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Old 06-13-2023, 03:08 PM   #1
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Join Date: Oct 2021
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Need some solar guidance.

I have a 2000 Freightliner/Thomas 24' bus I am converting and I am to the point of finalizing my electrical plans and I am finding myself indecisive about how I should proceed. I'm building my bus out as a camper with the primary use being long weekends and the occasional longer trip. We think most of the places we will go will have hookups or we can suck it up like tent camping when they are not available. My family consist of two adults and two elementary age kids (plus what ever friends they have tagging along). The bus is built out with two queen beds (bunks), a dinette (converts to a twin bed), 40 gallon fresh/40 gray, water pump, Separett Villa 9215 with AC/DC fan, Maxxair Deluxe Fan, 12v LED lighting, ICECO VL75 ProD Portable Refrigerator, and a Pioneer 22 Seer 12K BTU mini split (plan to run only on hookup), and the factory bus road ac. I know a lot of this info isn't relevant to what I'm going to ask but I want to give an idea of my overall direction for my build.

Early on I had a roughy idea of what I wanted to achieve with my solar setup so I have been buying parts when they were on sale and tried to keep in mind I wanted to be able to upgrade later if I found a need, so I have the following items:
Renogy 200w of Solar
Renogy 40 amp MPPT Solar charge controller
Renogy 40 amp DC-DC charger

I need sufficient power to run the Maxxfan as needed, the toilet fan 24/7, the LEDs and the fridge as needed. I'm shooting for spending around $1000 to purchase the remaining components, which will includes a battery and brings me to my question. How is the remainder of my budget best spent?

The options I was think were as follows:
  1. Buy a 12V 200Ah LiFePO4 with hope our limited use can be maintained with the combination of solar and engine charging I already own. (I could always add additional solar or an AC charger if needed)
  2. Buy a 12V 100Ah LiFePO4 with an additional 200w of solar panels (400w total).

I'm also not against bring a generator as I never expected to be 100% solar dependent. I am also open to non-LiFePO4 batteries if it's the best way to meet my goals.

Is this obtainable? Other options I should consider? I have wiggle room in my budget if I need it.

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Old 06-13-2023, 04:07 PM   #2
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Your design is similar to mine!

I've got a 280 AH LiFePo battery powered by 450 watts of solar and it covers the electrical needs for 3-4 days boondocking, fridge, fans, laptops, lights etc.

Option 2, a smaller battery, will quickly get old if your actual usage is always maxxing out. A 100 AH LiFePo will give you 80 usable amp hours and if your usage is close to that, the battery will be more exercised than the larger one, potentially reducing its life faster than the same one with greater capacity (where usage is a smaller percentage of battery capacity).

Option 1, larger battery with limited solar recharge will always cover the first day or two assuming it's charged and ready to go when you start out. A larger battery also makes you less dependent on every day being a bright sunny one, assuming your current solar can replenish pretty consistently. For my money I'd go with the larger battery. Ideally you'd also (soon) get an additional couple hundred watts of solar on the roof, but if you have to choose, I'd shoot for the bigger battery.

The DCDC charger will help if you're travelling and have decent drive times between (relatively) short stops. And monitoring usage and being prepared for more frugal use of power on cloudy days is the norm at these system sizes anyway. I still haven't hooked up the DCDC charger in mine.

I have a 12K split system, which only runs on generator or shore power, and I've done some fancy work with transfer switches and circuits so the single shore power plug feeds both onboard household circuits and (separately, and only from shore power) the split system.
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Old 06-13-2023, 11:07 PM   #3
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First, thanks for including system voltage when you (both) discussed amp hours. It's a pet peeve when people say they have X amp hours of battery but don't state the voltage as without voltage it's meaningless.



If you're considering going LifePo I would highly recommend Signature Solars batteries. We have two "rack mount" EG4LL's and they're 202 pounds and 10kWh total, but about $3500 for the two. They have 100ah 12v models (1.2kWh) that are waterproof, have built in BMS with bluetooth connectivity to an Apple or Android phone with their APP. They're $100 right now for just $449 which is a heck of a deal. Those are regular battery size (10.2" x 6.6" x 8.2") and weigh just 22 pounds.

The literature on the website says they're tested to 7000 cycles (19.5 years) (to 80% DOD) and that if you fully discharge and charge them every day they'll go 15 years.
Here's the link to those (no affiliation): https://signaturesolar.com/eg4-wp-li...ry-12v-100ahs/


As for additional solar panels, I would suggest checking CraigsList for used commercial panels that were removed for upgrade. We bought 290W panels that were removed for upgrade and were 5 years old. We bought 12 and got them for just $110ea. The Renogy stuff is cheap consumer grade and I'm told they're pretty poor stuff. But they market heavily and have ready made kits so they do get a lot of sales.


With the usage you described I'd get one of the Signature Solar batteries (two would be better as it's nice to have some extra capacity for those times you're in the shade or it's overcast) and one or two higher output commercial panels with a solar controller for those separate from the Renogy gear. That gives redundance and the ability to compare. Perhaps adjust for your budget.
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Old 06-14-2023, 07:45 PM   #4
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Rucker that's exactly the kind of feed back I was hoping for, thank you!
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Old 06-14-2023, 08:36 PM   #5
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Join Date: Apr 2020
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Chassis: Ford E450
Engine: V10 Gas
As HamSkoolie notes, Craigslist is great for used solar panels. Just be sure to know what your current solar setup so you buy equipment that is easily added (when combined iwth existing panels won't max out solar charge controller peak amps or volts inputs).
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