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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I'm leaning toward going this way in the 500-700 Ah range for my 12v house battery system. Have read Clean1's and Technomadia's posts/blogs and am hoping to buy the batteries and associated components from same source but at same time use best in class components--but will cobble together if needed. I understand this will be pricey--probably $4-6k total but think is worth it to have benefits like DC air conditioning and hot water systems along with minimal weight (right now if my weigh calcs are right I'll be 400-700 under my 9000 GVWR).

I believe I want a pretty straightforward design:
- Alternator or 30 amp 110v shore power to charge the house battery bank (I have the HD alternator and dual lead acid batteries); no solar now but could add in future if find I need but drive enough between stops that I don't think I will with this kind of capacity.
- Believe simplest design is for alternator to charge house battery bank while driving except for when have shore power, and for everything to draw off battery bank all the time with only exception being fridge being switched to AC when have shore power.
- 2000-3000 watt inverter for AC needs but trying to use mostly DC major appliances/systems.
- Have not yet tallied component draws but with 500-700 Ah should be more than enough for Isotherm AC/DC fridge, microwave, water pump, Isotherm water heater, KingTec or similar DC air, lighting, TV & audio for the couple days max stays my wife and I make camping, hiking, biking and climbing.
Sounds like the Sterling battery to battery charge option that Clean1 used could work but looking for most simple and bulletproof options to achieve above.

Questions:

1. Other than Sterling option Clean1 close, what are other good options to charge house battery bank from alternator or from shore power (FYI I put a 30 amp 110v receptacle in my new heated garage), that will automatically switch between the two? (Should not be any of the voltage variance issues I've heard about due to bulk/absorption/float cycling issues with AGM or lead-acid batteries is my understanding with LFPs. Assuming this Sterling unit and other approaches negate the need for a charge controller but want to confirm.)

2. Plan to locate battery bank in cabinet just forward of passenger rear wheel well or thereabouts for optimal weigh distribution. Re wiring--what gauge wiring do I need from alternator and shore power hookups (other than cost, any downside to going as large as could possibly need?) and can I run alternator and shore lines under the chassis (where is optimal route to run from alt and how protect)? What about DC wiring from the house bank to appliances/etc.--standard romex for AC or "flexible" or SOOW?? Where do I need fuses and shunts to be completely safe?

3. Anything tricky re inverter with LFPs or just use standard solar components like Magnum or Outback that I've used before with off-grid solar?

4. Technomadia couple mentions AM Solar and Starlight Solar as knowledgeable sources--any others who could help spec a turnkey solution but not gouge me too much and also leverage best in class components (maybe like the Balquon battery TM mentions)?

5. Can I get away with no venting?

6. Anything else I'm overlooking?

I've built an off-grid cabin with my daughter that's still going strong where I cut my teeth on 12vDC stuff and learned to buy the best components and get expert advise (in that case Robert from N. AZ Wind and Solar). I know I have a lot to learn before tackling this--thanks in advance for help!
 

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This "build in progress" site may offer some ideas.

http://www.ortontransit.info/

Select the "drawings" button to find the electrical diagram. Electrical design is a bit different than "normal" RV charging method. Has worked very well for my application.

This is my second conversion so many changes/improvements from the sold Sprinter conversion.
 

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Regarding wire gauge, I agree with the notion of going larger than minimum required. You never know when you might install something with more amperage demands than originally planned, and you don't want to have to re-wire to accommodate. Besides, you'll sleep better knowing you are one size over required gauge, rather than one size under!
When it comes to the larger gauges of wire, I would recommend tinned marine wire over welding cable, even 'though it is more expensive. (Do it right, do it once!) A good source for wire etc., is genuinedealz.com
With the larger wires, your common crimper won't work. I suggest either getting your own relatively inexpensive hydraulic crimper and use high quality terminals, or, genuine dealz will do a great job crimping those terminals onto the wire for you for only $1 per.
Don't forget proper fusing at the battery, alternator, inverter.
 

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I plan on using Lifepo4 batteries but have run into Battery/system supplier problem -

Was going to use Balqon system but I have tried dozens of time to get them
to return emails and phone calls and got pretty much Zero response-
even posted this question about Balqon on this Ecar site -you can read responses-
http://www.diyelectriccar.com/forums/showthread.php/balqon-still-business-iii-166666.html

I do think Lifepo4 is the way to go if you want to use many electrical devices/AC /microwave etc
and want little to no maintenance -- is Spendy but I think worth it -
Power density per weight / size is several time higher than lead -
Charging is straightforward - correct batteries will take as much power
as you can stuff in till full -- Much higher output power delivery -
makes things like using Microwave easily doable -

BUT the Lifepo4 Battery industry is going thru Many changes Now because
Used E car batteries are starting to show up for sale on the market and things like
the Tesla Power Wall have turned the market upside down -
so many of the small suppliers are going out of business or having problems-

At least that is what I have found so far --

The DC to DC battery charger from the alternator seems to be the way to go-
being able to pump 60 to 120+ amps per hour into battery back make solar
more hassle than its worth and sadly almost useless --

Read this page about the energy in a gallon of gas- its eye opening -
looks at KW comparison - Doubt if DC/DC alternator will cause much milage change -
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gasoline_gallon_equivalent

Almost ALL of the Li Ion manufactures are now in China -A123 was one of the last US companies
and they are now made in china as far as I know- makes getting batteries in US a Real Hassle -
time consuming / more expensive -
Tesla Power Wall supply is Sold Out for a long time - Ouch


I am going to subscribe to this page so we can help each other find suppliers/ share info -Jay-
 

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I do think Lifepo4 is the way to go if you want to use many electrical devices/AC /microwave etc
makes things like using Microwave easily doable -
I have a 255 amp-hr AGM and a 1000 watt Magnum MMS1012 inverter/charger/transfer switch. I can run a 600 watt (actual 1140 watts) Proctor-Silex (KMart $50) microwave on that combination. Have run it for 10 minutes. Had a 700 watt originally but it ran only one time.

P-S microwave is ideal because it has old fashioned two dial time and heat level controls without pushbuttons or a clock. The microwave uses about 1% of the battery capacity for every two minutes it runs.

Do not leave inverter on full time. Turn it on when I want 120 volt power and turn it off when done. If left on overnight without a load it consumes about 6% of the battery capacity.

Disagree about solar. In our climate the 300 watt panel with a MPPT controller supplies all the power required for indefinite time. The last year of Sprinter ownership with a 205 watt panel, I never charged with shore power or from the vehicle. Very simple and reliable if the sun shines. I do have backup capability of charging either from shore or the vehicle powered inverter if I ever need it.

I also heat shower water or use a electric heater in cargo area using the 120 volt AC from the vehicle powered inverter with engine running. Charge or heat water or heat air.
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
Do you expect to have shore power very often when using the air conditioning? If so, do you have a way of running it from the shore power?
Other than to keep LFP batteries topped off in my garage, no. Don't like RV parks much so likely will only use shore power at more primitive-like campsites (e.g. we are staying for 2 days in March at Devil's Garden in Arches and their campsites have shore power).
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I plan on using Lifepo4 batteries but have run into Battery/system supplier problem -

Was going to use Balqon system but I have tried dozens of time to get them
to return emails and phone calls and got pretty much Zero response-
even posted this question about Balqon on this Ecar site -you can read responses-
http://www.diyelectriccar.com/forums/showthread.php/balqon-still-business-iii-166666.html

I do think Lifepo4 is the way to go if you want to use many electrical devices/AC /microwave etc
and want little to no maintenance -- is Spendy but I think worth it -
Power density per weight / size is several time higher than lead -
Charging is straightforward - correct batteries will take as much power
as you can stuff in till full -- Much higher output power delivery -
makes things like using Microwave easily doable -

BUT the Lifepo4 Battery industry is going thru Many changes Now because
Used E car batteries are starting to show up for sale on the market and things like
the Tesla Power Wall have turned the market upside down -
so many of the small suppliers are going out of business or having problems-

At least that is what I have found so far --

The DC to DC battery charger from the alternator seems to be the way to go-
being able to pump 60 to 120+ amps per hour into battery back make solar
more hassle than its worth and sadly almost useless --

Read this page about the energy in a gallon of gas- its eye opening -
looks at KW comparison - Doubt if DC/DC alternator will cause much milage change -
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gasoline_gallon_equivalent

Almost ALL of the Li Ion manufactures are now in China -A123 was one of the last US companies
and they are now made in china as far as I know- makes getting batteries in US a Real Hassle -
time consuming / more expensive -
Tesla Power Wall supply is Sold Out for a long time - Ouch


I am going to subscribe to this page so we can help each other find suppliers/ share info -Jay-
I thought about using the Powerwall when it was first announced for this application but doubt they will take focus off home solar or allow dealers to sell to DIYers like us any time soon. Looked at A123 but their site says no consumer sales so likely same issue.

I would imagine you are right re the market being in turmoil but seems to me it should turn around and come our way before too long. Too many reasons that you mention that these batteries are superior for RV/campervans and there seem to be a lot of people still buying RVs.

What about Elite Power Solutions (http://elitepowersolutions.com/) which Technomadia bought from? Their website ain't what Balqon's is but maybe they at least return calls and emails (TM said they had the same experience so Balqon must just be losers or don't care about this market).

Sterling Power has an alternator to battery unit (http://www.sterling-power-usa.com/SterlingPower12volt130ampalternatortobatterycharger.aspx) -- why not use this instead of battery to battery?
 

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Other than to keep LFP batteries topped off in my garage, no. Don't like RV parks much so likely will only use shore power a tmore primitive-like campsites (e.g. we are staying for 2 days in March at Devil's Garden in Arches and their campsites have shore power).
Are you sure Devils Garden has shore power? When I check the reservations page all campsites are listed as non-electric.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Are you sure Devils Garden has shore power? When I check the reservations page all campsites are listed as non-electric.
I thought wifey said it did but I might have mis-heard. I guess my point was fewer "neighbors" wall to wall RV parks and more campgrounds with most basic connections is where we plan to be when we will have shore power...
 

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what's the difference between battery-to-battery and alternator-to-battery?

paul
The Sterling alternator to battery charger requires that you disconnect the alternator output and install the charger between the alternator and the starter battery. This is meant for boats and I am guessing that, at the very least, it would void your Ford warranty.

Battery to battery chargers (including Sterling versions) just connect to the starter battery and draw their power from it like any other battery load. This is for use while the engine is running, in which case the alternator keeps the starter battery replenished.
 

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Yesterday I found out that a neighbor of mine works for SportsMobile and was able
to talk to him for a few minutes -

He told me that the DC to DC chargers(converters) Totally Work and
that they will output the Amps claimed --

Also said they have done a few conversions using Lifepo4 - said they work GREAT -but $pendy-
but also said price is Dropping a lot -

He said that in one conversion that used Lifepo4 conversions they did that he ran
a large air conditioner on Batteries only for Several hours on full Cold - worked Great-

I am going to go by his house again in the next few days and talk to him more -
 

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Yesterday I found out that a neighbor of mine works for SportsMobile and was able
to talk to him for a few minutes -
/QUOTE]

Pump him for information on aftermarket venting windows for the Transit! 0:)

The choices are pretty limited at this point, but I'll bet if there's hope on the horizon that Sportsmobile would know.
 

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Today I call Elite Power Solutions and Starlight Power --
Elite powers said I should talk to Starlight Power

So I called Starlight Power and they said that they
have complete systems that can charge batteries from the alternator and or
shore power --

There complete systems are a little spendy but not to bad--
they have complete systems listed from 200 amp hour for $2000
to a 500 amp hour for $4000 --

the man I spoke to said that they can do a complete install at their AZ shop
or can send you the system to install yourself -

there site has instructions on how to do the install yourself but have not
had the time to look at it completely yet -

The man I spoke with said that they were booked up on doing installs
for the next month and that it takes them about 2 days to do install -

Vince you should call them and ask some questions and then we can compare notes-
I think the man I spoke to was named Larry -

I am completely new to this so you will likely be able to ask better questions-
Starlight Solar ph# 928- 342-9103-

this is a link to their RV Battery systems -
http://www.starlightsolar.com/GBS_Battery_Package.html
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Today I call Elite Power Solutions and Starlight Power --
Elite powers said I should talk to Starlight Power

So I called Starlight Power and they said that they
have complete systems that can charge batteries from the alternator and or
shore power --

There complete systems are a little spendy but not to bad--
they have complete systems listed from 200 amp hour for $2000
to a 500 amp hour for $4000 --

the man I spoke to said that they can do a complete install at their AZ shop
or can send you the system to install yourself -

there site has instructions on how to do the install yourself but have not
had the time to look at it completely yet -

The man I spoke with said that they were booked up on doing installs
for the next month and that it takes them about 2 days to do install -

Vince you should call them and ask some questions and then we can compare notes-
I think the man I spoke to was named Larry -

I am completely new to this so you will likely be able to ask better questions-
Starlight Solar ph# 928- 342-9103-

this is a link to their RV Battery systems -
http://www.starlightsolar.com/GBS_Battery_Package.html
Thanks G2, I will when can. I also reached out to Greg Keith next door to me in Boulder who wrote the Sprinter campervan conversion e-book and he says he will be selling an LFP/LiPO4 system soon on his website. Between the two I think we should have a good option here. My goal is to have phase 1 build done by my mid March Moab trip and at this point can't say if I'll have time to get this done by then but will try assuming other stuff like finishing flooring and cabinets goes OK. Let you know when can...
 

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... Battery to battery chargers (including Sterling versions) just connect to the starter battery and draw their power from it like any other battery load. This is for use while the engine is running, in which case the alternator keeps the starter battery replenished.
In this case, aren't the electrons just bypassing the starter battery... when the vehicle is running? I mean, you've got a clean route, through the cabling.
 

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In this case, aren't the electrons just bypassing the starter battery... when the vehicle is running? I mean, you've got a clean route, through the cabling.
Yes, though it might be possible for the charger, coupled with other electrical loads, high engine compartment temperatures, etc. to draw more than the alternator can put out, thus pulling down the starter battery. In this case the charger senses the low starter battery voltage and shuts down while the starter battery replenishes.

This might have happened with Clean1, when he got only an average of 100A/H out of a standard 150A alternator and a 120A charger while recharging a discharged 600AH lithium battery (a current sucking bottomless pit). With the heavy duty 220A alternator this shouldn't be an issue unless Sterling comes out with a 180A charger as promised.

It's also possible (though very unlikely) that the Transit's alternator doesn't kick in right away when the starter battery experiences a load. One of the general advantages of smart battery to battery chargers is that it doesn't matter what the vehicle's computer does, they compensate for it. Some of the other advantages are listed here: Battery to Battery Chargers.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Yes, though it might be possible for the charger, coupled with other electrical loads, high engine compartment temperatures, etc. to draw more than the alternator can put out, thus pulling down the starter battery. In this case the charger senses the low starter battery voltage and shuts down while the starter battery replenishes.

This might have happened with Clean1, when he got only an average of 100A/H out of a standard 150A alternator and a 120A charger while recharging a discharged 600AH lithium battery (a current sucking bottomless pit). With the heavy duty 220A alternator this shouldn't be an issue unless Sterling comes out with a 180A charger as promised.

It's also possible (though very unlikely) that the Transit's alternator doesn't kick in right away when the starter battery experiences a load. One of the general advantages of smart battery to battery chargers is that it doesn't matter what the vehicle's computer does, they compensate for it. Some of the other advantages are listed here: Battery to Battery Chargers.
Just talked with Adam at Sterling and he said the 180A charger is due out by end of year but if wanted could use a 120A and a 60A to get 180 now but pricey. Re Battery to battery vs alternator to battery he said that the latter did make one of his Sprinter customer's engine light come on and worked OK when swapped for b2b but otherwise did not know why it wouldn't work. Sounds like b2b is the way to go but not sure if 120A is enough, guess depends on how much you use the house battery.
 
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