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Old 03-20-2019, 08:11 PM   #1
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2018 28' Tommy Bahama
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Ready for Lithium and Solar - advice?

My wife and I like to boondock especially in the national parks. What we have now is the stock batteries and electrical, no solar, and a Honda generator, which is very limiting. When it's cold, the fan on the furnace takes so much battery, we have to recharge daily. This means we have to run the generator in the park, according to the park's schedule, and we hate the noise! We use the microwave at all without shore power, and it would be super deluxe if the wife could use her hair dryer every few days.

So our goals are to be able to do 3 or 4 nights and:
Run the furnace all night
Microwave for about 10 minutes per day
Hair dryer occasionally but can do without in case of long periods w/o sun.
Enough battery to last 3 or 4 days without much sunshine
Enough solar to recharge in one day (assuming direct sun)

I have a Victron BMV-712 on the stock system and monitored our usage on the last trip. Cold nights we used about 34 amp hours just for heating, and about 45 ah for the entire day. Of course that does not include microwave, or any luxuries like TV/satellite that we plan to add, much less the hair dryer.

I've got a big spreadsheet that says we would use 80 to 120 amp hours/day depending on various things and of course whether or not itís a hair dryer day.

Peak inverter demand would be determined primarily by the hair dryer at 1400 AC watts plus a few more things at the same time but not the microwave.

I plan to do the work myself, as I have some experience wiring electrical systems, but am by no means an expert. My current plan is to use a Victron Multiplus and Battlebore batteries.

Things Iím looking for advice on:

Basic layout -
Our trailer is a 2018 27' Tommy Bahama 50amp, but just consider it to be a 27' front queen Flying Cloud or International, as the electrical and floor-plans are almost identical.

The electrical panel is in the middle of the trailer, curb-side, under the galley. The inverter is under the bed at the front of the trailer. The current inverter is 1000 watt and must be replaced, plus it doesnít power the microwave or basically anything but the TVís.

It looks like the best place to put the batteries is under the bed. Is there another location that would work better on this floor-plan?

It seems like the Multiplus should go close to the batteries, under the bed. Otherwise there will have to be big cables on a long run from the batteries to where else it is installed. Correct?

With the Multiplus up front, does it make sense to run the inverter AC power back to the electrical panel in the middle of the trailer? That way I can put circuits onto the inverter without rewiring outside the panel (with a sub-panel or replace the current panel).

Finally, the fridge AC circuit is on the same breaker as most of the duplex outlets including bathroom, galley, outside, and others. How do I get the outlets to run off the inverter without the fridge using the AC? Maybe I just unhook it and always run it on propane?

Wow, this is getting to be a big post. Eventually I will have a system design worked up, but I'll leave that for later.

Thanks,
David
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Old 03-20-2019, 08:30 PM   #2
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David for education have you looked at the information available at the www.amsolar.com website? Lots of diagrams and information to help you.

In your example of 120ah/day and going 4 days with no sun you would need 600ah of lithium batteries. Replacing 480ah of draw starting on the 5th day while still continuing to draw 120ah would take multiple days of sun. If you could get 800 watts of panels on the roof they would give you approximately 50ah/hour during the peak hours of the day. Looking at spring and fall something less. So it might take 2-4 hours of sun just to cover your 120ah of daily usage. Then the remained of 3-5 hours would generate less ah's. If those hours averaged 25ah then you would replace 100ah to start taking the batteries back to full.

All of that being said if you have a Honda 2000 watt generator that runs continuously at 1650 watts that would make up the shortfall pretty quickly.

So as you do your design there are lots of things to be considered which sounds like you are already considering.

Finally there are hundreds of posts on solar installs here on the forums. Lots of information and wisdom can be gathered. Helps avoid pitfalls felt by those who have been there and done that. The wisdom of measure once, measure again, check a third time and then make the cut comes to mind.
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Old 03-20-2019, 10:02 PM   #3
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Ready for Lithium and Solar - advice?

I had similar needs / desires. I easily go through 100ah/day... if not 200. We like always on residential power and all of its benefits I also like to run the AIrCon of batteries or with a small honda generator that supplements the batteries.

I sized my system with 600ah and a mumtiplus 3000. Also installed 800w of solar which can put back 400ah on the best day of the summer. I have a 30í international with a rear bed.

My batteries and multiplus are under the rear bed, power center is mid ship under the fridge.

A system install of this size is a very large job. I considered self-install (have the skills) but it was just too many man hours. I had Lew Fabre do the work and he put 80+ man hours in it... and he is a pro with a fully equipped shop

Here is a link to my install if you want more details....

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f539...um-182406.html

Good news is that Iíll get 30% of the cost back on my 2018 taxes based on renewable energy credit.
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Old 03-20-2019, 10:13 PM   #4
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Probably not the advice you're looking for but..

You're asking for a Bentley. And going to pay for a Bentley. The install and complexity will be commensurate with a Bentley. Perhaps something to think about is maintenance on a Bentley cannot be handled by your average shop when you inevitably will need service.

Do you need a Bentley?
You've been living with a Kia.
Perhaps all you need is a nice Lexus?

To that end. I'd recommend 400W on the roof. Go ahead and splurge on that multiplus. And upgrade to some nice true deep cycle 6V golf cart batts that will handle 80% discharge (real usable Ah) without much impact to lifespan. This sidesteps the complexity and slippery slope of upgrades necessary for lithium.

This is a wild card but...
I'd pair this with a nice GoalZero 1000 that has built-in 1500W inverter for your other 120V needs. Portable and could serve so many other uses. Setup a timer such that it only charges through the 12V circuit during the day when the solar is producing.

Probably good to rethink how you watch TV. There's many digital low power devices and solutions. Much better investment there, than feed the traditional energy hogs that you have now. In other words, it's always better to conserve and still get the luxuries you want, rather than building a giant power plant to feed the power hogs.
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Old 03-20-2019, 10:19 PM   #5
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Ready for Lithium and Solar - advice?

Agree with pteck btw.... a Bentley system (that is what you are looking at) will put a dent in your wallet like no other so you need to carefully consider how much you are willing to spend vs compromise.

Heck - you may also just start with a little generator and evaluate from there. I went 8 years before I put a big system in.
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Old 03-21-2019, 05:41 AM   #6
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The last few posts on the "Solar Show and Tell" thread, starting from the link below, demonstrate the installation of exactly the design the OP is considering with a Multiplus and 600AH of Lithium. The new drop-in Lithium's with built-in BMS makes self-install a possibility for average skilled individuals. The biggest obstacle I see is crimping 4/0 wire. Take a look at the three videos starting from this link:
http://www.airforums.com/forums/f448...ml#post2222227
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Old 03-21-2019, 05:54 AM   #7
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Sizing right does matter!

I originally installed 300Ah of lithium and 500w of solar on my 25'. My wife and I tent camped for many years and thus learned how to conserve power. We boondock 95% and do so near lakes and rivers where we recreate - me usually with a fly rod, and her on her feet walking.



When camping under clearish skies last year, I would use 50-80Ah a day and would be at 100% by 10:00am from sun. Cloudy days, by 1:00.



This year I am doing the Multiplus (should show up today) and I bought 1 more Battle Born on the sale last year. With 400Ah and 500w of solar, I consider my system more than enough. Remember that during the hours when the sun is highest, you'll often be 100% full on batteries and have a few hundred watts available "for free" since that energy can't be stored. Make use of this time to recharge laptops, use the hairdryer, etc. I wouldn't have done the 4th battery and the multiplus had I not wanted to run the AC briefly from batteries. I did the work with a good friend who has more skills than I do, and I learned a ton. I probably spent 4x the actual hours and I'm sure my install won't win awards compared to a pro, but it was very much worth it.



I would say the single most important upgrade was the lift (in our case a custom 4" lift) since it made getting in/out of the places we want to be easy. In fact the AS now has a little more clearance than my truck!



-Adam
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Old 03-21-2019, 06:12 AM   #8
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Great feedback! I hadn't thought it would take that much solar & battery. The daily ah numbers are max, as the furnace takes the biggest bite of the power. When never run the AC unless it's really hot and we have shore power.

Interesting idea about the goal zero. That would solve the hair dryer load.

The TV ah do add up after a few hours. Would those run off 120v or 12v? 12v would require additional wiring.

I have seen some costs pushing $10K which is a lot.

Time to look at our requirements and evaluate things.
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Old 03-21-2019, 07:02 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AirMiles View Post
The last few posts on the "Solar Show and Tell" thread, starting from the link below, demonstrate the installation of exactly the design the OP is considering with a Multiplus and 600AH of Lithium. The new drop-in Lithium's with built-in BMS makes self-install a possibility for average skilled individuals. The biggest obstacle I see is crimping 4/0 wire. Take a look at the three videos starting from this link:
http://www.airforums.com/forums/f448...ml#post2222227
I'll have to check them out. Looks like it's a coach, I have a trailer, but should be easier in the trailer, right?
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Old 03-21-2019, 07:11 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by afk314 View Post
When camping under clearish skies last year, I would use 50-80Ah a day and would be at 100% by 10:00am from sun. Cloudy days, by 1:00.

I would say the single most important upgrade was the lift (in our case a custom 4" lift) since it made getting in/out of the places we want to be easy. In fact the AS now has a little more clearance than my truck!

-Adam
I've seen similar results from others on this forum. I think most days we'll be in the 70-100 Ah range. A little higher but still do-able I think.

Thinking about the lift as well, to park in our driveway and get to more remote locations.
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Old 03-21-2019, 07:13 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pwlldvd

I have seen some costs pushing $10K which is a lot.

Time to look at our requirements and evaluate things.
Big systems can push triple that amount when you include professional installation.

Drop-in lithiums bring the cost down some for sure as you need a few less ancillaries and are a little less $/watt hour.

There are +/- to ever approach and component selection. Big investment either way, spend your time and do your homework. I'd also recommend giving AM Solar a call - they are the authority in this space, provide great support for DIY, can help with system design, have a ton of experience on airstream installs, and can walk you through everything you need. There are a lot of little "bits".

PS - IMO the biggest challenge will be installing a new 120 V split panel / sub panel - you will need to re-wire your 120v system with 50A L1/L2 service and the passthrough Multiplus 12/3000. Be careful, things can go very sideways if 120v is not done right.
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Old 03-21-2019, 09:48 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pwlldvd View Post
Great feedback! I hadn't thought it would take that much solar & battery. The daily ah numbers are max, as the furnace takes the biggest bite of the power. When never run the AC unless it's really hot and we have shore power.

Interesting idea about the goal zero. That would solve the hair dryer load.

The TV ah do add up after a few hours. Would those run off 120v or 12v? 12v would require additional wiring.

I have seen some costs pushing $10K which is a lot.

Time to look at our requirements and evaluate things.
OK, now that we are considering "NEEDS" vs "Wants", let's put together an economy plan for you. I have the economy plan and it works great 95% of the time, as demonstrated in the "Solar Show and Tell" thread. That extra 5% costs dearly and this is what it avoids: 1) If I need to use the microwave or a hairdryer on higher than low setting, I fire up the generator for a few minutes. 2) If I need A/C, I fire up the generator. 3) If I stay under a complete canopy of trees, I may need to fire up the generator for a few hours occasionally. I use my generator very infrequently.

You can do this install in stages. You already have the generator and a BMV-712. I would just add solar this year and see how it goes. With a 27' Airstream, you can easily put 600W on the roof. I would put 600W in three series-parallel pairs using the factory prewire and rooftop box, a Victron 100/50 Controller, an on/off switch on the solar input to the controller and a 60A breaker on the output of the controller with 6 gauge to the bus bars, 50' of 10-2 for the roof. I'd buy it all from AM Solar and wire it up myself. You will get 45A of charging in full sun. You could drop in either 1) a pair of Lithium 100AH batteries into the factory battery box for $2k, 2) a pair of AGM Lifelines into the factory battery box for $800, or a pair of wet-cell 6V golf cart batteries into the factor battery box for $250. I chose the golf cart battery option. For about $3,000 you could have a system that will avoid generator usage 95% of the time with golf cart batteries, $3,500 with AGMs, or $4700 with drop-in Lithiums. This stage of the install is very easy for someone with some electrical skills. If you can keep positive and negative connected correctly, can wire a series connection, can make a good crimp connection, this stage of the install can be done by a novice.

If you choose the $3,000 system with golf cart batteries this summer, you could choose to have the multiplus and Lithiums professionally installed next year so you can run the microwave, hair dryer, or A/C for short periods of time. (The other 5%) I have no idea what professional installation of a multiplus and Lithiums (with relocation) would cost. I would call AM Solar and get a quote. Then you can decide if you want to spring for the extra 5% this year or next.

AM Solar is OK with you self-installing what you are comfortable doing then completing the job professionally in their shop. They offered to do that for me if I got in over my head installing my system. They were going to reconfigure my installation to full parallel if needed. In the end, I was able to completely install my simple system without their help and did not need to reconfigure the series-parallel to full-parallel because my batteries charged perfectly in series-parallel (and yours will too with 600W).

Here are some pictures of what needs to be installed for the 95% solution:

http://www.airforums.com/forums/atta...1&d=1526477509

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f448...-181608-2.html

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f42/...es-166881.html
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Old 03-21-2019, 10:23 AM   #13
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Here again are some pictures of what needs to be installed for the 95% solution ( I messed up the above links ):

http://www.airforums.com/forums/atta...1&d=1526477509

http://www.airforums.com/forums/atta...0&d=1539352234

http://www.airforums.com/forums/atta...2&d=1521682083
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Old 03-21-2019, 10:31 AM   #14
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this is our DC deployment with BB Lion and mostly victron parts

i took out the LIO BB for winter and put in the old Lead acid.
after 5 month, i saw no mice inside.
the remote victron access worked all winter
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