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Old 04-10-2020, 08:19 PM   #1
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Deleting propane?

If you were ordering a custom camper, or building your own for that matter, would you add a propane system? If so, why?

The Sportsmobile website has a GOING ALL ELECTRIC section stating:

ALL ELECTRIC, DELETE THE PROPANE, IS THE TREND


https://sportsmobile.com/going-all-electric/


Sportsmobile make a good argument, particularly for small motorhomes (based on vans) where space is more limited.

Propane for cooking or refrigerator isnít required, since induction cooktop and compressor refrigerator is preferred in this case anyway. That leaves hot water and space heating, which can be all electric, or heated with diesel or gasoline fuel from vehicle tank. Electric hot water seems simplest, but electric space heat (also simple) takes a lot more energy and thus not as viable in very cold weather.

If it comes down to mostly space heat, does it make sense to add a propane system just for that need, or would you find an alternate solution?

Options:
Liquid engine fuel (Espar)
Campground electric
Generator electric
Battery electric
Others ????



P.S. ó Iím helping rebuild a classic motorhome that is stripped down to outer shell. It will be used mostly in summer, but occasionally travel north in winter. I like simplicity of all-electric, but donít want my personal preference/bias to compromise a practical design.
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Old 04-10-2020, 09:38 PM   #2
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This should spark a pretty good discussion.
My opinion? I always like to carry more than "one arrow in the quiver". Give me 12 Volt, 110, and propane.
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Old 04-10-2020, 09:53 PM   #3
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propane has always been a preferred 'off-grid' power source... unless you have lots of solar, and good continuous sunny days, with lots of battery storage, and a large inverter or two, and a generator, and an alternator...it's hard to argue with having propane as a backup power source, if for nothing else...

the problem may not be for storage room for the propane itself, but that you have 'either' propane appliance, or electric, but not 'both', except for RV fridges, which most folks want residential 120v now, and dual-power Water heaters. Maybe we should also have a dual-power Furnace, dual-power Stove/Oven, etc...
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Old 04-10-2020, 11:02 PM   #4
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The problem is a propane tank (or gas tank for that matter) still contains a lot more energy per volume than any of the best batteries. Thus you still get a lot of bang for the buck with propane...

Having said that I'd go all electric (obviously LOL). For temps down to 40F or so you could always use a heat pump which will be more efficient than any sort of resistive heating.

Or you could make the water heater do double duty and use the heated water to warm up the coach with some radiators around (of course that may add weight with the extra water there...).
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Old 04-10-2020, 11:58 PM   #5
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I want heat and I want it now! Gas please. My electric at camp is $.24 KWH. Gas WH please. Wife wants gas to cook. Gas please.
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Old 04-11-2020, 12:26 AM   #6
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4 Lithium batteries + 4000 watt Inverter + 2 high output alternators on the chassis engine...
Then who needs propane?

Your chassis engine becomes your generator, right?
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Old 04-11-2020, 12:42 AM   #7
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If the coach is diesel, you can go with an Aqua Hot system which uses diesel or propane for hot water and heat. I have heard about problem with the system and there are additional winterization requirements for it as well. Might be a problem for smaller rigs with smaller fuel tanks.
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Old 04-11-2020, 12:48 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by JamieGeek View Post
The problem is a propane tank (or gas tank for that matter) still contains a lot more energy per volume than any of the best batteries. Thus you still get a lot of bang for the buck with propane...

Having said that I'd go all electric (obviously LOL). For temps down to 40F or so you could always use a heat pump which will be more efficient than any sort of resistive heating.

Or you could make the water heater do double duty and use the heated water to warm up the coach with some radiators around (of course that may add weight with the extra water there...).
Yeah, running a generator for electric heat is technically possible, but not allowed in places like National Parks. That would then leave battery power only ó also possible if you have enough batteries to power air conditioner for extended periods. Most of the time youíd just plug in at campground. Plugging in is what weíve done for years in our van.

For boondocking or National Parks, instead of propane, you can either rough it, or install a hydronic water/heat system that runs on diesel. I believe they now also have gasoline version that I need to investigate. Or apply the cost to more batteries. Batteries get heavy though. We have about 12 kWh planned. That would be enough for a heat pump overnight but not electric resistance for much longer than that.

Below is video of how hydronic water and space heat could work.


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Old 04-11-2020, 04:33 AM   #9
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I want propane. It is relatively cheap and will let me cook and stay warm no matter what the sun decides to do. All of the youtubers I watch that have mega solar setups all complain about the cloudy/rainy days when their solar system is having trouble keeping up.
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Old 04-11-2020, 04:50 AM   #10
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We '86'd the propane fridge, but kept the gas cooktop and oven..In the mornings before the end of Quiet time I like preparing my percolator coffee and having eggs, biscuits n gravy without having to run the gen set... (and no, the convection oven really screws up my biscuits.
We have Diesel Aqua-Hot for showers and heat.. 200 gal fuel tank
We DO NOT have solar. financially does not "pencil out" to our advantage.
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Old 04-11-2020, 02:03 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by TurnerFam View Post
propane has always been a preferred 'off-grid' power source... unless you have lots of solar, and good continuous sunny days, with lots of battery storage, and a large inverter or two, and a generator, and an alternator...it's hard to argue with having propane as a backup power source, if for nothing else...

the problem may not be for storage room for the propane itself, but that you have 'either' propane appliance, or electric, but not 'both', except for RV fridges, which most folks want residential 120v now, and dual-power Water heaters. Maybe we should also have a dual-power Furnace, dual-power Stove/Oven, etc...

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Originally Posted by taylorbob1 View Post
4 Lithium batteries + 4000 watt Inverter + 2 high output alternators on the chassis engine...
Then who needs propane?

Your chassis engine becomes your generator, right?

To expand a little on solar and other things that are known:

There will be no solar. At least not enough to matter on whether propane is needed. I donít believe solar can provide anywhere close to enough energy to heat the motorhome using electric, therefore doesnít eliminate need for other source of energy.

Owner already purchased and reconfigured a large lithium battery bank. That was deemed necessary to power air conditioner overnight when boondocking. It could provide about 1,000 Watts of heat overnight, but thatís not enough to warm entire motorhome; only enough to make bedroom area tolerable at night in cold weather (which would be enough for me if only a few nights a year).

Motorhome has a fairly large built-in generator. Itís large enough to power 2 A/Cs, so charging battery bank during winter by day shouldnít be a problem. Engine driven alternators are not an option. The generator will do that job by powering an inverter charger.

As mentioned before, cooktop and refrigerator will be electric regardless of propane or not. Hot water can easily be electric also.

Question is what to do about heat. The motorhome will be insulated well, but it has a lot of window area. Unlike all-electric vans with dual pane windows, I think keeping motorhome warm overnight in cold weather will require more energy than batteries can provide.

They donít want to run engine or generator to stay warm at night, so unless willing to rough it, they need another source of heat. At this point it sounds like they need a propane, diesel, or gasoline heater.
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Old 04-18-2020, 07:48 PM   #12
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Running too many electric things has popped our power many times. I'll keep the propane option
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Old 04-18-2020, 08:06 PM   #13
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I am converting a van right now and don't plan on having propane. 300 amp hour lithium, 400 watts solar and most importantly dual alternators. Don't plan on camping in really cold weather. That said, I can add propane heat and hot water later if it becomes necessary.
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Old 04-18-2020, 09:14 PM   #14
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Running too many electric things has popped our power many times. I'll keep the propane option

Any electrical system can be overloaded, but if designed properly/correctly it can operate just like an all-electric home. Iím not worried about failures as much as whether itís ďpracticalĒ to design and live without propane. With 50 Amp service and 6,000-Watt generator there should be plenty of juice as a backup for a small Class A. In an emergency the motorhome engine can also provide heat to keep from freezing. It mostly comes down to whether practical and or economical.
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Old 04-18-2020, 09:24 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chance View Post
If you were ordering a custom camper, or building your own for that matter, would you add a propane system? If so, why?

The Sportsmobile website has a GOING ALL ELECTRIC section stating:

ALL ELECTRIC, DELETE THE PROPANE, IS THE TREND


https://sportsmobile.com/going-all-electric/


Sportsmobile make a good argument, particularly for small motorhomes (based on vans) where space is more limited.

Propane for cooking or refrigerator isnít required, since induction cooktop and compressor refrigerator is preferred in this case anyway. That leaves hot water and space heating, which can be all electric, or heated with diesel or gasoline fuel from vehicle tank. Electric hot water seems simplest, but electric space heat (also simple) takes a lot more energy and thus not as viable in very cold weather.

If it comes down to mostly space heat, does it make sense to add a propane system just for that need, or would you find an alternate solution?

Options:
Liquid engine fuel (Espar)
Campground electric
Generator electric
Battery electric
Others ????



P.S. ó Iím helping rebuild a classic motorhome that is stripped down to outer shell. It will be used mostly in summer, but occasionally travel north in winter. I like simplicity of all-electric, but donít want my personal preference/bias to compromise a practical design.
Here's my .02 worth. I don't have much experience with solar power with high tech batteries or other hot water systems, cooking systems or space heating systems. I'm sure there are good reasons to use any or all of them. Certainly a backup system whether it's propane or solar or 120v is a good idea. For me, I have really enjoyed our Thor Windsport 29m with a 30 amp electric system and propane cook top, oven, water heater and furnace. You can go down the road with the fridge & water heater running for pennies. Good luck on your project!! Bob Trice
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Old 04-18-2020, 09:43 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Cosmo View Post
I am converting a van right now and don't plan on having propane. 300 amp hour lithium, 400 watts solar and most importantly dual alternators. Don't plan on camping in really cold weather. That said, I can add propane heat and hot water later if it becomes necessary.

If building a van Iíd do the same. No way would I add propane for a van I was building for my own use. Mostly because I donít plan on camping in cold weather, but even if so, Iíd dress very warm and power a small electric heater from batteries for the few nights Iíd overnight in winter without shore power.

The man Iím helping a little thatís working on classic motorhome purchased Ford car batteries, and has modified them for 52 Volts. Capacity is 250 Amp-hour, so equivalent to over 1,000 Ah at 12 Volts. If compared to lead batteries at 50% discharge, thatís equivalent to having close to 2,000 Ah at 12 Volts. Itís a bunch. Still needs a lot of work on BMS, enclosure, and freeze protection.

Because of chemistry the batteries will be mounted outside the motorhome in a steel enclosure, which is expensive and a pain. However, car batteries are cheap if willing to reconfigure to lower voltage (which is extremely dangerous). From factory they are wired in series at over 300 Volts and enough current to kill a person quickly.

Anyway, with a smaller van, better insulation, and smaller dual-pane windows, I could make it work with about half the batteries he has. Iíve already told him Iíll buy them if he changes his mind and or abandons the project.
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Old 04-18-2020, 09:44 PM   #17
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I don't have any experience with the solar systems, but from seeing the prices for lithium batteries I feel you could buy the propane furnace, cooktop & fridge plus supply propane for couple years for the price of 4 lithium batteries not to mention the solar equipment to keep them charged.
Just my .02 cents.
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Old 04-18-2020, 09:46 PM   #18
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someone mentioned the term 'practical', and that is probably what really 'rules the day', when it comes to RVs and their power sources - propane has been proven for years and years that it is very 'practical' for what it does, and even though it requires you to 'carry' the fuel, it's not that big of a deal when it's all said and done. Propane is so common that you don't even have to 'refill' a bbq tank anymore, you simply 'trade' it at any retailer or fuel station/convenience store...easy. Well, sure, if you have an onboard 'large' propane tank it might seem more daunting, but most any propane retailer has the ability for you to pull up and refill, or their truck can meet you where you sit.

Solar, on the other hand, is not quite to the point where it is really 'practical' for most needs, as it's largest drawback is the 'time of day' sunlight requirement. If you don't have heavy, large, and multiple batteries to store this 'free' power, you're then spinning your wheels, not getting the maximum value for the dollar spent. With solar also not quite at the point where it can provide air conditioning or heating, again, you'll still need some other 'option' for those - usually propane or 120v power.
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Old 04-18-2020, 09:56 PM   #19
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P.S. ó I recommended he consider installing at least a 20-pound portable propane tank or two (in lieu of the original permanent tank that has to be replaced anyway) and replace the original propane furnace for winter trips. They can be exchanged just about anywhere and left at home most of the year.

Living in the south and with his battery and generator capacity, Iíd guess he wonít hardly ever use them.
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Old 04-18-2020, 10:01 PM   #20
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Solar IS NOT PRACTICAL for this type of application. When using this much electricity, it would take a week to recharge the batteries, and that’s assuming you’d stop using electricity for the week. Just isn’t going to happen.
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