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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Well that's frustrating, i used an "image link" instead of direct link. i'll have to have a mulligan I guess.

Hello everybody,

I bought a 2016 159' EXT Promaster and am in the process of converting it to be a full time home for 2. I don't have any experience in construction or electrics or really any field that would be helpful to this process ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Fake it till you make it right?

Step 1: acquire van



Step 2: Let's insulate this thing



If chose 2' thick XPS boards attached and sealed off with great stuff foam. I stuffed denim insulation in all the leftover bits. If I had to do it again i'd consider going with thinsulate, though I never did really price it out.



There was little bits of blue foam floating around my nightmares (and house) for days.

Step 3: Have your friends exploit your newfound powers



Step 4: I'm not sure what to do next but my friend can help me install a floor this weekend so...











Thank you buddyman!

Step 5: Fan Time

Cutting a hole in your van is nerve wracking. Triple check your logic and measurements then do it again. If you do that you may wind up only narrowly avoiding an irreversible mistake.



Grab your reciprocating saw





Butyl Tape





self levelling lap sealant



I got the Maxxfan 7000k model I believe. I live in a temperate rainforest so airflow no matter the precipitation situation was a must.

Step 6: acidentally have a party



Step 7: Cladding and wiring

Got a great deal on a bunch of cedar, I just had to spend a few hours at the yard picking through for the best boards.



I think i'm starting to understand electrics stuff, but it was great to have this guys tesla like prowess to guide me through



Having this all up sure is making it feel more real and exciting.



I started to build some furniture, but i'm going to take a break while I piece together a couple problems i've yet to solve.



So the problems that i've yet to solve are:

Setting up my electrical system. I'm determined to do a lifepo4 system. My budget will likely limit me to 100 or 200 AH to begin with, but I plan on leaving space in my battery box to scale to 400AH. I haven't been able to source cells from anyone yet. Doesn't seem like many folks in Canada are hip to the lifepo4 thing yet and for some reason i'm worried about ordering them online.

What fridge am I going to get? I want a front opening one with a freezer. This question is actually frustrating me quite badly. The energy star 120v ones seem almost achievable in terms of energy draw, and the price is certainly right. Not many brick and mortar places selections of them and none of them are used to answering questions in terms of my applications. The RV stores never hold stock and think i'm mad for not wanting LPG. I know most people choose to go DC chest fridge like dometic or something.

And basically that it I guess. I ordered swivels from swivels R us and am picking up a natures head composting toilet, but I have to choose the fridge in order to have it's dimensions so I can move forward.

Anyways hi everyone

Brennan
 

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Welcome, I am not sure how your pictures are posted up but I cannot see them. You have a huge first post an I’d like to see them. Perhaps use a hosting site like tinypic.com . Are the batteries you are planning similar to the ones in the Samsung Phone that is getting so much hot press?
 

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2014 3500ext Gas - VA
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Brennan,
From your initial post, it sounds like you are leaning away from propane. Since I did my entire build on my own, I didn't want propane and invested in my solar, batteries, and inverter/charger. Going this route allowed me to use regular 120v appliances... I won't say it "saved" me a lot of money, but I'm very happy with how the setup performs. My approach may not directly apply to your build since you are designing it as a full-time home (i.e you may want something larger than a 4.5 ft^3 fridge/freezer).

I've been surprised how well the 120v fridge has performed... from my initial power draw tests using a Killawatt meter showing it drew less power than energy star label stated (granted the tests occurred in a temperature controlled home)... to actual use while camping... it has drawn less power than I expected and has no problem making ice and keeping beverages cold with very little noise. Here's a page dedicated to my electrical system build: https://vancave.wordpress.com/cargo-van-overview/cargo-van-electrical/
Good luck!
phranc
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
RDinNHandAZ: Too soon man, too soon. It seems as though there are a few different chemistries that fall under the blanket term lithium ion batteries.

http://batteryuniversity.com/learn/article/types_of_lithium_ion

A cursory search for the specific chemistry used didn't yield any results, but i've heard lithium cobalt oxide is common in consumer electronics. It also seems to be more unstable than a lithium iron phosphate (lifepo4 or LFP "LFP" standing for "lithium ferrophosphate") battery.

Here's a video of some dudes blowing one up on purpose, set to terrible music to make learning fun.


So worst case scenario it at least looks like you're not getting into explosion territory, and probably not even fire territory if you build a half decent battery box. Hopefully it doesn come to that.

On a side note lithium is weird

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/28/magazine/i-dont-believe-in-god-but-i-believe-in-lithium.html


Phranc: I think a 4.5 ft^3 unit would serve my purposes nicely actually. Which model did you get? I still suck at figuring out how much power a specific appliance will actually draw and converting in terms of amp hours. I plan on getting an inverter. I ran wires to have two wall outlets off it actually. The most economical pure sine one i've found is from Renogy. 1000W or 2000W I haven't decided.

https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B00GWCEZ60/ref=twister_B01K6TO63G?_encoding=UTF8&th=1

Thanks for the link, i'd actually already checked it out!
 

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You sound committed and that’s fine. I just cannot fathom why anyone would do any lithium for this application. I went with Lead Acid Flooded because weight doesn’t matter, cost is dirt (lead really) cheap, suitability to the type of task, safety (vented ‘em) and their great match with solar. I taught Chemistry for years and wouldn’t get near Li if I could avoid it especially in a tin can I’m sleeping in. I am sure there is plenty of data for their safety and I won’t worry about you but still. I used the money saved (my batteries were 200+AH- $170) to buy and install a great diesel heater, a super 12 volt refrigerator and solar! My entire conversion cost less than some posters have paid for their Li batteries, their special charger, and housing them. I support anyone’s decision on their conversion, but while you work through it let us know why you made the choices you did. Thanks, I’ll be better informed.
 

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Master Overland Custom Vans Tampa
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We are full time in our Promaster conversion for the past 6 months and can easily say LiFePO4 batteries were the best decision I made. We have 640Ah, which runs all of our electric appliances, including our heater as well as our 12V A/C. We have no propane.
 

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jostalli,
You are drawing a bunch of current with that AC on I bet, and the Lithium battery is VERY good at that. The poster was talking about 100 or 200 A-Hr so I responded, trying to save him money knowing that much FLA is light enough and sufficient for his needs. 600+ FLA would weigh 900-1000 lbs. so the benefit of your batteries pays off. Battery choice is a specific-to-the-task consideration and yours is out of his price range I gather.

Care to summarize your success/issues with the 12 volt AC in a new thread for us, or remind us if you have posted since you full timed a bit? Posters on some other sites have tried and many are underwhelmed. I have looked at:
http://www.autoclima.com/welcome_eng.lasso
http://www.indelb.com/products/parking_air_cooler/sleeping_well/sw_oblo
Thanks
 

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Master Overland Custom Vans Tampa
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jostalli,
You are drawing a bunch of current with that AC on I bet, and the Lithium battery is VERY good at that. The poster was talking about 100 or 200 A-Hr so I responded, trying to save him money knowing that much FLA is light enough and sufficient for his needs. 600+ FLA would weigh 900-1000 lbs. so the benefit of your batteries pays off. Battery choice is a specific-to-the-task consideration and yours is out of his price range I gather.
I don't know exactly what his Ah requirements are but I still recommend LiFePO4 batteries to everyone. Here are some benefits over traditional batteries:
1. You don't need a 3 stage charger. You don't need any "charger" at all. All you need is a 12V power source wired directly to the battery. You can run wires directly from your chassis battery to the LiFePO4 battery and use a switch to turn on charging whenever the van is running. Even the factory alternator will push around 100 amps/hr into a depleted LiFePO4 battery.
2. You don't need to fully charge a LiFePO4 battery. They can sit at half or less for years with no degradation.
3. You can safely go to 80% depth of discharge (or more in some batteries) with no degradation. So, a 200Ah LiFePO4 battery has 160Ah useable.
4. You can safely draw much higher current than an equivalently sized AGM or Lead Acid battery. So, with even a 200Ah LiFePO4 battery you can run a blender, microwave, hair dryer, etc. through a large inverter.
5. You can safely mount them inside the van
6. They are much lighter weight and smaller overall size than AGM or Lead Acid
7. Cycle count is 2000-5000 depending on which manufacturer spec sheet you are using

Care to summarize your success/issues with the 12 volt AC in a new thread for us, or remind us if you have posted since you full timed a bit? Posters on some other sites have tried and many are underwhelmed. I have looked at:
http://www.autoclima.com/welcome_eng.lasso
http://www.indelb.com/products/parking_air_cooler/sleeping_well/sw_oblo
Thanks
We have the Autoclima UGO (same as the IndelB Cube). It is only 3250btu so you should not expect high performance. In 90+ degree temps when you really want an A/C we only notice 1-3 degrees of temperature change but the real benefit is humidity. It will drop the humidity 20%.
 

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Thanks I agree with all those benefits, any downside? What about safety? That video is scary! I found one Lithium 100 A-H battery on Amazon and it was $1200+. At that rate 300 A-H would be about the same cost as my entire conversion, which I have lived well in for nearly three months in the past year. There must be better deals.
Real AC would be nice. I have a 2200 watt inverter generator that would run a rooftop AC unit. Looks like that and hooking up when possible in the hot South might be my eventual direction.
 

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Master Overland Custom Vans Tampa
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Thanks I agree with all those benefits, any downside? What about safety? That video is scary! I found one Lithium 100 A-H battery on Amazon and it was $1200+. At that rate 300 A-H would be about the same cost as my entire conversion, which I have lived well in for nearly three months in the past year. There must be better deals.
Real AC would be nice. I have a 2200 watt inverter generator that would run a rooftop AC unit. Looks like that and hooking up when possible in the hot South might be my eventual direction.
The only downside besides price is that you cannot charge them below freezing temperatures. That is why we have ours mounted inside. If the van has been sitting in the cold we just turn on the van to heat up the interior before flipping on our house power.

Safety is not a concern. LiFePO4 is the safest lithium battery chemistry. I bought my cells from a battery test lab who puts cells to the test. The guy said these cells aren't "exciting at all". I think he likes to see batteries go boom.

You want to buy the cells individually and assemble your own pack. All you need are the cells, $75 BMS, $25 in control boards, jumpers to connect the cells, and a high amp contactor to take the battery offline in the event of a high voltage or low voltage disconnect (which the BMS controls). The best place to buy currently is: www.electriccarpartscompany.com. A 200Ah pack with everything you need would be just under $1200. If they have closeout cells then jump on those. Mine are Winston cells, which are no longer sold and they are at their capacity spec even though they are 2 years old.
 

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Nice start Brennan. LI batts sound great but were outside my budget. I wouldn't use appliances that push the limits of your stored power. I've used propane fridges. They are quiet (silent actually), use very little 12V, and are simple but not efficient at 85F and above. I've switched to 12V with 200W solar and love it. The Truckfridge units get high marks here. I can't wrap my mind around the thousands of $$ that 12V A/C systems (unit and batteries) cost and the small results. If Jostalli gets 3 degrees temp and 20% humidity reduction that wouldn't help me in southwest and midwest US. I've tested the portable AC units and they don't work over 85F and high humidity either. Ive read threads here and on Sprinter forum where guys are putting in 12V A/C units and plan to use them for only a couple hours at a time because of the power drain. Running the cabin AC uses only 1/2 gallon fuel/hour. That's the simplest solution if idling is acceptable. Lots of roof air info out there. Look at Markevol's idea in the Onan generator thread for a cheap 120V solution. There is no magic pill for A/C comfort. Good luck and keep us informed.
 

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I think 200 Watts of solar and FLA 100+ AH batteries is the sweet spot for inexpensive power. You can run a nice 12 Volt refrigerator/freezer, lights. chargers, video, small inverter. I bought a Norcold NR 751 refrig. and put in heat, an Espar D2 Airtronic, no microwave as I detest them, galley with portable butane stove, NO PROPANE installed for a bunch of reasons, porta pottie for a bathroom. No AC. We catch a campground with showers every few days. Its a campervan not a class B motorhome! Conversion was $5K and the Espar was nearly $1K of that.
 

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But some us love our microwaves. Some of us don't want wet cells inside. Some of us don't want open flame inside even if it's the portable butane stove. MrNomer is boiling breakfast water in the kettle as I write this because it's windy outside.

If I had known then what I know now, I would have LiFePO4.
 

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But some us love our microwaves. Some of us don't want wet cells inside. Some of us don't want open flame inside even if it's the portable butane stove. MrNomer is boiling breakfast water in the kettle as I write this because it's windy outside.

If I had known then what I know now, I would have LiFePO4.
Completely agree. People think AGM's are a good choice because they are sealed, tried and true, etc. I just consulted a couple traveling the world in a massive Mercedes 1017A expedition truck. He had 750Ah AGM less than 2 yrs old that were dead. He has a top of the line Voltronic charging system and yet they didn't make it to year 2. He just put an order in for 600Ah LiFePO4. The hardest part for him to understand was that he no longer needed his fancy charging system.
 

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People think AGM's are a good choice because they are sealed, tried and true, etc. I just consulted a couple traveling the world in a massive Mercedes 1017A expedition truck. He had 750Ah AGM less than 2 yrs old that were dead.
I had 3 Optima AGM batteries totaling 225 Ah in a Fuso expedition camper that were still going strong when I sold it after 9 years. I charged them with the stock alternator and once or twice a month with a 3 stage shore power charger.

There is no doubt that LiPoFe has the best capacity, the lowest weight and provides the most freedom from plugging in and I want them.

But until the price comes down I think for now AGMs are the best balance of price, capacity, flexibity of installation and ease of maintenance.
 
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Brennan,

Looks like your build coming along great!

Don't get to frustrated about the fridge hunt. I recommend you look to your marine suppliers for sources, evan in Vancouver you can buy from a local manufacturer called Nova Kool based in Coquitlam http://www.novakool.com You can't buy direct but you can get them from the distributor @ Western Marine on Powell St http://www.westernmarine.com/main/homepage.html Nova Kool has been in business for something like 20 + years and make units that are really good value with good quality. They use the Dan Foss compressor and are well insulated.

12v compressor fridges will cost more but, INMO Running an inverter full time for a house hold fridge on 120v is a falls economy. I would only use your inverter for equipment that you absolutely have to like microwave, induction cook top etc.

The Three Way/propane/120v/12v are as old school as the local rv suppliers trying to push them on you. Two way 12v/120v are so efficient it's crazy. Most good quality rv manufactures are shifting away from three way with the advent of cheep solar panels. Evan in Vancouver you will be able to run your fridge on solar much of the time.

A really good source for self education on all things electrical/solar/batteries is AM Solar http://amsolar.com they have really good simple no BS information on there site. They are really committed to education in simple terms to get their DIY customers up to speed.

On the Lithium hunt I don't think you'll find a Canadian supplier that both has the knowledge and or competitive pricing. I looked long and hard and gave up. Don't worry to much about buying online as long as you choose a supplier thats been around for some time and is in it for the long haul. And most importantly has really good tech support. Again Am Solar is a good source for LifePo4 you'll pay a bit more but, they will be there to back you up through the whole process. Am Solar exports to Canadian customers on a regulator bases so they know there way around the customs paper work.

On the safety issue of Lithium, as long as you stick with LifePo4 chemistry and use a Battery management system connected to a contact-or that protects the battery from over or under charging they are pretty darned safe. Of course you need a good healthy respect for the energy that can be released in an instance. Open flames and propane gas worries me a lot more than LifePo4.

Cheers,

Dave
 
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