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Old 11-28-2015, 10:20 PM   #1
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Upgraded My Batteries to Lithium - Woo Hoo!

Eight months ago my wife and I left San Francisco to begin living as full-time telecommuters. Day-to-day we are generally pretty heavy power users as we are living, not camping. Further, we prefer to boondock whenever possible.

Prior to shifting into full-timer status, we averaged the equivalent of about 75-90 nights per years camping - often working remotely when doing so. For convenience, a few years ago I installed a mid-level solar/electrical system, based around 400 watts of rooftop panels, a 25amp solar controller/harness (bought from AM Solar), and a set of Trojan T-105.

The batteries afforded us about 110 usable amp hours (at 50% draw), powering the factory installed 600 watt inverter. This set-up worked well for us prior to hitting the road, but since launching we've stretched the system beyond its limits - often going negative amp hours without an ability to catch-up via solar. Our back-up has been a 2k Yamaha generator, but for my wife and me, this dependency was not ideal.

All of this came to head a few weeks ago in Flagstaff as sustained temperatures dropped into the low 40s, rain was constant, and I was forced to buy a bigger (portable) gas container in order to continue feeding the generator. Something had to give, and we I immediately decided to upgrade our electrical infrastructure, mindful of specific objectives:
  • Negate any reliance of external AC power (generator or shore).
  • When boondocking, we want ability to live day-to-day no differently than when connected to an external AC power source (generator or shore).
  • Ability to have limited air conditioner capability directly off battery when boonbocking, or multi-hours when supplemented with generator.
Given the size and weight restrictions of our 27fb, lithium batteries were an ideal solution. For various reasons I was initially hesitant about lithium, but increasingly I could not look past the numerous benefits and ultimately decided to go that route over AGM.

Unlike my previous installation, knowing my DIY limitations and the need to stretch beyond my comfort zone, I never considered installing the system myself. At the recommendation of many including Ghaynes775 of this forum, I decided to hire Marv Braun of Precision RV. He could not have been more patient with my endless questions and requests for other insights. The quality of his work was awesome and he treated my home with care and respect. Marv is a pro; I cannot recommend him enough.

With Marvs input, we decided on the following equipment to serve as the core of the go-forward system:

Solar:
  • Addition of two rooftop 100 watt panels (bringing total to 600 watts).
  • Blue Sky 40 amp charge controller paired to our previously purchased 25 amp Blue Sky controller (which is now dedicated to a previously purchased 160 watt external portable panel) as a slave, allowing the monitoring input performance of portable panels separately form or combined with the rooftop panels.

Batteries & Battery Management:
  • Two Elite Power Solutions 200ah lithium battery packs.
  • Energy Management System cell balancing sensor boards & LED display.

Electrical:
  • Magnum 3k hybrid charger/inverter & remote panel.
  • Custom subpanel separating the hot water heater and fridge from the inverter.
  • A lot of upgraded wiring from 6AWG to 4AWG or 2AWG, not to mention a whole host of related miscellaneous items (fuses, breakers, cutoff switches, etc.).

The project was completed about 10 days ago and Ive been dry camping since, purposely pushing heavy loads day and night. Initial indications lead me to believe this upgraded system will be a complete game changer for us. If not for our full-time lifestyle, I doubt I would have invested in this much system, but now that I have, Im certainly going to enjoy it.


Note: Additional project details can be viewed on my blog: Leaping To Lithium | Wandering With Purpose
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Old 11-29-2015, 08:39 AM   #2
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Awesome system. Can you give me a ballpark cost for this "little project. I'm look at the same idea
Thanks
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Old 11-29-2015, 08:51 AM   #3
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Cadillac system.
I can't go lithium as batteries won't charge below freezing and my primary use is in Colorado in the mountains. In Flagstaff temps are below frequently below freezing at night in the fall. Are your batteries inside?
I have a VW bug system with a tiny solar charger and drowned cell batteries but don't need or want an inverter.
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Old 11-29-2015, 12:10 PM   #4
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Handn I exchanged emails with Elite on the temperature topic. Here's the reply

"While in storage you can allow the batteries to get below freezing. They
can handle temperatures down to -4F for discharge or storage. They
cannot be charged below 32F however.

For heating there are many off the shelf options such at these battery
heaters:

http://www.amazon.com/Kats-22400-Wat.../dp/B000I8XDAS

http://www.amazon.com/Kats-22200-Wat.../dp/B000I8XD9E

If this is just for storage I would suggest using some sort of
temperature controller or thermostat to keep the energy usage low if you
do not expect temperatures to be too low all the time."

I need to take a photo of what I have done so far. I am in a storage center. Typical steel construction type of place. I bought a temperature controlled switch and a small 200w heater. Also a digital power tracker so that know if the heater turned on. I am keeping the idea of the heat pads in the back pocket. Also a recording thermometer so I can track the temps. (list of items below).

So far in the last several weeks the outside temps have been in the low-mid 20's with daytimes about 40, though in the last 4 days the daytimes have been low 20's.

Surprisingly the inside of the storage unit and the inside of the trailer have been running 40-45 degrees measured with an IR thermometer. I have the temp controller set to come on at 30 degrees with a 5 degree rise before turning off. It has yet to actually turn on.

So if the inside of the storage/trailer run about 15-20 degrees warmer than outside temps I should be fine with the current setup. At least until we hit some sub zero weeks. I'll watch the recording thermometer and compare that to outside temperature data.

Lastly I did run the batteries down to a lower storage temperature, right now I am at 85%, and the Magnum charger is in standby so that it doesn't charge. Also the disconnect from the Magnum to the batteries is also in the OFF position.

I am fortunate that the AS is only about 15 minutes from my house. So easily checked. Primary concern would be an extended power outage during subzero temps.

Items:

Ink-bird Digital Temp Controller - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01...ilpage_o02_s00

Lasko Heater - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...ilpage_o02_s00

Ensupra Energy Monitor - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...ilpage_o02_s00

Ink-bird Temp Data Logger - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...ilpage_o00_s00
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Old 11-29-2015, 01:58 PM   #5
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Again ...ballpark cost for this mod ...???
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Old 11-29-2015, 05:17 PM   #6
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I hired Marv to complete a few non-lithium related projects so what I ultimately paid is not apples to apples to what others might experience. That said, if you farm out the labor as I did, realistically figure $10k ... plus/minus $1-2k depending upon how much of your existing equipment can be re-used. Not a cheap project, but given that I full-time, day-to-day convenience is a chief objective for wife and me.
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Old 11-29-2015, 08:43 PM   #7
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Nice write-up. I'm following in these footsteps right now, but doing the work myself. End of the day, lithiums are a serious investment.
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Old 11-29-2015, 10:04 PM   #8
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The kit from AM Solar with six 100 watt panels (all we could squeeze onto the 23D roof were five so have a common spare for both the 23D and Classic), the Magnum MSH 3012 converter/inverter, the BlueSky 3024iL, remote control heads for both the BlueSky and Magnum, 300 amp-hour lithium battery, two 400 amp T fuses plus holder and the roof box ands all the cables came close to $8,639.

We spent almost double the system price for the installation of the solar system plus installing two Maxxfan 7000K to replace the two Fantastic units, install a Maxim skylight to replace the factory one, replaced all factory power outlets with commercial Hubbell 120Vac GFI 20 amp duplex outlets ands added new ones in the closets and storage areas, repacked all four wheel bearing sets (one was scored in the 2,300 miles towed to his workshop from the dealer from lack of grease from the factory so was replaced with USA made Timken bearings), wired in reverse LEDs energized by either a wall switch or the reverse circuit of the tow vehicle, swapped the WineGard stock crankup batwing television antenna for the digital WineGard Rayzar unit, replaced the flooring with Marmoleum, repaired the extensive damage and errors from the factory build (where was the factory QC and the dealership PDI?), replaced the Atwood water heater with a Truma Instant on unit, made a custom hickory dinette table top and side board for kitchen sink as well as cover hatch for circuit breaker and fuses access and boards for the ship's clock and electroinc displays to mounted to on the wall, built a custom baffle with three fans for better refrigerator coo0ling, and modified many of the lower cabinets into usable space. There were quite a few smaller jobs that were also taken care of.
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Old 11-30-2015, 12:02 PM   #9
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Impressive, dude--enjoy! And keep reports coming as to whether it's enough battery for you. In combo with your 600w on the roof, I think you'll do great!
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Old 11-30-2015, 02:23 PM   #10
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I don't want sound like a killjoy but running a generator sounds a lot simpler to me. Of course it is less entertaining for sure.
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Old 11-30-2015, 03:19 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by franklyfrank View Post
I don't want sound like a killjoy but running a generator sounds a lot simpler to me. Of course it is less entertaining for sure.
Noisy and not as fun to do when it's 34 outside, 5am in the morning and your furnace drained the stock 12v banks down to zilch.
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Old 11-30-2015, 03:33 PM   #12
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I'd like to do an upgrade like this, but as a part timer I'm afraid the battery bank will be abused by sitting for so long as the trailer sits in storage while my neck is chained to my office desk in suburbia.
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Old 11-30-2015, 11:42 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ted S. View Post
I'd like to do an upgrade like this, but as a part timer I'm afraid the battery bank will be abused by sitting for so long as the trailer sits in storage while my neck is chained to my office desk in suburbia.
Ted--

The solar system, if set up properly, will trickle charge your batteries for months. Lithiums can be a challenge because they must not be charge of ambient temp is under 32, but this doesn't apply to your AGM's. It's all in getting a good solar controller, like the Blue Sky.

Our coach is in storage from Octiber through March, and we can always count on full batteries. The beauty of a good solar system!
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Old 12-01-2015, 06:28 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by BoldAdventure View Post
Noisy and not as fun to do when it's 34 outside, 5am in the morning and your furnace drained the stock 12v banks down to zilch.
The way I cope with that,by never going to places where it gets to be 34 outside. We are pansies, and go only were its warm and the sun shines.
June through end of October we hit the road northbound and November through May strictly south.
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