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Old 05-16-2015, 06:40 PM   #1
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Solar Newby Needs Advice

Hello all

Disclaimer: I know nothing about solar power and have just started learning...so please bear with me.

I recently receive a Grape Solar 400 watt off grid system (it was a gift) that I plan to install in my 71 Safari that I am renovating. The Safari does not have a lot of room for more that two big heavy deep cycle batteries. I was watching a video on Youtube and the maker of the video was praising Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries, saying they were smaller, can drain to almost 90%, last longer, etc., etc. and that they were somewhat expensive. I don't mind spending more money up front for peace of mind and longevity, plus if I can get more battery storage for the limited amount of space I have, all the better.

I would love to hear all thoughts on the matter and suggestions for resources, TYPE/rating of the Lithium Iron Phosphate recommendations, and just general thoughts would be most welcome
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Old 05-16-2015, 07:56 PM   #2
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Does your Grape Solar 400 watt off grid system operate as a stand alone with a 12 volt output? Some of them were made and designed with micro inverters for 120 volts only and no batteries, not 12 volts DC. Just asking to be sure what you have.

Are there multiple panels on your system? Grape made 100 watt panels so you might have 4 of them. If it is one large panel, not only will it be difficult to find space to mount, but it is probably a higher voltage output panel and will require a special charge controller which can take the higher input voltage and charge at the lower 12 volt use voltage.

Speaking of the lithium batteries, they also require a special charge curve, and will also require a special charge controller. We are very early in the lithium battery things, and although they have a good promise for the future, there is a lot that needs to be worked out now. I am not sure this is the best way to go yet until others have found the best path and the new necessary electronics are available. This is my opinion of course, but things are not plug and play yet, for sure. And the cost is very high.
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Old 05-16-2015, 09:40 PM   #3
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Take a look at the AMSolar website. Good information there. Also do a search here on the forums for lithium and you will find other good posts on lithiums. Not sure what type of charge controller you have but it would be critical to have a high quality controller so that you don't damage the lithiums.

Also the the folks at Technomadia | Adventures in Nomadic Serendipity have a series of posts on their experience with lithiums.
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Old 05-17-2015, 06:06 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ghaynes755 View Post
Take a look at the AMSolar website. Good information there. Also do a search here on the forums for lithium and you will find other good posts on lithiums. Not sure what type of charge controller you have but it would be critical to have a high quality controller so that you don't damage the lithiums.

Also the the folks at Technomadia | Adventures in Nomadic Serendipity have a series of posts on their experience with lithiums.
Wow great resources! Thanks!
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Old 05-18-2015, 11:41 AM   #5
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Google SolarBob. Wealth of info.
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Old 05-18-2015, 05:07 PM   #6
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Just finished switching four Lifeline 6Vdc 300 amp hour batteries wired to create 12Vdc 600 amp hours (372 pounds) to a single lithium iron phosphate 12Vdc 600 amp hour battery at 168 pounds. We have eight 100 watt solar panels on the roof feeding into a Mangum MS-2812 converter/charger. We had to re-program both the TriStar solar charge controller and the Magnum to values appropriate for the new battery.

The Lifeline battery setup would allow about 300 amp hours to be used whereas the new battery can provide at least 500 amp hours of power.

Do some serious reading on the AM Solar website to learn the language and details to consider for a solar system.
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Old 05-31-2015, 01:05 PM   #7
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I am a newbie to this as well by necessity. I got my first panel in the mail yesterday. I am still calculating and trying to figure out a custom setup. I need something to charge while in storage and then also want something for power when camping. My reading has me looking at portable solutions. Often people put their camper in the shade under trees and the portable solution can be moved to the sun AND also optimized by angle.

Though I must say that I just got my preliminary comparison info worked out. I will share:

Time to full charge my house paralleled battery bank @184 amps with the various setups at optimum outputs (comparison)
charge to full

4 hours running generator using AS built-in 55 amp charger converter
8 hours running a direct generator DC hookup to batts - bad idea, use AS charger
12 hours with 300 watt solar system $847
25 hours with 15 watt portable planned solar system $471
36 hours with 6 amp AC charger $78 (requires AC)
74 hours with 50 watt flexible solar panel/mppt controller $220

Naturally they calculated a full charge to the batteries with a 50% recharge being around half the time shown. Still I cannot overlook the difference between the generator and the solar setups. The lithium batteries are outrageously expensive. Although I am moving forward with "some solar" I cannot justify the cost very well to the benefit.
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Old 05-31-2015, 02:14 PM   #8
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Quote:
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Google SolarBob. Wealth of info.
I'll second that!


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