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Is "No Propane" and Total Solar possible?


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Hello All, 

     Due to nearly being killed twice in my life from "gas furnace" issues I am now extremely hesitant to use Propane. I've watched numerous videos on using Propane and how it all works to hopefully lesson my fears, it has somewhat, but not totally. So, this is a theoretical "is this even possible" question. I plan on towing with a GMC Savanna Extended Cargo van, plenty of roof room for solar. So, would it be possible to eliminate the propane all together, and be "total electric" with solar on my van too. I can use a portable electric cooktop, run the fridge on electric, but would the "endless hot water" run on electric? Anything else I should consider? I built a "sticks and bricks" new home in 2017 and told the builder don't even bother running a gas line to my home, we are in a 3200 square foot home in Indiana and the electric heat pump works great, no regrets. I'm planning my retirement and wondering if can configure the Oliver to be "non-gas" as well? Any thoughts? As far as camping styles we plan to mainly stay in federal, state and local campgrounds with at least an electric hook-up and rarely "total" boondocking. 

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Will you be using the refrigerator?  It will tax your solar/batteries at night.  We currently have a propane leak (regulator needs replacing).  We're on the road and while I'll keep the fridge cool using solar/batteries during the day, I'll turn the fridge off at night.  We use the propane alot, we have the propane outlets at the front and rear to hook up a Weber grill, some folks use them for propane fire-pits.  Our Truma water heater uses propane,, I just can't imagine being propane free, it's messing up this trip for sure! LOL

 

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Steph and Steve from Jacksonville OREGON


Oliver Elite II, Pickup May 2019


Ram 1500 4x4 

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I think it would be better to switch to diesel fired appliances - a Webasto combination furnace/ on-demand hot water heater and a stovetop, and a DC compressor fridge. These fridges run at about 50% duty cycle typically and use about 3 amps, way way less than the electric heater in a 3-way fridge, which is about 15 amps. The diesel stuff is extremely compact and reliable, you would gain a bunch of storage volume in back where the existing furnace and HWH are now, and you could ditch the propane bottles and the doghouse and mount a neat cargo rack in their place. A 3 gallon plastic diesel tank could be located in a number of places.

The cost of a whole bunch of panel$ and a whole bunch of lithium batterie$ would be more than the cost of switching to diesel, and you would not be in big trouble if the sun doesn’t shine or you want to park under a tree.  Most locations out West other than commercial RV parks don’t have any kind of hookup…..

John Davies

Spokane WA

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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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I think you could do it, especially if you’d be ok using propane outside the trailer, which would take care of cooking.  You’d want to replace the fridge with a 12 volt compressor. Electric heat and hot water would be taxing, but many people carry a small electric heater and have found that they work quite well, and I would think that with a larger lithium bank and sparing use, you’d do ok.

Assuming that you go with the 630ah lithium package, you’d need a lot of solar to reliably recharge that from solar alone. 1260 watts, to be precise. Even then, I think you’d want generator backup since you’ll be so dependent on electrical.   So, yes it would be cool if you can get extra solar on your van, but in practical terms I think you should assume that you’ll be dependent on a generator or hookups for recharging - and with that in mind, you may decide that adding the extra solar isn’t worth the trouble.

I don’t know Anything about the GMC van, only that typically vans don’t tow particularly well. If you decide to go another route then you might consider the new hybrid F150, which would really give you some good options for recharging quickly. 

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Before I found Oliver I took a look at the Little Snoozy camper (made in South Carolina).  While a few owners of the Snoozy have put propane into that camper, they do not come from the factory with any propane connections in them - they are all electric (kind of).  I understand that with a relatively recent change of ownership they are (or are intending to) offer a solar option.  If, indeed, your intent is to never boondock or only boondock for very short periods of time going all electric is possible even without spending copious amounts of money on solar.

Bill

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2017 Ford F150 Lariat 3.5EB FX4 Max Towing 2016 Oliver Elite II - Hull #117 "Twist"

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Thank you for all the input. The diesel sounds interesting, but I'd still rather be more "green" if I can be, even if it costs more initially. The GMC Cargo Van is is 4 wheel drive, and I am not a fast driver when towing, so I feel comfortable towing it with the Cargo Van. I'll keep you all posted as it gets closer to time. And welcome any future comments as well. 

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In theory, it's quite possible.  Especially,  with lithium.

This week,  we're running two fridges on solar, only, as a friend brought his thermoelectric fridge to camp with us. It's been slim, with only two agm 105 ah batteries in our 2008 legacy I, but we manage. We unplug the thermoelectric at night, as we did, camping in iceland with a thermoelectric cooler. (It's a beer cooler, and it's not hot here. We park it in the shade at night, and it's  still 40 in the morning. )

Add up the amp hours. Add 100 per cent extra to solar for expected charge. Carry a really small genset for a string of crappy days 

Pretty sure we could do it . I'd carry an outdoor gas/butane or propane burner, for cooking.

The big gas hog is the furnace. If you pack good sleeping bags or bedding, you won't need as much heat. 12v heat is a mystery to me. I  doubt it's worthwhile. 

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2008 Ram 1500 4 × 4

2008 Oliver Elite, Hull #12
 

 

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Oliver could leap frog the domestic market with component specs like this, particularly given their low build volume.  The downside would be lack of component support, whereas most of the built-for-volume quality of ACs, fridge, and solar have wide service networks.

https://kimberleykampers.com.au/luxury-off-road-caravans/kruiser-t-class/#specs

A few of these have been imported, mostly when the Australian dollar was weak a few years ago.   That said, their is a dealer in Ohio now.

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2020 Legacy Elite II Hull 625 - 2013 Lexus LX 570

San Antonio/Boerne - Texas Hill Country

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1 hour ago, Ralph Mawyer said:

The downside would be lack of component support, whereas most of the built-for-volume quality of ACs, fridge, and solar have wide service networks.

I would say, that is the crux of the problem.

I think Oliver chose Zamp solar, for example,  for several reasons.  Wide service network. Usa made. Quality. Ease of use.

The choice of the  noisy Dometic ac is based on availability,  and serviceability,  I'd suspect. 

No matter how great a component is, if there are no parts, no service network, and unreliable imported supply chain, a manufacturer would be taking a big risk.

Those of us who mod with imported or rare units take that risk. But it's on us, and not holding up production. 

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2008 Ram 1500 4 × 4

2008 Oliver Elite, Hull #12
 

 

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That said, other us rv manufacturers build all electric units. Even fgrv Egg camper and Little Snoozy did it. Of course, they both went out of business. (Though Snoozy II is working again, with a new owners.)

The biggest problem is the furnace, from my point if view. Carrying diesel, or having to hook up for electric to obtain heat, isn't appealing to most people.  

Everything else can be solved with enough solar, and enough lithium battery,  imo.

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2008 Ram 1500 4 × 4

2008 Oliver Elite, Hull #12
 

 

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On 5/30/2021 at 1:06 PM, AriesBarb said:

...As far as camping styles we plan to mainly stay in federal, state and local campgrounds with at least an electric hook-up and rarely "total" boondocking.

If you are planning to mainly camp where there is electricity you don't need any solar or fancy batteries. Just plug up and enjoy the stay. The fridge will be running on AC as will the water heater, air conditioner and microwave. Your batteries will be charging and all your 12 volt accessories will be running off your converter.  If you will need heat, bring along a small electric heater. Using this plan, I think you will do nicely without any propane.

If you decide to spend a night without an electrical source, you will be fine with just the standard batteries.

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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 

 

      ALAKAZARCACOCTDEFLGAIDILINIAKSKYLAMEMDMA       ABBCMBNSYTsm.jpg

 

 

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@AriesBarb, I  was reminded of your thread today, when poliver posted the almost all electric 2009 link in classifieds.

As scubarx said, if you always camp with electric hookups, it will never be an issue,  no matter the brand you choose. Enough electricity,  you're golden. Just don't ever fill the tanks, get an induction burner, run the standard water heater on electric,  only.  Swap out the three way fridge, maybe, someday, for a more efficient dc secop/danfoss fridge. Or, not, if you will always have 110. Definitely. Get a small electric heater, or get a heat pump ac, or both.

If you primarily,  or accidentally,  camp without electrical hookup, you'll need sufficient battery and solar to make it through. And/or, a small generator. Which means carrying fuel.

Some/most people design their trailers for ideal and optimum  conditions. Others for the worst. (We're in the latter category,  as it often happens to us )

Living without propane is certainly possible. But, it will require planning. 

 

 

 

 

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2008 Ram 1500 4 × 4

2008 Oliver Elite, Hull #12
 

 

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