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Discussion Starter #1
I would like to shop for the best power options
to see how I'd proceed & have them install it.
Suggestions in North Jersey / Eastern PA.
Called an RV place wasn't interested.
Needs - 12V frig, micro, air compressor, power tools other smalls.
NO fixed solar. I have a 3.7 one battery.
budget up to $3000
 

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I have a small van electrical business on the left coast, so not really useful for you, but I will throw out some related comments from the perspective of the installer.

In order to reliably run those items routinely (not just occasionally) in your climate, it will take roughly:
  • 4 each, 100 amp-hr, 12 volt, good quality AGM batteries
  • 2 kW inverter
  • 300 - 400 watts of solar
  • Battery to battery charger
  • Related safety items
That is what I have in my own van and I use it all day long to power tools, etc.

Without solar panels, then more or less you will need to use a similar amount of Li batteries instead of AGM to deal with the need to be able to operate without regular full charging.

In your region, and the nominal 40 ish F lower limit on full Li performance, you either have to keep the van warm or accept that they won't work in the winter.

Solar panels aren't for "being green", they are for "saving money on the battery pack cost".

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Most electrical installers don't really enjoy installing panels, so if you want to do that part yourself, few will complain. I know that I won't, but I am open either way.

It is good for you to understand the van electrical items so that you can obtain an electrical system that you are happy with, but don't expect anyone to install your box of parts for you. In my case, I have items that I have tested and know how to use at a "system level", not just random parts that I have to spend time reading yet another manual and figuring out what extra tools are needed to program it. I also have spare parts around so that if / when a part is defective (or I break it) , it doesn't slow me down.

As an example, I don't routinely use victron inverters (had too many DOA / defective) so if a customer wants one, I will install it with the understanding that if it is defective, they have to pay for removal / replacement time.
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If you budget $6-7K for parts and labor, and do your own solar panels, it is feasible.

A Li based system that probably would not need solar would cost closer to $10K parts and labor.

Those are for a system that works reliably and you don't need to really think about much.

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Most people in the van upfit business are looking for complete conversions, but some will do electrical only.

My shop only does electrical but that is unusual and frankly is due to my limited wood finishing skills.

You can also search for marine electricians as a boat and a van are pretty similar (electrically).
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Harry I really appreciate you thoughts. Being self employed I get the approach. Thank you for the
reply certainly have a better understanding of process & where to shop.
  • one Li battery at $900- $1100
  • 2 kW inverter
  • no solar
  • Battery to battery charger
  • Related safety items
  • First is that acceptable. Now what would be a price range?
 

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Onan's smallest Rv generator will fit between the rear axle and the spare tire on a Transit, I know of at least two people on this forum who have mounted them there. Starting at Post #10

 

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Discussion Starter #5
Interesting read. I'll have to follow up on that. I have the honda 2000 but I felt quiet power was my preference
plus it would have power to the frig all the time. Roof air isn't for me at this time but I enjoy the options. Wonder
the cost of that bought & installed.
 

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My personal preference for a generator based solution is the 3000 size rather than the 2000 size, especially if it will be running an a/c.

The fuel tank is substantially larger and the larger generator will actually be quieter under loads greater than 1000 watts.
 

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Harry I really appreciate you thoughts. Being self employed I get the approach. Thank you for the
reply certainly have a better understanding of process & where to shop.
  • one Li battery at $900- $1100
  • 2 kW inverter
  • no solar
  • Battery to battery charger
  • Related safety items
  • First is that acceptable. Now what would be a price range?
I am really in the "systems" business, not the "custom build" business. Think "goal zero yeti like box" that was engineered from the start to work like a conversion van needs it to work vs a bunch of add-ons, so not an exact fit to what you are asking, but I will give you two answers to think about:

1) How do I help local customers who are asking the same question or already have parts?
2) What will be the behavior of the system that you outlined?

In answer to #1
  • I really don't enjoy taking the time to calculate how long it will take to build something custom for a customer and I am nearly always wrong
  • The most important thing with vans is the need to be able to deal with changes in an easy and flexible way.
  • No matter what you build, it will need changing at some point - maybe even the next day
  • The paperwork for changes can take more time than getting things accomplished.
My "solution" is:
  • Instead of using a fixed price to do the work, I "rent the shop" to the customer for the day
  • In the 6 hrs on site, they are in charge of what they want to do - build paper airplanes or work on the van
  • They can bring parts and / or purchase parts from me - pay at the end of the day for the parts
  • I keep around a lot of parts, tools, and even a few sheets of baltic birch
  • Obviously we have a discussion about their skills and there is a liability waiver
  • I am there as the "helper" and of course they are stuck listening to the opinions of a guy in his 60s.
  • I don't obviously have every possible combination of things but a lot of things that can be made to work.
The first day is $630. After that it is 2 days for the same price.

This is really something that I just started doing this year, and so far it has been used by:
  • A couple from Switzerland that has a promaster that they took across Europe - across Canada - and then down S through CA and into Mexico.
  • A very savvy auto guy who moved east coast to west coast and moved into a condo with no tools for now
  • In use right now by a very nice lady and her Transit. She is new to this type of mechanical work but learning fast.
I guess you could call this an experiment, because I don't know of anyone else that does it this way. So far, so good.

With Covid + masks + constantly cleaning tools + social distancing everything is more complicated and takes longer than before.

With some planning, most likely what you have listed (and some parts that you have not listed) can be completed in 1 - 2 days.

Here is the listing on my web store with more details:

 

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Harry I really appreciate you thoughts. Being self employed I get the approach. Thank you for the
reply certainly have a better understanding of process & where to shop.
  • one Li battery at $900- $1100
  • 2 kW inverter
  • no solar
  • Battery to battery charger
  • Related safety items
  • First is that acceptable. Now what would be a price range?
In answer to #2 - how will this system configuration actually work in practice?

Refrigerator
  • Assume that it is summer time
  • A single Li battery that starts the day fully charged will largely drained in 24 hours from the refrigerator running and a few other modest loads.
  • On a cooler day, you might get 48 hours of run time, but that is a stretch
Inverter
  • The inverter @ 2000 watts will pull at least 200 amps @ 12 volts to run it
  • A circular saw will run about 50% of this if you aren't pushing it during operation (100 amps) , and during start up ~ 150 amps @ 12 volts
  • Regardless of what is on the label, a customer and I have personal experience with blowing out the BMS on 3 Li batteries even operating them completely within their official ratings.
  • Think of these batteries as capable of supply 50 amps / 500 watts each, not 2000 watts each
  • Yes, you can run a 2000 watt inverter connected to a single LiFe battery, but in that case, I would put an 80 amp breaker on it so that it hopefully trips faster than the BMS blows out
This is why it doesn't really matter if it is AGM or LiFe - it still takes ~ 3 - 4 size 27 ish batteries to make a reliable system that can run a 2 kW inverter. (example battle born, and the other brands) In my case, they systems that I supply with a 2 kW inverter are designed to hold 4 batteries, and this is why. Can you stretch it - yes. I don't.

Charging from driving only
  • Most of these LiFe batteries have a charge rate max of 50 amps / 500 watts
  • If the single battery is largely depleted each day, then it will take ~ 2 hrs of driving or idling each day to recharge
  • If you have for example 4 batteries, then you can charge at (4) x (500 watts) = 2 kW, which is roughly the upper limit of the Ford Transit dual alternator system
I like Li batteries, but just as an example, if instead you used 4 each x 100 amp-hr AGMS, the battery charge time would be roughly the same (1-2 hrs of driving per day) plus a 2-3 hr drive once per week.

Just kicking around ideas. It all has to make sense for the customer.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
You are a book of knowledge. I have thought of the Gold zero with the link so when you drive it charges. I have
heard the newer X generation is better than the earlier versions. I'll absorb all your info that you shared over the week. I'll be traveling. Thank you for taking the time to enlighten me & anyone else reading this post.
 
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