not even close to a gift...

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Old 10-30-2013, 07:11 PM   #23
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Looks nice but I have thought long and hard about your plan and I think AS had the right design with a propane reefer. I have almost no experience with RVs but I have a lot of experience with cruising sailboats.
The reefer on a sailboat is the biggest DC load and forces you to always be concerned about battery charging and discharge. Moreover, battery technology is over 100 years old and is just not ideal. Yes, I heard Lewster's concerns about ammonia safety, but ammonia refrigeration has been around longer than batteries, almost.
What I like is having an alternate fuel for my heat and refrigeration, with minimal demand on the batteries. Once you start needing high amp-hour duty on your batteries you end up spending time and money charging those suckers and solar will not be enough.
The beauty is, the choice is yours, but I like the original design.
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Old 10-31-2013, 12:11 AM   #24
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I hear ya... I stressed out over the decision for a few days. But a few things helped sway me over the edge toward electric. One, people saying I this thread and others that it has worked out great for them. And two, when I figured out that it would pull fewer amps than a fantastic fan... That really made me comfortable that if be able to keep up with the power needs, especially as when I am on the road, I generally don't stay in one place for long so there is plenty of drive time to charge the batteries while towing and/or to power the fridge off the tow vehicle.

I believe that these danfoss units are tremendously more efficient than traditional rv fridges, so I kind of wonder if it will end up being easier and cheaper to run a planned propane generator now and then vs burning the fuel directly to cool the fridge. Especially considering the surplus solar capacity I have that can offset some power needs.

Also I am kind of a geek for newer technology. But it isn't the right decision for everyone, I'm sure. It just fits my needs well-- at least in theory.
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Old 10-31-2013, 06:52 AM   #25
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I hear ya... I stressed out over the decision for a few days. But a few things helped sway me over the edge toward electric. One, people saying I this thread and others that it has worked out great for them. And two, when I figured out that it would pull fewer amps than a fantastic fan... That really made me comfortable that if be able to keep up with the power needs, especially as when I am on the road, I generally don't stay in one place for long so there is plenty of drive time to charge the batteries while towing and/or to power the fridge off the tow vehicle.

I believe that these danfoss units are tremendously more efficient than traditional rv fridges, so I kind of wonder if it will end up being easier and cheaper to run a planned propane generator now and then vs burning the fuel directly to cool the fridge. Especially considering the surplus solar capacity I have that can offset some power needs.

Also I am kind of a geek for newer technology. But it isn't the right decision for everyone, I'm sure. It just fits my needs well-- at least in theory.
For what it's worth.............I think you made the RIGHT choice.
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Old 10-31-2013, 11:22 AM   #26
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Well thanks Lew!

Now I need to decide how I'm going to handle the roof vent. I've got a bunch of wires coming down it right now, so I don't want to seal it up completely. The unit won't provide much clearance in the back to vent a lot of heat out the top, at least unless I want to build it in to provide that. I suspect the vents in the fridge door might be sufficient and better venting than a lot of boats provide.
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Old 10-31-2013, 11:36 AM   #27
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Now I need to decide how I'm going to handle the roof vent. I've got a bunch of wires coming down it right now, so I don't want to seal it up completely. The unit won't provide much clearance in the back to vent a lot of heat out the top, at least unless I want to build it in to provide that. I suspect the vents in the fridge door might be sufficient and better venting than a lot of boats provide.
I've made this recommendation a couple of times before, for different applications, but how about a Nicro solar-powered fan vent?
3" Stainless Steel Minivent 1000 | Marinco
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Old 10-31-2013, 01:01 PM   #28
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Interesting... Things like that could help the fridge run even more efficiently. I wonder if I could retrofit something or build something like that to use the existing vent. To make it work, I might actually have to create a new flue in the cabinet next to the fridge as I likely will be blocking the normal channel along the back unless I move the fridge out slightly from the wall.
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