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Old 07-30-2023, 06:48 AM   #1
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Join Date: Mar 2019
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New to my electric system all was good till now!

Good Morning
Relatively new bus owner here. I purchased the bus already built out. I love it, and after a few very short trips last year, in June I loaded up my dog and drove from New Jersey to WA state and back via Tahoe (where my daughter lives) and Denver (where my son lives). Trip was great. Minor exhaust issue $200 to fix and stopped for new tires in Reno after picking up a screw in front tire. Tires were old and cracked.

Questions:
1. My bus A/C does not work- I was told that compressor and rebuild parts are end of life and difficult to get, and expensive - is this true, can’t I get this fixed?

2. Because the bus AC does not work, before I left on the big trip, I installed (in a side front window) an Ivation 6,500 BTU Camper Air Conditioner, 115V Portable RV AC Unit w/Digital Display. Used it during the entire trip, from NJ to WA state and back even - while driving. This did the trick most of the time, mainly in the back where my dog rode, but I did get pretty hot up front driving on very humid hot days. It worked 100% of the time. Cold at night sleeping!

Since I am home - every time I turn on the the inverter to run the AC unit - as soon as the compressor kicks on, the inverter whines, and power in the bus dims and dies. Inverter turns off. I get an error on the fridge display, but after a few minutes, the fridge works, and the 12v LEDs work too.
The AC unit works fine plugged into an extension cord to my house.

The bus is a 2001 Chevy 3500 dually gas 5.7L V8 with a 4 window Thomas body 47,000 miles. The engine fully tuned up in May.

Electric Build Details:
- 4x100W Monocrystalline Solar Panels
-2x100Ah 12v Lithium Battle Born Batteries
-2000w Renogy Sine Wave Inverter Charger (30A Shore Power Hookup)
-50A Renogy DC-DC Solar Charge Controller/Alternator Charger with bluetooth module
-12v LED Lights
-MaxxFan Deluxe 6200K Manually Operated Roof Vent with Thermostat - Smoke (All Weather)
-Costway 53Qt 12v Fridge
-Diesel Air Heater
-Outlets and USB-C Charger Hookups

I took picks of the displays. Hoping someone can give me an idea of what is going on? Thanks SO much!

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Old 07-30-2023, 08:35 AM   #2
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Location: SW USA
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Year: 2003
Coachwork: IC / Amtran
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Your system is simply not capable of running an air conditioning unit such as the one you're using (or any AC unit, really). The electrical demands are too great for it to keep up with.

I have no idea what the power draw is of the AC unit in question, but since it's designed to run off 110VAC, let's assume a 10A (which is probably a conservative guestimate). 10A*110V= 1100 watts.

You've got 2 batteries, for a total of 200AH (if you ran them all the way down to zero, which you're probably doing now, but should aim to avoid). 200*12(battery voltage)= 2400 watts.

This means that if you started with full batteries, you'd pretty much kill them in 2 hours using nothing other than the AC, if you had no source charging at that time.

But you do have two charging sources. Your solar panels are one. But at 400w combined (which you'll only see a fraction of any given day when skies are clear & sun directly overhead), you're losing - best case scenario - 600w ever hour. And of course they only work when the sun is shining.

The DC-DC charger puts back ~1100 watts at peak output, which means that while your bus is running - especially if you're charging via the panels as well during this time - you might have enough juice to cover your AC expenditure ('might' because I still don't know what your AC actually pulls, or what other loads may be present). Which is why you didn't have problems while driving. But as soon as that charging source is gone (aka bus not running), you're back to a severe energy deficit.

The inverter alarm is something you're going to need to research, but I'm confident it's likely indicating low voltage, and coming on either when your batteries are below a set thresh-hold the inverter stops inverting at, or the battery BMS is actually kicking in from low voltage / excessive draw (resulting in the same thing). Since you say the DC appliances temporarily go dark and then come back on line, I'm inclined to believe it may very well be the BMS kicking in, which then causes the inverter to alarm. But either way it's the same thing, and it's no bueno.

Running your batteries down to zero charge on a regular basis is absolutely, positively going to shorten their lifespan considerably. You're murdering your batteries trying to run your AC the way you have been.

Unless you grow your system bigly, you should limit AC to either while the DC-DC charger is running (aka the bus is running), or when connected to shore power.
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Old 07-30-2023, 11:50 AM   #3
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Mar 2022
Location: Middle TN
Posts: 157
Year: 2008
Chassis: IC RE (PB30500)
Engine: Maxxforce DT
I looked up your ac unit and it supposedly uses just shy of 700watts when running. But at start up that initial spike can be up to 1400watts.

Looking at the specs for the Battle Born Batteries they can handle a 1200watt draw. Between 1201- and 2400 watts the BMS will shut the battery down after 30 seconds to prevent damage.

It's possible that with the combination of the fridge, lights, and the ac unit you are going over the allowed power draw from the BMS unit in the batteries.

When driving your charger probably offset that by providing wattage to the inverter. It looks like it's capable of producing up to a 660watt charge by combining solar and alternator charging.

So, I'd have to agree with TheHubbardBus, your set up isn't designed to run an AC unit.


I'd upgrade the electrical system or toss the AC.

I'd purchase two more 100Ah batteries and add them to the system to decrease the individual battery load. Battle Born is one of the most expensive brands out there, if you go with Renogy like the rest of the system you can get them for half the price. There's even cheaper ones out there if you keep looking.

I'd upgrade the inverter to the 3000w model that way you are only ever pulling 50% of what it's capable of. This helps with longevity and efficiency. It's currently on sale on the Renogy website for $250 off the original price.

The alternator in your bus is either a 105amp or 130amp model, and your charger calls for an alternator over 100amps. While it is true that brand new it would meet that standard, it's likely that with age it now produces less. On the same note it would only produce that amount at a high rpm which you more than likely are not seeing often unless you are on the interstate a lot.
There is an aftermarket option available on Rockauto for $127 that produces 253amps. This would not only better match the spec's of your charger but it will produce more power at idle than the standard alternator.

I'd also try to upgrade the solar set up for better charging with the engine off. 400w is a pretty small amount if you want AC. Unforunately your charger can only handle two more panels, making it 600w, before it would be overloaded. Anything more than that and you would need a second charger as well. It looks like the 100watt panels are also on sale.
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Old 07-30-2023, 12:32 PM   #4
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Thanks to you both very much for this information - I am going to check into all of the upgrades necessary and price this out! Is there anyone in the nj metro/ PA areas that you know of who can do this type of work?

Also my first question about the bus AC -
My bus Standard AC not working - I was told that compressor and rebuild parts are end of life and difficult to get, and expensive - is this true, can’t I find someone who can help me get this fixed? Perhaps my mechanic just didn’t want the job?

Have a great Sunday afternoon! And thanks again!
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Old 07-30-2023, 12:32 PM   #5
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Thanks to you both very much for this information - I am going to check into all of the upgrades necessary and price this out! Is there anyone in the nj metro/ PA areas that you know of who can do this type of work?

Also my first question about the bus AC -
My bus Standard AC not working - I was told that compressor and rebuild parts are end of life and difficult to get, and expensive - is this true, can’t I find someone who can help me get this fixed? Perhaps my mechanic just didn’t want the job?

Have a great Sunday afternoon! And thanks again!
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Old 08-17-2023, 04:17 PM   #6
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Location: Southern Oregon
Posts: 1,618
Year: 1996
Coachwork: AmTran (Now Navistar)
Engine: DT444E (7.3L) International
Rated Cap: 31,800 pounds
As others have already said, your system is undersized for running AC. Depending on your budget, consider looking for some used, commercial take down, panels. We got our 290W panels for just $110ea from a local business that buys commercial installation replacement panels. Ours are 5 years old but work great. 100W panels require a lot of panels and installation hardware for what you get. Our 40' bus will hold 10 of our panels and produce 2900W (theoretically).
On panel output, the panel rating is a LAB number useful for comparison. It can however be used to calculate what you can expect by imputing your latitude, panel angle (most buses have them flat mounted and even if a tilt mechanism is present they don't get tilted often), and a few other items.
This website https://pvwatts.nrel.gov/ can help you calculate the actual PV output you can expect from your system.

And you can use this website https://solarstory.com/peak-sun-hours-calculator/ to get data on the daily sun hours you can expect for a given location.

So you can easily calculate your expected system performance for a given location. Use home and any locations you plan to spend a lot of time. For instance, we want to go to Alaska with it's high latitude. We'll be using far more non solar charging simply because the angle of solar hitting the panels will be so shallow. But we know and can plan.


As for repairing the stock AC. I find it hard to believe that a compressor can't be found. Nor the accumulator that should be replaced any time you replace a compressor. Call some other shops, look up the compressor online (AutoZone, O'Reilly's, NAPA, Amazon even) and check for yourself. Every vehicle in my stable is 2002 or earlier and I have never had an issue finding aftermarket parts.


Back to the electrical.....



I would highly recommend Signature Solar EG4 batteries. We have 2ea 24 volt batteries with 5.12kWh each. They are available in 12, 24, and 48 volt versions with the 12V version having 400ah and capable of 100a discharge. They seem expensive at about $1400ea but when comparing storage capacity to other brands they're a bargain. They're also in a compact package that is less than 20x20x6.1 inch. The battle born batteries (their website) are selling for $925 and up for 100ah as of today. To get the same capacity as ONE $1500 EG4 battery you'd have to buy FOUR battle borns at a cost of $3700. Plus the weight would be 124 pounds vs the EG4's 101 pounds. In addition, you'd have 8 electrical posts to interconnect vs 2 on the EG4's, need more physical space, etc.
Check them out (I have no affiliation) at https://signaturesolar.com/


One final thing. Check the specs on your inverter. We were looking at a Victron MultiPlus 3,000 watt inverter. That 3,000 watts was never going to be real when we read the specs. We opted for a 6,500W inverter from.... signature solar.... for less money and more features. Now our system is large and planned to power TWO mini splits in a worst case scenario so you aren't likely to need 6,500 watts. The point is check for what it will REALLY put out under your uses rather than just the big numbers used by marketing.


Hope some of this helps.
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Old 08-17-2023, 05:07 PM   #7
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Chassis: TC2000, 40' MPV
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You may want to check santan solar in AZ. They have a wide variety of new and used panels. I bought 4, 300w panels from Facebook marketplace for around $500.
I think you'll find that the 100w panels you have take up more space per watt than some of the higher output units.You also might find that you could keep what you have,, it does work, just too small, and add a higher capacity setup with a separate charge controller. They don't have to be ridiculously expensive.
I thinks it's great that you took a long shakedown run and this is your only major issue. If you hadn't added that A/C unit you might not have had any issues.
Ask questions as you go, these guys are sharp
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