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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
https://redarcelectronics.com/products/dual_input_25a_in-vehicle_dc_battery_charger


Has anyone installed or considered this charger? REDARC Dual input 25A in-vehicle battery charger BCD1225D


Background: I have relatively modest electrical needs. In my last build I used a 125ah AGM vMax battery, battery doctor isolator for alternator charging, no inverter, shore power port. I ran a 12v cooler, a LED light and a fan. No solar. It was okay but given the discharge limits of the AGM I still didn't get a huge amount of run-time, which no big deal as we were rarely stationary for more than a day and did a lot of driving, which charged us up okay.


Enter the new PM: I still don't have much electrical need, but the fan and cooler are non-negotiable (actually planning to upgrade to a 12v fridge). I don't really care for solar panels on top, as I'd like to stay as under the radar as possible (I don't like the term 'stealth' but okay that's what I mean!) Space is also at a premium since I have a 136WB and am cramming 2 mountain bikes, inflatable SUPs and a bunch of other gear in and I'm really loathe to give up room and weight to the larger AGM battery bank that would enable us to stay in one spot for a bit longer... So I'm looking at the following set up - again, no inverter, but this time use a 100ah LiFePO4 charged off the alternator with the capability of topping off with portable solar panels. Not sure if I would add the shore port or not, or if it's even necessary/possible with this charger. I really don't want any outward "this is a campervan" signs at all.


This charger seems to be ideal & offers everything I need......can anyone add to my understanding....or rain on my parade....?
 

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Have you considered that a 100W solar panel down the center off the roof would be virtually invisible? You might try laying something of the approximate size up there and taking a look from below. I'm just thinking that a portable panel is one more bulky item to stuff into an already crowded van.
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
@MsNomer You make a good point.... I suppose I would consider a solar panel if I felt it was "virtually invisible" but I'm still not convinced...with the rake of the van to the front I feel like I can see the whole roof from a distance. And I'd like the ability to park in the shade and move the solar panels around if necessary. Nevertheless, I still want a solution that enables me to charge both from the alternator AND solar (wherever it might be mounted) without having separate chargers. Plus I'd like the space/weight saving of a lithium battery.


The other option that seems like it will fit my needs is the Kodiak Inergy "solar generator" which apparently can be charged from the cigarette lighter plug. I wonder how efficient that is (they say 4 hours to recharge in this manner....while vehicle is running, obviously). It certainly seems like it would be a nice portable alternative to all that wiring, fusing and whatnot (been there, done that, just want ventilation and fresh food!)
 

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I will try to be nice here as I do want to help. Stick two 100 watt flex solar panels on the roof, bring it in through a waterproof adapter and connect the van alternator with a solenoid or B-D if you must. Most of those things are designed to separate a sucker from their money, are a pain to deploy and will be gone when you return from your walk. The van is huge, you can find a place for FLA or AGM, and it will carry 2 tons. Despite this everyone will know you are camping as it’s a honking huge van.

 

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Reality is RD is correct. Although that is hard to say out loud :) But seriously the campervan thing has gotten so popular most people guess that someone may be inside even if there are no exterior indicators. Unless you're in an area where no one has heard of campervans. I live in Mississippi and very few people know anything about sprinters, etc so even with two panels, an AC, and fan on top most people don't know what it is.

My two panels are barely visable from the ground. If you went with one in the middle you'd probably have to make a real effort to see it. No way would I want to take up valuable space inside my van to store portable panels.

Sent from my SM-P900 using Tapatalk
 

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Maybe your 136WB is a low roof. So the top is visible? To anyone who knows about the stealth camping trend, like a LEO, the vent on top will scream “camper”. And the van parked with people going in and out, making noise, covered windshield, all is a mighty big tip. For people who live in rural areas, ANY vehicle from bicycle to semi rig parked on a side road, parking lot, vacant land, etc. is a vehicle to be watched and investigated.

That said, how much electricity do you plan to use before driving?


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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks all for your input! My question's not really about the pros and cons of stealth camping or if it's actually possible though I do appreciate your opinions. I do want to use solar in some form and will consider the roof mount option.


I'm pretty interested in the lithium battery route and was wondering about the Redarc dual charger. Interestingly Redarc says it's compatible with lithium, but Battle Born for one, says it won't work with their batteries. So it's not a done deal that all these so-called lithium chargers are compatible with all lithium batteries, something that was news to me. I guess my initial research was trying to understand if I could find a charger that incorporated the solar controller and the battery isolator function, something that the Redarc purports to do. I'm a total beginner when it comes to anything outside of my standard 12v DC one AGM battery to alternator scenario.

@pbanbury we tend to use around 50ah at a go, or around 40% of our capacity which I thought was a bit much drainage on the AGM battery on a constant basis.
 

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50 A-H! If that is so why are you thinking of spending $$$$ on a battery of that type? If I wanted to carry around a tiny computer.... Oh I do that already.... it needs a lithium battery for lightness and size. In a van for 50 amp-hours? Not so much. Perhaps we could all satisfy our lithium curiosity by experimenting with our cell phones?? I could then say “I’m pretty interested in the lithium battery route- for my phone...” Just think of the money we would all save. Now if you were Winston you would need that battery as he has managed to ramp up his use to about 478 KWH a month when traveling. He is a highly trained electrical sparky guy who may know what he is doing.
Ignore the recent trend to say something that supports my point of view.... It will pass and I will return to a lonesome voice in the van wilderness!.
 

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https://redarcelectronics.com/products/dual_input_25a_in-vehicle_dc_battery_charger


Has anyone installed or considered this charger? REDARC Dual input 25A in-vehicle battery charger BCD1225D


This charger seems to be ideal & offers everything I need......can anyone add to my understanding....or rain on my parade....?

Redarc are an Aussie brand and here they are considered state of the art. They're friggin expensive but are built to last.
VERY popular here in OZ.
Squeak
 
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Perhaps we could all satisfy our lithium curiosity by experimenting with our cell phones??
Actually, I kinda did just that at the Grand Canyon in December. Down in the canyon, it was too cold to charge my phone unless I tucked it close to my body heat. Then I thought about the van up on the rim where it was a lot colder and I couldn't fit the AGM's in my armpit.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Haha!! Well I guess my parade is well and truly soaked now...! You guys are great!!


In the last 3 years I've camped on streets, in parking lots, rest stops and I never had a problem...I'm not looking to fool anyone just get a night's sleep and move on! I feel like the less obtrusive I can be the better and I don't want to jinx it. But I might look at the one solar panel on the roof like MsNomer suggested. That doesn't seem too far out of my comfort zone!


Yeah I get that lithiums are more expensive and all that, but I think cost per cycle they actually compare quite favorably? As far as something I "really need" well, I think that's all relative. I don't really need a whole lot in my van: I can do without toilet, shower, sink, heaters, swivel seats and stuff.....come to think of it I might get a swivel ;-).... so I guess that saves me $ for expensive batteries!


Would love to hear from any lithium converts/fans, even for modest electrical needs.


Thanks @Squeaka for the feedback about the Redarc. It seems to me that Australians really know their gear and they are big on heavy duty/high quality, given the harsh environment. And like my mom always says buy cheap buy twice!
 

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Reminds me of a dilemma of through-hikers of the Appalachian and Pacific Coast trails. Do you recharge your cellphone with portable solar or a lithium power pack? Most hikers that start out with solar ditch their solar chargers pretty quickly.

Of course weight is a big concern to through-hikers, but I see logic to this approach. If I could only use portable solar on my van, I'd probably ditch it and go with a lithium battery. While I don't find stealth a viable strategy, and I disagree that lithium is easier technically. I think it would be much easier operationally compared to forever deploying solar panels and chasing the sun.

Battery getting low? Start your van and idle or drive for a while. Too cold to charge your battery? Start it up and turn the heater on and wait for the battery to warm up, then charge. As long as you have some state of charge indication and a weather forecast, you can see these problems coming.

It's not something I would do, and I think your space and weight concerns are a canard. You can always fit batteries into a build and stash fold up solar panels somewhere... like the roof ;)
 

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That Redarc is interesting. I installed CTek DC-DC charging, and am very pleased with it. The Redarc unit appears to charge at a higher amp rate, meaning I would be able to fully recharge on a shorter drive.

As for lithium? Go for it! And tell us all about it as you go. It is inevitable, initially expensive, and interesting. The coming Winnebago system will be worth watching, as is the system installed by Advanced RV. Our needs are so basic that a single 125AH AGM battery, charged when under way suffices, but I am still intrigued!
 

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Not what you asked, but if you only use 50 Amp-hours per day, and move around regularly, why not just replicate the van you’ve been using successfully except for a larger AGM battery? Seems the simplest and cheapest solution.

You can install up to 255 Amp-hour battery (or two smaller to make easier to lift under van floor), which only adds about 100 pounds over a small battery. And if you offset the weight of solar panels and chargers, the added weight is even less. I doubt you’ll feel the difference in weight.


By the way, I agree solar panels are very visible because the world isn’t flat. :)

Solar can be seen from trucks, RVs, buildings, or any parking areas where elevations change by more than 2~3 feet. This in itself wouldn’t discourage me from adding solar, but what you describe makes it sound unnecessary.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Thanks all!! @Winston - I sure will have questions!!! @Chance I think you're probably quite right but I think I'm going to go for Lithium anyway. Even if it's massively expensive up front, it actually appears it's more economical, dollar per cycle than lead acid. So if I have the $$$ I'm going to go for it. I hard wired all my AGM stuff into my last van and now I'm bummed that I had to sell it all with the van (well I didn't HAVE to but would have been a pain to remove, plus buyer wanted it). So, I've decided I'm going to go for a portable solution this time that I can also use in power outages, tent and other places or move to a new vehicle if I need to.
 

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@GrassyC
Do you live in a warm place? Do you ever use the van in below freezing temps? LiFePO4 cells are physically damaged by charging when the cells are frozen. Not sure why this is'nt mentioned more often here in the forum since it makes lithium cells a dealbreaker for most of us using these vans to camp in north america. If you go with the LiFePO4 you might consider build an insulated and heated box for your LiFePO4, and that's what this user did:
http://www.promasterforum.com/forum/showthread.php?t=75697&page=3
maybe you can heat the box with a lead acid battery ;)

Also, would be curious to know the total system weight and size comparison between LiFePO4 and Lead Acid. When I looked at LiFePO4 it was around 60% of the weight of lead acid not including the additional components needed for the LiFePO4 so the weight savings were truly trivial.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
@afox Yes charging below freezing is an issue I see that. Would make sense to insulate the battery box I think and what about a thermal blanket powered from the lithium battery itself to keep it warm? Could that work? I'm just throwing ideas out ...I looked at that thread but I can't see any description of how to heat the box, LOL your suggestion heat with lead acid battery!
 
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