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Solar... now or later?


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So the last thing my wife and I are trying to decide on is if we want solar options installed on our new Oliver ELite II build.

I think we will be getting the Lithium Batteries with the 3000w inverter  

At first, we were totally on board with getting the solar panels, but then, we started to think more of our daily use.

We will always be needing power for our electronics, and won’t always be camping in cooler climates, so we will need the AC on I’m sure at the very least 50% of the time. Which seems to me we would want to be either on shore power or a generator while boondocking. Seeing as the generator doesn’t last longer than 18 hours with a minimal load, that would mean a good amount of extra fuel. 

With those things in mind, I’m thinking we would be camping at cam grounds and plugged in over 50% of the time. 

Would solar be useless for us if we’re are going to be plugged in most of the time?

Also, is it fairly easy to have solar panels installed AFTER the fact?

Edited by jordanv
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It would be easy to add solar later, the trailer is prewired for it, but my suggestion is, if you want to get your feet wet, add an external solar port and solar controller next to it, inside under the rear dinette seat, and get a 100+ watt portable suitcase panel (without controller). Renogy makes some really nice ones. That will allow you to plug it in occasionally when you have the sun exposure, or if you are parked in shade, you can use a really long power cord to the panel and set it out in the direct sunlight. Since the controller will be at the trailer that setup will work great. Panels with onboard controllers are limited to around 15 to 20 feet cable max, due to voltage drop over the wires.

https://www.truckcamperadventure.com/the-renogy-solar-suitcase/

If you later want more power, add the roof panels and keep the portable unit, it will always be useful in certain situations.

John Davies

Spokane WA

Edited by John E Davies
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"Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II NARV (Not An RV) Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

Tow Vehicle: 2013 Land Cruiser 200, 33" LT tires, airbags.

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Thanks for the advice.

We plan on getting the twin bed option. Would this mean we install the port on the outside, and under the twin bed, we hook the controller, wiring to the battery bank?

I don't know about how the wiring works with campers as this will actually be our first camper.

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Does Oliver pre-wire for Solar? 

If so, it's a few holes in the roof,  and brackets, and heavy wire through the cabinets. 

We added solar 6 months in, in our 2008. It wasn't necessarily easy, nor was it necessarily hard.

True prewire would definitely make an additional fixed solar easier. 

Why are you doing lithium, if you think you will camp most of the time, with hookups?

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I'm actually in the process of getting answers on the Solar options since my 50% down payment is almost due. It is like pulling teeth. I started looking at alternative lithium batteries and decided I'd prefer to install my own. At first I was told I could pay the difference and upgrade to the Xantrex 3000 Watt XC Pro. Then I was told that it wasn't something they were willing to do. Why? I can only assume it is because they want to sell me the lithium package which I'm crossing off the list out of principle now.

I requested wiring diagrams to determine what the differences are between the non-solar configuration, 2000 Watt inverter, and 3000 Watt inverter. At this point I'm ready to scrap all of the solar options and just do it all myself, panels included. It is more than a little frustrating because Oliver told me I could make any changes post build. I had to go through management just to get them to not install the bathroom mirror. 😒 They also declined to sell me the bike rack without the receiver...

I'm guessing there are wiring differences since the AC would only be on battery power if you purchased the lithium option. The power distribution panel is also probably different.

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1 hour ago, SeaDawg said:

Why are you doing lithium, if you think you will camp most of the time, with hookups?

In anticipation of installing my own solar panels down the road.

I guess I am hesitant to go all in with the solar thinking, what if we dont end up doing much boon docking?

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3 hours ago, SeaDawg said:

Why are you doing lithium, if you think you will camp most of the time, with hookups?

When we placed our order we had never camped in an RV before.  We thought we would be FHU campers.  Although the solar option and 4 AGMs were an expensive option we went for it.  As it turns out, we do a lot more boondocking than we thought we would.  So many really scenic camping locations and National Park locations are without hookups.  It’s nice to be able to go to these locations without worrying about our electrical needs.

If you feel confident that you have the ability to install solar panels, solar controller, etc, then you could wait to see what your camping style will be and then go without solar or do your own solar installation if you do camping without hookups. 

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Mike and Carol | Fair Oaks Ranch, TX | 2016 Elite II #135 | 2020 Ram Rebel 4X4 5.7L Hemi

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IMO, If you're unsure, go solar and agm vs lithium, and no solar.

My home, my trailer, and my boat are all solar powered. Only the house is lithium. 

But, we live 95 per cent or better, on the sun power, 24/7/365. Whichever home or vehicle.

I

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18 minutes ago, Mike and Carol said:

When we placed our order we had never camped in an RV before.  We thought we would be FHU campers.  Although the solar option and 4 AGMs were an expensive option we went for it.

This is very valuable info to me. Thanks. 

If I go door and AGM route, would it be hard to switch out the inverter/batteries to lithium in the future?

Watching reviews of AGM with solar versus Lithium seems to lean that lithium is a long term better option.

But maybe going AGM first then upgrading later would be wiser. 

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Jordanv...I’m in a similar situation, getting closer to build date and finalizing options.  I’ve got another solar option for you to consider, originally suggested by John Davies in in a July post (link below).   I’ve asked Oliver to sell me the solar panel and controller option, but just install the standard lead-acid batteries at no extra cost.   No response yet, I have to trace them.  If it works out, I will then swap the batteries for 2 x 100AH Battleborn, a Victron smart shunt, a Blue Seas battery cutoff switch..  My understanding is current versions of Zamp controller and PI Converter  are selectable for LiFePO4.   Down the road I may upgrade the controller for a Victron MPPT, and room in the battery tray for a 3rd battery if needed.  I’ll sell the new lead acid batteries on Craigslist, lots of golf carts where I live.   I think I’ll opt out of the inverter for now, I  own a small Honda generator.  AndrewK  has shared a few posts with photos of his excellent install of similar setup, and several others have done likewise. 

 

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2021 Legacy Elite II (ordered); 2019 Legacy Elite #431 (sold); 2019 Ford F-150 FX4 5.0 V8

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After reviewing the options, but not knowing the costs of each, I would select the Solar Pro package. If for some reason Oliver was gonna throw in free lead acid batteries, well then , great, but I doubt they are gonna do that. It appears Oliver has decide to stick to their option packages, eliminate the build complexity of customer custom requests and the  like. As they increase production rates, this makes sense, 

After using an Ollie with a similar set up, I am satisfied with the performance, and upgrading down the road is less hassle due to a good portion of the wiring (and work) and such already installed. As the lithium technologies are improving at a rapid pace, by the time my AGM's need replacing I believe the options will be similarly  wider. 

As for the inverter - I have found it does come in handy once and awhile - the added cost was not much in the total. 

From what I've seen, I don't like the current Li set up, and the AC claims are a overhyped. The cost of this option is also prohibitive, given the actual performance claims. 

Besides, living with Ollie for a good while will also indicate your real world needs, and you can modify from there. I'd hate to go all in, only to find out I didn't need  - this or that.  

Good luck. Happy selections.

RB

Cindy,  Russell and  "Harley dog" . Home is our little farm near Winchester TN

2018 Oliver Legacy Elite II - 2018 GMC 2500 Duramax 

"Die young - As late as possible"

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From the 2021 Build Worksheet:

1) Lithium Pro Package - $8999

2) Solar Pro Package - $4999

3) Solar Panels & Controller - $2799

I’m considering Option 3 and doing the mods I explained above.    I called Oliver a few days ago to confirm the details of this $2799 option, don’t have the answer yet.   I assume Oliver will install the standard  deep cycle lead acid batteries, but not sure.  If not, I’ll go with Solar Pro package as RB suggests and upgrade to LiFePO4 when the AGMs need replacement in several years.    As RB also suggests, I’ll have a better understanding then of what my boondocking requirements are, and I assume the cost of LiFePO4 batteries will be going down and technology improving.   My experience so far is that Oliver is not flexible on their options or customization.  What they tell me they will do is post-production  modifications through the Service Dept. at extra cost.  I have not made up my mind yet, I’m leaning toward the Solar Pro package and just be done with it.   My wife wants the 2000W inverter.

2021 Legacy Elite II (ordered); 2019 Legacy Elite #431 (sold); 2019 Ford F-150 FX4 5.0 V8

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11 hours ago, jordanv said:

This is very valuable info to me. Thanks. 

We found after a few weeks of camping at FHU sites and getting the hang of it we were much more open to getting outside of the traditional campground to take advantage of some really scenic locations.  Plus, stopping anywhere on the road while traveling from A to B never poses electricity challenges.  Shore power not needed.

11 hours ago, jordanv said:

If I go door and AGM route, would it be hard to switch out the inverter/batteries to lithium in the future?

Watching reviews of AGM with solar versus Lithium seems to lean that lithium is a long term better option.

But maybe going AGM first then upgrading later would be wiser. 

I don’t know how hard it would be to switch from AGMs to Lithium.  My AGMs are almost 5 years old and still doing fine.  I think in the next couple of years I will start paying more attention to the progress of lithium batteries.  I have a Blue Sky controller, not a Zamp.  Steve L (scubarx) has the same set up and just upgraded to lithium’s so I will be talking to him the next time we get together.

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Mike and Carol | Fair Oaks Ranch, TX | 2016 Elite II #135 | 2020 Ram Rebel 4X4 5.7L Hemi

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4 minutes ago, Mike and Carol said:

open to getting outside of the traditional campground to take advantage of some really scenic locations.  Plus, stopping anywhere on the road while traveling from A to B

From the image in your signature, it looks like you’ve been all over the US. 

Would you mind sharing where you park and camp at when not at a FHU site? and what that usually looks like with pulling a camper?
 

My wife has expressed some concern with knowing the right places for boon docking in such a nice camper. I think her line of thinking is we would stand out like a sore thumb and encounter the possibility of being messed with or something along those lines. 
 

She felt safe boon docking in a camper van, but it was because of the freedom of being able to drive away easily from the bed into the drivers seat if a situation were to occur. 

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2 minutes ago, jordanv said:

From the image in your signature, it looks like you’ve been all over the US. 

Would you mind sharing where you park and camp at when not at a FHU site? and what that usually looks like with pulling a camper?
 

My wife has expressed some concern with knowing the right places for boon docking in such a nice camper. I think her line of thinking is we would stand out like a sore thumb and encounter the possibility of being messed with or something along those lines. 
 

She felt safe boon docking in a camper van, but it was because of the freedom of being able to drive away easily from the bed into the drivers seat if a situation were to occur. 

We have never felt uncomfortable boondocking.  We have several different modes of camping without hookups.  The most infrequent is stopping overnight on our way somewhere.  We’ve stayed at Cracker Barrel’s and interstate rest stops (some welcome overnight RV parking).  Then there are remote campgrounds run by the FS, COE, BLM that have no hookups, (most in the western states) and campgrounds in National Parks and some state parks.  Finally, there are dispersed camping sites where there are no designated sites, just an area where you pick out a spot and camp.  We don’t boondock in areas that aren’t okay for RVs to park overnight.

I will start a new thread on boondocking sites where folks can post pictures of spots where they’ve been.  Mike

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Mike and Carol | Fair Oaks Ranch, TX | 2016 Elite II #135 | 2020 Ram Rebel 4X4 5.7L Hemi

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12 minutes ago, Mike and Carol said:

I will start a new thread on boondocking sites where folks can post pictures of spots where they’ve been.

Ah that would be great! Thanks so much 😁

When staying at Cracker Barrel’s, where do you park?

Do you research the interstate rest stops before hand? Or do you just chose one as the pop up in your driving?

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17 minutes ago, jordanv said:

From the image in your signature, it looks like you’ve been all over the US. 

Would you mind sharing where you park and camp at when not at a FHU site? and what that usually looks like with pulling a camper?
 

My wife has expressed some concern with knowing the right places for boon docking in such a nice camper. I think her line of thinking is we would stand out like a sore thumb and encounter the possibility of being messed with or something along those lines. 
 

She felt safe boon docking in a camper van, but it was because of the freedom of being able to drive away easily from the bed into the drivers seat if a situation were to occur. 

A few thoughts - 

Many organized campgrounds - FS, Corps, BLM, have zero hook -ups, perhaps a water tap somewhere, and a vault toilet - not really any different then boondocking on a bluff in Dinosaur national Monument. In these instances, the Oliver - with solar, full H20, propane, and the Natures Head - we are good for a long time. And at full comfort - if at decent temps - not hot hot. 

Additionally, stopping in rest stops, Wally Worlds. Cracker Barrel, Sam's, or travel center's also becomes very doable in the well equipped Ollie. In all our time - never had an issue - other  than road noise. There is something to be said about a nice hot shower, a stiff drink, and a comfortable bed - all in the rear parking lot of said establishments. 

You do not need to unhook - have an issue - just go - we rarely do anything but find a level spot when in a parking lot - off the  beaten path - well ok, we do set up - few trouble makers are willing to go that far out - not a target rich environment. Perhaps a bear or some such - but to date no issue there - well once in a tent in Yellowstone...

And as for locations - there are many phone apps, net sites to point you in the direction. Do a search of this forum - 

RB

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Cindy,  Russell and  "Harley dog" . Home is our little farm near Winchester TN

2018 Oliver Legacy Elite II - 2018 GMC 2500 Duramax 

"Die young - As late as possible"

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8 minutes ago, jordanv said:

Ah that would be great! Thanks so much 😁

When staying at Cracker Barrel’s, where do you park?

Do you research the interstate rest stops before hand? Or do you just chose one as the pop up in your driving?

We are bad planners, well not bad, we just don't.

We know stop / start and where we are headed - and make it up as we go. Start looking for place to stay usually in the afternoon, if on a "lets get there" leg.  That is where the apps come in - other than long term stays - that's what we do - Two months in AK - had two hard dates, with rez, and it was great. 

I will admit this last summer was much tougher - people left home and  went to nature- boondocking made the process much easier. 

RB

 

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Cindy,  Russell and  "Harley dog" . Home is our little farm near Winchester TN

2018 Oliver Legacy Elite II - 2018 GMC 2500 Duramax 

"Die young - As late as possible"

ALAZARCACOFLIDMTNVNMOKORTNTXUTWAWYd56201524964bac5483378b34b491562080842sm.jpg

 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, jordanv said:

Ah that would be great! Thanks so much 😁

When staying at Cracker Barrel’s, where do you park?

Do you research the interstate rest stops before hand? Or do you just chose one as the pop up in your driving?

Cracker Barrels usually have 4 or more RV parking places behind the restaurant.  Never had a problem there.  Yes, we do research interstate rest stops.  There is one on I-40 east of Amarillo that has 24 hours security and welcomes RVs.  Same at the Atchefalaya rest stop on I-10 in Louisiana, RV slots and 24 hour security.  There are others that are big enough to park overnight, most are not.

I did start another thread on boondocking locations so we don't hijack this one too much.  I'm sure there will lots of photos posted.  Mike

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Mike and Carol | Fair Oaks Ranch, TX | 2016 Elite II #135 | 2020 Ram Rebel 4X4 5.7L Hemi

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I recently faced this exact decision with not a lot of RV camping experience, and uncertain of exactly where we will camp.  We finalized our options a couple of weeks ago.  We chose the Solar Pro package.

My thoughts . . . I wanted to be able to camp remotely for 1-2 nights at a time with absolutely no hookups, water or sewer.  If I immediately need more power than the AGM batteries can store and / or the panels can recharge, I'll get a generator.  In the meantime, when I replace my AGMs in a few years, the lithium technology will be more advanced and the options will be broader.  I'll know much more about my camping style and needs before I have to drop the BIG $ on lithium.

Just my thoughts.  Good luck.

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Update to my post earlier.  Oliver Sales got back to me this morning and confirmed that the option to get Solar Panels & Controller is limited to either (4) 6V AGM batteries upgrade or (4) 12V Wet Cell upgrade.   So there is an additional cost either way, and the (4) 12V  Wet Cell option is not appealing.   I was also advised my warranty on any electronics could be in jeopardy if I DIY my own LiFePO4 project.   Based on this, I am going with RB's suggestion and selected the Solar Pro package, my wife will be happy she has an inverter.   Several years from now, when the AGM's give up, I will have learned much from all the experts on this forum and will have a better plan forward.

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2021 Legacy Elite II (ordered); 2019 Legacy Elite #431 (sold); 2019 Ford F-150 FX4 5.0 V8

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4 minutes ago, SeaDawg said:

The easy start makes it easier to run your ac with a generator.

Yeah if I understand it correctly, it's all about getting past that peak startup load in the event that your power source  - whatever that is - doesn't provide as many  amps  as the a/c wants at  that  peak.

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Jim and  Yanna, Woodinville WA

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38 minutes ago, jordanv said:


Does anyone in this thread have the 'Micro Air Easy Start' option added with the 4 AGM batteries + Solar Panel?

Is the micro air easy start something we should get if we do the solar option?

Yes, I had the Easy Start installed on our AC.  That enables me to run the AC off of my 2K watt Champion generator.  With or without solar the easy start buffers the start up spike so it doesn’t over load your generator.

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Mike and Carol | Fair Oaks Ranch, TX | 2016 Elite II #135 | 2020 Ram Rebel 4X4 5.7L Hemi

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