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Solar/Battery options


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So I have about 6 months before I have to make final decisions on the options for our new Oliver.  The only option that I am still unsure about is the battery/solar choice.  I would like to have a lithium setup however I am not convinced that the option offered by Oliver is the best one for the money.  I am not an electrician by any means, however, I am quite capable of figuring out/installing pretty much anything within reason.  The only decision I have made is that I will definitely be getting the solar panels installed by the factory.  While I could probably do it myself, I think the money is worth saving the time and effort by having this done at the factory.  That being said, I would like to hear from the group what your choices would be if you were doing this today.  Inverter/charger (Victron MultiPlus) , MPPT controller, battleborn/lifeblue/victron batteries?  I am just beginning this search so any input on things everyone has learned along the way would be helpful.  Fire away!!

 

John

2021 GMC Sierra 2500 AT4 6.6L Duramax 11350 GVWR  3048lb Payload

2021 Oliver Elite II  (11/21 delivery)

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John, 

If I  were buying today, I would definitely opt for Oliver installing the solar. Or, at the very least, prewire.

200 watts of solar have given us so much freedom of choice on campsites over the last 13 years. 

As far as equipment, the Zamp panels that Oliver installs are highly rated, high efficiency (over 21 per cent, I've read, which is quite amazing, actually), and US manufactured. They have long warranties.

 I'm assuming Oliver will continue for some time with the legacy 170 watt panels, since the new Zamp obsidian panels aren't available yet in more than 100 watts. (The obsidian series panel is really a beauty!) I think they're worth the money in fixed panels, but I  would personally hesitate to invest that much in portable.

I don't have any personal experience with the zamp controllers. 

In our 2008 trailer, we have BlueSky mppt controllers and monitor, and progressive dynamic charger/converter. We don't have an inverter. The customer service from BlueSky is absolutely top notch, and the equipment, though perhaps not state of the art, has proven to be extremely reliable. When we added wattage this year to the trailer, we opted to add another BlueSky controller, rather than switch brands.

On the boat (600 watt) install, we used Victron equipment, primarily, though we have a  Xantrex xcpro inverter charger. We chose the Victron gear this time around because of its extensive use in marine installations, (better future proofing opportunities for integration of systems), a better water resistance rating, and its ease of installation.  Plus the bluetooth 🙂 capability. We've been very happy with the Victron equipment so far, a little over a year. We had installed the Xantrex just a year before the solar, or we'd have opted for victron there, as well.

As far as batteries,  we started with lead acid in 2008, but have had agms since we replaced the original set. I, too, would love to have lithium, but the boat will likely need batteries next, and we'll start there. We're still exploring brands. 

Sherry 

 

 

 

 

 

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2008 Ram 1500 4 × 4

2008 Oliver Elite, Hull #12
 

 

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Thanks for the reply Sherry.  I do want an inverter so right now I am torn between having Oliver install the xantrex vs just having them install the panels and choosing my own inverter after delivery.  I like that the victors stuff all communicates well together. I also don’t see the need to have another hole cut for the xantrex remote in the trailer.  I would like to swap the zamp controller and install a victory MPPT out of sight and then install the victron gx touch 50 where the zamp controller was.   Thoughts?

 

John

2021 GMC Sierra 2500 AT4 6.6L Duramax 11350 GVWR  3048lb Payload

2021 Oliver Elite II  (11/21 delivery)

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I’d check the size of the GX Touch vs the Zamp. It might not be big enough to cover the hole. I know that, unfortunately for me, it’s smaller than the cutout for their Color Control Display. 

Edited by Overland
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El Palacio Huevo Nieve, Legado Selecto Dos, Numero 256

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I haven't seen the gx touch in person. 

Maybe this weekend? We may (or may not) mask up and brave the St. Pete boat show, since a lot of rain is predicted.

 Definitely (and sadly)  skipping the Tampa RV supershow.

 

Edited by SeaDawg

2008 Ram 1500 4 × 4

2008 Oliver Elite, Hull #12
 

 

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3 hours ago, Jps190 said:

... I would like to swap the zamp controller and install a victory MPPT out of sight and then install the victron gx touch 50 where the zamp controller was.   Thoughts?

 

John

Are you comfortable cutting your own hole? I would just ask them to NOT mount the Zamp controller (I agree you should replace it), purchase my own controller and mount the control panel myself.

Steve, Tali and the dogs: Reacher, Lucy and Rocky plus our beloved Storm and Maggie (both waiting at the Rainbow Bridge) 2008 Legacy Elite I - Outlaw Oliver, HULL NUMBER: 0026 2014 Legacy Elite II - Outlaw Oliver, HULL NUMBER: 0050 2017 Silverado High Country 2500HD Diesel 4x4 

 

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6 minutes ago, ScubaRx said:

Are you comfortable cutting your own hole? I would just ask them to NOT mount the Zamp controller (I agree you should replace it), purchase my own controller and mount the control panel myself.

I don't know what year they stopped doing small custom requests but this policy was certainly in effect during mid 2020 sales. I requested that the bathroom mirror and the 2 inch receiver be left off during the build... The rack request was refused and the mirror was going to be mounted during production only to be removed and patched up pre-delivery. I ultimately decided to just take it as built with no bike rack option.

2019 Toyota Land Cruiser

2021 Oliver Elite II, Hull #748

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I don’t see the Oliver production line starting up custom requests or partial options. They did not offer this when we purchased our 2020. 
The other thing to consider is warranty. It might be a good idea to review Oliver warranty information prior to DIY installs. I think most will agree Oliver has the best warranty in the industry. And truly stand behind what they build.
As many have said on the fourm, it less expensive to have it installed in production than post delivery.
Just another view point. Enjoy your build!

Edited by Patriot

2020 Ford F-250 6.7 liter Powerstroke Lariat Ultimate “Tremor” High Cap tow pkg  - 2020 OLEII - Hull #634 

 

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Patriot is right, they won't consider custom requests during production but you can reach out to Jason Essary (Service Manager) for a quote, for his team to complete the work.  In 2019, he gave us a quote to install the solar panels and wiring, except for the solar controller.  It would have been paid for separately from the purchase contract.

Andrew  

Andrew, Carianne and Buffy | San Diego, CA


2019 Legacy Elite II Hull #468 "California Burrito" | 2018 BMW x5 35d 

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Back to solar/battery (and inverter) options ...  Our ordering deadline is approaching quickly, and I'm still wrestling with the Solar Pro vs Lithium Pro option.  The lithium package appeals to be, but it seems that the implementation in Oliver trailers is still being refined.  

Several have suggested going with Solar Pro (340W solar, 2000W inverter, AGMs) now, and perhaps replacing the AGMs (or less expensive flooded-cell batteries) with lithium when the AGMs wear out.  However, the Lithium Pro (340W solar, 3000W inverter, lithiums allows use of the AC for short periods of time (e.g., highway rest stop for lunch on a hot summer day).  The 2000W inverter in the Solar Pro setup, even with lithiums added later, may be insufficient for the the AC (as I understand it).  So selecting the solar/battery package based on batteries may preclude future use of the AC.  

So, my questions are these:

1. How hot does it really get in the trailer on very hot days (e.g., over 100°F)?  Does the white outside color reflect enough light so that the interior temperature is OK with fan, open window, etc.?  Is the AC a needed for this situation, or am I overthinking it?  

2. Are there other reasons for having the 3000W inverter other than AC?  (We can easily do without microwave or other high-use items when the AC is on.)

3. Can the 2000W inverter somehow be used to run the AC (with easy start) from battery power for relatively short periods of time (thinking ahead, when the AGMs have been replaced with lithiums) as long as there are no other major, simultaneous electrical draws?

4. Is it better to stick with the 2000 W inverter, carry a generator in the optional utility box in front of the propane doghouse, and rely on the generator for AC during rest stops?

Theoretically, on option would be to order solar, less expensive batteries, and the 3000W inverter now, but that's not how the packages are arranged and it seems highly unlikely that Oliver would deviate from the pre-packaged options.

In advance, thank you for your thoughts!

p.s., Based on current patterns, I anticipate that 60% of our use will be boondocking (in the open or in SP or FS "primitive" sites), 20% with hookups, and 20% in friends or family driveways (most often with 15A 120V electric).

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We make it a point not to stop  for any length of time in the heat of the day.  If it is hot outside, it will be hot inside the trailer too.  If we stop for a picnic lunch at a rest stop we sit at one of their picnic tables in the shade.  Running the AC for a nap at a rest stop has never even been a consideration.  We travel mid/late morning to early/mid afternoon. If it is very hot it’s because we are probably just moving through to get to cooler areas (think south Texas to Colorado!).  There may be others who sleep in their trailer in the heat of the day, but just the AC noise is enough for us to avoid that.

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Fair Oaks Ranch, TX | 2016 Elite II #135 | 2020 Ram 2500 Laramie 6.7L Cummins Turbo Diesel

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On 1/16/2021 at 12:20 PM, Fritz said:

1. How hot does it really get in the trailer on very hot days (e.g., over 100°F)?  Does the white outside color reflect enough light so that the interior temperature is OK with fan, open window, etc.?  Is the AC a needed for this situation, or am I overthinking it?  

4. Is it better to stick with the 2000 W inverter, carry a generator in the optional utility box in front of the propane doghouse, and rely on the generator for AC during rest stops?

1- The trailer is really well insulated, for an RV, so if it is closed up, the inside takes a loooong time to heat up, several hours or more. The other side of the coin is that as the sun sets it retains all that heat and is very slow to cool down inside, even with windows and the door open. You notice that especially when you open up a storage area under a cushion, it stays HOT under there. Same with the closet and pantry. If it is going to be hot enough for you to want AC it is best to start running it early to get ahead of the heat buildup. 

4 - You are not supposed to run the generator while it is on the tongue. This is the lawyers speaking, they do not want you to gas everybody, and then have your heirs sue the company. You are supposed to put the generator at least 50 feet away. I don’t think ANYbody does that, but you must remain very aware of wind direction, and not keep any windows or vents open where exhaust gas could enter. Plus a running unit on the tongue will be felt inside, that isn’t so good if you want to nap.

I think you will quickly learn that finding shade to park under in blistering weather is a big priority. if you have shade, you don’t need the AC for a brief stop, especially before the full heat of the day. At 4:00 pm, it’s going to be pretty darned uncomfortable inside. Hopefully you stopped and hooked up to external power long before that. You will also learn to look for a site with a tree on the southwest side, to provide shade as the sun gets past its zenith and the temperature soars. A site that is shaded in the afternoon is precious!

If you will routinely be in 100 degree temps, do not buy the lithium batteries, that kills them. Go with cheap flooded batteries and plan to change them often as they die.

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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1 hour ago, John E Davies said:

You are not supposed to run the generator while it is on the tongue. This is the lawyers speaking, they do not want you to gas everybody, and then have your heirs sue the company. You are supposed to put the generator at least 50 feet away. I don’t think ANYbody does that, but you must remain very aware of wind direction, and not keep any windows or vents open where exhaust gas could enter. Plus a running unit on the tongue will be felt inside, that isn’t so good if you want to nap.

Yeah the vibration/noise transfer alone makes me doubt I'd ever be tempted to try it. There's also the issue that if you are following the safety instructions for  your generator I think you'll likely find you  shouldn't have its exhaust vent running that close to the solid sided walls of the current factory offered tongue storage box. 

I don't have experience with the Oliver but  with our camper  van (which is white but less well insulated - particularly the  single pane windows which  run  all around the van) we've always been fine if  we can  find some  shade and then run  the roof vent fan during any driving breaks. But then we also rarely end up in 100+ temperatures  - the one time  I can  recall doing so (driving from the Grand Canyon  to the  Bay Area in early June 2016) I just pushed on through rather than  taking breaks between  Needles and Barstow-ish. In fact my first break after that section was around dusk well north of Bakersfield as it was just a nasty hot day everywhere. I was sweating while having dinner in the van  at a rest stop but I survived.

My sales rep used the "the soft start etc. is great for taking AC'd breaks in the  middle of hot driving days!" line but it was not at all a motivator for me.

Edited by Jim_Oker

Jim and  Yanna, Woodinville WA

2004 Ford E250 camper conversion

Oliver Elite II hull #709

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Honestly for me a  bigger issue with that level of heat is that  the absorption/evaporation style fridges don't keep up well at all in such heat - certainly nothing like a compressor based  fridge. It's a good time to evaluate whether it's time to replace any mayonnaise or meat etc.! 

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Jim and  Yanna, Woodinville WA

2004 Ford E250 camper conversion

Oliver Elite II hull #709

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On 1/15/2021 at 11:28 PM, ScubaRx said:

Are you comfortable cutting your own hole? I would just ask them to NOT mount the Zamp controller (I agree you should replace it), purchase my own controller and mount the control panel myself.

I would have no problem cutting a hole.  I will check if Oliver would consider not mounting the ZAmp  controller but I have a feeling they won’t.  
 

john

2021 GMC Sierra 2500 AT4 6.6L Duramax 11350 GVWR  3048lb Payload

2021 Oliver Elite II  (11/21 delivery)

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On 1/15/2021 at 11:28 PM, Overland said:

Thanks, I hadn’t seen that before. I doubt that I’ll have any reason to replace mine anytime soon, but then if I need a reason I can invent one. 

Overland,  I have been studying your install from the Snowball thread and am leaning towards a similar setup.  Are you still happy with it?
 

john

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2021 GMC Sierra 2500 AT4 6.6L Duramax 11350 GVWR  3048lb Payload

2021 Oliver Elite II  (11/21 delivery)

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1 hour ago, Jps190 said:

I would have no problem cutting a hole.  I will check if Oliver would consider not mounting the ZAmp  controller but I have a feeling they won’t.  
 

john

John, 

They won't do this during production but, you can ask service to install the solar system without the controller, after the fact.  It would not be part of the sales contract and would be billed separate by service.

Andrew

Andrew, Carianne and Buffy | San Diego, CA


2019 Legacy Elite II Hull #468 "California Burrito" | 2018 BMW x5 35d 

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9 hours ago, Jps190 said:

Overland,  I have been studying your install from the Snowball thread and am leaning towards a similar setup.  Are you still happy with it?
 

john

Absolutely

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El Palacio Huevo Nieve, Legado Selecto Dos, Numero 256

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