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Lithium Batteries for RV & Boat House Systems

Overview of our Lithium Battery Electrical Setups


Our LFP disclaimer – This blog is our personal space – not a business pursuit. We are simply full time technomads who are designing our own cutting edge mobile homes, and are sharing our independent research & project… because, well, we like to! These articles are our gift to you and we frankly have no interest in convincing anyone to follow this path. 

We are NOT selling these batteries, we regularly turn down advertising requests and we’re not electrical/battery consultants/experts. We may however have affiliate interests in some products, but only those we can give a thumbs up to. 

We purchased our initial system at full retail cost, however over the years due to this series – some upgrades and new equipment has been provided to us for field beta testing either at no cost or substantial discounts from manufacturers we now provide feedback to. 

 

While this option is becoming more prevalent, there are now drop in solutions and there are professional installers available -those contemplating this technology should still be rather savvy with electrical and battery technology. We take absolutely no responsibility should you attempt to try lithium batteries – do so at your own risk. 

We have tried to share all the information we can in the below articles, updates & video.  If you have further questions, it’s time to start a conversation with the battery distributor or installer you’re considering – not us.

We request your understanding that we just don’t have the available free time to offer individualized guidance (paid or free) – we just couldn’t keep up with our inbox that this series of articles generated for us. We do occasionally host live Q&As on the subject .. and sending us some virtual wine in thanks for this series will bring us a smile 🙂 . Thanks! 


First System (2011): Our 1961 Vintage Bus Conversion

In June 2011, we bought our vintage bus conversion without a house battery system already installed. The just emerging lithium ion batteries had already been on our radar, and since we had the opportunity to build our electrical system from scratch – we decided to delve into the world of LFP.

Specifically – we went Lithium Iron Phosphate aka LFP aka LiFePO4.

At the time, while gaining popularity in the cruising community, there were very few RVs with lithium based house system. And thus limited options and resources available to tap into. So we decided to build our own out of cells meant for electric vehicle conversations. We worked with Elite Power Systems to break down their 48v GBS cells packs into a 12v system.

Our goal with our electrical system is versatility.

We enjoy staying in a variety of locations – from full hook-up RV Parks, courtesy parking with friends & family to boondocking or overnighting in public areas. We didn’t want to overdesign for any one scenario, but rather find our own unique balance that makes any of these styles thrivable for a couple weeks or more at a time.

Our fridge is a marine 12v Dan Foss Compressor (all electric), and we use electric for most our cooking (induction cooktop, microwave/convection, InstaPot, etc.).

We also travel with a cat, and want to provide ample cooling if we want to stop and take a hike, explore a museum or pick up a few groceries in route – so thus we wanted to run a roof air off battery for a couple hours (yes, it’s possible to run an A/C off battery – but not entirely off our solar!).

Quick specifications of our RV system :

Most of our series below is based on this project – including updates over the years. There was a lot we learned in the process that hopefully helped others avoid the same mistakes.

Below you’ll find a video recap at 5.5 years, as well as our 3 year written report.


Our 1999 Bayliner 4788 Boat (2018)

In March 2017, we purchase a motor yacht for exploring America’s waterways seasonally.

As we anticipate mixing in a good amount of anchoring out (the boating equivalent of boondocking), so we’ll be installing solar and lithium batteries.

We were gearing up to approach designing our system in September 2017 – unfortunately we were in the Florida Keys at this time, and those plans were diverted by a direct strike from Hurricane Irma. We were extremely fortunate that our boat survived without much damage (80% of boats around us sustained serious damage).

When we resumed our cruising season in Spring 2018, we quickly became fed up with continuing issues with our Westerbeke 12.5 kw generator – and replaced it with a Northern Lights 6 kw (purchased at full price). It was sized to fit in with our pending plans for our lithium battery boosted system.

This was a big pricey project that consumed a lot of our attention and electrical upgrade budget.

In late summer 2018 we had nearly decided to hold the battery project off for the start of our 2019 cruising season, to give us more time to decide between newer higher density lithium options or going with what is now fairly mainstream options. And give our electric upgrade budget time to replenish after the generator swap.

However, the existing traditional lead acid house battery system in our boat was quickly reaching unusable – so we began seeking a temporary solution for the couple months remaining in our 2018 cruising season. We explored just purchasing cheap replacement lead acid batteries – but decided to reach out to several lithium battery suppliers we had grown to respect.

We decided to accept Battleborn Batteries offer of their drop in lithium batteries, mainly because we’re very curious to get hands on experience with this mainstream option that is becoming quiet popular. We’ll be able to provide feedback to them, to our audience and to evaluate them as our own possible long term solution.

The bank may become the basis of a larger system in the boat, or may become the replacement system on our aging bus system. The inverter side of the system is our ideal long term dream system, that is being designed for eventual solar and expandability.

Our starting battery system in the boat, being in September 2018, consists of:

Once we have the system installed, we’ll start documenting it further and give an update to this series.

We anticipate installing the solar component of this project in Spring 2019 – which will require the help of a canvas maker for new biminis.


Below is our research on Lithium Ion batteries and updates to our project:

Lithium Batteries for RVs Video

Careful – it’s an hour long.

Recorded during a live broadcast on 11/2/2016
with special guests – Nina & Paul of WheelingIt.US!

This video included an overview of lithium batteries, recap of our systems and our 5 (plus) year report on how our system has been performing.

Research & Analysis Articles:

Promise of Lithium #1: Lead Acid Battery Downsides
Promise of Lithium #2: Lithium Ion Battery Advantages
Promise of Lithium #3: Cost Analysis (including our part list)

Project Notes & Updates:

6/6/2016 – Running an RV AC off Solar, Batteries, and a Hybrid Boosting Inverter

5/1/2015 – Tesla’s Lithium Powerwall – Awesome, But Not For RVs

2/2015 – The (Almost) Fantasy of Solar-Powered RV Air Conditioning 

2/2015 – Living the Lithium Lifestyle – 3.5 Year Lithium RV Battery Update

After 3.5 years of full time use, we answer these questions:

– Has lithium lived up to all the promises?
– What have been the downsides?
– What have we learned?
– Would we do it again?
– Was it worth the cost?
–  Who’s installing systems and where to get cells.

12/2014 – Our Solar Installation – We planned our LFP install with solar in mind, but didn’t get around to installing it until late 2014. Here’s a run down of our system (basics: 800w on our roof, and 600w with ground deployed flexible panels).

7/2013 – Living in a Parking Lot – Practical use example of our LFP & Boosting Inverter

6/2013 – Boosted Electrons = Better Views (why a boosting/hybrid inverter is a great compliment to a lithium bank, providing lots of flexibility for various power situations!)

2/2013 – Lithium Dreams, Lined With Worry? (Response to Boeing Dreamliner Battery Fire)

8/2012 – Our 1 Year Update on  our Lithium System

8/2011 – Build Notes: Lithium Ion Battery Success!! 
8/2011 – Build Notes: We Built a Lithium Ion Battery Bank
8/2011 – The idea is born: Inverted Intentions (August 2011)

Links to other Lithium battery setup information:

Places Installing and/or Selling Lithium Batteries: