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Old 04-04-2018, 04:00 PM   #1
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Challenger 37TB considering LifePo4 and better Inverter/Charger

I am waiting to take delivery on a new Challenger I and am considering my power options. I would appreciate opinions and recommendations considering what my goals/needs are.

My requirements/use: 6 person family on a multi-month trip 60% will have hookups with the rest being semi remote bits of peace or empty parking lot overnights. It has a generator, but don't want to run it for 4-5hrs at a time while lead acids float to full. I am looking at starting with two 12V 100ah lifepo4 drop in replacements from Starkpower https://starkpower.com/product/12-volt-100ah-battery and upgrading to a more robust inverter with a substantial charger like the Victron Multiplus 3000 https://starkpower.com/product/multi...verter-charger. Not knowing our daily power needs makes this difficult, but I would rather start this adventure off right. Also having tools, a house, and address to ship things to will make it easier. 200ah of mostly usable battery capacity with much faster charging from alternator, generator or shore power seems like a big bonus. Adding solar is phase 2 and will be added if I find it is needed.

RV Specs: Class A gas, 5500 Onan, Giant Residential Fridge (don't know the amp draw yet), 1500w Microwave, 1200w Induction Stove, Eaton 1800w True Sine Inverter, 2 6v Batteries (from manufacturer and assumed to be very low quality), Battery Charger is unknown, but from what I have read 5-6hrs on Gen to get up to 100%.
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Old 04-04-2018, 05:49 PM   #2
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for your simple needs, not always 'off grid', but only infrequently, I'd not do anything... unless you just like spending money for little reason. Your current setup should work just fine, and your generator(yes, the one you already paid for!) is well suited to power your rig, induction cooktop, air conditioners, and the like, as well as recharging your batteries.... don't overthink this. Plenty of folks are finding your rig design very fine for a few off-grid nights every now and then.

Maybe add two more 6v batteries? yes, but that's about all I 'might' suggest, but that's ONLY if you are really determined to 'upgrade' your already well-built system, which is probably the only difference between your rig and ours.

If you have the Magnum AGS(automatic generator starter), you'll be well set to manage the batteries quite easily. Let it do the work for you. Also, you can set it to only run for 30 mins, as that's about all the batteries will need to be charged enough for several more overnight hours. Ours may kick on several times thru the night, but once the morning comes up we kick it on again ourselves to make coffee.

When traveling, your Alternator is going to be charging your batteries, no problem there. When you are parked for more than several hours is when your generator will come into play. Leave your fridge on all the time, with the Inverter, and enjoy your coach... don't make too much of the 'off grid' needs that you make be concerned about, you're already well on your way to success : )

I wouldn't worry about Solar, as it will only really benefit you in any small way only when you are parked in the Daytime hours, not overnight... you'll not have enough power to do much of anything major, versus what you already have.
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Old 04-04-2018, 07:24 PM   #3
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Stirul - first off welcome to our 37TB owners. We've had our rig for a little over 3 years, 39k+ miles and 8-9 months per year. Love it.

I am not sure of your requirements but we spend about 12 weeks out of a 3 month stay each winter in the Florida Keys - dry camping. We upgraded our battery bank to 4, 6 volt Trojan 105s. They are great. We easily have enough power to go 12 hours running the refrig, sat TV, CPAP and lighting. You'll need to run your generator to power the microwave and induction cooktop. Your estimate to recharge batteries is about right based on our experience. (Note: one of the biggest detriments to battery banks is maintaining water levels. To make this easier I installed a Pro-Fill Battery System.)

The stock converter/charger for our coach is a WFCO (WF-9855). It is 3 phase and has worked satisfactorily.

If I had it to over again, I would wind with the same configuration I sited above. It has worked well.

Adding a 200 Watt Solar charger like the one from Renogy is the next step to cut the generator running in half.

Just our experience and advise. Good Luck and again Welcome.
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Old 04-04-2018, 08:43 PM   #4
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Before you do anything, take delivery of the unit and focus on ironing out all the bugs and learning about what you have. Performing such an upgrade out of the gates is going to complicate things dramatically if you work through electrical issues with Thor.

Two extra 6v batteries is a great place to start.
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Old 04-04-2018, 08:48 PM   #5
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Tearstone - a bit more direct but exactly the point I was trying to make.
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Old 04-04-2018, 09:42 PM   #6
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Tearstone - a bit more direct but exactly the point I was trying to make.
I like that Flow-Rite Pro-Fill battery solution. How often do you find yourself having to adjust the battery levels? I've never had a vehicle with a 6v battery before, what is the approximate rate of depletion of the electrolyte?
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Old 04-04-2018, 10:05 PM   #7
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I like that Flow-Rite Pro-Fill battery solution. How often do you find yourself having to adjust the battery levels? I've never had a vehicle with a 6v battery before, what is the approximate rate of depletion of the electrolyte?
I have 4-6 volt batteries and check the water level in the fall when winterizing and again mid-summer. I have NEVER had to add water. Honestly, I have never had to add water to any battery. Maybe I've just been lucky.
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Old 04-04-2018, 10:14 PM   #8
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bigben, good information. You added the other 'element' to a more overall 'off grid' power system: some solar.
We invested in two 100w panels and controller before we jumped into our journey to Alaska, mostly Canada, of course, but also MT, ID, UT, and CO before back to GA.

My thought is that the solar is to minimize generator run time. 200w was a good start - cost effective at $300, panels are not too large or heavy, not too difficult to carry/store, and a minimal wiring size run to the batteries, placing the controller in the battery bay.
With Alaska and the northern Canada provinces having 20hours of 'solar sun' on many days during the summer months, it made sense and I felt like, with my calculations and 'guesstimates', it would offset the cost of the savings in diesel generator fuel during that time.

Our experience was different than 'expected', though what's to be expected is really just a 'best case scenario' to begin with. Every overnight was NOT dry-camping, which I knew would not be the case since I wasn't taking this journey by myself, but with the wife and teens, and sometimes you just need to 're charge' yourself, not just the batteries! A laundry option goes a long way to satisfying the wife, and not hearing the generator can be a nice benefit, as well. Quiet. Water to fill the tank, and a sewer outlet also are important.
In a 60 day journey, we probably dry-camped overnight 25 of those, in various place and situations, not all 'beautiful' creek-side pullouts, as some were parking lots. But, the effect is the same - hoping that the solar will cut back generator time.

Oh, and many of us forget, at least as part of the equation, that the alternator is charging the batteries while we are driving, so you can effectively remove that 'time' each day from your concerns, mostly.

Now, remember that while Solar 'seems' very beneficial, and it can be at certain times, we don't 'live' by solar. Meaning, air conditioning is not going to be run by solar power, or sometimes even the microwave and coffee maker... those are for the generator. So, if you are running the generator for these items, for some time period, at various times throughout the afternoon, evening, or morning, you are effectively 'pausing' any Solar incoming 'help' because your Generator is now charging your batteries.

In effective, Solar is a hard 'real benefit' to grasp. It can 'seem' nice, and beneficial, and yet when the numbers are crunched, and you look at how 'real life' is had, it may be more of a 'feel good' purchase, than a 'real' benefit to your power sources you already have access to.

When it all comes down to the fine print, I believe that, for most RVrs, Solar is a clean and quiet source of recharging the batteries, but for much less 'benefit' than we might think. It's really a way to 'put off' the frequency the generator runs to keep us 'running'.

Do it, if it feels good. Otherwise, it's no great loss if you don't. Your generator is well designed to run many, many thousands of hours - it's not looking for a break.
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Old 04-04-2018, 10:17 PM   #9
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Russ - I am going to type real slow, so a jar head can follow. Just kidding. I keep a gallon of distilled water in the basement and I top up the 4 batteries every couple of weeks. I use a gallon of water every 6 months. I think the sealed system really helps and our 3 phase converter/charger works spot on without cooking the batteries.

The Trojan 105s are fairly priced but sealed system should help keep them peaked charge.

Semper Fi from an old Dog Face.
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Old 04-04-2018, 10:20 PM   #10
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I have 4-6 volt batteries and check the water level in the fall when winterizing and again mid-summer. I have NEVER had to add water. Honestly, I have never had to add water to any battery. Maybe I've just been lucky.
Same experience I've had with 12v batteries that have electrolyte, I've never had an issue with having to top off batteries. Figured maybe 6v was a bit different in that respect due to the battery size/capacity.
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Old 04-04-2018, 10:24 PM   #11
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Russ - I am going to type real slow, so a jar head can follow. Just kidding. I keep a gallon of distilled water in the basement and I top up the 4 batteries every couple of weeks. I use a gallon of water every 6 months. I think the sealed system really helps and our 3 phase converter/charger works spot on without cooking the batteries.

The Trojan 105s are fairly priced but sealed system should help keep them peaked charge.

Semper Fi from an old Dog Face.


I have gone 6 months without even checking the batteries at all. I figured I would have the batteries tested on my next oil change. But now, I have a new thing to worry about.

Did you have to buy a hand pump with the Flow Rite system or something? It looks like there needs to be a way to get the distilled water into that system.
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Old 04-04-2018, 10:33 PM   #12
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My FloRite system came with a squeeze bulb to fill the batteries.
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Old 04-04-2018, 10:37 PM   #13
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My FloRite system came with a squeeze bulb to fill the batteries.
Nice I'll be adding this to my RV wish list.
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Old 04-04-2018, 10:41 PM   #14
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TurnerFam - spot on. When we dry camp, I usually start our generator at end of quiet time - 7:00 AM. Gotta have coffee. Generally the gennie runs for at least 3 hours and then I switch on the AGS. Then the system will run for sure from 8-11 PM. Quiet time is 11PM - 7 AM. Gotta have AC, gotta coffee, gotta charge the batteries. With solar looking to top up the batteries during the day, but still gonna run 4-6 hours each day. Gotta have the gotta haves.
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Old 04-04-2018, 10:52 PM   #15
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Nice I'll be adding this to my RV wish list.
My Flow-rite system didn't come with the bulb pump. I thought it was pretty ridiculous to spend another 26+ bucks for theirs. So, I bought a $5 outboard fuel pump. https://www.amazon.com/Hand-Fuel-Pum.../dp/B01LXOJR4Z It works perfect.
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Old 04-04-2018, 11:13 PM   #16
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Old 04-05-2018, 01:46 AM   #17
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.....cut.....

Oh, and many of us forget, at least as part of the equation, that the alternator is charging the batteries while we are driving, so you can effectively remove that 'time' each day from your concerns, mostly.

.....cut....
Agree 100%. Solar numbers depend greatly on how much and how often the motorhome is driven. The more “touring” one does, the less solar makes sense to me. On the other hand, those who boondock for days in one place, while parked in the sun, benefit the most. But like you say, if they run the generator to power the A/C during the day anyway, even they don’t gain much from solar.

Solar makes a lot of sense for some RVers, not so much for others. It is definitely not a “one size fits all” solution.
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Old 04-16-2018, 03:36 PM   #18
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Thanks for all the responses and great info. I am definitely putting the cart before the horse on purchases before even hitting the road. A big part of that is based on these forums and seeing "must have" or "Best money spent". I am trying to stick to buying things that fall into the added safety category like TPMS, steering stabilizer, etc. It is still at the dealer for another week of fixes from my PDI so the boxes and install list will keep growing.
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Old 04-18-2018, 01:33 AM   #19
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Stirul - spot on approach!
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