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Aux battery for beginners
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randalieren
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 17, 2020 10:25 am    Post subject: Aux battery for beginners Reply with quote

Hi folks. I want to install an aux battery and solar kit in my new-to-me '84 Vanagon. I was hoping to buy the kit from GW, but they are sold out and the more I read, the more I realize it might not be the best build. So it's looking like it's going to be a project for the autumn.

I'm pretty handy and I worked for a while on a (residential) solar installation crew, so I have some basic knowledge. But I'm not an electrician or an engineer and I'm a little bit overwhelmed by all of the options and schematics.

Is there a step-by-step resource out there for putting together a system from scratch?

Much thanks.
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valvecovergasket
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 17, 2020 10:43 am    Post subject: Re: Aux battery for beginners Reply with quote

blue sea has good diagrams that accompany their equipment

but you need a combiner of some sort and a second battery. id keep the chemistry the same as it makes things easier.

then a dedicated fusebox for your house battery loads is a good idea.

thats pretty much it for the most basic system.


have a look here
https://www.bluesea.com/support/articles/58/Battery_Isolators_and_Automatic_Charging_Relays

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.




i did a similar system to whats shown above. common ground bar for the house stuff, going back to the house batt with one large lead.

a blue sea fuse box for the house stuff, as well as moving the factory westy loads to that fusebox, a bluesea ACR to combine the house and primary whenever either the engine is running, or i have the charger (which is hooked to the house batt) plugged into wall power, via the plug on the side of the van.

adding a remote solar tap to this is as simple as adding another lead into the secondary batt's fusebox.
i swapped to the GW hookup panel in place of the original city water, and left a fuse for a future solar setup on ours. idea was to use a solar suitcase and plug into this.

it all becomes pretty modular once you have the battery, the ACR, and the secondary batt's fusebox.

a few pictures of the van install to give some idea

the battery, with ACR and the two fuses as shown in the diagram, mounted to a little panel to the side. i had a spare vdo gauge in the parts bin so wired that up to show batt voltage on a switch, its a little more precise than the 3 led westy battery indicator Smile
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the fusebox and ground bus bar up front under the sink
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


iota charger and its breaker
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.



the house batt is a cheap-o $150 autozone special.
no complaints so far running a webasto, engel fridge, various charger outlets in the van, overhead kitchen led lighting, sink pump, etc for 2-3 day trips.
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 17, 2020 10:44 am    Post subject: Re: Aux battery for beginners Reply with quote

When I did mine a few years ago, I started with AM Solar: https://amsolar.com/

They have expanded their offerings and now have kits for vans. They have wiring diagrams and their support is great. When I did this, all they sold were Victron batteries. I bought my batteries from Battleborn directly, and am very happy. AM Solar now sells Battleborn batteries.

Battleborn has a lot of form factors, many more than when I built. You may also want to check them out: https://battlebornbatteries.com/

My system has an onboard charger, inverter, solar charge converter and two 100 watt solar panels. My battery bank is 200 ah and thats plenty for my needs. With solar panels, I never run out of juice, and could have gotten by with 100 ah most likely. In any case, I am very happy.

One thing I did was separate my system from the start battery. I think this simplified things and I dont have to worry about drain on the starter battery. I dont need the alternator to charge, since I have solar panels, and my onboard charger allows me to fill the batteries through my shore power connection. My only regret is the inverter. It rarely gets used and takes up lots of space.
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 17, 2020 10:47 am    Post subject: Re: Aux battery for beginners Reply with quote

randalieren wrote:

Is there a step-by-step resource out there for putting together a system from scratch?



it really depends what your goal for the battery is... radio and lights only? radio, lights, and a fridge?

you need to first start with how much power you expect to use in a 24 hour period and how you intend to charge the battery. from there you can figure out the chemistry of the aux battery and go from there.

it can be very simple or very complex, there are a few simple solutions, but you have to know what you want from the system first.
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Vanagon Nut
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 17, 2020 10:59 am    Post subject: Re: Aux battery for beginners Reply with quote

To help us help you, what do you want in, from, the system? Will aux battery be SLA, Lithium, AGM ?

Based on hindsight, were it me, I'd design a simple system with location of parts - physical space, wire size capability, that allows for future upgrades, added loads. Start simple to get rolling, add as you find what your true needs are.

I didn't look too hard, so didn't see any obvious relevant links but there should be info here:

https://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=525798

Good info can be buried in a thread or in a thread with a somewhat unrelated looking title. Use key word searches within a thread really helps, search gallery for images that make sense to you, search for posts from user name on image.

Neil.
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 17, 2020 11:30 am    Post subject: Re: Aux battery for beginners Reply with quote

valvecovergasket wrote:
blue sea has good diagrams that accompany their equipment

but you need a combiner of some sort and a second battery. id keep the chemistry the same as it makes things easier.

then a dedicated fusebox for your house battery loads is a good idea.

thats pretty much it for the most basic system.

no complaints so far running a webasto, engel fridge, various charger outlets in the van, overhead kitchen led lighting, sink pump, etc for 2-3 day trips.



I have a fully functional solar setup with two batteries (but no house/starter AC charger) which has been trouble-free from the PO for years. However, I know at some point it should be redone and plan to do so when I pull the interior for some future work. Having watched the threads on these topics for the last couple of years, yours looks like the simplest, cleanest installation I've seen. Nice inspirational work.
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valvecovergasket
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 17, 2020 12:19 pm    Post subject: Re: Aux battery for beginners Reply with quote

fishgo wrote:


I have a fully functional solar setup with two batteries (but no house/starter AC charger) which has been trouble-free from the PO for years. However, I know at some point it should be redone and plan to do so when I pull the interior for some future work. Having watched the threads on these topics for the last couple of years, yours looks like the simplest, cleanest installation I've seen. Nice inspirational work.


thanks!
these things are fairly simple as at its core theres not that many parts, and its all expandable once you have the battery, the combiner (and its 2 fuses) and the aux batt fusebox.

im also not convinced of the need to complicate and make things more expensive with mixed battery chemistry. the cheap-o deep cycle (i want to say group 24?) works great. i suppose everyones needs are different but i prefer simple in this case...

finally, get proper lugs and crimpers for the heavier cable! and use welding cable and heat shrink over the ends of the lugs. all the nicest parts with garbage wire and crimps wont work out well Laughing

i really like this style vise crimpers for easy heavy cable work..
https://www.amazon.com/Hobart-770122-Lug-Crimper/dp/B003V8BEUI

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/tangent
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randalieren
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 17, 2020 1:16 pm    Post subject: Re: Aux battery for beginners Reply with quote

Hi everyone, and thanks for your replies. I know there's a lot of info buried in old threads, so I apologize if I'm retreading on well-worn territory.

I want to run lights/radio, and to have 110v power available to charge phones and/or laptops. Ideally, I would like to be able to run the stock fridge if necessary, but I am also replacing my LPG tank, so i will have that option for when I'm not on shore power. Nothing too fancy or powerful needed -- I just want to eliminate any chance of killing my main battery at camp, and to have reliable 110 v available for casual domestic uses, preferably even when we are on the road.
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 17, 2020 1:57 pm    Post subject: Re: Aux battery for beginners Reply with quote

[quote="valvecovergasket"]
fishgo wrote:
i really like this style vise crimpers for easy heavy cable work../tangent


I have one of those crimpers - they work great for the big stuff.
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 17, 2020 1:58 pm    Post subject: Re: Aux battery for beginners Reply with quote

randalieren wrote:


I want to run lights/radio, and to have 110v power available to charge phones and/or laptops... I just want to eliminate any chance of killing my main battery at camp, and to have reliable 110 v available for casual domestic uses, preferably even when we are on the road.


to have 110VAC requires an inverter when not connected to shore power. they chew thru the battery. you can buy a dc to dc charger for your laptop, way cheaper and uses less battery power.

you really need to run some numbers and figure out what your expected current draw is over 24 hours. then add 10% because the future.
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zoti
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 17, 2020 3:29 pm    Post subject: Re: Aux battery for beginners Reply with quote

I know ow to install things but not familiar enough with solar and correct wiring setup.

Here's what I would like to do and maybe someone can help.

As far as consumption I plan to run:

- 12V fridge
- Maxxair fan
- Charge cellphone , iPad etc. (no computers)
- Led lights
- 110v inverter (optional)

I was planing on a 100W panel and 100AH battery. My trips will be a few days long at most. I'm thinking of keeping the option of adding another 100AH battery and and optional extra 100W folding panel that I can set up next to the camper if I need the extra charge.

I would like the solar to be able to charge both the aux and main car battery and same with the alternator.

Is there a good schematic I can work of and a good list of parts I will need?

Would this kit e a good place to start? (I'm not looking to spend thousands on a setup).

https://www.amazon.com/ECO-WORTHY-Controller-Inver...amp;sr=1-7
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 17, 2020 5:43 pm    Post subject: Re: Aux battery for beginners Reply with quote

randalieren wrote:
I want to run lights/radio, and to have 110v power available to charge phones and/or laptops. Ideally, I would like to be able to run the stock fridge if necessary, but I am also replacing my LPG tank, so i will have that option for when I'm not on shore power. Nothing too fancy or powerful needed -- I just want to eliminate any chance of killing my main battery at camp, and to have reliable 110 v available for casual domestic uses, preferably even when we are on the road.


In the interim, a portable jump start pack is handy and can jump start the van. I carry a Genius jump pack in the glove box.

Aux battery type might affect system design, parts required.

e.g. a smaller Lithium battery might provide Amps you need, uses less space, but may need or work best, using a specific type of charge pattern. i.e. not the alternator. This may also be true of AGM batteries.

My system (edited):

- solar panel, MPPT controller, not mounted yet.
- group 27 and 31 SLA batteries under bench seat
- good quality "can" solenoid type battery isolator in engine bay
- charge sources: alternator, solar, 7 Amp Genius charger (can be used in "power supply" mode while on shore power)
- supply wire from alternator to battery positive posts is fused with a "Maxi fuse".
- supply from aux battery connects to OE former load wire under driver seat (repurposed to supply wire) to OE fuse position at dash dash for cig outlet, radio and, IIRC, LED dome lights.
- in camp loads: Truckfridge, charging small load (phone), minimal use of rear LED light, Sureflo sink pump.
- smaller inexpensive inverter. Rarely use it
- I switch batteries by moving a ground cable from one to the other which I rarely do.
- cig outlets at dash and metal grill on end of kitchen unit are on the aux battery. The rear outlet is rated, wired for max 20 Amp load though I doubt I'll ever pull a consistent 20 Amps. Fuse panel is behind the metal grill. Grill will be replaced by plexiglass, illuminated fuses installed and possibly a USB outlet.
- switch at grill operates a small string of LED lights in each storage cubby

Neil.
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1981 Westy air cooled to 15 ABA swap: http://tinyurl.com/y9n4xob8

50 ABA Swap in to '88 Westy: http://tinyurl.com/yap5hpwt

Vanagon VAG GAS engine swap Google Group:
https://tinyurl.com/2f24rmh

VE7TBN


Last edited by Vanagon Nut on Mon Aug 17, 2020 5:55 pm; edited 2 times in total
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izzydog
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 17, 2020 5:46 pm    Post subject: Re: Aux battery for beginners Reply with quote

Ok, this is good start.

You don't really need to charge the start battery with solar. If you are worried about your start battery being charged enough to start (in case there is a mystery drain on it) you can always jump your start battery with your aux battery. Done it a few times myself.

A 100AH lead acid battery is really only 50AH of usable battery if you only allow a 50% discharge to your aux battery. 50AH might be enough for a day or two depending on how much sun is shining on your panels. I have two 100W panels and a 100AH lithium battery. As long as I can get a good, long day of sun, I can run my fridge and lights for many days. Lithium batteries are expensive up front, but pay for themselves in the long run when you consider replacing lead acid batteries every 3 years or so and that's if you've taken care of them and not discharged them too deeply.

My panels are the thin, flexy type that I store in the upper bunk when traveling. I have a 50ft cord exiting the license plate door (via Anderson plugs) that allows me to put the panels in the sun and the van in the shade. Mounting them to the van means you have to park in the sun. Not a great idea out here in CA when temps get near 100F.

I still have an inverter in a box from 10 years ago that I've never used. Most everything I have runs off 12V these days so no need for the inverter.

My solar controller and battery monitor are made by Victron and, via bluetooth, allow me to monitor what's going on with AH left in the battery and watts coming in via the solar panels. These are good things to know in the middle of nowhere and you are not sure what's left in your system. Having a battery monitoring system is another plus for lithium batteries.

If I were you, I would buy components that could be used with a lithium battery and when you are ready to jump from lead acid to lithium, you'll already have what you need. This is the bluetooth solar controller I use: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B075NPQHQK/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Hope that helps...
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 17, 2020 6:50 pm    Post subject: Re: Aux battery for beginners Reply with quote

randalieren wrote:
Hi everyone, and thanks for your replies. I know there's a lot of info buried in old threads, so I apologize if I'm retreading on well-worn territory.

I want to run lights/radio, and to have 110v power available to charge phones and/or laptops. Ideally, I would like to be able to run the stock fridge if necessary, but I am also replacing my LPG tank, so i will have that option for when I'm not on shore power. Nothing too fancy or powerful needed -- I just want to eliminate any chance of killing my main battery at camp, and to have reliable 110 v available for casual domestic uses, preferably even when we are on the road.


With what you describe for usage you might be fine with just using your starting battery and having a jump pack for an emergency. It will depend on how long you intend to sit in one place without running the engine. If you are going to sit in one spot for a few days then a 50 amp battery under the drivers seat should keep you out of trouble. As already mentioned it's best if you can figure out your amp hour consumption. The second part is it's not efficient to run the stock fridge from DC with the engine off. It draws about 8 amps so for 24 hours you could easily need 100+ amp hours which would translate to a 200 amp hour lead acid battery bank for 24 hours. So 400 amp hours for 48 hours. It's possible to do but not practical. DC to DC charging is best, you don't need an inverter for a cell phone. Depending on the laptop you may be able to find a DC charger for it. Are you thinking of a microwave or blender on AC? Plenty of people get around find without an inverter, it just depends on what you really need and how much you want to put into your system.
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zoti
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 17, 2020 9:14 pm    Post subject: Re: Aux battery for beginners Reply with quote

So how would you run a fridge for a longer period of time?

SSWesty wrote:
randalieren wrote:
Hi everyone, and thanks for your replies. I know there's a lot of info buried in old threads, so I apologize if I'm retreading on well-worn territory.

I want to run lights/radio, and to have 110v power available to charge phones and/or laptops. Ideally, I would like to be able to run the stock fridge if necessary, but I am also replacing my LPG tank, so i will have that option for when I'm not on shore power. Nothing too fancy or powerful needed -- I just want to eliminate any chance of killing my main battery at camp, and to have reliable 110 v available for casual domestic uses, preferably even when we are on the road.


With what you describe for usage you might be fine with just using your starting battery and having a jump pack for an emergency. It will depend on how long you intend to sit in one place without running the engine. If you are going to sit in one spot for a few days then a 50 amp battery under the drivers seat should keep you out of trouble. As already mentioned it's best if you can figure out your amp hour consumption. The second part is it's not efficient to run the stock fridge from DC with the engine off. It draws about 8 amps so for 24 hours you could easily need 100+ amp hours which would translate to a 200 amp hour lead acid battery bank for 24 hours. So 400 amp hours for 48 hours. It's possible to do but not practical. DC to DC charging is best, you don't need an inverter for a cell phone. Depending on the laptop you may be able to find a DC charger for it. Are you thinking of a microwave or blender on AC? Plenty of people get around find without an inverter, it just depends on what you really need and how much you want to put into your system.
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 17, 2020 11:07 pm    Post subject: Re: Aux battery for beginners Reply with quote

For the stock fridge propane will get you about 2 weeks of runtime depending on the amount of cooking you do with the factory stove. To gut it out with solar and batteries it would seem like 400 watts of solar might keep up if you have sun. Stock fridge on DC with the engine off is the wrong tool for the job.
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 17, 2020 11:36 pm    Post subject: Re: Aux battery for beginners Reply with quote

SSWesty wrote:
For the stock fridge propane will get you about 2 weeks of runtime depending on the amount of cooking you do with the factory stove. To gut it out with solar and batteries it would seem like 400 watts of solar might keep up if you have sun. Stock fridge on DC with the engine off is the wrong tool for the job.


My stock fridge is long gone. I am going to buy a 12v fridge.
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 18, 2020 5:32 am    Post subject: Re: Aux battery for beginners Reply with quote

zoti wrote:

My stock fridge is long gone. I am going to buy a 12v fridge.


the fridge is the big unknown as some are not as efficient as others. a good ball park number would be 1.5Ah, so over 24 hours that works out to 36Ah for a hot summer day.

to recover that 36Ah you would need a 100W panel and at least 4 hours of FULL sun.

1.5A x 12V = 18W/hour X 24 hours = 432W

if the fridge draws less current, all the better.

my system is designed to provide 40Ah per day for three days without recharging. i'm using a 150Ah LiFePo4 and DC to DC charger with solar MPPT controller. a 200W panel reduces the time required to recover that 40Ah per day and gives me some flexibility if the sun is not shining brightly.
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 18, 2020 10:55 am    Post subject: Re: Aux battery for beginners Reply with quote

Beginner here raising his hand too !

I also spent a lot of time perusing through SO many threads

I hope this isn't seen as a hijack ( not intended ) but thought maybe my questions may help the OP as well ?

I got a TF49 new so cheap that I couldn't say no. NOW the real money is in the system to run it !

I took lots of info from several threads and decided to try a diagram with a Flooded Group 31 under rear bench, a Shore Charger > 6 AMP, a White Rogers Relay 120-902 Isolator, some fuses here and there and wire the fridge direct to the house battery for now ( will consider the fuse panel later on ). Will use wire feed from the old Westy Relay under drivers seat or wire into fuse panel for ignition on trigger for White Rogers 120-902 Isolator

I see many run an additional wire from the Isolator to the Start battery. Why is that ?

If I don't want to combine the 2 batteries to the Isolator. Is that ok ?

I thought my 120A Alt will charge both system separately and without the need to "combine them" so that is what I don't get. Did I get that wrong ?

I used Visio and some incorrect drawing shapes to represent different things ... can't be any worse than an outboard motor shape, lol !

Comments and hope it helps out the OP too.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 18, 2020 11:32 am    Post subject: Re: Aux battery for beginners Reply with quote

There is an issue with or two your diagram.
The control wire to the 120-902 should NOT be from 'ignition on'.
It should be from a source that is 'off' during starting but on when key on or engine running.
This is easy to do.
The fuse could be 5 amp.
Also, the 120-902 needs a small gauge ground wire, not shown.

The starter motor stud is nearly directly connected to the starting battery so using it instead of the battery is fine, even preferred in this case.

Mark
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