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Old 06-24-2016, 09:46 PM   #1
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Default keys to upfitting lithium/solar/inverter to an older coach

looking at saving a lot of money purchasing a 2-3 year old coach and am wanting to delete the generator and run solar/lithium/underhood generator. What are the keys to upfitting an older coach with a modern solar array/lithium/inverter, etc? Are there accessories on older coaches that will not work efficiently with a generatorless setup? Any advice would be helpful. For folks that have gone this route, whatcost considerations or other factors will make for an effective upfit? Is an underhood generator/voltstart a good path to upfit on a 2-3 year old coach? I'd love to know if anyone has gone this route and what they learned.

cheers,
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Old 06-25-2016, 03:56 AM   #2
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.

There are no ready made off the shelf underhood generator kits.
Not yet.


If you want to go all electric,
you will probably need $5,000 to $10,000 worth of batteries.
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Old 06-25-2016, 11:41 AM   #3
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looking at saving a lot of money purchasing a 2-3 year old coach and am wanting to delete the generator and run solar/lithium/underhood generator. What are the keys to upfitting an older coach with a modern solar array/lithium/inverter, etc? Are there accessories on older coaches that will not work efficiently with a generatorless setup? Any advice would be helpful. For folks that have gone this route, whatcost considerations or other factors will make for an effective upfit? Is an underhood generator/voltstart a good path to upfit on a 2-3 year old coach? I'd love to know if anyone has gone this route and what they learned.

cheers,
It all depends on what loads you want to be able to power from the system.

The inverter will need to be sized to handle your maximum 120 volt AC loads.

The size of your lithium battery bank will be driven by the length of time you want to be able to power your load profile on a cloudy winter days with minimum solar charging before running the engine generator to recharge the batteries.

The size of your solar panels will be driven by your load profile and how much you want to avoid running the engine generator to charge batteries.

At the extreme, if you want to run air conditioning off the battery bank without running the engine generator continuously, doing something like Voltstart, the size and cost of the battery bank can be expensive. All depends on how long you plan to run the air conditioning and how often you want the engine generator to cycle on for some period of time to recharge the batteries. Solar is not significant in the air conditioning scenario.

In terms of mods you will need new wiring for the larger inverter, engine generator, solar, and battery bank. Inverter/charger, engine generator, solar panels and controller, and the most expensive item the lithium battery bank with a battery management system. If you plan to camp in cold weather you need to address the possible need for battery heaters depending on where you plan to locate the lithium battery bank.

Bottom line, not a cheap upgrade but price varies considerably depending on the size of the battery bank and the loads.

For the engine generator look at a Nations aux high amp alternator kit with a Balmar voltage regulator.
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Old 06-25-2016, 12:03 PM   #4
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Almost all of the 2-3 year old class B's will be similar in starting point, I think, which is to say you have rip out all that is there and start over.

As was mentioned, you need to first determine what you want to accomplish, both wants and needs, so you can chose the appropriate components and capacities.

Several of us here have opted to not try to run the air conditioning off the batteries, although most would be able to for short periods (pet cooling while shopping, etc). This decision makes the system significantly more simple in design and use, and in most cases makes an autostart unnecessary. Some of us chose to stay with AGM batteries, at least for now, with the the non air conditioner systems, but I think that decision is separate from the rest of the evaluation unless you decide you need to run the AC off batteries and need to have an autostart to keep it going for long hours, as then you would need lithium and autostart.

I think that all of Roadtrek's misadventures in trying to get these new style systems to work right indicates that it is not necessarily easy to do properly. It is also not cheap.

Since you essentially wind up starting from scratch in a retrofit, you may be better off to read the threads on full DIY new conversions on this site. They are full of details about decision making, parts, and how to do.
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Old 06-25-2016, 12:47 PM   #5
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Excellent replies! I started typing this and now see those replies but will post this anyway (apologies in advance for any duplication).

A lot of research and planning is core of the project.

The DIY projects you'll find on this forum fall into several categories:
1. Doing something unique - it's just not available commercially.
2. DIY to use all the best components available - again typically not available in a commercial package.
3. Saving money - usually through DIY labor or finding items on sale.
4. Doing it well - when it is available commercially but you want to make sure the job meets your standards to avoid disappointment.

#3 saving money doesn't necessarily go along with #'s 1,2 & 4.

IMO - you need a good understanding of the feature set you want at project's end prior to starting and you need some technical knowledge, both mechanical and electrical. You need to understand what terms like voltage drop, ampacity, resistance, PWM, MPPT, etc. all mean.

Again, in my opinion, the project would start with the choice of batteries. Batteries can have specific requirements so all of the other components follow from there to meet those specific requirements.

Read through Avanti's, Booster's, Ptourin's, Mojoman's posts as a start to see what items they chose. Many other member have done upgrades along these lines so my apologies to anyone I didn't mention. Avanti & Booster chose AGM batteries & Ptourin & Mojoman chose lithium batteries. IIRC Avanti might be the only one in that group with dual alternators.

In case you are not aware most Underhood Generators are actually just a DC alternator (requires running the van engine) combined with an inverter. I believe Great West Vans had just started to use an actual under-the-hood AC Generator prior to going out of business. It also would require running the van engine.
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Old 06-25-2016, 12:52 PM   #6
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As I recall, Roadtrek toyed with a 120v AC aux engine generator at one point in their evolution to the current configuration but I don't think they ever installed one in a production vehicle, at least I never heard of one...
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Old 06-25-2016, 01:09 PM   #7
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Good memory. The Wendland Etrek promo video from Sept 2012 showed what looked to be a Fabco Power-Mite AC generator. It wasn't shown installed but you'd have to guess that they at least tried it at some point else it would have been just a prop for the video.
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Old 06-25-2016, 01:32 PM   #8
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Lots of good information! Thanks all for sharing your responses. Looks like a complex project and not something I'd want to tackle on my own which brings up the cost significantly.

I looked at an efoy fuel cell for my off road conqueror conquest trailer a few years ago. The technology is amazing and there was a company stateside that made some significant breakthroughs in off the grid power in 2013 but they were quickly acquired by the government and went dark with their product for government-only use.

Lots of amazing tech that poor civilians don't get the luxury of enjoying... At least anytime soon (i.e. gps and sat nav from the last decade)
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Old 06-25-2016, 01:43 PM   #9
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Good memory. The Wendland Etrek promo video from Sept 2012 showed what looked to be a Fabco Power-Mite AC generator. It wasn't shown installed but you'd have to guess that they at least tried it at some point else it would have been just a prop for the video.
My brain seems to retain trivial technical info forever but I can't remember more than 4 things on a shopping list or remember anything short term. Getting old has its issues...
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Old 06-25-2016, 01:49 PM   #10
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My brain seems to retain trivial technical info forever but I can't remember more than 4 things on a shopping list or remember anything short term. Getting old has its issues...
"EATS" Engineer's Associative Thinking Syndrome

They implant it in you someplace around your junior year.

How do you get all the way up to 4 items on the list?
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