It’s been some time since I’ve updated this but nothing significant was happening so there was nothing to report. Now there is.
What’s Been and Is Happening
We were planning to live our usual lifestyle with our normal combination of campgrounds and boondocking but several things got in the way. We had signed on for a caravan from New Orleans to Nashville via the Natchez Trace. That started near the end of March and was two weeks with campgrounds about every night. Then, we got into the awful, rainy, midwestern April/May weather throughout Kentucky and Indiana and ultimately spent nearly a month sort of holed up in campgrounds—just trying to survive the rain. We were in Louisville, KY for ten days just before the Ohio River crested. I’ve never seen that much rain nor rivers that high.
Then we got out of the rain and headed to northern Indiana where I was scheduled to go into service for a week. This was followed by a campground for another week-and-a-half (again, weather, but this time heat-related, forcing us to use our air conditioners 24/7). This is definitely not our normal lifestyle.
With all that, my ability to test the lithium ion batteries was sort of put “on hold” until we could get clear of the weird and wet weather. We were just plugged into shore power nearly all the time.
However, the batteries hung in there when needed, never failed us, gave us long periods of battery usage, and I feel that the batteries were doing what they were supposed to do. While I did not track this accurately because this was so sporadic (again, due to circumstances), I did determine that on a few boondocking occasions over a 24-hour period, I would need one recharge. My generator is set to run 4.5 hours and this (verified several times) takes the battery State of Charge (SOC) to 100% with the monitor indicating 14.6V and 0.0 Amps.
Comparing that to when I was using AGMs (early on, when they were in good shape), we needed to run our generator 2.5 hours to bring them to Float charge. I recall we would have to do this about two times in a 24 hour period. Again, comparing run times, the Lithium ion batteries would charge for 4.5 hours in 24 and the AGM would charge for a total of 5 hours in 24. This is very close to the same cost of diesel for recharging.
However, the long-term advantage to Lithium ion batteries in this comparison is the recharge cycles. There were TWO recharge cycles per day for the AGMs. There was ONE recharge cycle per day for the Lithium ion batteries. The estimated number of recharge cycles (according to Lifeline for the AGM 8Ds) is 1,000. The bench tested number of recharge cycles this Lithium ion battery is 2,000 and the estimated number is 3,000 to 4,000!
[A Reminder… Don’t try to compare my “times” with what you are using now as this is simply impossible—a true “apples and oranges” comparison. All these “times”—generator run time, time on inverter, etc.—depends on your usage. That is, how much current do you need to live normally? Even if we had the same, exact coach, our lifestyle would be different and therefore, use different amounts of current for different times daily.
You should compare the differences in my stated times with the Lithium Ion battery and my AGM batteries. You can extrapolate that to lead acid batteries if you are using those.]
One Major Change
The primary change in our coach that took place was the resetting of our Solar Controller and the installation of a Solar Monitor. This Monitor was supplied by AM Solar and installed by All 4 One RV Service in Elkhart. The Monitor allows me to easily see various data related to the capabilities of the Solar Array on top of my coach.
A bit of background…
I have six, 100-watt panels on top of my coach. These were installed by AMSolar when the coach was new. At that time, they asked me if I wanted a Solar Monitor and I did not think I needed one. So, I did not get one. Now, nearly five years later, we do need one as it will help us know what the batteries are doing with the solar energy coming in.
I stated earlier in the write-up that… Solar panel usage becomes significantly more efficient since a lithium ion battery is 98% charge-efficient, a lead-acid battery is only 36% charge-efficient, and AGM is somewhere in the 60% range. “Charge-efficient” is defined as being able to take in and use some percentage of the maximum potential voltage generated by the solar panels.
The Solar Controller
The controller (also called a heliotrope) contains dip switches and potentiometers that can be adjusted to limit what maximum current is allowed to any entity.
The Solar Monitor
This monitor provides some data and control we could not access before. First, it contains an on/off switch allowing us to totally turn off the solar. This is useful when we need to see charging data from specific selected sources. It reads the battery voltage (as does the Magnum Remote and Aladdin). The three are reading within 0.1v of each other so that should verify a level of accuracy/consistency. This monitor also allows me to read Engine (chassis) battery voltage. Finally, it also reads the Solar Array Amps (what is on top before it gets to the battery).