Okay guys and gals - 

I'm at a juncture where I'm going to have to make a decision about what direction to go with the fridge, which in turn will drive the energy setup and although I've researched for months, I could use any last opinions.

I'm definitely replacing the fridge and I could go three ways.  The current one is 4 cubic foot, but there are no 4 foot cubic models that will fit my current space (they are all just a little too wide - no room for me to bump it out).  If I replace it I'm looking at the Dometic 2351 which is like 3 cubic feet.  I'm not excited about the size but could make it work.  I could get one here from PPL for about $750-$780 with the door reversing kit and make my own panel.

I really wanted to go 12v - but all the ones I could find, sans a truck fridge won't fit.  There is an a/c truck fridge I could get - 4 cubic feet that would fit for about $800 delivered.  However that is going to require some power to run when boondocking the same as my third option.  The bonus of that, at 50 lbs I could install it myself where I'm leery of the propane 75 lb one.

Finally I could get a $200 dorm fridge (that I would be pleased with the size) and have $600 left to put towards that power solution.

Power...I had been thinking I was going to go solar, but two people now have said I really don't have the room for the panels and bank I would need, and won't be happy with the results, so now looking at the generator option.

I could go portable or onboard if the place can recondition me on that will fit (there is a spot and hookups for one).  There I would probably spend about $1000-$1200 bucks - little more expensive than solar.  Of course I still would need a battery bank and I would lose the currently empty generator bay.

The thing is I want to be able to boondock, but the reality is, for the next two years we're talking three months each in Quartzsite and then I'm back on the east coast.  The extent of boondocking here is overnight at walmarts around here (and of course less sun).

I just keep changing my mind.  I don't really see too much difference in price no matter how I go - it will go into the fridge or into my energy decisions...I might get more convenience and save a little by going with the generator but at expense of noise, loss of space, and another piece of machinery to maintain

Anyone see anything I am not or want to offer thoughts based on personal experience?  I know it's hard to know my preferences but I will say I feel like I walk the line between comfort and off-grid in what I want.  No coffee maker, tv, hair dryer, but we might have two laptops to charge, camera, kindle/ipad.  I do like the idea of hooking back in an Onan so I could run the camper a/c driving - no cab a/c and i worry about the pets if we end up breaking down or something - that would be something not to worry about.  On the other hand, that's a big "maybe" and it would be nice to only have a smaller portable gennie for backup charging of the batteries and rely on free electric - LOL.

Any input is appreciated!!!  My only experience was with the Bounder and we always stayed with hookups.

Tags: advice, generator, needed, refrigerator, solar

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FYI - as far as space on the roof for panels  - I'm really looking at 200watt MAYbe another 50 watt panel.  The dinette may hold two 100 ah agms but otherwise there is just the gennie bay for batteries.

Being further south this is not a debate. Gotta have the generator for the ac unit or die in the heat. I am still deciding about solar but at this point it is really just a nice 'keep up with the Jones' thing.
A big factor is that currently there is no room for more than 2 6v golf cart batteries

I was thinking 2 AGM 100 AH?  I'm pretty sure I can squeeze those under the dinette (if you remember I moved the water pump.  I'll have to refig the plumbing again but I measured prior and two will just fit.  And I still have the house battery under the hood - another 100 ah that water pump, lights and fan currently hook up to.

So the 2 AGM's would be for fridge and electronic charging, and the two antennas - cellular weboost and the wifi repeater.

I still think I am missing a piece of the puzzle - how does the generator charge up the batteries - via the converter?  If so I assume I will connect the converter to my new battery bank in addition to the current supply to the house?

I'm thinking if I get the Onan - if I just get a portable one then it would plug into the normal shore cord with an adapter...?

Good point - it seems solar in the out-west-boondocking-nomad community makes sense but here is a different story.  Okay one for onan gennie.  In your opinion, I assume that makes a residential fridge a no brainer?  Energy saver 4 cu, dedicated battery when not running gennie and ... 1000 watt inverter maybe?

Hi Dawn genny is the only way, solar is great but not sufficient. You may look into the inverter types ( small and quiet ) but expensive. I have a 4000 watt onan for $250 but you would have to come and get it heavy bout 300lbs. 1000 watt inverter is plenty for fridge but they pull battery down pretty quick. Hope this helps

Thanks for the offer Gary but doubt it would fit in the space and would probably fall right through the floor and flatten the tire - hahah.  The fixit guy was showing me a smaller one he was reconditioning but it was lpg and will have to watch out for gas.  

Or go portable...

Okay, so I'm pretty much sold on the generator, but it doesn't point clearly to my fridge solution because I'm still stuck with the battery/inverter/energy sucking problem. Ugh, I really don't want the propane fridge.

The truck fridge is advertised at 24 watts per hour, but if I utilize the energy star rating the residential I'm looking at comes in at 26 watts per hour.  Still around 2 ah per hour...so 48 ah...plus inverter - another 10%? 55 ah per day?  2 100 agms would give room to play if I had a day I didn't recharge?

Or am I missing something still in my thinking?

Your good on your math. My fridge won't work on gas so I went with the inverter so I don't have to run genny all the time mine is 2000 I don't plan on boondocking much maybe walmart overnight.I test ran it for two days and ran battery awfully low so I won't do more than a day without recharging.  Thing is you have to watch the output on the alternator not enough and you'll work it to death. I can tell you are doing your home work so you'll be fine which ever way you go.  

  Good morning Dawn, gee I got here late SO MANY DECISIONS LOL

 Not being there and despite all your great info I just cant make the exact perfect decision for you, but will provide some of my experience and thoughts.

 1)  If you want to boondock like a week or more at a time (yep I know it may not fit and you don't like it lol) a regular LP Gas and 120 VAC RV ammonia fridge is the best way to go DUH but if it don't fit or you dont wanna spend the bucks toss out that option I guess??

2) Its not big enough for your needs but a slightly larger pure 120 VAC doesn't require all that much energy. My small Haier 120 VAC dorm fridge only requires around 35 Amp Hours per day so a slight bigger unit may take lets use say 75 Amp Hours per day Inverter fed of course

 DISCLAIMER these may not be very accurate, to size a fridge you need to know how much energy it requires over a 24 hour period under avg use and conditions.

3) Battery Energy Storage: Not knowing all your loads I cant imagine getting by (extended boondocking) with any less then 200 Battery Amp Hours. That could be say TWO Trojan T-105's in series which is 225 AH BUT THEY REQUIRE VENTING . If you went the more expensive AGM route they don't require so much venting. Sure the cheaper RV/Marine 12 volt batteries sold at Walmart will "work" and that would require two wired in parallel I SUGGEST TWO 6 VOLT TROJAN 6 VOLT GOLF CART BATTERIES IN SERIES if you have room. NOTE you dont want to discharge the batteries more then 50% IE 100 amp hours out of a 200 amp hour rated. I don't like to draw mine down over 30% that's why I have four Trojans and 450 amp hours and 715 Solar watts

4) SOLAR I bought a 245 watt 24 volt solar panel for $220.50 that measures 39 x 64. I guess you need AT LEAST 200+ solar watts, sure you cant fit that size of a panel??

5) ENERGY for LED lights and water pump and a vent fan and a small 120 VAC fridge LETS GUESS YOU CAN SQUEEZE BY WITH 100 AMP HOURS PER DAY (wayyyyyyyy less if you had a LP Gas fridge lol). Subject to sunlight time and angle that 245 watt solar panel might harvest lets guess   MAYBE 50 TO 85 amp hours per day THATS ON LY A WILD GUESS I CANT KNOW THE SUN AND TIME AND ANGLE. That leaves you short of the 100 amp hours you need !!!!!!!!! but is a good start

6) Battery charging. Assuming a single 245 watt panel wont keep up you need a good charger powered by a genny  for x time per day. At the minimum Id want at least a 40 amp (or better a 60)  Smart 3/4 Stage Charger powered by running  the genny. In theory (dont work out that way lol) if you pumped say 30 amps to the batteries for  one hour that's the other 30 amp hours of energy you need in a day. IE a 245 watt solar panel and a 40 amp charger powered by a genny for x time per day just may yield the 100 amp hours per day you consume.

7) GENNY you could get by with say an Invertor generator (my preference) of a 2000 watt to do the above scenario, BUT not if you wanna run a rooftop AC (around 12/13 amps) then youre lookin more like a 3000 watt genset.

8) BACK TO SOLAR as you know if you rig the panel so you can keep it tilted and pointed to the sun over the course of a day YOU WILL HARVEST MORE THEN IF ITS PERMANENT FLAT MOUNTED. 

9) INVERTER I recommend a 1000 watt and also a Pure Sine Wave PSW. Sure gang a 500 or 600 may work subject to the fridge load.

YOU ASKED TO MAKE THE DECISION FOR YOU SO HERE IT IS LOL Gee its fun to spend your money lol

 A 245 watt 39 x 64 solar panel,,,,,,,,MPPT Solar Charge Controller,,,,,,,,,An LP gas fridge (grrrrrrr lol),,,,,,,,,,,Next choice a small dorm sized 120 VAC fridge powered by a 1000 watt PSW Inverter,,,,,,,,,,At least 200 battery Amp Hours two 6 volt Trojans in series 225 AH is my recommendation,,,,,,,,,,,,At least 2000 watt genny for battery charger  but 3000 watt to run an AC.   

DISCLAIMER listen folks I dont know the loads and sun and angle or anything and this is ONLY a rough guess and approximation to help Dawn SO DONT HAVE A CALF if this isn't exact cuz I guarantee its not !!!

 John T tooooo long retired electrical engineer and rusty and NOT a solar expert   SO NO WARRANTY this is ONLY a rough guess and approximation hear me

PS Energy Management Typical Day

 Dawn, when I had a set up similar to what I proposed above, here was my typical day:

1) Get up in the AM and immediately fire up the genny to give the batteries a good head start on the day as they will be discharged form running the fridge and vent fans or furnace all night. Use your toaster or microwave or hair dryer or coffee maker. Looks like you best get a 3000 watt genny to run charger PLUS and any of these if at same time !!!! Run genny maybe oh say an hour or so subject to battery SOC.

LOOKS NOW LIKE A 60 AMP CHARGER MAY BE IN ORDER as it will take less genny run time to put some charge in the batteries. My last RV had a Progressive Dynamics PD9260 Smart 4 Stage 60 amp Charger

2) Then after coffee and microwave are done and batteries have a decent SOC, the Solar can take over. NOTE if you take off driving then have an isolation switch so the alternator can pump charge into the house batteries while driving

3) At night after solar shuts down and before retiring, run the genny and charger long enough till the batteries get near 100% SOC

 Piece of cake right??????????

 Again this is ONLY a guess and approximation, you need an energy audit and fridge specs before sizing a system, but I "guess" 245 solar watts and a 60 amp smart charger and at least 200 battery amp hours and a small 120 VAC fridge might work similar to the above Id still like an LP Gas fridge lol then the above will most likely get by just fine. The 120 VAC fridge is an energy hog compared to an LP Gas BUT I RESPECT YOUR USE NEEDS AND CHOICES they are yours NOT ours

 John T

John - this is all great information!!!  It does help to run through average scenarios then I can pick and choose what I need (ie no coffeemaker, no microwave - i am an instant/french press kind of girl and I can boil water).  You also confirmed that I am going to be pushing some limits.  Conservation is going to be critical.  I've thought a lot about that - for example apparently charging up a resting laptop takes less juice than being plugged in while working like is my usual habit at home.

I understand at the RTR that if you have a genny they just ask you to keep to the outer fringes of the group to run it.  I think for now it makes a heck of a lot of sense to just to the genny and add solar when I am going to spend more time out there - right now it's just 3 months for the next two months while I do my field research.  Heck I could use a cooler with ice for that.  21 feet doesn't require a lot of packing up to head over to the store.  

1) I will ultimately have three batteries - the main house battery in the engine compartment (not my starter battery - it's on the other side) which runs the lights, fans, water pump (and currently the electronics recharging/wifi/cellular boosters).  The latter I will change out once I add my bank - I believe I can fit two AGM under the dinette from my measurements - 100 ah).  So total (albeit divided how they are hooked in) 300 ah.

2) I could put batteries potentially in the genny bay, but if I do that I will have to go with a portable that I have to strap to, take on and off the bumper toolbox and worry a little more about theft.  I'd rather put it in the genny bay and secure it better or put an Onan in there. Either way no room for batteries.  I really think the trojans are out for me in my setup but will verify before I get to that point.

3) converter - I expect I'll have to change that out when the time comes - mine works, but I'm sure it's not a 3 stage, etc.

4) a/c - only 7500 BTU - someone on a forum said they needed a 2500 to fire up a mini mach however I read somewhere else that 2500 would fire up a 13,500 BTU - so I am hoping to squeeze by with a 2000 - but obviously the biggest I can afford and get is what I'll go with.  The mini mach won't last forever.

5) once I get up on the roof again I'll take better measurements, draw up a diagram and post - I am planning on a 105 ah or 100 ah solar suitcase to charge the house battery that currently exists in the engine as noted above.  So the ones for the roof will be for the 200 ah I'm squeezing under the dinette which will be for fridge and electronics.

Again, thanks!!  Every piece of information is helpful.  

Thanks Dawn, as you provide us with more info such as you have above it helps us help you and our "best guesses" get closer to reality.

Here's my response to your latest post:

  

1) I will ultimately have three batteries - the main house battery in the engine compartment (not my starter battery - it's on the other side) which runs the lights, fans, water pump (and currently the electronics recharging/wifi/cellular boosters).  The latter I will change out once I add my bank - I believe I can fit two AGM under the dinette from my measurements - 100 ah).  So total (albeit divided how they are hooked in) 300 ah.

 

  MY RESPONSE

 

 Iffffffffff get that 300 Amp Hours that's fine, and is even MORE then my minimum recommendation of 200. 

BUT NOTE I would want alllllllll batteries to be the same since AGM and Lead Acid require different preferred charging algorithms and Id prefer a smart 3/4 stage charger (can set for AGM or Lead Acid) be wired to ONLY one type of battery. If I had two new AGM's I'm not sure if I would  add another lead acid into the mix. 200 AH of new AGM's will get you by. I don't like to mix AGM in parallel with a lead acid due to charging methods.

2) I could put batteries potentially in the genny bay, but if I do that I will have to go with a portable that I have to strap to, take on and off the bumper toolbox and worry a little more about theft.  I'd rather put it in the genny bay and secure it better or put an Onan in there. Either way no room for batteries.  I really think the trojans are out for me in my setup but will verify before I get to that point.

MY RESPONSE

If you're gonna eventually get 200 Amp Hours of AGM no need for buying Trojans  in the short run

3) converter - I expect I'll have to change that out when the time comes - mine works, but I'm sure it's not a 3 stage, etc.

MY RESPONSE

 When that time comes and since Solar isn't in the immediate future I SUGGEST AT LEAST A 60 AMP SMART 3/4 STAGE CHARGER such as a PD 9260 or equivalent that's suitable for EITHER AGM or Lead Acid 

4) a/c - only 7500 BTU - someone on a forum said they needed a 2500 to fire up a mini mach however I read somewhere else that 2500 would fire up a 13,500 BTU - so I am hoping to squeeze by with a 2000 - but obviously the biggest I can afford and get is what I'll go with.  The mini mach won't last forever.

MY RESPONSE

Iffffffffff all you ever have is a 7500 BTU AC, a 2000 Watt Genny can power it. HOWEVER for a 13,500 (like many RV rooftops) you better have AT LEAST a 2500 and better a 3,000 ESPECIALLY to run it PLUS the charger

5) once I get up on the roof again I'll take better measurements, draw up a diagram and post - I am planning on a 105 ah or 100 ah solar suitcase to charge the house battery that currently exists in the engine as noted above.  So the ones for the roof will be for the 200 ah I'm squeezing under the dinette which will be for fridge and electronics.

MY RESPONSE a portable carry out suitcase 100 WATT solar panel is a darn good start ESPECIALLY if you  2 or 3 times a day keep it angled and pointed to the sun

NOTES you can buy those smaller portable gensets like a 2000 that are equipped with the parallel connection feature to run two for 4000 watts if and when needed.

 I THINK WE HAVE YOU UP TO DATE NOW

John T 

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