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Batteries & Dry Camping


CapeMayAl
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Going to start doing some dry camping - up to a week at a time, maybe a little less.  Dog shows (we show a Cardigan Welsh Corgi), some other events, swap meets, etc.

Currently have 1 12v Interstate deep cycle. About 6 months old, I think, came with this new fiver.

Don't want solar, only because the investment won't pay back for the use we anticipate.

We have 2 Honda gens - eu2000i and the companion.

I've been looking at 2 AGM batteries - Full River or Lifeline.  Maybe 4.

Question comes down to inverter.

  1. Yes - Pure Sine Wave
     
  2. Brand - Magnum or Xantrex - Xantrex is made in China now, but Magnum is still in U.S.
     
  3. Whole house or just one outlet inside.  Currently use 5 outlets, but definitely need one in the bedroom for the cpap.
     
  4. Inverter size - 2k or 3k
     
  5. Inverter - Inverter only, or Inverter/charger.  I believe current converter is 60a, maybe 55.
     
  6. Needs - large flat screen tv, sat dish receiver, portable sat dish (tailgater),2 laptops, 2 table lamps, maybe microwave for heating up, Keurig, fan, cpap
     
  7. Furnace, water pump, frig, water heater all on propane.
     
  8. One location I talked to, who specializes in solar, recommended 2 Lifelines, and Magnum 3k whole house inverter/Charger - $4,800 +/- intalled.  Seems pretty steep to me.  Currently in Yuma until March, heading North on 95 through QZ to Co.

Would welcome recommendations.

Al

 

 

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Magnum 3000w generator is around $1800-$2000(Amazon). 2 Sams Club AGM batteries(105 amp) around $360. Lifeline has higher amps but more $$.  $4800-$2400=$2400, seems like a high labor charge............We have a guy in Glendale(SW Phoenix) who would do it. You can even supply the inverter and the batteries(you will save money if you do this) and they will install. Has a place to plug in if need an overnight.

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Have you done an energy audit to see how much power you really use or need? Since you will still have the generators, you can obviously fall back on those when needed. Do you really need the inverter to cover big items like say a microwave? Most of the items you listed are not big wattage users except for the microwave. I'm not sure if a 2k watt will cover that or not. I'm just thinking that maybe a 3k watt inverter might be a bit overkill and the price of inverters does go up as you go up more in wattage.  I do believe the higher wattage ones use more power too, even under lighter loads?  

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I was concerned about the labor charge too.

The price I was quoted was installed with cables, controller, miscellaneous items, and labor.  I was taken back by that.

1 hour ago, SWharton said:

Magnum 3000w generator is around $1800-$2000(Amazon). 2 Sams Club AGM batteries(105 amp) around $360. Lifeline has higher amps but more $$.  $4800-$2400=$2400, seems like a high labor charge............We have a guy in Glendale(SW Phoenix) who would do it. You can even supply the inverter and the batteries(you will save money if you do this) and they will install. Has a place to plug in if need an overnight.

Who is in SW Phoenix?  I'll give him a call.

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1 hour ago, ALLOY said:

Alloy, I've seen your other posts on Victron.  Are they a good choice?

The solar place also carried Kaco inverter.  Never heard of them before.  They said it was a "throw-away" when it goes.  I don't think Kaco is the right name, seemed to me they said something like "kasis".

 

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29 minutes ago, BlueLghtning said:

Have you done an energy audit to see how much power you really use or need? Since you will still have the generators, you can obviously fall back on those when needed. Do you really need the inverter to cover big items like say a microwave? Most of the items you listed are not big wattage users except for the microwave. I'm not sure if a 2k watt will cover that or not. I'm just thinking that maybe a 3k watt inverter might be a bit overkill and the price of inverters does go up as you go up more in wattage.  I do believe the higher wattage ones use more power too, even under lighter loads?  

Also, with only two batteries, I doubt they would run the microwave.  Looks to me like someone wants to separate you from more of your money than they need to.

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Victron and Magnum are by far the top of the line inverters for the RV market.  They are not exactly cheap, but they work extremely well and have a proven track record.  I highly recommend either of them.  Xantrex is not as good as it used to be, but is still decent for a mid grade inverter.  Kisae inverters or a mid grade inverter that is decent for occasional use (this is probably what the solar place you reference was talking about).

If you are going to run an inverter big enough to power your microwave and other mentioned electronics, you definitely want to upgrade your batteries.  I would go to a minimum of two deep cycle 6 volt and if you have the room, I would say go with four of them.  AGM batteries are very nice (and I highly recommend Fullriver - they are about the best bang for the buck out there in the battery world), but you could easily get by with lead acid batteries at a much lower initial cost for a system like you are describing.  The only real difference is you will have to maintain the lead acid batteries by keeping them watered.  This can be done quite easily and pretty inexpensively with a watering system (but you would still have to remember to do it once a month or so).  

No inverter/battery system is complete without proper monitoring.  Both Victron and Magnum make excellent monitors that can be integrated with the inverter remote control (Victron's can also be used as a stand alone unit with its own monitor).

As for the whole house versus a few inverter plugs, for what you are describing I would recommend going with the whole house.  It is a little more work on the initial install, but in the long run it is much more convenient.  You simply turn the inverter on and everything you want to power will work.  If you install separate inverter powered plugs (which I only recommend for a very limited number of plugs - like two or maybe three), you have to turn the inverter on and physically unplug whatever you want to power from the standard outlet and plug it in to the inverter outlet.  While this isn't horrible, it isn't exactly convenient either.  Depending how many plugs you want to power (and where you want them in your RV), It may actually be more difficult to install them in multiple locations throughout your RV than to install a whole house set up.

I prefer inverter/chargers over separate inverters and converters.  The charger built into most good inverters is typically much better and has more power than a converter.  In other words it will recharge your batteries faster and take better care of them in the long run.  (I am talking Magnum and Victron inverter/chargers and to a lesser extent Xantrex).  Plus you can leave your existing converter in place, but inactive for a back up just in case your inverter ever has an issue.

I have done a number of inverter installs if you would like some feedback.  Feel free to PM me if you want to discuss this in more detail.

If you are half way handy and are not afraid of electrical wiring, an inverter install is actually not that difficult.  I have helped other novices do there own installs as well.

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To re-emphasize another... first and foremost should be an in depth energy audit to determine your actual energy requirements.

A week of dry-camping. You'll likely be happier with 4-6v (or equivalent 400ah+ capacity). 

Inverter- Depends on your intended use. 2000watt's will run your microwave and other similar heavy loads. Not all at once, but remembering you also have your portable gensets for those rare occasions you may require more (ie., aircon).

Brand- In a smaller system there are a wealth of fairly decent stand-alone inverters. That being said... I "am" partial to Magnums in many cases. Made in the U.S., customer service better than most and serviceable without a lot of down-time, however, not especially the best bang for the buck in a stand-alone.

Whole house- I prefer the ease of a whole house with a sub-panel installed. No need to remember what you can use and what you can't, no breaker flipping (and remembering to turn them back on) and no "mistakes". Ie., accidently leaving your converter/charger on while "off-cord"... or forgetting to turn it back on when on-cord and wondering why your batteries aren't charging.

Sans sub-panel, it can be wired directly via a transfer switch or use your trailers shore power cord to plug in directly to your inverter.

Inverter/charger- Depends on which converter you currently have installed. One additional advantage with a combo unit is being able to go with a hybrid.

Needs- Awning? Slide motors? Levellers? Induction hot plate? Portable ice maker? Other kitchen realated devices (blender, toaster, etc.)? Hairdryer? Vacuum?

8- Recommend comment. No mention of which/what size lifelines, but assuming 6v 220ah... 4 lifelines (or full river) and 2k PSW inverter (or magnum hybrid inverter/charger).

Cost... lifelines will run around $320 a pop. Magnum inverter/charger ~$1800. Wiring... call it 2/0... can go for $2.50-$3.00/ft.. Battery cable build could run $20+/ea. for a short. Subpanel, $50. T-fuse, $35-$60. Stand alone DC breaker/disconnect, $55. Inverter/charger remote, battery monitor kit, shunt, temp comp. sensor, battery bus bar, heat shrink, connectors, battery mounts, etc etc.

There is a lot more than you might think that goes into an install. All in, for a full house install with a sub-panel, not accounting for any "problem areas", re-wiring to relocate the batteries(?), et. al.... just in gear you're probably in the $3000-$3200 range. $4500-$4700 would be right around what I would expect to pay for a "professional" install. $4200-$4500 for... "less than professional" could likely be done.

The quote you received isn't "terribly" off. You might be able to talk them down. There may be other factors they have to contend with not mentioned in the OP.

Obviously... doing the install yourself would save you a bundle.

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18 hours ago, CapeMayAl said:

Alloy, I've seen your other posts on Victron.  Are they a good choice?

The solar place also carried Kaco inverter.  Never heard of them before.  They said it was a "throw-away" when it goes.  I don't think Kaco is the right name, seemed to me they said something like "kasis".

 

I've used Magnum before in standalone (no shore power) applications. It is a very good product. I've never never had a reason to call Magnum if that means anything.

I went with Victron in the trailer because I like the idea of having all the parts (battery bank, solar controller, inverter and monitoring) from one supplier.  I haven't pulled the trigger on the Lithium batteries though as the next series of 12V lithium will have a temperature sensing that limits the output from the solar and charger at temps below 32F.  

For amount of power you'll consume my guess the generators will run for 5-6 hours a day which isn't going to win any points with the neighbors.

PCL (premature capacity loss ) in lead acid has several causes.  I'll mention 2.

  • One is under charging which happens with limited (generator time) charging. Bulk charging with the generators and solar for abortion is something to consider.
  • Another is incorrect charge voltage especially with AGM.  A programmable battery charger (not a power supply or by another name, a converter) with temperature compensation  is another consideration.

Lithium is getting more popular and less expensive. Consider designing the system to upgraded later.  The 2x 2000w generators can produce 120A at 12VDC. This means a 400Ah lithium bank can be charge from 25% capacity to 85% in 2 hours.  To put the same 240Ah into lead acid batteries would take a min of 10 hours.... if they don't overheat first.

This is the panel I made yesterday that has the Victon GX display. Above the GX display is the remote for a ProNautic 50 programmable battery charger. 5a6bfa5b00aa3_ControlPanel.jpg.23344280e5495883a64e1438c5325d5a.jpg

 

 

Edited by ALLOY
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  • 1 month later...
30 minutes ago, CapeMayAl said:

Is a sub-panel necessary or just optional?

Optional.

Without one you'll have to do a little breaker flipping. Ie., Shutting off anything you don't want to power via inverter. Make sure your reefer and HW tank are on LP (not auto), set your AirCon such that it won't try and kick on while on the inverter and be aware of your total load capacity. 

Then remember to switch everything back over when your back "on cord".

A subpanel simply automates that process... only allowing power to the items you want to power via inverter and back again without any manual intervention.

Edited by Yarome
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Without a sub-panel you would have to check the internal transfer switch in the inverter/charger to make sure it can handle the full power going through.  For a 50AMP RV that would be 100AMPs of 120volt.  Otherwise you are overloading the transfer switch and that could potentially cause a fire.   Plus it would not be code.  I prefer a subpanel, since then I have circuits not on the inverter I can put a power outage alarm on ($14 from Amazon).

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I live in NY and Vacation 2 weeks every year in a national park.  We use one battery that came with our fifth wheel and and a 4000 watt champion generator for recharging that battery (which usually lasts 5-7 days).  Electrical needs are: water pump, lights, fridge is elec./gas, hydraulics for putting 5vr back on truck. However, it appears that you may have a different power consumption.

David

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Al,  I followed a slightly different path regarding gennys and inverters. It works good for us and install and cost is low. But it is not as convienient as what you propose. 

We use two Honda’s as well. I installed two 1000watt Pure sine wave inverters.  4 ea 6v deep cycle batts. The smaller inverters have almost zero draw in standby and use far less when running for the intended loads  

One is on dedicated fridge circuit (residential Fridge) with an auto transfer switch. 

Another powers the entertainment area with same setup. 

Remote on off inverter switches inside coach  

Also have a 300 watt dedicated to bedroom tv. 

We just use the gennys for heavy draw items as req. usually during routine recharge times anyway. If fire them up as needed   

One thing to keep in mind is whatever you pull out of the batts has to be put back with genny run time. It’s a balance  

We mansge real well and do what we need on this setup just takes a bit of thought. 

We watch TV and movies anytime with no gennys   Fridge is covered  

Our total investment incl a trimetric , wiring , fuses, batts, inverters is under $1200.  Self installed. We did find clearance priced inverters when Magnum took over Xantax. 

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