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Old 07-16-2022, 07:18 AM   #1
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Batteries and Generator

I've been doing a bit of research on solar/battery setups and their use for my 2022 E-Pro 19BH. It has a 190 watt solar panel and I installed two 81 ah flooded batteries to start. As close as I can figure I'm using somewhere around 4 amps/hr during the night to run the camper.

Problem is that the camp sites we camp in don't allow full sun (trees) on the solar panel. The best I've been able to get is 27 AH out of the panel during the day. I'm short in recovering my used power on a sunny day much less a few cloudy days. The system does work especially if I'm able to get sun on the panel all the way to sunset but I only have a little over a days worth of operating reserve.

I'm debating going solar or getting a generator to start this process off. I'm thinking that a solar upgrade would include at least a 200 ah lithium battery, new controller, and a minimum of one portable(moveable) 190 watt solar panel so I can chase the sun with it.

I'm thinking that a duel fuel generator would only have to be run for a short time to recover the shortage in ah on a poorly sunlit site.

How many of you, even with more elaborate solar set ups ,still have a generator to cover your buts in all situations?

I'm leaning generator right now.

Thanks...........
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Old 07-16-2022, 09:19 AM   #2
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Most of the camp sites that I use are location in heavy shade. I can't rely on getting a decent charge from solar so I carry a 2000 watt Champion generator with me. It doesn't take long for the generator to top off my batteries in the evening, The Generator can run on eco-mode to charge so it is really quiet.
I spend most of our time outside and don't use much power. No TV, no computers, only my hearing aid charger most of the time.
I have seen a few people using the 12 volt output from the generator to charge their batteries. This only gives them about 8 amps of charging power. My converter gives me 45 amps of charge (max.) When I approached a gentleman about this, he told me that the salesman told him to do this and that the salesman knew more than I did.
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Old 07-16-2022, 09:21 AM   #3
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I have generators and a suitcase solar (no roof mount solar) based on your description of your setup I think a suitcase solar and small inverter generator is all you need. Generator normally need to be run around four hours to totally top off batteries in my experience.
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Old 07-16-2022, 09:33 AM   #4
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We have an onboard generator in our small mh.

However, if we still had our tt, I'd opt for a small dual fuel inverter generator (assuming that I didn't need air conditioning.) Some of these small Champion generators are very quiet (53 dbA) even at their noisiest when on a load. We have a larger one as backup power for items in our house.

Our camping style was state parks where getting a site that wasn't covered by trees was almost impossible. Luckily we don't watch a lot of tv because that was difficult also. In the future, you'll be able to get solar panels which they now make for special applications that produce power in shade, but for now the best option is a dual fuel generator IMHO
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Old 07-16-2022, 09:48 AM   #5
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Batteries and Generator

Many boondockers with solar still take a generator along both to charge batteries when solar can’t keep up and run things like Microwave and AC when the generator is running. As far as charging batteries the problem with lead acids is it take several hours to charge the last 10% and should not discharge under 50% so you really only get 50% of the amp hours. Lithium batteries charge up much faster and you can drain them down to 100% without shortening the battery life but you do need a Lithium compatible charger to get them to charge fast. You might check your onboard charger to see if it supports Lithium, if it does I’d go with them. They’ve come down in price a lot and should last several more years then lead acid and provide much more power between charges.
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Old 07-16-2022, 12:36 PM   #6
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Many boondockers with solar still take a generator along both to charge batteries when solar can’t keep up and run things like Microwave and AC when the generator is running. As far as charging batteries the problem with lead acids is it take several hours to charge the last 10% and should not discharge under 50% so you really only get 50% of the amp hours. Lithium batteries charge up much faster and you can drain them down to 100% without shortening the battery life but you do need a Lithium compatible charger to get them to charge fast. You might check your onboard charger to see if it supports Lithium, if it does I’d go with them. They’ve come down in price a lot and should last several more years then lead acid and provide much more power between charges.
The fact that Lithium batteries charge much faster is making them more and more the desired battery for boondockers who camp in the forest.

When the solar panel output is reduced by shade it's important that what is produced be stored quickly and without waste. Definitely not characteristics of Lead/Acid batteries.

As for replacing the converter, if one has solar power with an converter capable of being adjusted to a Lithium charge profile, replacing he converter is not an absolute necessity. The existing converter can be used on shore power or generator to provide the majority of the charge to the Lithium batteries and the solar charging system will complete the process.

On life expectancy, Lead Acid batteries have an average life expectancy around 500 cycles, give or take. LiFePo4 batteries can 5-10 times that. Yes they do cost more, even with the prides dropping, but consider that the cost of "lead batteries" is going up. Cost is becoming less of an obstacle and for serious boondockers there's really only one practical choice.
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Old 07-16-2022, 01:02 PM   #7
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The fact that Lithium batteries charge much faster is making them more and more the desired battery for boondockers who camp in the forest.



When the solar panel output is reduced by shade it's important that what is produced be stored quickly and without waste. Definitely not characteristics of Lead/Acid batteries.



As for replacing the converter, if one has solar power with an converter capable of being adjusted to a Lithium charge profile, replacing he converter is not an absolute necessity. The existing converter can be used on shore power or generator to provide the majority of the charge to the Lithium batteries and the solar charging system will complete the process.



On life expectancy, Lead Acid batteries have an average life expectancy around 500 cycles, give or take. LiFePo4 batteries can 5-10 times that. Yes they do cost more, even with the prides dropping, but consider that the cost of "lead batteries" is going up. Cost is becoming less of an obstacle and for serious boondockers there's really only one practical choice.


Never thought about the solar charger Mike, great point. While we have you do you have any favorite Lithiums? Seems like there are a lot coming from China 100 AH under $409 with BMS built in. CHINS LiFePO4 Battery 12V 100AH Lithium Battery - Built-in 100A BMS, Perfect for Replacing Most of Backup Power, Home Energy Storage and Off-Grid etc. https://a.co/d/8yaJu22
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Old 07-16-2022, 02:25 PM   #8
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Missing important information.

Where do you play?

In the Midwest we are proud of our shaded tree lined campgrounds. Then too we have plenty of rain and clouds so water is no issue. Air conditioning is a must in the summer.

So, if you want to not have a generator you need a ton of batteries and solar panels.

We use about 100 amps per day. We would need 800 watts of solar and 400 amps of lithium batteries. $5-6,000.

I have 4 gc2 batteries($400)a gas electric fridge and a Honda 2200 generator. $1100.

We can go two days without charging. Works for us in the Midwest.

Compressor fridges change things.

If you live out west you would be happy with less solar stuff unless you have a compressor fridge. We were out at Moab last year. We ran the generator two hours at dinner. The DW loves her convection oven. For me it was the evening news. Got my 100 amps per day that way.

So, kind of depends.

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Old 07-16-2022, 03:38 PM   #9
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Never thought about the solar charger Mike, great point. While we have you do you have any favorite Lithiums? Seems like there are a lot coming from China 100 AH under $409 with BMS built in. CHINS LiFePO4 Battery 12V 100AH Lithium Battery - Built-in 100A BMS, Perfect for Replacing Most of Backup Power, Home Energy Storage and Off-Grid etc. https://a.co/d/8yaJu22
When I upgraded my batteries I purchased two Battleborn 100ah batteries.

Since they are all I'll ever need unless I defy the odds and live to 100 there'll all I ever expect to need. That pretty much leaves the Battleborns as my favorites
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Old 07-17-2022, 06:59 PM   #10
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I did some testing on the four 12v circuits in the camper looking for parasitic draw and to find out what my 12v fridge was drawing when running and idle. There are three more, two thirty's one for the battery and the other for the tank heaters and a 40 for reverse polarity but my meter only handles 10 amps so I didn't touch those.3

#1. Monitor panel. This circuit is for the panel that controls the lights, awing, pump, etc... There was no parasitic draw. 4 interior LED lights drew 1.74 amps, step light .12 amps, and awning lights .56 amps

#2. Hitch. No parasitic draw

#3. Appliances. .07 amps parasitic. The fridge draws 4.35 amps starting, 3.6 running, and basically none when idle at .07 amps.

#4. Radio and TV. .18 amps with the TV unplugged and .20 amps with the 12v TV plugged in. I read in one place that the TV could draw quite a bit when off but that's not the case on mine.

With the fridge running approximately half the time and the parasitic draws it looks like I'm using 2.34 amps per hour. That's less than I expected. Doing the math I need 56 amp hours in a 24 hour period. Round that up to 60 ah just to be safe. That's without using anything else such as lights, pumps etc....

On a sight where I was only gaining 27 ah through the solar due to shade I'm 33 amp hours short. Another 190 watt portable solar panel would get me that power but shade and clouds might limit that panel too.

I think I'll go with a inverter generator such as the Champion duel fuel 2500 watt as my first purchase. It seems to get good reviews and it MAY just run my AC without the addition of a soft start. I like the idea of solar but it doesn't cover all the bases immediately. Next would be a lithium battery and a new converter that will charge it to 100%. I'm thinking 200 amp hours should do the trick. Lastly would be the solar panel since it's the least reliable form of power.

THanks and your thoughts and opinions are most welcome.
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Old 07-17-2022, 09:55 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by njfishing View Post
Many boondockers with solar still take a generator along both to charge batteries when solar can’t keep up and run things like Microwave and AC when the generator is running. As far as charging batteries the problem with lead acids is it take several hours to charge the last 10% and should not discharge under 50% so you really only get 50% of the amp hours. Lithium batteries charge up much faster and you can drain them down to 100% without shortening the battery life but you do need a Lithium compatible charger to get them to charge fast. You might check your onboard charger to see if it supports Lithium, if it does I’d go with them. They’ve come down in price a lot and should last several more years then lead acid and provide much more power between charges.
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The fact that Lithium batteries charge much faster is making them more and more the desired battery for boondockers who camp in the forest.

When the solar panel output is reduced by shade it's important that what is produced be stored quickly and without waste. Definitely not characteristics of Lead/Acid batteries.

As for replacing the converter, if one has solar power with an converter capable of being adjusted to a Lithium charge profile, replacing he converter is not an absolute necessity. The existing converter can be used on shore power or generator to provide the majority of the charge to the Lithium batteries and the solar charging system will complete the process.

On life expectancy, Lead Acid batteries have an average life expectancy around 500 cycles, give or take. LiFePo4 batteries can 5-10 times that. Yes they do cost more, even with the prides dropping, but consider that the cost of "lead batteries" is going up. Cost is becoming less of an obstacle and for serious boondockers there's really only one practical choice.
May want to qualify those statements. If you're plugged into AC then yes, lithium will charge faster because of the higher voltage and amp charging capabilities.

If you're just using solar and under tree cover, sipping 4A is still 4A no matter the battery chemistry. You also have to be careful with going dead under tree cover. Once the BMS kicks in at 10.x volts, you may not have enough amps coming in to wake those batteries back up to slowly recharge. I tested that and had to pull batteries to plug into AC and get their charge back up to something usable.

Need to know how much power you consume daily and how long you expect to go without charging, and rely solely on batteries. That should get you close to your worse case scenario. Then plan on what you need to keep them charged for your typical or longest trip.
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Old 07-27-2022, 11:26 AM   #12
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We do a lot of boondocking and no hookups state park camping, and most of it is heavily shaded. We have four 6 volt GC batteries for a total of 430 Ah (215 Ah usable). I got rid of the worthless 50 watt panel that came with the trailer and installed two 400 watt residential panels for a total of 800 watts.

We are battery hogs. We have a 12 V fridge that we almost always keep on the coldest setting, we run at least three 12 V fans continuously, don't watch our light usage, listen to music, watch TV, plus keeping phones and other gadgets charged.

If in the sun (even on a cloudy day) the solar will charge our batteries up to 100% everyday easily. In heavy shade, it usually has trouble keeping up, and we may need to run the generator every few days, but that has trouble topping off the last 5-10%, so we rarely get the batteries back up to 100% while camping in the shade. I have no doubt that if we would ditch the lead acid and opt for lithium, this problem would be solved.

We've outgrown our current trailer, and plan to buy a (small) fifth wheel once prices come down, so I'm not going to invest in lithium until we get our next rig.
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Old 08-07-2022, 09:51 AM   #13
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I just got a Champion 2500 duel fuel for our E-Pro 19bh. It has a 13,500 btu AC unit on it and I had it working for 4 hours the other day with the generator. It wasn't terribly hot, around 90, but it did cycle. It also handled the 12 volt fridge running cooling it from completely warm. I don't think it will handle much more though. I really wanted a generator to supplement our solar in shady camp sites and it will more than do that.

I wanted to use the propane supply for the BBQ on the camper and did some research. The regulator on the camper and the one supplied by Champion are essentially the same so you need to detach the regulator from the flow valve on the Champion system. I've read that they can be tough to get off and both the Champion regulator fittings looked like they had red loctite on them. That takes around 500 degrees of heat to loosen up but as it turned out.....the regulator came off easily.

All that is needed is a 1/4" male 3/8" flare quick connect fitting and a 3/8" flare to 1/4" FIP adapter to attach to the flow valve. Works like a charm. I do have a second, OEM regulator/flow vale set from Champion if I have to connect directly to a lp tank. I also ordered an lp extension hose so I can move the generator to the back of the camper if needed.
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Old 08-07-2022, 10:33 AM   #14
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I just got a Champion 2500 duel fuel for our E-Pro 19bh. It has a 13,500 btu AC unit on it and I had it working for 4 hours the other day with the generator. It wasn't terribly hot, around 90, but it did cycle. It also handled the 12 volt fridge running cooling it from completely warm. I don't think it will handle much more though. I really wanted a generator to supplement our solar in shady camp sites and it will more than do that.

I wanted to use the propane supply for the BBQ on the camper and did some research. The regulator on the camper and the one supplied by Champion are essentially the same so you need to detach the regulator from the flow valve on the Champion system. I've read that they can be tough to get off and both the Champion regulator fittings looked like they had red loctite on them. That takes around 500 degrees of heat to loosen up but as it turned out.....the regulator came off easily.

All that is needed is a 1/4" male 3/8" flare quick connect fitting and a 3/8" flare to 1/4" FIP adapter to attach to the flow valve. Works like a charm. I do have a second, OEM regulator/flow vale set from Champion if I have to connect directly to a lp tank. I also ordered an lp extension hose so I can move the generator to the back of the camper if needed.

I did the same thing with the longer hose to get the generator back by the electric plug-in so a 3’ 10g extension cord will reach. That way I don’t have to deal with the big heavy cord. The only problem with this setup is that long hose is full of air and takes a LOT of pulling on the starter cord to actually get the propane to the flow valve. I added a valve to purge the line before I start pulling on the ripcord.
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Old 08-07-2022, 10:43 AM   #15
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Portable panels would probably be your best option as you can keep adjusting them to get optimum sun. But they’re not going to be super fast and may not bring you back up to 100%. Does your solar controller have input for additional solar panel(s)?
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Old 08-07-2022, 12:03 PM   #16
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I did the same thing with the longer hose to get the generator back by the electric plug-in so a 3’ 10g extension cord will reach. That way I don’t have to deal with the big heavy cord. The only problem with this setup is that long hose is full of air and takes a LOT of pulling on the starter cord to actually get the propane to the flow valve. I added a valve to purge the line before I start pulling on the ripcord.
Thanks for the tip about bleeding.......changed my order. It does have a valve but the valve won't open unless there is a male quick connect in it so for another few dollar I'm getting a male end so I can bleed through the quick connect valve of the hose.

My thoughts were to get the generator on the other side of the camper so it's a little more peaceful under the awning. Short cord isn't out of the question though.
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Old 08-07-2022, 12:12 PM   #17
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Portable panels would probably be your best option as you can keep adjusting them to get optimum sun. But they’re not going to be super fast and may not bring you back up to 100%. Does your solar controller have input for additional solar panel(s)?
Yes it does. I went 'round and 'round about which to get first.....generator, suitcase solar panels, or lithium batteries. If I have full sun/clear skies up to sunset or I'm not in shade I don't have a problem even for a couple of days of clouds/shade as long as I get some light on the 190 watt solar panel on the roof.

We tend to not be around the camper a lot so leaving expensive panels out long enough when we need them might not work so well. I would assume that there's a high risk of theft and if I have to get them away from the camper to gather light there's no way to secure them.

We'll get there eventually but the generator meets our needs pretty well at the moment.
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Old 08-07-2022, 01:04 PM   #18
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Portable panels would probably be your best option as you can keep adjusting them to get optimum sun. But they’re not going to be super fast and may not bring you back up to 100%. Does your solar controller have input for additional solar panel(s)?

After playing with an off-the-shelf portable solar kit that was rather slow to charge I decided to build my own. A pair of 120 watt Bouge RV panels (claimed 22.55% efficiency), a piece of piano hinge, some latches, and a Renogy adjustable tilt mount, gives me 240 watts in full sun.

Panels are wired in series and I feed the power, via a 50' #10 awg extension cord, into a Victron Smart MPPT solar controller.

Even when I just set the panels up when I arrive, and orient them with this app: https://play.google.com/store/apps/d....solarct&gl=US

I can recharge my two 100 ah Battleborn batteries by mid-afternoon. I regularly use between 35-50 amp hours per day and even without "chasing the sun" I have plenty of charge power.

With 50' of extension cord I have yet to find myself in a campground (usually dispersed DNR or FS land) where I can't find sun shining through the trees.

Only time I need to use my generator is when I am camping during heavily overcast/rainy days but even then I still see 6+ amp charging during daylight hours. Not enough to fully charge by late afternoon but it sure does cut back on generator time (and gasoline consumption).


Of course if charging Lead/Acid batteries with their need for longer absorption times I'd guess one would need at least 2X the size solar setup as I find adequate for my LiFePo4's.

As for small (like 50 watt) solar panels, they are only useful for maintaining a battery while the RV is in outside storage, or maybe for a battery operated remote controlled gate on a driveway. I sure wouldn't go camping with one and leave the generator at home
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Old 08-08-2022, 10:43 AM   #19
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...{snip} a Victron Smart MPPT solar controller {snip}...
Mike -

Are you using this controller? Is it networked with a BMV (temp, SOC)?
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Old 08-08-2022, 03:26 PM   #20
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Mike -

Are you using this controller? Is it networked with a BMV (temp, SOC)?
Yes, same controller. Gets fed temp and BATTERY voltage from my BMV 712. I emphasized "battery" as the voltage the solar controller sees is measured at the battery, not the solar controller output.

Eliminates issues caused by wire resistance.
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