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Discussion Starter #1
I'm thinking about installing lithium in my camper build mainly because we'd like to use an induction cooktop and electric kettle so we don't have to carry propane. I have done extensive research on inverter chargers that support lithium only to find that they are very expensive. I was looking at a victron energy setup with a 30amp mppt, 2000 watt inverter and 90ah lithium battery and it was $4500. However I just found out about the goal zero yeti 1400 lithium (around 110amp battery at 12v) for $2000. I know a lot of people hate on goal zero, but this seems to be a decent price to get into lithium as you get the battery, solar controller and inverter all in one. However the goal zero has some BIG differences compared to other build it yourself options:

  • The lithium cells on the goal zero are NMC which are only good to about 500 cycles were LiFePo4 which should be good for around 3000 cycles. Unknown price for replacement battery.
  • The solar charger controller is PWM and not MPPT. I'd only be using 300watt solar so I'm not sure if the difference in the controller is going to make a huge difference, but it's weird as the old yeti 1250 had an MPPT. I guess it's a way of cutting cost and hoping no one would notice.
  • The inverter is only 1500watt. We plan on using induction cook top so we don't have to carry propane so this limits our options. Also my wife's kettle is 1500watt so I'm not sure if that'll work or not.
  • No fast charging from the alternator. Most lithiums batteries have a BMS that can take a charge from an alternator.
  • No fast charging from shore power. Since this isn't really an inverter charger, it can only accept a slow AC wall charger. It takes 25 hours to charge with the AC wall charger!
  • No battery temp sensor. Lithium doesn't like cold charging. The system I was looking at had a battery sensor and would not charge if below freezing. Goal Zero tells you to put it in a cooler to keep it insulated....yea, it's on the product page.
  • Not really expandable, at least not yet.
  • No remote display to turn on or off the inverter or monitor solar or battery levels. This kinda sinks because I wanted the battery/inverter hidden under a bench.
  • System is all in one. If there is a failure, it's most likely the entire system would be down.

What are everyone's thoughts? Here is a link to the Yeti 1400. I know the list is long if things it does not do, but it does have an attractive price.
 

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Am I missing something? From what you have listed, looks like price is its only attractive feature, and even the price isn't attractive.

We use a water boiler every morning on our 200Ah AGM. Induction cooktop simply requires a PSW inverter.
 

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Get a butane stove. It's cheap, no propane to deal with and no expensive batteries.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Matt Gross more power to you on that lithium build.
We come from a different financial view and will be boiling water
using one of our backpacking stoves--most likely our petite MSR
Pocket Rocket :)
When I look at the price of going lithium I have to think how many trips
in the PM we could do for the same monies.
When you put it that way, it kinda sounds stupid to spend the money. However my thought was it's one less thing to run out of when on the road. We are planning on getting a diesel heater so we just need to have a full tank as the alternator and/or sun could charge the battery.
 

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I don't think anyone here has actively advocated propane. A number of people here have achieved the result you want with simple AGM systems.
 

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Doing the math for equal cost of life on equal theoretical use, LiFePO is $4500 and the Goal Zero will cost you $12,000.

Summary of Goal Zero con list sounds like " no, no, no, not gonna work, just no"

A well designed LiFePO system will do what you want but will not be cheap. Going cheap with Lithium will cost you in the long run. If cost is your biggest concern, deep cycle lead is the way to go. You can get replacement lead batteries almost anywhere in your travels.

If all you want is to boil water without propane the tried a true heavy weight lead deep cycle will do it. Butane (not propane, it's different) will do it. A small Honda or Yamaha generator in a bumper box will do it. If you don't mind lighting a fire outside, an alcohol stove made from aluminum cans will do it. My MSR Firefly will do it super fast with gasoline, or white gas, or diesel or kerosene, just NOT in the van. Lol
 

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Doesn't Gary have propane for cooking and heating? Not that he advocated for it but I think he uses it.
Hi,
I do use propane for heating and cooking and I wouldn't mind being counted as an advocate for propane I think its just swell:)

The reasons I think propane is a good choice are pasted in below from another post I made earlier.

Not to get off topic, but why is it that you don't want to use propane? Literally millions of happy RV propane users out there.

The $2000 for a 110AH system seems pretty high to me. You could use a couple golf cart batteries that would give a usable 110+ amp-hrs for $180. My full electrical system with 220AH, 315 watts solar, very good MPPT controller, 1200 watt inverter charger, plus all the wiring and odds and ends was $1500, and others have done it for less. http://www.buildagreenrv.com/our-co...y-camper-van-conversion-electrical-and-solar/


From the earlier post:

"Gee -- I feel like a have to put in a good word for propane

Energy Density
Compared to batteries propane has an amazing energy density.
My 5 gallon propane tank (when full with 4 gallons) holds 108 KWH of stored energy all for about 32 lbs (including the tank).

My two golf cart batteries at 6 volts and 220 AH store a usable 2.2 KWH and weigh about 100 lbs.

They both take up about the same amount of space.
So, compared to batteries, propane is about 50 times more volume efficient and about 150 times more weight efficient at storing energy.

Cost
$30 for a new 5 gallon propane tank. A few bucks for 10 ft or so 3/8 ths copper and a few fittings and you are in business.

A good propane furnace that operates just like your home furnace with combustion products vented outside and air for combustion drawn from outside, and all kinds of safety features like sail switches to detect airflow and flame detectors to insure successful lightoff included for about $400.
Likewise, propane water heaters a just a few hundred dollars with many to choose from.
And, no altitude issues -- my Atwood has been used at the Everest base camp.

Maintenance
Propane burns clean and propane appliances don't require the periodic clean out of soot etc that some other gasoline and diesel do.


Does a lot of things:
You can get space heating, water heating, and cooking all from the same propane tank.
For space and water heating, the energy demand is so high that its tough to do with electricity -- especially if you want to be able to do any sort of cold weather camping. On a 20F night, my well insulated van can use up toward 0.4 gallons of propane or about 11 KWH -- it would take 10 golf cart batteries to supply this with an electric heater, and they would have to be recharged the next day.


Lots of Safety Built In
In the last few years, propane tanks have added overfill protection (so there is always expansion space) and flow limiters that don't allow a line break or the like to result in high flows. The tanks are very tough-- watch the Mythbusters episode where they try to get get a propane tank to explode by shooting it in various ways.

While I'd guess that a well designed diesel fuel system might be a bit safer than propane, I'd have to see evidence that gasoline powered applicances would be as safe as propane is. Has anyone seen actual data comparing the incidence of accidents for the various fuels?

If you want to be extra safe, you can shut the tank valve off when the propane is not being used.
----

I've had 4 RVs over the years including my new ProMaster conversion and all used propane with no issues. Of course, everyone should have CO, Propane, and fire detectors in the camper.

Not saying that there is anything at all wrong with using other approaches, but propane has its good points too."


Gary
 

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I gotta say that for the difference between 2 FLA golf cart 6 volters and any non-lead battery setup you could camp and travel for a LOOONGGE time, and have everything you talk about, isn’t traveling what we are doing this for? I just got back from a campervan trip and I wanted for nothing.
 

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Most people tend to overdo these things. MsN, RD & I tend to be minimalists with no problems at all (although they are real kitty cats when it comes to heat).

I couldn't imagine spend over $400 on a house battery bank for any reason after all this is a camping van not your permanent residence. But, some people like to always be on the cutting edge of technology no mater the cost. That is perfectly fine (if you can afford it). Many of us have absolutely no, or minimal, need for things like LiPo batteries and could never justify the expense. That doesn't make them good or bad particularly - to each their own.

Personally I would never have propane in my camper but Gary swears by it. I have no need or desire to add a heater other than a small 110vac electrical one I carry for those extra chilly mornings when I'm connected to the grid but others put a heater and AC at the top of their list for needs. Some want as much glass as they can get other want no glass!

The point of all this is we all have different needs, expectations, wallets and built-in biases. Some make sense to everyone others are absolutely nonsense to others. I read about so many modifications here that people absolutely feel they must make to their van to simply "get by" and make it "useful" and I shake my head in wonder. I'm a "minimalist", I suppose. Where others are "maximumists' neither of us are wrong but as I said, we only have different needs.

Fortunately being exposed to everyone else's needs and opinions helps us formulate our own. For example - I never ever considered putting solar in a van until I started reading all the posts here about doing it. About six months after finishing my conversion I decided to go ahead and try it, although I knew absolutely nothing about it, and have been pleasantly surprised by the simplicity of installation and the results. I never would dreamed of adding solar if I hadn't read about everyone else's experiences and with the help of "old time solar pros" like RD & Gary and others I was able to figure it out. After reading and studying how everyone else had done it I formulated my plan and although it's similar to everyone else it's also different because it fits my needs and wallet.
 

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This is a bit off subject but for a few of the techies here it is an interesting concept and discussion. If you are into solar, dc To dc converters, ac to dc, dc to ac, etc off grid vs on grid. It's a bit technical but nothing all of us Promaster owners can't grasp. ;)

http://hackaday.com/2017/03/06/what-voltage-for-the-all-dc-house/
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Doing the math for equal cost of life on equal theoretical use, LiFePO is $4500 and the Goal Zero will cost you $12,000.

Summary of Goal Zero con list sounds like " no, no, no, not gonna work, just no"

A well designed LiFePO system will do what you want but will not be cheap. Going cheap with Lithium will cost you in the long run. If cost is your biggest concern, deep cycle lead is the way to go. You can get replacement lead batteries almost anywhere in your travels.

If all you want is to boil water without propane the tried a true heavy weight lead deep cycle will do it. Butane (not propane, it's different) will do it. A small Honda or Yamaha generator in a bumper box will do it. If you don't mind lighting a fire outside, an alcohol stove made from aluminum cans will do it. My MSR Firefly will do it super fast with gasoline, or white gas, or diesel or kerosene, just NOT in the van. Lol
That's if you replace the entire unit after 500 cycles. Goal Zero stated they would be selling a replacement battery, but they have not listed a price yet. If the battery comes in at $500, then it would be about the same price as a LiFePO setup over 3000 cycles, however it would still have the disadvantages I posted.

You guys have given me a lot to think about. I'm still a ways off from even buying my van, but I wanted to have a plan in place before I bought so I wasn't scrambling to figure out what I wanted after I started the build. I'm not an electrician, but I was always told that with lead batteries, they couldn't do a high amp draw for too long (induction cooktop). However if they can, it might be worth looking into. The main reason for not wanting to use propane in favor of electric cooktop would be for long stays boondocking and not having to worry about buying propane or any other fuel. I know it's available a lot of places, but the idea of free energy from the sun is appealing ;) I was planning on maxing out my solar with 3 160watt panels.
 

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I was pricing going by the statement that if something failed on the GZ system, you had to replace the whole thing. I also haven't looked into the chemistry of their cells.

Different battery chemistry has different charge and discharge rates. A lead based system can have similar amp output but you will have more lead in parallel to be able to do that. Just like lead you estimate 50% depth of discharge and the LiPo you can estimate 80%. I don't have any links for Battery 101 educational information handy. Learn as much as you can before you decide.

The big thing to remember, whatever system you use, make sure it all works well together. Many ways to do it
 

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In light (pun) of KOV’s comments I would add that you are doing this for a cooktop? Really. I use a butane cooktop that I store but could be integrated into a galley. You turn a knob, gas flames heat wonderfully. In fact it’s better than either of my gas ranges in AZ or NH, one an antique Moore and the other a modern stove. It cost $15 and canisters which last a few days to a week camping cost $1.56. It uses any pan, heats instantly like induction, is superbly controllable, is safe for indoors, and is portable for when I want to cook on the table outside. Now, choosing an induction seems to be costing you $thousands of dollars for Lithium batteries, expensive controllers and chargers, a bunch more solar, and perhaps more I am unaware of. I guess I am thinking “different strokes for different folks” has gone nuclear somehow.
Why not add an Espar or Webasto heater, tons of options when you buy the van, go to Europe for a vacation, buy your S.O. a nice piece of jewelry, all of which could be done for the same money? I am not condemning this technology just letting those who think they NEED this stuff that there is an alternative many of us use that is perfectly sufficient, in fact it meets every requirement this technology does.
 

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As usual, RD sums it up well. IMHO the only reason for using LiPo's to run a induction stovetop are "bragging rights" otherwise, a very poor financial investment.
 

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Hi,
As you know, the number of times you can cycle a lead acid battery depends on how deeply you cycle it. Trojan provides this plot for their deep cycle batteries:



A lot of people use a maximum 50% depth of discharge, which provides 1200 cycles on the Signature line of golf cart batteries. But, at 80% depth of discharge, it says you can still get 750 cycles -- this is more than (I guess) the Li battery you are considering.

750 cycles is also a lot of cycles -- if you use the camper van 30 nights a year, 750 cycles is 25 years -- the batteries will die of something else long before 25 years. You just have to be careful not to discharge below 20% as this will shorten life dramatically.

Another bit to mix in with all this stuff is that a lot of people kill their batteries through some form of inadvertent mistreatment long before their usual life span -- its very easy to do in a number of ways. So, I think, its not a bad idea to do your learning on a cheap set of batteries.

---------
Agree with KOV 100% on different approaches for different people, and that the value of this forum is that you can learn about a lot of different approaches.

------
On how long your propane will last, I use a 5 gallon BBQ tank. If I were camping during the summer with the propane for cooking a tank of propane would last all summer. In cooler weather, where you might run the furnace for an hour in the morning, a full tank will last for 3 or 4 weeks. If its cold and you have the furnace on all night, you might use a half gallon (or even more if its really cold) a day, and a full tank might last a week.
You can, of course, get a bigger tank if you do long trips in really cold weather.
All the numbers above assume a well insulated van -- which ends up being more important than what type of fuel you use.

Gary
 

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If the main important factor is safety than LiFePO4 battaries safety is more more safer than LiPo batteries.

For cooking, with safety as priority, than a good alternative to LPG solutions could be a stove that use diesel fuel.

For example Wallas and Webasto have not open flame stoves with a ceramic glass as cooking surface and air inlet and exhaust outlet connected to the outside of the vehicle.

Wallas XC Duo can be used also for ambient heating.
Webasto X100, that is said manufactured by Wallas, has altitude compensation system.
Wallas D88U is similar to Webasto solution, but without high altitude compensation system.




Diesel fuel consumption is low.
For sure are expensive, but are safe.

This is U.S.A. importer for Wallas.
https://www.scanmarineusa.com/rv-land/stoveheaters
 

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"Bragging rights..." :D

Nah, friend. I happen to be a fiction writer. Also an outdoorsman who has trammeled thousands of miles of trails, and counting. Kayaked mountain lakes and rivers and oceans. When I need to write, in solitude, or to make art or music, oftentimes there's no better place for me than some remote mountain hideaway. (Not tellin' where I go to park my van for days on end, 'cept that I do happen to live in the Great PNW, which means I'm awfully spoiled--and good luck ever finding me.)

I'm also a lightweight hiker, make most of my own gear a la Ray Jardine. (Google him if you care; he's a hoot!) My water system in my van is just a couple of buckets. Composting toilet, too. Everything else is roughed in right now, but I plan to be making my own cabinets eventually. Thought I would use a conversion company, but costs are proving to be out of range for me, and besides, I've decided I'd rather have my own stuff anyway, even if it's funky and hippy.

And guess what? I have LifePO4s, more of them than you'd probably ever want to buy. And yes, I have solar out the gazoo, six panels to squeeze on top of my little 136. Why? Because I want the WHOLE WIDE WORLD to know how sexy I am. >:D

Nah, not really. More like freedom. Freedom to run my laptop for days on end, never having to run into town to fill 'er up. Freedom to not listen to a generator competing with the sounds of Swainson's thrushes and the wind in the trees. Freedom to insure my van after State Farm told me they couldn't cover it if I had open flames inside. (Yeah, I know, I could lie. I'm sure a lot of people do. And chances are, I will be using a butane stove as backup at some point myself. I've definitely used them before. They're great!)

I think you got it right, RD. “Different strokes for different folks” has definitely gone nuclear, and I love it! Great to live in a place where we can all pursue our dreams our own way and not be made to feel foolish for not fitting in with the crowd.
 
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So Toiler, what are you going to use for cooking (other than the occasional butane meal)? ;)
 
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