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I bought and installed this 1500 watt inverter with remote and cabling to my 200+ AH FLA golf cart battery set which is also connected through a Tracer 20 amp MPPT solar controller and my vans battery via a simple Solenoid with automatic connect which is defeated by a switch to prevent its connection unless I want it. I have shore power, battery charging and fuses through a WFCO 25 amp Converter. All this has been super wonderful and met all our needs. Total cost for the electrical system was about $1000 including the batteries, inverter, solar, controller, solenoid, converter, wire, fuses to protect everything, etc.
I am reading posts and see folks spending $1300 for a 2200 watt inverter/charger. $1300+- for Lithium batteries, hundreds more for specialized chargers for them, 300+ watts of solar, etc. It makes me feel so cheap.
What would I have in my van to warrant spending almost 3-5 times more? In fact I don’t use the inverter at all, being a person that would rather not eat microwaved food, and who uses a butane stove for hot stuff (or a grill I carry.) My system would run a small microwave I believe, or an induction cooktop.
My computer charges on 12volts, the ipad and iphone on the USB ports I installed, Samsung TV off 12 volts, I have a small vacuum to clean the carpet with 12 volts, rooftop fan, etc. I don't really use the converter either as I seldom plug in and the 200 watts of solar is plenty of power. I don’t use the battery interconnect solenoid more than a few mornings a year when prolonged rain happens. I feel I could have gotten along with the solar, its controller, and batteries. A total of $600+-, but am not sorry to have those capabilities.
I am giving all this information because anyone contemplating a conversion might want to consider spending their hard won $ on something else. We are super comfortable in the van, travel and camp about 3 months a year.
I guess for someone who asked “What do I need to spend on my van’s electrical system to have solar, batteries, etc.” I would answer “Budget $1000 and you will have everything you need.”
I would appreciate other opinions so new posters can compare.
 

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I don't think you need lithium batteries. I have a 230 amp hour AGM house battery, a 20 amp shore power charger, a 1000 watt Xantrex inverter, a Blue Sea ACR combining relay, and assorted fuses, switches, and circuit breakers. I power a microwave oven, a 750 watt hot water heater, 2 Maxxair fans, an Espar heater, LED lights, and chargers for electronics. I have no solar and no mechanical refrigeration as I use a Frigid Rigid super insulated ice chest.

Eliminating solar, refrigeration, and especially air conditioning can save a ton of money.
 

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I think that's a good question, but everyone is going to have a different answer and different needs. I plan on using solar energy for most of what I do in the van, except for cooking. I'm guessing lots of battery systems are overkill to compensate for lack of battery durability or just worrying about not having enough. But what to I know, I'm just another anonymous forum person.

I bought a 30A DC Thermal electric heater but plan to use it no more than an hour a day. I wanted quiet and ease of assembly/use more than anything, plus it cheap.

I have a 900 dollar 100ah lithium battery because I don't wantt o replace it in three years, want to be able to cycle it low, and want it to charge quickly if needed by simply starting the van and idling for a while. If I sell the van, I'll likely replace it with an AGM battery and put it into the next van.

I have 300 watts of solar because I want the van charged, and on a good cold colorado day I could heat the van directly with solar and the electric heater (on low).

I bought an automatic charging relay because I'm lazy and also know I'll forget to turn it on one day and arrive at camp with a dead battery.

I'll probably get a charger/converter at some point, but I'm not sure about that. I try to avoid campgrounds where I have that option, but for super cold winter nights in a friends driveway it would be cool to run a cord out and run the heater all night.

I never thought about an induction cooktop, interesting idea.

Am I right? Probably not. Am I close enough to be happy with it? Yeah!




That's about it, I think I'm at around 1,500 right now.
 

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Electronics comes down to personal preference. I know I'm spending way more than $1,000 for my system. I'll be full timing it for some time when it's done. No inverter, going with propane stovetop and water heater.

300w Flexible Solar Panels $700
Charge Controller (not decided on one yet) $200
Wire $150
Misc. Fuses $40
12v Outlets and USB $30
Blue Sea 12v Breaker Panel $160
AGM Batteries 320ah $700
MaxxFan $150
LED Lights $80
Isotherm Fridge Cruise 130 $1000
 

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2014 136” HR
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Electronics comes down to personal preference. I know I'm spending way more than $1,000 for my system. I'll be full timing it for some time when it's done. No inverter, going with propane stovetop and water heater.

300w Flexible Solar Panels $700
Charge Controller (not decided on one yet) $200
Wire $150
Misc. Fuses $40
12v Outlets and USB $30
Blue Sea 12v Breaker Panel $160
AGM Batteries 320ah $700
MaxxFan $150
LED Lights $80
Isotherm Fridge Cruise 130 $1000
Because I am a slow learner, I ended up with three charging options. In the end, I'm glad I have them.
 

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Everyones needs are different. If I had the option to drive to where the weather is nice I wouldn't have to budget upwards of $4k for generator and air-conditioning. I'm jealous of all y'all that can just drive off to explore a cool, colder area. I head to events that happen rain or shine, hot or cold.. usually more dang hot than cold. That price is before even considering fridge, batteries and other electrics.

I live in the south. The AC went out in my Suburban tow vehicle. Summer sucks
 

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I agree with the others - it depends on your perceived needs. I started van camping around 27 years ago. I put a deep cycle marine battery with an isolator in my first van. I only ran 2 small incandescent bulbs for reading off of the house system. It was a waste of money. That van lasted 12 years give or take.

My second van that I just sold had no house battery. When I started with it, I didn't have a smart phone or kindle. At the end, I charged everything via USB and a plug in for the power plug. Near the end, I entered this century and purchased an ARB refrigerator and just ran it off the van battery. Our style of camping/travel usually means we're driving somewhere to do something. We never sit. So we didn't need a house battery. I ran the fridge for 3 days once without starting the van. No problem. We used headlamps to read. In the summer out here, it doesn't get dark until 10:30 so lanterns aren't needed. But for shoulder seasons we have a small battery lantern. For winter camping, we didn't use a heater until the last year or so (a Mr. Buddy). Just very good sleeping bags. Lowest we have camped was -20F.

I should add that I am a fan of the number of BTU's contained in propane and it's availability. We use it for cooking and heating water.

But for this build, I did an electrical energy audit. I plan on installing a 100 Ah house battery mainly for for running the vent fan, fridge and heater fan. The 2 fans will only be used as needed. So, my needs are still very simple compared to many - a battery, an isolator, and the necessary cabling, fuses, etc. What does that amount to? Maybe $500? I do have a small 300W inverter that I've never used. Maybe one day.
 

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I woke up this morning contemplating this thread and my current trip. On this trip, I have used the refrigerator and the microwave almost exclusively. I have not used the butane stove once. I have turned on lights only when necessary, because I have enjoyed just letting the night come as it does when tent camping.
I did watch a movie one night with my cousin only because a part of it was filmed where I grew up. Some nights it was raining so hard there was no way I was going to get out and plug in, even though I had had no solar charging during the day because of clouds.

About $1000 qualifies for the seller credit, so surely our electrical is well over $2000. I have no regrets. There is no component of my system that I would willingly remove.
 

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A while back I posted that I had purchased a NuWave Portable Induction Cooktop. Hoped it would be a quick no-fuel way to cook eggs in the am. Although it works well on AC, it was not happy running from my Harbor Freight 2000W not-quite-sine wave inverter. I bought it because it was advertised for RVs with a 600W setting.

As advised by MsNomer, it did not work, even in the 600W mode, and ran then issued an error code. Already returned to the store!

So..... cooking will be done with the microwave, butane stove (like RD's), and Bella 1 cup coffee maker. Butane stove works great for the eggs in the am, and the microwave works well for most other items.

Two 100Ah AGM battery have been a very workable solution for me, with charging via Wirthco Battery Doctor on the road and a built-in converter/charger when a plug is available. No solar (yet!)

Other 12V items include TV/DVD, ham radio(s), lighting, chargers for phones, Fantastic Breeze portable box fan,etc. OOPS, almost forgot... my favorite item.... my MR40 Engel Chest Refrigerator/Freezer - I won't leave home without it!

ed
 

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2014, 138WB, High Roof, Gas, SW MT
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Hi RD,

My electrical system is pretty similar to yours: FLA golf cart batteries, a bit more solar (315 watts) and MPPT charge controller. I use an inverter/charger rather than separate units.

All told $1500. I remember after adding up the bills for it, thinking "wow, you sure overdid it on the electrical system -- that's a quarter of your conversion costs just for electricity."

But, it has served well, and the solar is very nice.

I still like the FLA batteries, and would at least that part exactly the same. Avoiding 10 minutes of maintenance a year is not worth paying twice as much for AGM's, or a lot more yet for Lithium (to me). I could see Lithium if one wanted to run something like a 5000 BTU/hr AC for a few hours a day without shore power.
It will be interesting to see how the lithium battery systems fare with more people using them on RVs and with prices dropping (I guess) -- maybe it will become the way to go.

On our system, the fridge is about half the daily amp-hr usage, and I could have gone with a smaller system if I did not use an electric fridge. But, I really do like the electric fridge, as was determined not to have another propane fridge. I guess a really good ice box would be an alternative -- might save close a thousand dollars between the fridge price and smaller electrical system.

Don't end up using 110 AC hardly at all. I guess that would change if we decided to add a microwave at some point -- being able to run a small microwave is what sized our inveter. Right now I could easily get along with a couple hundred watt inveter.

In the end, I'm a cheap skate and a keep it really simple person, and to me my electrical system seems like a bit of overkill if anything.

Gary
 
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