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Old 10-17-2022, 11:02 AM   #1
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Starting to think about Solar/Lithium upgrade

I have a 2003 Minnie 31C class C everything stock (at least the electrical system). I am thinking about adding solar and upgrading to Lithium batteries but just starting the process.

Is there a basic starter guide somewhere? I already have a basic idea but also a ton of questions as I learn more.

1) Is there a difference between the 12v Lipo batteries between brands like Battle Born and the cheaper brands like Ampere Time for example. They are 50% the cost.

2) Would 2 12v 100Ah batteries be enough or do I need more than two?

3) Can you run AC with Softstart installed from Lipo batteries?

4) Looks like I would need Batteries, solar cells (how many Watts?), inverter, charge controller. What else am I missing?

5) I would do the work myself, do I need to go to the most expensive brands or are there moderatly priced brands that work well?

I am not looking to be long term boondocking but will have trips with 4-5 day of boon docking.

Thanks for any help
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Old 10-17-2022, 01:46 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Mashmaster View Post
I have a 2003 Minnie 31C class C everything stock (at least the electrical system). I am thinking about adding solar and upgrading to Lithium batteries but just starting the process.

Is there a basic starter guide somewhere? I already have a basic idea but also a ton of questions as I learn more.

1) Is there a difference between the 12v Lipo batteries between brands like Battle Born and the cheaper brands like Ampere Time for example. They are 50% the cost.

2) Would 2 12v 100Ah batteries be enough or do I need more than two?

3) Can you run AC with Softstart installed from Lipo batteries?

4) Looks like I would need Batteries, solar cells (how many Watts?), inverter, charge controller. What else am I missing?

5) I would do the work myself, do I need to go to the most expensive brands or are there moderatly priced brands that work well?

I am not looking to be long term boondocking but will have trips with 4-5 day of boon docking.

Thanks for any help
What is motivating you to change? If it’s just to get a couple of nights boondocking without generator, that can be accomplished other ways for far less money

Is there a basic starter guide somewhere? I already have a basic idea but also a ton of questions as I learn more.

Best place to look is right here on this forum under Class C threads.

1) Is there a difference between the 12v Lipo batteries between brands like Battle Born and the cheaper brands like Ampere Time for example. They are 50% the cost.

IMHO, there’s not a significant enough difference to justify the price difference BBorn and some others. All assemblers get their cells from the same places in China. I do recommend choosing a US manufacturer/assembler because they have customer service you can talk with, and it will be easier to get warranty service if needed. I’ve got a great LiFePo4 from a company that doesn’t focus on the rv market for half the price of BB and it has more of the features I liked.

2) Would 2 12v 100Ah batteries be enough or do I need more than two?

Depends on your camping style. Once again, if you want to boondock without generator, 200amphrs is more than enough if you have an absorption fridge. But you can also get that from 2x 6v gc batteries with no other changes to your system.

3) Can you run AC with Softstart installed from Lipo batteries?

Not for more than a few minutes, and you would need a 2000w inverter to run it for any amount of time. To run a 13,500btu A/C off batteries, you would need at least 1,200w of solar, a 3,000w inverter, and 600ah of battery bank. And even then you can maybe get 8 hours.

4) Looks like I would need Batteries, solar cells (how many Watts?), inverter, charge controller. What else am I missing?

You’re missing a proper charger that can charge to the LiFePo4 profile. Some chargers can be swapped out for a programmable one. Some can’t. Many people, when switching to LiFePo4 (like myself), disconnect their old charger and install a hybrid inverter/charger that can send 80amps or more of charging current to the battery. If you don’t get a new charger, you’ve lost one of the biggest advantages of LiFePo4. They charge several times as fast as Lead Acid batteries if you give them enough amperage. You also need a BIM, or better yet a negative shunt monitor device.

5) I would do the work myself, do I need to go to the most expensive brands or are there moderatly priced brands that work well?

Don’t cheap out on the inverter/charger, or replacement charger if you go that route. IMO, if you get an inverter/charger, stick with Victron or Xantrex. They both are great, and have good customer service.

I am not looking to be long term boondocking but will have trips with 4-5 day of boon docking.

Again, if you’re only boondocking for a few days, you don’t need to switch. Just get 2x 220amp GCs wire them in series. And get enough solar to replace the amperage you use on a typical day. Before spending even a nickel, you should do a power consumption inventory. Measure how much amperage you use per day. Consider spending cheapo bucks on converting lighting to LED if you haven’t done so, and use other conservation methods. You may find that toy have enough juice with 2x 100w solar array, and 2x 6v batteries. And if you’re still running short, it’s far cheaper to buy a 1000wh LiFePo4 power station, and use it to offload much of your consumption from the house batteries.

Bottom line, considering the age of your rig, the amount of boondocking you want to do, and the expense and time of switching (even for DIY), it probably is not a good idea for you to switch to LiFePo4. So people, like us, switched because our new TT came standard with a 12v compressor fridge, which consumes 50amphrs/day. Adding enough Lead Acid capacity to suit our needs would have been way to heavy for us. Plus, we wanted the efficiency and convenience of having an inverter/charger. My DIY install took over 40 hours, but it’s harder with a TT due the need to reroute 120v ac wiring. Total cost about $2,800. You can accomplish the same end result without LiFePo4 for under $1,000.

Thanks for any help[/QUOTE]
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Old 10-17-2022, 02:04 PM   #3
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Thanks for all the great info. I think I will hold off on the lipo change over.

So two 6v GC baterries in addition to the existing two 12v batteries sounds like a a reasonable solution. And putting solar cells to charge those up. Do you put that all on a different circuit or integrate with the existing batteries?
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Old 10-17-2022, 02:17 PM   #4
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If you already have 2x 12v wired in parallel, it’s not a good idea to try to add 2x 6v in series to the mix. The 12v batteries will simply drain power from the new 6v batteries. It’s probably time for you to dump the 12v anyway, and you need them to get core credit when you buy the 6v. 2x 6v gc gives you 220 amphrs. Your solar array must be connected to a solar charge controller (through a breaker or fuse), which then gets connected to the battery. You should buy a mppt controller, as they are far more efficient than pwm, but these days don’t cost much more. Size the controller based on the voltage and amperage coming from your array, leaving enough reserve in case you want to add more panels. A good match is 2x 100w ((or 180w) panels with a 100/30 mppt controller. I recommend Victron.
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Old 10-17-2022, 04:56 PM   #5
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Jim has it mostly covered in the post above.

Go with new batteries - 12v in Parallel or 6v in Series. Shoot for 200 to 230 amp hours total in the house battery bank.

Lithium would require a lot of other changes that at this point will just confuse and complicate the process.

Forget running the A/C on battery power - it can be done but the cost to do so is very high for the short amount of time you could actually run the A/C.

New batteries, 300-400 watts of solar cells, a 30-amp MPPT solar controller and a 2000w inverter just about covers all the things you need. But installation, while really doable as a DIY project, will take a lot of planning and study to figure out how to complete with your motorhome. The cost of all of the above items will depend on what you buy but I'd plan on $2100 plus cabling, fuses, etc if you install it yourself. Likely $5000 to pay someone else to do the work.

With this you'll have enough power to do most everything but run the A/C when boondocking/dry camping for a few days.

More solar will extend the number of days - but I'd suggest you take it in steps and see how the system really works. After you have some experience under your belt you may want to then tackle the Lithium change over before adding more solar.
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Old 10-17-2022, 05:10 PM   #6
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Here's a good starter video by Jared Gillis. He has great videos and does solar installs for a lot of people around the country:



Here's his inverter video:



Here's a battery buying video

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Old 10-17-2022, 05:50 PM   #7
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Good advice from Creativepart.

2x 6v Costco 220ah GC batteries = $200
2x 100w solar panels = $200
Victron 100/30 smart solar controller = $221
Solar Panel mounting equipment = $100
This includes two sided tape, t-channels, nuts and bolts, roof gland, MC4 connectors and 10awg cables. OP has fiberglass roof, so he can mount panels with tape/t-channel.

Here’s a good video for mounting panels on a MH:
https://youtu.be/ZZn_A1zCPwE

OP may not want or need an inverter, but if he does:
2,000w PSW inverter = $250
30 amp Transfer switch = $75.
2/0 gauge inverter cables = $75
Fuses/ Breakers = $35
He can always add this stuff later, but they weren’t part of his original inquiry.

I know some RVers that have altogether eschewed battery and solar upgrades and have opted for buying a 2,000wh power station, like eco flow or Bluetti. The price has come down enough that it makes a lot of sense, as a backup to rv house batteries, and can be used in a power outage at home. Enough amphrs to extend boondocking from 2 days to 4-5 days.
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Old 10-17-2022, 07:39 PM   #8
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I agree with creativepart and Marine359. There's a lot to learn about LiFePO4 batteries so you can take some time to educate yourself. Some of the lower cost batteries have good reviews and some have revealed some terrible construction in "teardown" reviews.

Check out Will Prowse's Youtube channel. Here's a link to some of his teardowns:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...DwE0k40bpXZBQs
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Old 10-17-2022, 11:15 PM   #9
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Y'all rock, thank you so much for the info. It will take me a bit to digest it, but what you guys are saying makes a ton of sense.
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Old 10-23-2022, 06:52 PM   #10
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Go to Costco to get Lion Energy LiFePO4 batteries. I have had them in my 2020 Navion 24V for 2 years and they have worked perfectly and been completely reliable. They may cost twice as much as a name-brand AGM battery, but the Lion weighs half as much and has twice the usable amp-hours because you can only draw the AGM down to 50% of its rated power.
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Old 10-24-2022, 11:24 AM   #11
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When I did my system, Battle Born recommended 200-250 watts of solar panel for each 100ah of battery. I saw one of the recommendations on this thread for 2 x 100w panels for a 200ah battery bank. That may not be enough to completely charge your battery bank on a normal day.

I have 1000 watts of solar panels for 3 x 100ah batteries, so I am 'over-paneled' by 250w. All that means is that I charge faster with my current setup and have the option to add another 100ah battery if I feel the need. I also installed a 3,000w Victron Inverter so we can run the microwave or hairdryer with no problems. Did not ever intend to run the AC from it. The other advantage of the Victron is that has a built-in 125 amp charger built in - much more powerful than the OEM charger in the coach, as well as a separate trickle charger for the starter battery.
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Old 10-25-2022, 07:21 AM   #12
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How much space do you have for batteries?

How much space do you have for panels?

Might be a good start to figure how much power you are able to start with.

I have 400 amp hours of battery. 700 watts of panel. 4 x 175 watt panels.
We went with 175 watt panels because of availability at the time. Would have preferred 200 watt.

We used Victron components.
Multiplus inverter charger
Linx distributor
Solar charger
Lots of wire. Big and small

I did the work myself with a little help from a RV Repair guy. I was concerned by three connections. The shore power and from the converter to the Multiplus .
And the junction box wires.

To get the assistance I needed was difficult. Nobody wanted to touch it after I had done most of the work.
The one guy that did help “Honest Rv” told me, the reason they did not want to help is “liability” more over due to it was a 10k dollar job that they were losing money from.
One of the guys I called had never heard of Victron and. Belittled me for touching anything because “ I didn’t know what I was doing” he was quite the A** Hole. Said he didn’t know what I meant by the junction box either. And had never heard that term.

Being that it works correctly, and was done neatly. I’d say he was wrong. Even the guy with honest RV was impressed.

My opinion, depending on time to complete project go with best you can get. Whichever you feel that is. If you cheap out, it could be a major problem in the future.
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Old 10-28-2022, 06:38 PM   #13
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I just noticed that Renogy's 100Ah 12V AGM deep cycle batteries are on sale for $199.97, down from $269.99. I bought two on Amazon to replace my aging golf cart batteries. It will be nice to not have to constantly monitor the water level.

I see in the specs that the 100Ah rating is a 10 hr rating which is somewhat better than the standard 20 hr rating. How significant this is, I don't know.

https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/...0?ie=UTF8&th=1

I thought about getting their 200Ah battery for $369.99 but the 129 lbs weight was too high for my old body.

I used my Citibank Costco Visa card and will get an extra 24 mo warranty.
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Old 10-28-2022, 09:05 PM   #14
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I just noticed that Renogy's 100Ah 12V AGM deep cycle batteries are on sale for $199.97, down from $269.99. I bought two on Amazon to replace my aging golf cart batteries. It will be nice to not have to constantly monitor the water level.

I see in the specs that the 100Ah rating is a 10 hr rating which is somewhat better than the standard 20 hr rating. How significant this is, I don't know.

https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/...0?ie=UTF8&th=1

I thought about getting their 200Ah battery for $369.99 but the 129 lbs weight was too high for my old body.

I used my Citibank Costco Visa card and will get an extra 24 mo warranty.
AGM is t lithium though. Still lead acid, just aggravated glass Matt.
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Old 10-29-2022, 01:16 AM   #15
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AGM is t lithium though. Still lead acid, just aggravated glass Matt.
I never said it was Lithium. If you read the whole thread, it segued away from Lithiums to non-Lithiums, so my comment was in context.
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Old 10-29-2022, 07:32 PM   #16
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AGM is t lithium though. Still lead acid, just aggravated glass Matt.
AGM = “absorbed glass mat”
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Old 10-29-2022, 08:52 PM   #17
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I was wrong.
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Old 11-28-2022, 11:38 AM   #18
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Well, I maybe a sucker but Cyber Monday got me. I ordered two LiPo AmpereTime RV batteries for un $300 each. I also ordered a Renogy 20A DC to DC charger.

We liked boondocking but realized that each night sucked about 25% of the house battery charge and was worried that the second night, we would cross the 50% threshold of charge. And the speed of charging while driving was slow and would like the faster recharge time.

Since LiPo batteries have the cold temperature issues, is there a setup that I can add a temperature cutoff to the input charge line if the temp is below 0 degrees C? The batteries have a high temp sensor but no cold temp sensor.
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Old 11-28-2022, 01:43 PM   #19
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Since LiPo batteries have the cold temperature issues, is there a setup that I can add a temperature cutoff to the input charge line if the temp is below 0 degrees C? The batteries have a high temp sensor but no cold temp sensor.
It’s easier to just mount the batteries inside where it they’ll stay warm when you’re using the coach. If that’s not possible consider a thermostatically controlled 12v warming mat, and keep them above 32F.
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Old 11-28-2022, 01:54 PM   #20
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It’s easier to just mount the batteries inside where it they’ll stay warm when you’re using the coach. If that’s not possible consider a thermostatically controlled 12v warming mat, and keep them above 32F.
Would putting them into the storage bay be inside? Not sure where I could put them "inside"
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