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Old 02-27-2021, 01:45 AM   #1
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Default Solar or just more battery?

I bought a 1991 LER Industries conversion on a 1990 Dodge B350 5.9L. I got it cheap and have already done a round with the mechanic to get that up to speed. I'm working on interior cosmetics and adjustments for my purposes, which will be living in it for at least a few months, maybe longer, maybe much longer, while I tour the states. My intent is to mostly boondock and stealth with rarer stops in campgrounds with hookups. I've still got $3-5k in the budget to get it livable and will be heading back to the rv guys.

I have a million questions, but will begin with asking, if I should add solar or if just upping the battery power will suffice, if I intend to be driving most days? There could be occasional two or three day stops with less driving, but I should mostly be driving at least a couple of hours a day.

Of course, if any of you want to offer whatever general things a newbie might miss or want to consider, please have at it. I've got a ton to learn and honestly reading some of these posts on the electrical might as well be Chinese to me, but I hope to learn, as I have the time.

Thanks in advance.
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Old 03-07-2021, 05:21 PM   #2
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It really depends on how you think you'll need to use the unit, meaning what you want to run, and for how long, in terms of electrical equipment. Will you need furnace running (this is a huge draw for the fan). Generally recommended is to make a list of the wattage draw of items (then divide by 12 or so to get amps used) X how long running for each item. This defines the amp-hours total draw per day. You can only use 1/2 of a lead acid battery's available amp hours rating without damaging it/shortening life. Re solar, it depends also on how much, and can you run some of the loads during daytime when Solar is available.
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Old 03-07-2021, 09:00 PM   #3
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Just NEVER go to Camping World in Kissimmee Florida. Just started thus practised as year before last I had almost $1,000.00 repair job. But now, they will not work on anything 20 years or older! Left me hanging on month long trip without refrigerator. Lazy Days RV glad to work on.
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Old 03-07-2021, 09:12 PM   #4
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Just NEVER go to Camping World in Kissimmee Florida. Just started this practised as year before last. I had almost $1,000.00 repair job on our 1995 Dodge 3500 Xplorer Class B. But now, they will not work on anything 20 years or older! Left me hanging on month long trip without refrigerator. Lazy Days RV glad to work on.
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Old 03-07-2021, 10:31 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KennyG View Post
It really depends on how you think you'll need to use the unit, meaning what you want to run, and for how long...
In addition to a furnace, having any of compressor fridge, induction cooktop, hair dryers, laptops, or computer monitors will also make a big difference in your daily power consumption.

Also relevant is whether or not you have excess capacity in your existing alternator.
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Old 03-08-2021, 12:28 AM   #6
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Default Third Option

Get a small portable generator or a second alternator under the hood.
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Old 03-08-2021, 03:02 PM   #7
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Thanks for the response.

I'm honestly unsure how to determine the wattage I'll use, but know I want my fridge to keep running. I should be chasing weather and know I won't use the ac, but for the rarer stops at campgrounds, but want the furnace to run through the night, if I do get caught in chilly. I'd like to be able to use the microwave, too, but I'm planning to use the propane and/or cook outside the van for the most part. I want to be able to charge a few things and making a pot of coffee could help me stay human.

Can you generalize a bit for me? What would be your set up on batteries and solar to manage some use and charging devices for someone conscious and working to minimize usage? My thought is 100ah to 200ah of non-acid battery and 175-200watt solar from what I've read so far.

I'm asking this, so I'm better informed and able to communicate and negotiate, when I bring my van back to the rv guy in the next few days.
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Old 03-08-2021, 03:14 PM   #8
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and these are the things that are currently just over my head, not having the kind of knowledge of electronics or rv experience. i have an old working, at least for as long as i've run it so far, two way fridge, but that is actually another piece of what i'm after, whether to upgrade to a three way. more generally, i imagine i'll only be a campgrounds for the honey wagon and occasional showers, so although i intend to be as conservative on power as can be, i'd also like to have enough to boondock/stealth and still maintain internet, know i can use the furnace overnight, if i do get caught in colder than i expect with chasing weather, make a morning pot of coffee, and charge camera batteries and other small appliances like a flashlight and hand vac. giving you that much with your experience and my input of wanting to keep it as cheap as possible, but being willing to spend to overcome my ignorance and inexperience, what would you choose as a setup and what would you expect it to cost. i saw a renogy kit for about $450 that has two 100watt flexible panels that'd have to be jerryrigged a bit to fit on my roof over the tiering up of the fiberglass rise of the top, but think maybe getting a 175watt single panel that would fit with no jerry rig, but will be more expensive, since they aren't selling it as a kit. i know i'll have to add an inverter and batteries, but it's trying to steal experience from here to guide my purchasing and discussion with the ry guy before i get to him. thanks!
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Old 03-08-2021, 03:21 PM   #9
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my inexperience on this forum is also showing, i think, since i don't think my replies are going to who they were meant for, so i should've quoted them, but hopefully you all can see my lack of knowledge and experience and, i'll add, my limited time to get fully up to speed on this stuff, so that maybe you'll get more what i'm after to be able to suggest what you would probably do and expect to pay for it, if you were in my shoes.

i truly appreciate the responses, because i really am way out of my depth on a ton of this and the manual that came with my van is less than thorough.

i've contemplated a generator and might get one, but it'll also be for occasion and with the downside of having to keep it and any gas can i'd carry for it on the inside of the van, since a good part of what i'm going to be doing is stealth camping in urban areas.

i'd never heard of a second alternator, so i'll do more research on that and that will be part of my discussion with the rv guy, but i'll take any more you all can throw at me with what i'm offering about my intended uses without me being able to be as specific as you all.

thanks again for what you've already given and in advance for any more you might bounce back with.
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Old 03-08-2021, 04:18 PM   #10
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Hi, there is two approach in answering your question, a) figure it out with insider real experience or theorical approach.
If you are really into boondocking most of the time , solar is a no brainer, but how much solar is the real question
First replace all obsolete (energy consuming) accessories with energy efficient ones
In the theorical approach, one must extract the energy consumption figures required by each accessory , so you need to establish the level of comfort vs energy available that you can live with.
This level of comfort will tell you if your boondocking goal is achievable, for example, using the air conditioning system is out of question unless you have a generator
Make a chart, for each accessory you must figure out the wattage /hour ( Volts x Amp) of the accessory, then apply the correct duty factor ( hours or minutes that the component will be in use on a 24 hours period), this will add up to a certain amount of watts.For example the water pump would draw around 6 amp/hour full time ( 6 A x 12V=72 watts) but since it is only running for typical short periods (like 20 times in a 24hours frame ) of 30 seconds, this would amount to 600 seconds or 10 minutes, then your watt requirement would be 72 watts-hour / 6 , or 12 watts and this would reverse back to 1 amp @12v total for the day.
A small refrigerator with a Danfoss compressor would easily draw 2 amp/hour and run close to a 75% duty factor in mild temperature , so this would need close to 36A for a 24hr. time frame, and would draw 20A just to go through the night part.
Doing the exercice will quickly show you the limit of using 120vac appliances
Once you know your total needs for the day, you will be able to figure out your storage capacity (battery amp) taking in consideration , like one member just mentioned that Lead Acid batteries would only give you 50% of their rated capacity .
This method should allow you to select the proper solar installation.
As for experience, I personally run my RV without AC.
Here is a list of my accessories: water pump (sink, shower and toilet), 16 led lights, Suburban water heater, Laptop computer with dc charger, cell phone, small car vacuum cleaner, 2 rechargeable electronic book readers, Suburban space heater (only for short periods)
Solar and storage: single 250 watts solar panel, MPPT controller and 225 A Trojan Battery
After a long night I can read 12.16 Volts as the battery state and this would resume to full charge around 9:00 AM on a sunny day. Last fall we tested the system and were able to boondock for a period of 4 rainy and cloudy days and could have stayed longer.
Hope this helps
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Old 03-08-2021, 04:21 PM   #11
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I would start with two, 6 volt AGM, Group GC-2 batteries, wired in series. This would give a bit over 200 amp-hours (AH) with 100 AH usable. Your van is old enough that your converter (battery charger) may not play well with AGM batteries. I would install a combo pure sine wave (PSW) inverter converter of at least 1000 watts. The inverter will allow you run 120V items. Your biggest power drain will be the furnace blower. If you're following "cool" weather it won't run much. If you're planning on driving a few hours every day the house batteries should recharge, as long as you have a battery isolator installed. If you're planning on staying put for a few days, you could always add a couple more GC-2 batteries (GC-2 stands for Golf Cart, which are very common and easy to find). I would hold off on the solar until you get some camping hours under your belt.
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Old 03-08-2021, 05:22 PM   #12
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Default Regarding you budget

I would suggest buying two Lithium batteries and adding the alternator w. regulator to one that will charge the lithium battery. This will charge your battery much faster and give you more usable energy than two 6v AGMs. If your budget is too tight, perhaps buy one Lithium battery, you could always add a 2nd at a later date. Solar is nice, but I would consider it elective. Driving would provide much better charging rates.
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Old 03-09-2021, 12:52 PM   #13
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thank you ALL! i'm in the midst of another steep learning curve right now trying to counter an offer on our fsbo sale of my mother's house, but you've given me great points to research a bit more, so I can work intelligently with my rv guy, whose earlier response about upgrading appliances was more wary with his point being that they don't make things like they used to, so hopefully i can find the information on the draws of what i have existing and do some of your exercises, but really appreciate the feedback on the charging that traveling will offer, since that is the real part i've found difficult to get information on, since most of what i've found just seems to assume the move straight into solar that didn't seem altogether completely necessary to me.

that said, i think my budget can handle it, so i still might go ahead and pull the trigger on the solar, because i think i can make adjustments to manage my power consumption on the road by using less, but don't want to get stuck just being entirely under powered. your generalizations and offers of what you think will get me there are hugely helpful, too, since i know trying to trust my own determinations of what i'm going to draw will be at best slightly more informed guessing.

big big thanks and on to a little more research before calling my rv guy and settling on a plan.

now, if someone could just take me a couple months back in time to stop me from buying an off brand gas guzzler, but i think i'm just earning my nom de rv with that one and my original price has me fine with it as long as it doesn't just quit on me in campo turning into a mobile home and me back into my ancestral trailer park trash. all good. thanks again.
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