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Old 10-17-2021, 04:18 AM   #1
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Default Electic only, no propane Rialta

Hi everyone,

I'm restoring a 95 Rialta, and I am toying with the idea (ie, doing my homework) on the possibility of removing the propane all together and running everything from batteries.

I would have a few standard items in the RV (microwave, fridge, induction cooktop, hot water heater), and I suppose I'm looking for opinions on whether it's reasonable or not to attempt this.

To get the first question out of the way, why would I do this.. well for the simple fact that I've always considered propane to be dangerous and (if used often enough) expensive to refill over and over.

So as an exercise in what's possible, I'm trying to figure out if I could add enough solar panels to be able to collect / feed enough energy to a series of house batteries to be sustainable.

In a worst case scenario, I imagine I could potentially be in enough places day to day that wouldn't have any sort of power hookup, I'd have to generate enough power from the solar panels (or use the generator) to be totally self sufficient.

Here's a few questions I have.

- Could I generate enough power (from the solar panels alone) to reasonably keep the fridge running 24/7 and use the other appliances (cooktop, microwave, water heater), sparingly?

- Could I possibly have the fridge running and use the cooktop, to prepare meals on batteries alone, or would I need to break out the generator?

- How often would I need to break out the generator (I'm looking at a predator low noise model) to reasonably be able to use stuff together?

For the purposes of this discussion, here's a few of the appliances I'm considering:

Truckfridge TF 49 fridge - Average consumption: 40 amps/24hrs at 75į F ambient with an internal temperature of 36į F, 278watts over 24hrs.

Induction cooktop - variable, depending on power settings, 100w to 1800w (max power setting)

Tankless water heater (Bosch 4 gal / minute) - 1440 watts, 120volts

Microwave - 900-1400 watts (depending on model).

So the watt needs sound pretty high once you add them all up, but again, not all of these things would be used simultaneously.

So how nuts am I, contemplating this idea? I welcome all opinions from Sure, that will work, to You're an idiot, this is a fruitless exercise.

Thanks!
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Old 10-17-2021, 04:51 AM   #2
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Just an opinion but batteries do not contain enough energy to heat quantities of water and replace a furnace. Only chemical energy can do that. If you want to replace propane you would need to replace propane with the gasoline in the fuel tank.

Webasto is a brand for a gasoline furnace. Truma is a brand for gasoline water and furnace but they only sell to manufacturers. Can’t blame them, it is a tough install. There is another brand that heats water and air, maybe Eberspacher. Forget about batteries heating an air space.

Gasoline furnaces are more trouble prone than propane furnaces. They carbon up at altitude and the carbon needs to be cleaned out occasionally. Just an opinion.

Personally I’m adding a gasoline Webasto to reduce the number of propane fill ups. Haven’t done it yet as everything is back ordered but I’m set to go if it ever arrives.

Is gasoline safer than propane? Probably. In my case it is just adding risk.
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Old 10-17-2021, 09:24 AM   #3
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Hmm, that's interesting. I wasn't sure if energy stored in batteries would be enough to do it, perhaps it's not.

If it's not, the gasoline solution seems like it's more challenging to setup, so I guess I'd stick with propane, but propane has always spooked me a bit. Nothing wrong with exploring options, yeah?
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Old 10-17-2021, 11:54 AM   #4
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One of the leading cause of RV fires is from the LP fridge. Both for that reason and better performance a 12 volt fridge is desirable.

The LP tank itself is quite robust, they can really take a beating. Especially compared to the gas tank.

As far as the water heater, take a good look at the heating specs. If you have chilly water in the fresh tank warm/hot water will not happen. Aside from that tankless water heaters are problematic for boondocking unless we're talking Truma or similar, from what I've heard.
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Old 10-17-2021, 02:13 PM   #5
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First off I think you need to start dealing in the right units so you can directly compare battery capacity, daily recovery, daily usage. Watt over a tie period like a day are watt-hrs, and amps over a time period are amp-hours and directly comparable to battery specs for capacity. For instance, you frig would use 40 amp hours per day, or half of the usable capacity of 100 amp hour lead acid battery.


You would need to total up all your usages and compared them to what you would recover from the solar. Figure something like 30 amp hours per day per 100 watt panel in good sun and as low as 5 amp hours per day in low sun.


It is very, very, unlikely you will be anywhere near having enough solar to make a dent in your use if all electric. Heat, water heating, and cooking can use up a lot of power in a hurry.


I think the only way you will be able to go all electric would be to use the generator for the high use items, although the heat will tough because you won't want to run the generator overnight. For water heating and cooking, using the generator is not a big deal. Solar will be able to cover the rest, including the frig, but you will probably need at least 200 amp hours of battery to account for bad sun conditions.



Personally, I am not afraid of propane as long as there are not old flexible lines in the system. It could be off all the time except when you needed heat. Flared copper tubing appears to be much more durable in RVs. I would choose propane over a gasoline furnace for reliability and hazard but the gasoline would give you more run time without refilling. Either source would use some electric power, but that should not be too hard to cover. Either type would also need to have a good, up to date, combustible gas detector installed in the van to give early warning of a leak.


I just don't know how you would do heat on all electric without excessive generator use.
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Old 10-17-2021, 03:27 PM   #6
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We have an all electric Class B - - so it can be done. But we have several things going for us that you might not be able to duplicate.

First, we have 810 watts of solar. Our peak recovery days have netted 5.3kwh/day; 4 kwh/day is not uncommon especially during early summer in southern latitudes. Generally during the summer, on sunny days, we can anticipate 3kwh/day. Of course, find those clouds or shade and production can drop to nearly zero.

We have a combo 125 amp charger/3,000 watt sine wave inverter. This is a great way to recharge your house batteries when shore power is available. And, of course, the inverter supplies all the 120volt power we require. We have run the inverter at 3kw . . . but mostly by mistake. We take the precaution of running just one high current appliance at a time. Thus, we keep our battery current loads generally below 150 amperes.

For the loads that you propose, it is our opinion that lithium is a prerequisite and nothing less than 200ah. We have 500 ahs of lithium and that has served us well, we rarely dip below 50% State of Charge.

But this brings us to our Ďace in the holeí, we have installed a second (280amp) alternator with an external regulator. For reasons including alternator temperature control we limit the current from this alternator to 150-175 amperes.

The beauty of this second alternator approach is that one can recharge their batteries in a rain storm, under cover of tree, or boon-docking simply by idling the vehicle engine. In truth we do this very little. However, if weíre boon-docking and are anticipating an energy balance issue, we simply turn-on this second alternator for those few minutes when weíre running the high current items thus largely (or completely) conserving our batteries for later use.

If a second alternator isnít practical, you could add a robust B to B converter which will provide similar results - - but at a lesser current level.

We do not believe our all electric solution is satisfactory for air conditioning or all electric heating. We limit the use of such Ďcontinuously-runningí high current loads to shore power locations.
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Old 10-17-2021, 03:46 PM   #7
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Hi Winston, your solar recovery is impressive, especially since it is net to the batteries and not generated at the solar controller.


You may want to let the OP how you do the hot water, heat and cooking stuff in you setup.
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Old 10-17-2021, 04:58 PM   #8
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It is possible to push a battery system to supply energy to electric appliances except space heating, practically it is a red line, a 1kAh batteries red line.

Going all electric is a trend, todayís trend primarily in the B-class.
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Old 10-17-2021, 05:49 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GeorgeRa View Post
It is possible to push a battery system to supply energy to electric appliances except space heating, practically it is a red line, a 1kAh batteries red line.

Going all electric is a trend, todayís trend primarily in the B-class.

I agree, and that is a big expensive battery bank plus you need the charging capacity to refill it in a reasonable amount of time.


Everybody needs to remember that many/most of the "all electric" vans we hear about really mean "no propane". The heat and hot water are commonly done with the vehicle fuel in either diesel or gasoline.
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Old 10-17-2021, 07:32 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by booster View Post
I agree, and that is a big expensive battery bank plus you need the charging capacity to refill it in a reasonable amount of time.


Everybody needs to remember that many/most of the "all electric" vans we hear about really mean "no propane". The heat and hot water are commonly done with the vehicle fuel in either diesel or gasoline.
I agree, and letís not forget that diesel and gasoline appliances are far more finicky to live with than propane gas powered units. Propane comes into appliances as gas, it doesnít need to be pumped in liquid phase nor heated to change phase from liquid to gas. Any air in 1-1.5mm ID tubing intake to my Espar D2 or D5 kills them. Combustion chambers and glow plug mesh needs to be clean/change often in diesel units. Some run kerosene to keep them clean, in summary - headaches.

Propane combustion chambers are clean which is not the case with diesel or gasoline (my experience with gasoline powered furnace is from 1985 and it was awful).

My prediction is that Truma propane powered space and water heater combo will become a very popular option in NA market.
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Old 10-17-2021, 09:24 PM   #11
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I agree, and letís not forget that diesel and gasoline appliances are far more finicky to live with than propane gas powered units. Propane comes into appliances as gas, it doesnít need to be pumped in liquid phase nor heated to change phase from liquid to gas. Any air in 1-1.5mm ID tubing intake to my Espar D2 or D5 kills them. Combustion chambers and glow plug mesh needs to be clean/change often in diesel units. Some run kerosene to keep them clean, in summary - headaches.

Propane combustion chambers are clean which is not the case with diesel or gasoline (my experience with gasoline powered furnace is from 1985 and it was awful).

My prediction is that Truma propane powered space and water heater combo will become a very popular option in NA market.

I am totally onboard with the benefits of propane over most other sources. Only downside is less runtime available than with van fuel in most cases. My point was mainly that many readers misinterpret the term "all electric" in a van that is not "all electric". All electric by definition gets very, very difficult to because of the heat or AC factors.
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Old 10-17-2021, 09:39 PM   #12
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Hi:
I have a 2016 PW Lexor TS. Upgraded and installed 800Ah of lithium with Victron 3000 watt/12 volt inverter. We usually just drive to campsite and park for 4 nights before departing.
Installed the new quiet air conditioner and wanted to be able run if from battery bank which we can.
In process of upgrading to new Onan 2.8 Kw inverter generator.
Still have/use propane for water heater and heating.
Will be changing out the 3 way refrigerator to compressor(conversion kit).

Propane for heating is more efficient. Our air conditioner has heat pump mode. Using electric to heat the van is very inefficient. Uses about 1400watt but can be done. Last week ran the heat pump to heat up living area. It works but is inefficient. Turned on propane heater and within a couple minutes, cabin was warm. Electric took over 10-15 minutes to slowly work. Electric is great for cooling stuff like food or running the air conditioner but heating? Not so much. Just my opinion.
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Old 10-17-2021, 10:00 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FlootloseNFree View Post
To get the first question out of the way, why would I do this.. well for the simple fact that I've always considered propane to be dangerous and (if used often enough) expensive to refill over and over.
If you had to build a lithium iron system from scratch, with enough solar to make a real attempt to keep up, youíd spend $5k or more. And that could be low. LiFePO4 battery, charge controller, remote for the controller, inverter/charger (pure sine wave), solar panels, and cabling. At the $3.50/gallon I last paid for propane, and considering I have just under 10 gallons useable under my van, I could buy 1425 gallons of propane, or fill it 150 times from empty. Thatís at no additional cost since the propane system is already there.

As to safety, a quality propane and CO detector/alarm can warn you of leaks inside the van, and a solenoid valve on the tank allows you to shut the gas off when youíre not actually using it, like boats have. I have a switch, but itís under the little door that covers the fill port. Iím going to add another inside the van, wired in series with the outdoor switch, so I can shut it off from inside when I donít need propane (saves battery power, too).

Quality hoses (propane compatible) with clean, tight connections donít leak. Replace any hoses that arenít in top condition. Propane is heavier than air, so any leaks not in the cabin are low risk anyway, but between the mercaptan smell and soapy water connection testing thereís no reason you canít be assured of a tight system.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FlootloseNFree View Post
Here's a few questions I have.

- Could I generate enough power (from the solar panels alone) to reasonably keep the fridge running 24/7 and use the other appliances (cooktop, microwave, water heater), sparingly?
I can do that, and more, with 600Ah of battery and 300W of solar. Solar will keep the fridge running indefinitely with any decent amount of sun, and while cloudy days can drop the current to 2-3A (15A with solid sun), even thatís just about enough to keep up with the fridge/freezer as long as I shut off parasitic loads, like the inverter and propane solenoid valve and some other small things.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FlootloseNFree View Post
- Could I possibly have the fridge running and use the cooktop, to prepare meals on batteries alone, or would I need to break out the generator?
I do that often. But again, I have 600Ah LiFePO4, which can handle a large load for a long time (including the roof A/C). Driving will bring it back up in a few hours with the 280A second alternator. 300W of solar helps if itís sunny, but itís a trickle compared to the outflow.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FlootloseNFree View Post
- How often would I need to break out the generator (I'm looking at a predator low noise model) to reasonably be able to use stuff together?
Depends on what you use, how you use it, and how many of those things are running at once.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FlootloseNFree View Post
Truckfridge TF 49 fridge - Average consumption: 40 amps/24hrs at 75į F ambient with an internal temperature of 36į F, 278watts over 24hrs.
Somethingís not right with those numbers. 40Ah/24h works out to average 1.67A at 12V. Thatís averaged over the whole 24 hours, though obviously the fridge cycles. But 278W at 12V is 0.97A at 12V, also averaged over 24 hours. They should agree.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FlootloseNFree View Post
So how nuts am I, contemplating this idea? I welcome all opinions from Sure, that will work, to You're an idiot, this is a fruitless exercise.
I donít think itís fruitless but I think it would take a lot to do what you want, and thatís without cabin heat. Or water heat. Any kind of heat takes a lot of energy, even cooking though thatís small scale compared to heating the space or water. As others have suggested, itís hard to beat liquid fuel stored in a tank, and propane is ideal for this sort of thing, which is why boats and RVs usually use it. I only fill the 12 gallon (9.7 usable) tank in mine once a year, and do a lot of driving in winter to places where heat isnít needed. The Truma Combi is a marvelous little device.

My propane tank when full contains about 34.6kWh of energy, or at 12V, thatís 2883Ah of energy, assuming a perfect conversion of propane gas to heat. Thatís would be a huge battery bank even for a Class A, and something would have to charge it back up, or keep up in general. Thatís where you would have to start - how much energy would you actually need over 24 hours, including heat and hot water, and how you can generate it if you donít want to use up what the battery can hold.
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Old 10-21-2021, 07:48 PM   #14
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We have a 99 Rialta. Have been from Inuvic, NWT, and Alaska, to Los Angeles to st Thomas NewFoundland. Have never had a problem with the 3 way fridge, or the passive heat water heater. Installed led lighting throughout. Never had a battery problem. The two coach batteries handled everything we asked of them. Occasional hookup to fill the water tanks and empty the holding tanks. Planning ahead as we traveled worked very well for us.
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Old 10-21-2021, 10:37 PM   #15
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Well thanks everyone for your very detailed answers, this is great, I have learned a lot from reading them.

Ok, I think I'll stick with the standard propane setup, as it does sound like it really will do the job quite well, and trying to remove the propane and go electric only for power, is a complicated / expensive exercise.

Appreciate the wisdom.
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Old 10-29-2021, 01:24 AM   #16
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This guy did just that www.cccgis.com/Rialta
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