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Old 02-02-2024, 06:14 PM   #1
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Struggling w/ The Cost To Upgrade Power System

I really just need to vent so sorry in advance however Iím hopeful this thread can maybe bring me back down to earth on what I need and/or offer some suggestions.
Essentially, Iím looking to upgrade my 20-year-old battery system and add solar on my 2003 sportsmobile. My goal is to not have to run the generator or drive the van to charge the batteries because my single 4D doesnít cut it off grid for more than a day with fridge, heater and kids charging devices. Iíve gotten a few quotes and all are coming around the $7K range. Seems like everyone recommends I upgrade to about 400W of solar with lithium ion batteries and of course new inverter charger and controllers. I was really hoping to get this done in the $4 - $5 range.. I really need an upgrade but damn if it not the least glamorous way to spend $7k on your rig..

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Old 02-02-2024, 06:24 PM   #2
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Just a data point from the other end of the spectrum.. I have a simple single flooded house battery. I added 200 watts solar, brackets, cabling, and controller. The total for the entire project was about $450.
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Old 02-02-2024, 06:52 PM   #3
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I personally went with a used Honda 2000 generator and built a custom box that fits in my cargo basket to handle off-grid charging needs. Total cost about $1150 and I have a small generator around the house for emergencies. Of course your $7000 upgrade would be cool. Comes down to needs, priorities and budget.
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Old 02-02-2024, 07:40 PM   #4
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$7k? Unbelievable. Sounds like top shelf components installed by a pedi'greed' #vanlife installer. Let me guess, they can't fit you in for 6 months too?

You can handle this, and for much cheaper. I'm on my second lithium system using batteries from Amazon. My recent van build got a 300ah LiTime which is a fantastic performer so far. It was about $1k. The thousands of positive reviews talked me in to it. I'm currently finishing a 2nd lithium setup in my work rig, 560ah of Chins brand, also from Amazon. I went with 2 280ah because they were so cheap, $509 right now! I paid much more and still thought it was cheap, about $750 per IIRC.

All you need is to upgrade your battery and switch from an isolator between your chassis and van batteries to a DC to DC charger. You can probably skip the solar all together. Solar installs get expensive quick.

I have been very happy with the Kisae DCtoDC that was recommended to me by the electrical gurus here.

- Do you need an inverter? If not just get a simpler lithium AC charger (Noco or the like) and keep it topped up at home.
- How long do you need power when parked? This will entail a basic homework assignment of adding up your power needs. Not really hard to do, especially with so much info out there on mobile living nowadays. Avoid microwave/hair dryer/AC electric needs while camping and your battery will go a lot longer.

Assuming your present setup will allow a battery this size (It's lithium so best mounted inside the van) and that your wiring doesn't need to all be upgraded, though it's not expensive if it does, here is you a mostly complete system for less than a grand. Add some good quality DC breakers and get fancy with a shunt/monitoring system if you prefer and you're still out less than $500 more.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...e?ie=UTF8&th=1

https://www.amazon.com/KISAE-Technol...e%2C134&sr=1-8

https://www.amazon.com/NOCO-GENIUS10...zcF9hdGY&psc=1
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Old 02-02-2024, 10:30 PM   #5
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X2 on the Kisae DC to DC charger. We have one charging the 100 lithium battery. One input on it is from the alternator the other is for a solar panel. We use a fold up solar panel and plug it when parked for a few days. As for charging phones and tablets we installed a few 12 volt usb outlets. We can camp for about three days, without solar, before having to run the van to charge the battery. All our appliances, fridge water pump and heater fan, are 12 volt. We have a 400 watt inverter for the few times we need to charge a computer.

USB outlets: https://www.amazon.com/Charger-Voltm...s%2C156&sr=8-4

Portable solar: https://www.amazon.com/DOKIO-Portabl...6&sr=8-15&th=1
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Old 02-03-2024, 02:31 AM   #6
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Lots to unpack here before evaluating the validity of a $7k estimate.

Lots of us doing DIY greatly underestimate the time and hourly charge for what we do. This is a very full 16 hours of effort including prep and cleanup.

Add that most shops will not use an off brand battery so you are likely looking at Battleborn and Victron components. New mounting rack / reposition inside? If a 4D w 100 usable amps is hardly making it for a day then a 100A Lithium is not much better which implies minimum 200 Lith and closer to 300a Lith. A proper setup to supply 100 Amps per day replenishment charging is going to fall into the min 300watts of solar range, and 50 to 70 amps of DC to DC. Lots of cable and fusing upgrades to handle 60 +/- amps from the Alternator. And remember we are working on a 20 year old SMB.

Inverter charger not needed if no need for accommodating AC loads. To charge from shore just hook up a charger to the starter battery and if properly configured the DC to DC charger(s) will pass the charge current through to the Lith Bank - more than a few caveats doing this setup, though.

Mr. H - please post up a copy of a quote so we can dissect what you really need. And advise if this is an install you can handle yourself with some guidance.

And necessary is a list of what your usages are. Keep in mind your fridge is good for 40 to 50 amps of draw every 24 hour period. What type of heater? What devices are being charged? Water pump usage? are your lights (interior/exterior) LED ? Running a roof fan? Are you using the dash radio for tunes when stopped? It is not difficult to get to 80 amps usage in 24 hrs. The solar input from 300 watts of panels will depend on if roof mounted and or portable but figure about 60 to 80 NET amps back into the batteries. More in the summer.

As I stated at the beginning, lots to unpack.
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Old 02-03-2024, 09:03 AM   #7
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Really appreciate the responses from everyone and nice to see the OG forum members still active around here! I'm coming back down to earth. As Scotty and 1der pointed out these quotes are in fact with high end batteries and systems such as Battleborn and Victron. I'd be more than happy pay to the labor on this project (located in UT btw) but I just don't think I need the top level batteries/components for my application (Weekends with the kids running the fridge, charging devices via USB and diesel heater at night). I'm a handy guy but I instantly get anxiety thinking about tackling this myself. In a perfect world I'd employ and pay a handsome labor for someone to help me complete this project. If that fails perhaps I just add solar panels to my existing system? I would assume that would do well at keeping my battery topped off on sunny days.
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Old 02-03-2024, 09:27 AM   #8
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I won't debate the $7k price tag being "worth it" for the components they listed. But I would bet that it's way more than what you need. It's not uncommon for a shop to have pre-designed systems and they just find the one that is a little bit more than what they think you need. They basically don't want you to come back complaining that it isn't enough.



Perhaps it is worth asking around, even out of state, to see what other shops would suggest for your needs.
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Old 02-03-2024, 09:39 AM   #9
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Mr H - since you are handy this can be done in more bite size pieces and incrementally to see what is "enough" for your use profile.

Adding the solar panels would be a good first step, especially since it looks like you have roof rails (??), is pretty straight forward and can supplement your 4D via a solar controller. The wiring is also straight forward.

PM me if you want to discuss.
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Old 02-03-2024, 10:47 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MrHenrietta View Post
Weekends with the kids running the fridge, charging devices via USB and diesel heater at night.
That's all we do (except no kids anymore!). Our simple 200 watt system stretches a campout from 2 days to about 4 days. And by then, we are on our way again.
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