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Old 05-23-2022, 10:20 AM   #1
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Order of Electrical Upgrades

Ok so I'm upgrading my DC electrical system for running my 12v refrigerator longer before recharging.

I currently have an 100ah lead acid battery, factory charge controller, and 100 watt Harbor Freight solar kit.

I know that these 3 major components have to be changed to support longer trips boondocking. My question is what order to upgrade, trying to spread out the spending.

My gut says battery first (with cheaper charger), then full charge controller, and finally solar.

Is there any reason to upgrade Solar first? Or does battery first, with instantly going up to 90+ah from 50ah make more sense?
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Old 05-23-2022, 03:02 PM   #2
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I would decide what type and how much battery you want to upgrade to first. Everything to follow may be dependent on your choice. I don't think you would be happy long term with 90ah.
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Old 05-23-2022, 03:22 PM   #3
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Upgrading to 100ah LiFe, with hopes of another down the road.
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Old 05-23-2022, 03:24 PM   #4
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This is what I did.bi went battery first. One reason being my current lead acid batteries were needing replaced. So it made sense to start there for me. If your batteries are newer then you may want to do solar first but buy charge controller that has lifepo4 settings.

FYI
I built a 280ah lifepo4 battery and ran my residential refrigerator, TV and main room led ceiling lights for 22hrs and 20min before battery shutdown. I installed a DC-DC charge controller a new converter for lifepo4 battery new fuses and wiring and battery monitor for under $1500.

Now I have to do the solar panels.
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Old 05-23-2022, 03:43 PM   #5
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Get a shunt first. Then...

I look at it like this:

Your fridge is on 24/7. That means it will draw power in the dark or on cloudy days, along with other things like lights and your furnace. So you need enough power storage to accommodate your usage when you are not bringing in other sources of power (e.g. solar)

So if I had to do it in phases, I would do at least one 100Ah LiFePo4 battery. Since you already have some solar you don't need to change your converter over, but if you have a lithium compatible unit, switch it over to get the lithium charge profile when you do get on shore power.

Then add solar and an MPPT controller. But decide if you are going to add all the solar you will want at once or if you will do that in phases as well. If in phases, buy a controller that will accomodate what you want in the end so it makes expanding the solar panels easier and cheaper in the long run.

Then add more batteries to increase storage.

If you solar can't fully charge your batteries given your power consumption you'll need some form of shore power.

Its a numbers game. You need to do a power audit.
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Old 05-23-2022, 04:00 PM   #6
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1. Shunt-type battery monitor. A Victron SmartShunt is easiest (wireless) and has Bluetooth and other capabilities. An AiLi works fine for LFP if cost is a concern. (When is it not?)
2. LFP battery. 2 x 100Ah in parallel is better than 1 x 200Ah, because it can discharge faster if you get an inverter.
3. Larger solar charge system, be that fixed panels on the roof or a solar suitcase. Minimize the distance between the charge controller and the batteries.
4. Enhance the connection between the OEM converter/charger (which does not require Li-compatible replacement if you have a solar charging system) with a much larger AWG welding cable. That increases the current the converter can deliver to the batteries.
5. Consider an inverter, but they're not essential.
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Old 05-23-2022, 05:27 PM   #7
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I already have a shunt, and with 100w solar and 100ah lead acid I got somewhere around 12 hours, bringing the battery way below 50%. Obviously I don't want to do that regularly. Typical day is generator off in the morning, generator mid day for the kids to have a nap, and generator at bed time through the night. 50% for charging, 50% because I don't want to go out in the middle of the night to shut it off.

Due to fuel costs, I'm getting a remote start to start/stop as needed. I want to be able to go 12 hours with nothing but the fridge going, maybe a couple phone chargers.

So a battery upgrade should give me that, even at the 90% that the factory converter will charge to. Is that damaging at all to the battery until I get a proper lithium compatible converter?
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Old 05-23-2022, 05:53 PM   #8
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It's not damaging to the battery but it will charge slower to that 90% than lithium compatible converter would to 100%. If you are going to run your generator, a lithium compatible converter would let you run it less.

If you are using 50Ah every 12 hours, that's like 8A per hour during the usable solar day which is typically about 6-7 hours. You'd need almost 400W of solar to cover that if I didn't miss something.
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Old 05-23-2022, 07:48 PM   #9
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I'm sold on battery first, thanks for the opinions.

Next question, chins 100ah or $100 more for a renogy 100ah? I lean renogy for the down the road charge controller/solar support.
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Old 05-23-2022, 08:42 PM   #10
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Wink Thought on LiFePo Batteries

I think you are correct in going with the batteries first if you have to phase the installation. Just make sure, as others have mentioned, you do all your homework up front so you don't get down the road and find you need to buy something a second time.

If you decide to go with the LiFePo batteries, check with the manufacturer before purchasing them. Some will let you go up to two years on the batteries and still be able to add new batteries to your battery bank. Some manufacturers want you to have all the batteries the same age.

I would go with the LiFePo if you can afford them which is what I did. I purchased two and then they had a sale and I was able to get a third one at a discount. Also consider how you are going to keep them secure. They are pricey and therefore popular with some of the less honorable individuals. I put mine into a side compartment which makes them more secure. I've read of a number of others on the forum who have done likewise. Depending on how your TT is set up, this may also reduce the length of some of the wiring you need to do. It saved me almost 5' on my inverter cables!!

Good luck on your project. Please share with us how your project is going. A few photos so we can OOOH!! and AAAH! are always welcomed!

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Old 05-23-2022, 10:57 PM   #11
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I'm sold on battery first, thanks for the opinions.

Next question, chins 100ah or $100 more for a renogy 100ah? I lean renogy for the down the road charge controller/solar support.
I have an SOK 100Ah (actually, two) and am happy. They continue to improve their offerings. Manufacturer support is very good. They're in China but have a warehouse in Michigan and an increasing number of US distributors. Check out their web site and/or the SOK group on Facebook.

I have a Renogy 2KW inverter and am happy with it but have had a hard time getting tech support to answer their phone. I have read positive reports about tech support from other owners but that's not my experience. Fortunately, I haven't needed it.
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Old 05-24-2022, 11:05 AM   #12
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The order I chose worked well for me:
1. A Victron battery monitor with ALL battery current passing through the shunt.
2. Use the Victron information to determine the battery capacity you need for your unique expectations.
3. Install the batteries and upgrade your converter (if necessary) together.
Note: You want to buy all your batteries at the same time so that their charging characteristics are identical.
Note 2: I used a generator every few days to boost my 2 100AH Lithium batteries until the solar is upgraded.
Note 3: Make sure your converter is optimized for the battery type and capacity you now have. I needed to replace one circuit board to properly charge lithium batteries.
4. Upgrade your solar.
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Old 05-24-2022, 12:22 PM   #13
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Note 3: Make sure your converter is optimized for the battery type and capacity you now have. I needed to replace one circuit board to properly charge lithium batteries.
In addition to Note 3 above, make sure your cabling between the converter/charger and the batteries will support the charging current provided for LFP batteries.
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Old 05-24-2022, 02:36 PM   #14
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So right now I have a WFCO WF-8955PEC. A direct replacement would be a PD4655LIV (55-AMPS) from Progressive Dynamics. Are there any other good options that would drop in the factory location?

And it looks like for sub-$500 batteries there is the Renogy 100ah for ~$475, Chins ~$380, Ampere Time ~$400. Is one of these better than the others? Any other suggestions in that price range?Click image for larger version

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Old 05-24-2022, 02:57 PM   #15
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I bought the WFCO replacement.

https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B07TZNCF...ing=UTF8&psc=1

As for batteries just be aware of their charge and discharge ratings. I've seen some that are only 50amp charge and 100amp discharge so a 55amp converter is over the battery charge ratings.
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Old 05-24-2022, 04:00 PM   #16
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I bought the WFCO replacement.

https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B07TZNCF...ing=UTF8&psc=1

As for batteries just be aware of their charge and discharge ratings. I've seen some that are only 50amp charge and 100amp discharge so a 55amp converter is over the battery charge ratings.
Chances are that you'll never see a full 55 amp charge rate from that converter.

Most LiFePo4 batteries have a charge rate "Limit" of .5C or half the amp hour rating of the battery. Many, if not most, installations have two batteries which means a total amp/hour capacity ~200 ah. The .5C rate is now 100 amp.

BTW, a 100ah rated LiFePo4 battery often has more than 100ah capacity. Capacity testing on my two Battleborn batteries (100ah factory rated) showed that each had >110 ah.

In short, a 55 amp converter is not going to harm a LiFePo4 battery with a charge rate spec of 50 amp.
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Old 05-24-2022, 04:54 PM   #17
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Chances are that you'll never see a full 55 amp charge rate from that converter.

Most LiFePo4 batteries have a charge rate "Limit" of .5C or half the amp hour rating of the battery. Many, if not most, installations have two batteries which means a total amp/hour capacity ~200 ah. The .5C rate is now 100 amp.

BTW, a 100ah rated LiFePo4 battery often has more than 100ah capacity. Capacity testing on my two Battleborn batteries (100ah factory rated) showed that each had >110 ah.

In short, a 55 amp converter is not going to harm a LiFePo4 battery with a charge rate spec of 50 amp.
Maybe not but he is adding solar too. So solar plus converter will take you over 55amps. I've charged at 87amps with my converter and DC-DC charger on at the same time. I will be adding my solar soon. People need to be aware that multiple charge sources and up. So this needs to be taken in to account when building a system.
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Old 05-24-2022, 05:30 PM   #18
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... 3. Install the batteries and upgrade your converter (if necessary) together. ...
If upgrading the solar at the same time, upgrading the converter (if not Li-aware) is useful but not essential. The panels will top off the batteries as long as the SCC is configured for Li charge voltages.
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Old 05-24-2022, 05:44 PM   #19
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Maybe not but he is adding solar too. So solar plus converter will take you over 55amps. I've charged at 87amps with my converter and DC-DC charger on at the same time. I will be adding my solar soon. People need to be aware that multiple charge sources and up. So this needs to be taken in to account when building a system.
True but if one is upgrading the battery bank, either a single 200ah+ or a pair of 100ah LiFePo4 batteries would be my suggestion. A single 100ah battery, even "lithium" might be OK for one who only goes off grid during a stop overnight while traveling. 200+ gives one more peace of mind. As I stated, a 200 ah battery can easily handle up to 100 amp charging if battery spec is .5C rate for charging.

Speaking for myself (having learned the lesson over the years), when UPGRADING, make sure that each step along the process is the last time you visit that portion. Buy ENOUGH batteries the first time, upgrade Solar to what's needed to support batteries and uses, and get a GOOD battery monitor, are all examples. Also use wires that will handle the current (over distance) that one can ever imagine needing. A little more expensive for the initial install but a lot cheaper than if one has to pull it out and go with the size they could have used in the beginning because they added extra load (like an Inverter, etc).
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Old 05-24-2022, 06:27 PM   #20
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I believe Chins and Ampere Time are being produced by the same company (after watching Will Prouse) and offer similar feature set, with AT having a slightly better warranty (hence the slight price bump). I went the Chins route with 600AH (2-300ah's, non heated, and no low temp charge cutoff).

Self heating isn't important as these things are in conditioned space, but I would have liked the low temp charge cutoff. As it stands, I setup the batteries to be isolated from the solar in case of too low to be charged, and simply pay attention to the weather and keep the battery compartment comfortable temp.
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