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Old 12-24-2017, 07:29 PM   #1
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I see people choosing between solar and batteries and LED's and 120v. Can you really have the solar without having 120v capabilities also. Surely there will be occasions where you'll want to plug in 120v appliances. Granted there are inverters to run 120v items, but aren't you limited to what wattage items you can use. If you completely off grid a generator can handle the needs of any 120v item. What the advantage to one over the other?
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Old 12-24-2017, 07:37 PM   #2
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Well, obviously the solar power is free following the setup costs. If it's sunny every day where you are, you're good to go. The generator is often the backup for poor solar performance, or maybe a lifeliine for those of us that don't go solar at all.

I like the idea of a house battery system that uses generator or alternator power to charge up, in combination with LEDs and other low power options.
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Old 12-24-2017, 07:46 PM   #3
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I found this thread that helps a bit, but doesn't address all my questions.

http://www.skoolie.net/forums/f10/wh...m-13998-3.html

I checked out solar power for my home for the money saving benefit of the system. After figuring initial cost I found it would take about 15+ years before I saw any savings benefit. I personally think a good quiet Honda generator is the way to go and set up most of the inside stuff on 12v using batteries and having 120v receptacles for 120v stuff using the inverter or generator. That way no issues with not having sun. I picture in my mind having a bunch of solar panels on my roof and ending up in a freak hail storm destroying every bit of it.
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Old 12-24-2017, 07:59 PM   #4
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I found this thread that helps a bit, but doesn't address all my questions.
I checked out solar power for my home for the money saving benefit of the system. After figuring initial cost I found it would take about 15+ years before I saw any savings benefit. I personally think a good quiet Honda generator is the way to go and set up most of the inside stuff on 12v using batteries and having 120v receptacles for 120v stuff using the inverter or generator. That way no issues with not having sun. I picture in my mind having a bunch of solar panels on my roof and ending up in a freak hail storm destroying every bit of it.
It's not quite the same calculation for an RV.

Whichever way you cut it, runny a genny is noisy, expensive and inconvenient. You can reduce those factors to a minimum, but they all apply.

Also, a 4-600W system will go a very long way to increasing your off-grid potential, and keep genny use to a minimum. We are not talking about a 5-7kW grid-tied installation here.

There are costs involved, and solar will be one of the last things on my list, but it is on the list and I'll design an electrical system that can easily be expanded to accommodate it.

Unless you are caught in baseball-sized hail, then hail will not hurt your panels.
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Old 12-24-2017, 08:04 PM   #5
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Anyone ever run a second alternator off the motor to charge the cabin batteries?
While Honda generators are a bit pricier than other brands, they are quite quiet and fuel efficient and small enough to be not inconvenient.
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Old 12-24-2017, 08:05 PM   #6
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Old 12-24-2017, 08:10 PM   #7
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Anyone ever run a second alternator off the motor to charge the cabin batteries?
Jeez!, as if I don't already have enough belts

So the bus uses a few amps to run the systems, and a few more at night or if you have all the heaters running. Most buses have 130 Amp alternators (or many do). Upgrading that to 230 Amps is probably an easier option, and it would give plenty of overhead for charging house batteries.

You can get automatic switches that will only switch in the house batteries when the engine is running. However, the problem is that the alternator will be regulated to 14.2-14.4 Volts.

That isn't enough for bulk-charging flooded lead/acid Trojan batteries (a common fitment). They require a charge rate at 14.8 Volts and can go as high as 15.3 Volts if temperature is monitored.

The Magnum chargers will do this, as will the AIMS Inverter/Chargers. So if it's possible, the best way to do it would be to arrange it so that the excess current from your alternator was used to power your multi-stage charger.

I have yet to look at the wiring for that set-up.
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Old 12-24-2017, 08:22 PM   #8
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With the right gear you can run a single 250 - 300 amp alt and drive most anything while charging multiple batteries.
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Old 12-24-2017, 09:37 PM   #9
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If you had a alternator driven system like that, would the batteries charge up in two or three hours of driving or would it take eight or ten hours? If your average set of four house batteries were down to 70% after fairly heavy overnight use, would they charge up during a couple hours of drive time with a large alternator or do they require a slow charge? I guess I'm asking about a safe charge rate without knowing the right terms.
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Old 12-26-2017, 06:42 AM   #10
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I see people choosing between solar and batteries and LED's and 120v. Can you really have the solar without having 120v capabilities also. Surely there will be occasions where you'll want to plug in 120v appliances. Granted there are inverters to run 120v items, but aren't you limited to what wattage items you can use. If you completely off grid a generator can handle the needs of any 120v item. What the advantage to one over the other?
o1marc, it is your conversion, you can build it any way you want - to solve whatever need/want you have. Having a complete plan/mission in mind is important. The type of camping/living that you plan will have significant impact on the systems/components that you install.

I've lived almost entirely off solar power for the last several years and I have 12 VDC, 24 VDC, 120 VAC systems. I do not even own a generator any longer because I dislike them so much. Admittedly, I stay in areas with good solar insolation. A good quiet one with a bit of sound deflection is a wonderful thing but many people choose to save money and get a loud one - staying within about a mile of these people drives me crazy. Many folks think that a generator is less expensive than solar but I don't believe it. A generator costs money and continues to consume money (fuel and maintenance). Additionally, they can be hard on your batteries unless you run them the many hours necessary to fully charge your batteries (repeated partial charges) - they then become even more expensive and annoying. I can spend weeks/months in the forest and the loudest noise I make is my water pump - it is a wonderful experience.

Charging your batteries from an engine driven alternator may be ok when driving (arguably) but to run the bus engine while sitting still only to charge the batteries is very wasteful and some engine manufacturers do not recommend this type of operation.
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