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Old 12-06-2021, 01:58 AM   #1
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Upgrading solar and battery

Hello,
First time posting here. I recently got a Hike 172bh and am trying to make plans for upgrading the solar and battery come spring time. My model has a flexible solar panel factory installed already. In looking at other peoples builds, they usually involve an inverter, which I donít want to do.

My current plan is to just use the existing wiring and just upgrade by adding 2 100W panels to the roof in parallel, upgrade the solar charger to an MPPT, and then the battery to a 100AH lithium. Are there other changes to the system that I need to do in order to upgrade these components?

Thanks!
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Old 12-06-2021, 06:02 AM   #2
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Your plan makes sense although a pair of golf cart batteries will give you just as much real capacity at 1/4 the cost. One other thing I would do differently is to wire all three panels in series rather than parallel, assuming they are all approximately the same watt rating. That will lower the current through the somewhat small 10 gauge wire and minimize voltage drop.

David
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Old 12-06-2021, 08:10 AM   #3
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You should check your TT’s Converter. It’s also your battery charger when you are plugged in to shore power or generator. Many (Most? All?) smaller RVs come with rather basic Converters and these are not designed for LiPo4 charging profiles.

Many converters are upgradable by adding a remote controller. While others require that the charger portion of the Converter be changed out.

The existing Converter probably would not ruin the LiPo4 battery just not fully charge it to its maximum voltage.

If you’re doing these mods to boondock exclusively you should also plan to carry a small generator with you. Solar is a great asset, but not always available when you really need to get your battery charged up.
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Old 12-06-2021, 09:11 AM   #4
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Let me discuss generator charging to amplify creativepart's discussion above:

To charge with a portable generator you plug in your TT's shore power cord into the generator usually with a 30A to 15A adapter. If you have GFCIs on some circuits in the TT, they usually will trip because most portable generators don't tie the neutral to the ground. Google will help you find videos to easily correct this.

Then make sure most other loads are disconnected so you don't overload the generator. You can just ignore the GFCI trip if you want to.

The ubiquitous WFCO 8955 converter found on many low end RVs won't charge lithium batteries very fast. That means that even though your single 100 Ah Li battery can accept 50 amps, the WFCO will probably put out less than half of that. So it will take several hours of generator running time to recharge a 100 Ah battery.

You can speed this up considerably by switching out the charger part of the WFCO 8955 (the breaker and fuse part is fine) with a lithium specific charger. The Progressive Dynamics 9160ALV would be a good choice. I wouldn't worry about its 60A rating with Li batteries that limit current to 50A. I don't think you will see 50A even with a Li specific charger. If it does become a problem occasionally, just switch on enough DC loads in your TT to absorb about 10A.

David
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Old 12-06-2021, 04:33 PM   #5
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My $0.02 here, as a small TT owner with about 50% boondocking over past year out of 60 days camping.

If you live and camp primarily on the east coast, you can’t boondock 100% of the time on solar alone. Well, sort of, as there are a few unshaded NP CGs like Ocracoke. Mostly, Too much canopy and not enough sunny days in my experience. I’ve never had a problem or an instance of tripping breakers using a small (2500w or smaller) generator with a 15/30 adapter. If you trip a breaker while charging, there is probably an issue unrelated to your generator. Of course,, you don’t want to be using your microwave or a hair dryer when charging, but beyond that (and since you won’t have an inverter), you’ll be fine with one of the charger mods recommended by David and Creativepart. If you go LiFePo4, your battery will gobble all the power you can throw at it from a mppt controller and probably as much as your charger can throw at it. Read the specs before buying the battery. My battery will accept 80amps, and will charge from 30-100% SOC charging @75amps in less than 2 hours. A 100ah should go from 30-100% in less than 2 hours charging at 50amps. You can boondock for 3 or 4 days with no gennie time for the setup you’re considering if you get just a little sun. You’re not using much juice, so farming just 30-40 ah per day may be enough for you. And you may be able to do it without going to LiFePo4. It all depends on your fridge. If you have absorption, you’re golden. If you have compressor, I see LiFePo4 in your future.
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Old 12-06-2021, 05:18 PM   #6
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This is great information. I knew that I would need a charge controller that has a lithium charging profile but did not realize that there is a converter somewhere else that would need to be addressed. Any idea where that can be found on the Hike?

Also, the space I have available to put panels on the roof limits me to about 2 extra panels plus the original stock one. Are there issues here with having an odd number of panels? Most of the diagrams I see have even numbers of panels.
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Old 12-06-2021, 05:30 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Esparent View Post
This is great information. I knew that I would need a charge controller that has a lithium charging profile but did not realize that there is a converter somewhere else that would need to be addressed. Any idea where that can be found on the Hike?

Also, the space I have available to put panels on the roof limits me to about 2 extra panels plus the original stock one. Are there issues here with having an odd number of panels? Most of the diagrams I see have even numbers of panels.
Your Hike come equipped with 10awg wiring from the roof to the pas thru. On the roof there will be a mc4 connectors attached to a waterproof gland. 10awg is more than sufficient for 3x 100w panels wired in parallel. So, 3x 18v = 18v, and 3x 9amp (max) = 27 amps. Therefore you will need a 100/30 mppt. Try to get panels that are close in Voc to your existing panel. There’s a very short distance between the panels and the charge controllers, so voltage drop won’t be significant. Wiring in series is usually not preferred on a small trailer because there’s not much room to spread them out, which means that if one panel is shaded your entire output will be effected. Not so much with parallel. Get 3 into 1 mc4 branch connectors, and just plug all 3 panels into it:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B089RF4KLJ...ing=UTF8&psc=1
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Old 12-06-2021, 06:01 PM   #8
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In about 90% of the time for Travel Trailers, the Converter is under the fridge. If not then just locate the "Power Center" where all the AC and 12VDC fuses and circuit breakers are located. The converter is behind that panel. Much of the time it's built into the panel but it's common for the charger to be separate and behind the panel.

The first task is to find the panel (probably below the fridge) and find out the model number of the converter. Then find out from the manufacturer if you can update the charger without changing out the rest of the panel and converter.

Some other locations is under the kitchen sink counter or under the bed or under a seat in the dinning area.

So, just do your research and you'll find all you need.

FYI there are plenty of YouTube videos of upgrading your TT's charger.
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Old 12-06-2021, 06:37 PM   #9
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Okay that sounds easy enough. I believe the panel is near the TV next to the floor. I will give Winnebago a call and see what they have to say as well.

I guess I could give more info about my goals as well. We have 2 small kids and likely wonít be doing more than 2-3 nights in a row for the next couple years. I like the lithium to not run the risk of running out of power for those few days. I am fairly handy but electrical stuff is pretty new so I find these sites very helpful and am just trying to learn as much as I can.
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Old 12-06-2021, 06:47 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Esparent View Post
Okay that sounds easy enough. I believe the panel is near the TV next to the floor. I will give Winnebago a call and see what they have to say as well.

I guess I could give more info about my goals as well. We have 2 small kids and likely wonít be doing more than 2-3 nights in a row for the next couple years. I like the lithium to not run the risk of running out of power for those few days. I am fairly handy but electrical stuff is pretty new so I find these sites very helpful and am just trying to learn as much as I can.
If youíll tell us what kind of fridge you have, it will be much easier for you to decide whether you need LiFePo4. If you have absorption, you donít need LiFePo4 for your stated goals.
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Old 12-06-2021, 07:35 PM   #11
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I believe it is absorption. It can run off shore power or propane.
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Old 12-07-2021, 06:30 AM   #12
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I believe it is absorption. It can run off shore power or propane.
If that’s the case you may want to think about not bothering with expensive upgrades. You should be able to boondock for 3 days with no generator use on a single 100ah AGM. If you’re planning to need your furnace, you’ll need 2x 100ah AGM. A suitcase solar can help out to restore some of your daily useage. Most folks can camp on 20ah/day if they don’t run an inverter, furnace or cpap.

Or as David suggests 2x 6v gc
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