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Old 02-16-2021, 11:01 AM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Aug 2020
Posts: 37
Year: 2001
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Freightliner FS65
Engine: Cummins 5.9 ISB
What electrical systems are being used out in the wild?

A little survey to get some real world info on actual systems and how they are performing vs. your expectations.

What electrical systems are you all using or planning?
What was / is your planned usage vs. actual?
What chemistry, lead-acid, LiFePO4, etc?
Battery bank capacity, voltage & amp hours?
Charger / inverter?
Generator usage?
Solar capacity?
How long do you stay off grid?
Is your system meeting your needs?
What would you do differently if you could build the electrical system again?

Comments, Discussion, and Additions are always welcome.
Cheers.
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Old 02-16-2021, 11:38 AM   #2
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Sep 2017
Location: Cerrillos, NM
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Year: 2002
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Chassis: Front Engine
Engine: DT466E
Rated Cap: 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mercuric Mind View Post
A little survey to get some real world info on actual systems and how they are performing vs. your expectations.

What electrical systems are you all using or planning?
What was / is your planned usage vs. actual?
What chemistry, lead-acid, LiFePO4, etc.
Battery bank capacity, voltage & amp hours.
Charger / inverter?
Generator usage?
How long do you stay off grid?
Is your system meeting your needs?
What would you do differently if you could build the electrical system again?

Comments, Discussion, and Additions are always welcome.
Cheers.

Real world experience: flooded lead acid 12v 860ah batteries, 600w of solar flat on the roof in NY and no battery monitor. Wrecked my batteries in two years and Iím currently estimating them at less than 50% capacity from original. They suck and itís my fault from undercharging and shitty solar winters in NY.

Being in NM now makes me see what I was missing but I canít revive my batteries just yet, although Iím trying to equalize the **** outta them and itís helped some. I bought land so Iím off grid in a skoolie but not driving for the foreseeable future, powering a fridge in an Unheated space plus the bus fridge and the lights, fans, heater, etc. no air conditioning.

Iím using a Victron 3000w 24v inverter charger with a 70 amp battery charger in it, prior to that I was 12v with a xantrex 3000 modified sine wave inverter and a 55amp iota charger... I will never go back to modified sine wave or a non-integrated inverter charger. The victron setup is soooo far superior, but also more than 2x the cost.

I use about 80ah at 24v (1920wh) from dusk til dawn now and my solar panels (1200w) are tilted, mounted on the ground and the batteries on in my well house 8 feet below ground (warmish) and life is easy. Due to the lack of capacity and my desire to run the air fryer most mornings I run the generator frequently, especially on cloudy days. It wonít be necessary in the other three seasons or on bright sunny days but I do it to protect my worn out batteries too. Iím going to buy and build a chinese lifepo4 battery pack that has 13kwh capacity, ~10k+ usable and i feel like I wonít have to use a generator at all anymore, along with upgrading to 2400w of solar total, but ground mounted.

For a bus with no air conditioning I would recommend at least 4-5000wh usable capacity battery bank coupled with at least 1200w of solar, but more if youíre not in New Mexico, probably 1800-2000w if I was in NY again, more if I was in the winter there. If youíre driving a lot and have the alternator charging you can get away with less solar but I wouldnít rely on it if youíre parked as relatively inexpensive inverter generators are pretty good. Getting to the point where you can get a full charge with limited consumption on a cloudy day should be a goal in my opinion, because it makes it easy to leave the bus and not worry about anything for weeks at a time if need be. 5 days of clouds if Iím not home shouldnít be a problem and with 2400w of solar that will be the case, with the added benefit of running a 1500w appliance during good sun with no significant drain on the batteries.

Let me know if you have further questions, Iíll try to let you know my experience!
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Old 02-16-2021, 12:15 PM   #3
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Aug 2020
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Thanks for the reply rf^8!
I'm thinking about a large-ish LiFePO4 48v bank to keep the amps low and extended dark sky operating time up north.

Cheers!
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Old 02-16-2021, 01:58 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mercuric Mind View Post
Thanks for the reply rf^8!
I'm thinking about a large-ish LiFePO4 48v bank to keep the amps low and extended dark sky operating time up north.

Cheers!

Up north is my nightmare! a big bank at 48v is a great plan but plan on twice as much solar as you think you need, or some other form of supplementation. Itís really surprising, to me at least, how much solar changes based on geography. I thought I kinda got it but experiencing it really drilled that info home.
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Old 02-16-2021, 02:20 PM   #5
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Rule of thumb, you need at least 4 times the usable Ah of the battery bank in W of solar array. I have a 1600Ah battery bank (flooded, so 800 usable Ah) and 2400w of solar panels, and I would be better with 3200W.
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Old 02-16-2021, 02:59 PM   #6
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ABBus, that rule needs one more parameter to be useful.


First:
If applicable you need to specify 1600 Ah at what voltage. 1600Ah at 48 volt or 1600Ah at 6 volt.


Second:
Battery capacity is required to get you thru sunless time. So if the normal use is low one can have a large bank for a "rainy day" That does not mean that one would have to have that much solar.


Johan
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Old 02-16-2021, 03:11 PM   #7
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Sep 2017
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Engine: DT466E
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joeblack5 View Post
ABBus, that rule needs one more parameter to be useful.


First:
If applicable you need to specify 1600 Ah at what voltage. 1600Ah at 48 volt or 1600Ah at 6 volt.


Second:
Battery capacity is required to get you thru sunless time. So if the normal use is low one can have a large bank for a "rainy day" That does not mean that one would have to have that much solar.


Johan
voltage is needed, but this is really geography and weather dependent. I saw a map that showed how much to derate the panels by location, NYC area was derated at 75% and Santa Fe was not derated at all. That all said, panels are cheap these days and there's really no circumstance where more isn't better.
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Old 02-16-2021, 03:12 PM   #8
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jan 2021
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joeblack5 View Post
ABBus, that rule needs one more parameter to be useful.


First:
If applicable you need to specify 1600 Ah at what voltage. 1600Ah at 48 volt or 1600Ah at 6 volt.


Second:
Battery capacity is required to get you thru sunless time. So if the normal use is low one can have a large bank for a "rainy day" That does not mean that one would have to have that much solar.


Johan
1600Ah at 12v. I use 6x 2v batteries, 1600Ah each, in series.
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Old 02-16-2021, 03:56 PM   #9
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That is Ok,



just wanted to be sure that it makes sense to other readers who are going to rely on proclaimed " rules of thumb"
The rule could have been " one time usable Ah in watts " at 48 Volts.




Rfff , and Mercuric,


I agree , it is amazing how much solar over capacity you need when you are going up North.


We have a similar Ah use as you, a bit more from the electric cooking.


We have 600 watts flat on the roof and then on an old traffic sign trailer another 300 watt tilted for winter to the south. This is in PA.


We have an under counter Dometic 24vdc fridge and a separate 12vdc box freezer. They are on full time.

All lights are 12 and 24 VDC LED, TV is a LCD LED computer monitor that runs of 19.5 vdc, It has its own step down converter from 24 Vdc.

Water pump is 24VDC running on 12 Volt to lower the noise that fills a pressure tank. ( 30 watts)

A second small water pump for our recirculating shower.( 20 watts)
Then there are 48 vdc computer fans running at 24 Vdc in our ( modified) smoke hood above the cooking stove.



We cook on induction and have a small microwave and small IR oven. Then a small vacuum cleaner. We have a 2500 watt electric heated shower head for our recirculating shower.( use for 4 people every third day at 15 min / person) That is the only inverter use we do.
For that we have two high frequency pure sine wave 24vdc inverter.. 3000 watt and 3500 watt. We can get by with one but is good to have redundancy for systems you more or less rely on.



Our heat is from a 5KW webasto diesel out of main tank... floor heat with PEx tubing and school bus heat coil with 48 Volt computer fans, again to lower the noise.



Our old battery bank was 2 8D batteries and in the south west in winter the 600watt flat solar was enough to keep all running while be careful. That is we cooked / showered while the sun was still strong.

The batteries would be at 28 to 29 volt again by 1 PM. Full according the AH meter and no current acceptance anymore.


We have upgraded our battery bank to Lithium 24 volt at 840 Ah. From that I want to have 750 Ah usable to stay between 4.05V and 3V / cell.


We are adding another 300 watt of solar and also a 300 watt wind turbine.


On the electric side we are adding a RO system running at 24 vdc. and an UV sterilizer for our recirculating shower.



We enjoy cooking on a campfire and the best thing for us is that limited solar gets you thinking about your consumption and brings you closer to nature.



We have a generator.. never used it.


Johan
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Old 02-16-2021, 05:21 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mercuric Mind View Post
I'm thinking about a large-ish LiFePO4 48v bank to keep the amps low and extended dark sky operating time up north.
I'm running 48V lithium using (currently) a pair of 24V Tesla packs. Going in, I wanted solar to cover everything, including heat. High efficiency heat pump/mini split, split phase inverter, etc. 10x 305W panels on the roof, mounted flat. No laundry infrastructure currently, although I want to change that in the future.

With my current battery bank, around 10kWh capacity, I can survive one night running the heat pump. As long as I keep getting full sun every day, the battery bank fills late afternoon, with daily yields around 15kWh-23kWh depending on usage. Full sun every single day doesn't happen, however. This winter especially there are many instances of consecutive days with overcast. It is also a challenge keeping the panels clean with day after day of snowfall.

I've been looking at building a large-ish LiFePO4 bank, somewhere between 40kWh and 60kWh, and I'm waiting for better weather to double the number of panels on the roof using a slide-out system. Hoping the slide-out action can also be used to clear panels of snow. However, I know that even with the above if I see 4-5 days of overcast, the fun will be over running solar powered heat.

So, plan is to upgrade my system as outlined above, adding a second fuel tank from a donor bus (also doing an engine swap from that), and switch to diesel heat at 50% capacity. All waiting on warmer weather.

FWIW I'm currently in KY, trying for a more mild winter than NH. There is some wisdom in the advice others give of using your wheels/migrating south for the winter. You will have more problems than just energy when it freezes. Best of luck.
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Old 02-16-2021, 06:14 PM   #11
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Aug 2020
Posts: 37
Year: 2001
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Chassis: Freightliner FS65
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joeblack5 View Post
ABBus, that rule needs one more parameter to be useful.


First:
If applicable you need to specify 1600 Ah at what voltage. 1600Ah at 48 volt or 1600Ah at 6 volt.


Second:
Battery capacity is required to get you thru sunless time. So if the normal use is low one can have a large bank for a "rainy day" That does not mean that one would have to have that much solar.


Johan
JoeBlack,
That is my thought on it as well. We only have so much real estate on our roofs for solar, so we are unlikely able to have an appropriately sized array for any reasonably usable battery bank. Cost of batteries are coming down to a point that it is feasible to oversize them for the "rainy day / week"scenario.
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Old 02-16-2021, 06:43 PM   #12
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I'm just starting my build and planning on having a ~26Kw battery bank , 2 strings of 16 LiFePo4 280ah cells, and use Victron charger inverter and an auto transformer or a second charger inverter. I have a 208/240v mini split with a really high SEER rating I want to use hence the dual inverters or inverter and a auto transformer. having a ~30 bus that will have some roof taken up with a photography platform/ deck there is no way I can have enough solar.
I plan on diesel heat for cabin and hot water, a marine diesel stove & cooktop. All lighting will be LED so that leaves computers, cameras, starlink hopefully, wifi, air fryer, generic instapot, vent fans, inflatable bouncy house and R22.5 spinner wheels!
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Old 02-16-2021, 06:58 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mercuric Mind View Post
I'm just starting my build and planning on having a ~26Kw battery bank , 2 strings of 16 LiFePo4 280ah cells, and use Victron charger inverter and an auto transformer or a second charger inverter. I have a 208/240v mini split with a really high SEER rating I want to use hence the dual inverters or inverter and a auto transformer. having a ~30 bus that will have some roof taken up with a photography platform/ deck there is no way I can have enough solar.
I plan on diesel heat for cabin and hot water, a marine diesel stove & cooktop. All lighting will be LED so that leaves computers, cameras, starlink hopefully, wifi, air fryer, generic instapot, vent fans, inflatable bouncy house and R22.5 spinner wheels!

Sounds like a great plan. Jam as much solar up there as will fit and use the highest efficiency panels you can find but plan on alternator charging and/or a generator and youíll be fine. Iím attracted to lifepo4 so much because it thrives at mid charges instead of full like lead acid, so if a bank like that doesnít return to 100% daily itís perfect.

What kind of photography do you do? Iím a professional photographer out of Nyc, mostly doing corporate work. Looking forward to taking the cameras out in NM for fun instead of profit.
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Old 02-16-2021, 07:13 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rffffffff View Post
Sounds like a great plan. Jam as much solar up there as will fit and use the highest efficiency panels you can find but plan on alternator charging and/or a generator and youíll be fine. Iím attracted to lifepo4 so much because it thrives at mid charges instead of full like lead acid, so if a bank like that doesnít return to 100% daily itís perfect.

What kind of photography do you do? Iím a professional photographer out of Nyc, mostly doing corporate work. Looking forward to taking the cameras out in NM for fun instead of profit.
Personally I take bad snapshots with my thumb in the corner of the cellphone lens, but my gal takes landscapes and lots of macros for her art, analog and digital. NM and CO are some of my favorite places.
I plan on a generator as well.
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Old 02-16-2021, 07:20 PM   #15
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I haven't found a good way to accomplish alternator charging with a 48V bank yet, have any of you?
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Old 02-16-2021, 07:46 PM   #16
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What electrical systems are being used out in the wild?

Quote:
Originally Posted by kazetsukai View Post
I haven't found a good way to accomplish alternator charging with a 48V bank yet, have any of you?

Iíve never seen it done but I would assume you could use a mppt charge controller for solar?

Edit: genasun makes one that will work to increase voltage kinda but limited to 8 amps input. I think a generic dc dc boost unit that you can set to 60v or whatever dumped into your charge controller would be the easiest way I can see.
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Old 02-16-2021, 07:47 PM   #17
Skoolie
 
Join Date: Sep 2017
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Chassis: Front Engine
Engine: DT466E
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mercuric Mind View Post
Personally I take bad snapshots with my thumb in the corner of the cellphone lens, but my gal takes landscapes and lots of macros for her art, analog and digital. NM and CO are some of my favorite places.
I plan on a generator as well.

Awesome. Itís definitely beautiful here! This is out of my skoolie window this afternoon with my cell phone. IMG_9204.jpg
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Old 02-16-2021, 08:28 PM   #18
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rffff,
Looks Beautiful. We have a foot of snow and -14F
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Old 02-16-2021, 08:54 PM   #19
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Aug 2020
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kazetsukai View Post
I haven't found a good way to accomplish alternator charging with a 48V bank yet, have any of you?
Kazetsukai,

Balmar has this alternator.
https://balmar.net/96-series-48v-alternators/

or
https://www.auroragenerators.com/alternators

I think I would be inclined to use the Balmar. I hear they have a good reputation in the marine world.

I'm not sure if it is ok to post product links here??
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Old 02-16-2021, 09:20 PM   #20
Skoolie
 
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Quote:
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rffff,
Looks Beautiful. We have a foot of snow and -14F

Ugh, where are you located?
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