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A little remodeling

solar dometic fridge Lifepo4

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#1 BlueSky


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Posted 27 April 2021 - 01:43 PM

Like many DIY camper builds, once you have been using your finished camper for a few seasons you find what you like and don't like.  I found that putting the water tank directly under the sink in the galley cabinet was not the best place for weight distribution and galley cabinet space. I also grew a little tired of the big cooler that lasted maybe 3 days on 3 "cooler shock" cold packs. The old lead-acid battery was not holding up well and weighed a ton.  So I did a little remodel that was far more work than I thought:


First the battery.  One can spend $800-$1000 on a top brand LifePo4, or you can get one directly from China with a BMS for about $500 or even less. I got one called "Scremower" 100ah off Amazon. I like the name - NOT.  Came with a charger, a USB port on the side, and a digital display that tells you the voltage. Will it hold up as well as those other far more expensive units? I will let you know.  I also got a Sunpower 110w flexible solar panel and a Victron 75/15 solar charge controller with bluetooth. Here is the battery and controller mounted in the cabinet space where the water tank was...





Here's the solar panel attached to the roof with Eternabond RV roof repair tape. There is a thin sheet of this material I got at Home Depot. It is like plastic cardboard, very light. It was recommended on one of the solar panel web sites to put this material under the panel to help keep it cool. Wish I could find a 90 degree connector...



Here's my new 18 gal water tank in the more traditional location against the front wall.  You can't see it but it is elevated about 2-1/2" off the floor to allow a drain fitting and water lines to run underneath. That small square wood panel covers the water pump allowing easy access if I ever need to change it. The air vent is on the right side and has a check valve allowing air in but not out...





Now when on the road with the canoe, kayak or paddle board on top covering the solar panel, the battery will get charged via the truck's alternator with this DC-to-DC Victron 20a charge controller, also mounted in the galley cabinet near the battery. Bluetooth enabled like the solar controller, easy to set up and monitor with my phone...




Finally, I got a Dometic CFX355IM 53 liter fridge in place of the old cooler in back. It is quiet and uses very little power, and it fit in the same spot.



That was a a lot of money and few weekends of work!  I'll let you know how the shakedown trip goes. I moved the water tank weight up front and got rid of that really heavy lead acid battery. But, the fridge weighs twice as much as the cooler with ice packs in it, so no big net weight savings but a little better weight distribution. Much more storage space under the stove/sink too. It is great that all these solar/controller/LifePo4 components are now available off the shelf and not hard to figure out.  Costs are coming down too. Happy to answer any questions.

Edited by BlueSky, 27 April 2021 - 02:58 PM.

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#2 Lighthawk


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Posted 28 April 2021 - 03:18 AM

Nicely done!  

Clean workmanship and well thought out upgrades.   

It's always more than we think, especially when remodeling. 


Disclosure:  I am a remodeling contractor

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For this year we're still using our 2008 FWC Hawk with victron DC-DC charger, 130w solar, MPPT controler

with 2000w inverter and external 120v output and 12v solar input with 100w portable solar.   http://lighthawkphoto.com

#3 CougarCouple


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Posted 28 April 2021 - 10:38 AM

Hello Bluesky
Thanks for your write up and photos. Clean looking install looking forward to the shake down report.

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#4 Taku


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Posted 28 April 2021 - 12:35 PM

Let us know how the battery does. Have read good and bad with some of the "off brand" lithium but the price is sure good

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#5 BlueSky


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Posted 28 April 2021 - 01:39 PM

Thanks folks!  I said that setting up the Victron Solar Charge Controller was "easy."  Well, installing the app on my phone and connecting to the unit via Bluetooth was easy.  There are a lot of settings to get through though, and it is a bit of a process.  The instruction booklet that comes with it is somewhat helpful, but you need Superman eyesight to read it.  The web site is a little better, and I also looked at a few of the name brand LifePo4 battery web sites for more scope on how to set these things up. It is best to get a LifePo4 battery with a built in BMS so that if you get the charge controller settings wrong the BMS will protect your expensive battery from overcharging. It took me a few tries over a couple of days to get it right.  I've had the fridge set to 36 degrees and running for a few days with a mix of sun and clouds and the battery voltage never got lower than 13.2V, so things are working well.  I'll keep you all posted.

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#6 Casa Escarlata Robles Too

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Posted 28 April 2021 - 07:37 PM

Looks good,you did a nice job.

And it works for you.

Enjoy your time out.


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#7 Vic Harder

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Posted 28 April 2021 - 09:43 PM

i am wondering if your solar panel cables could conceivably shade the panel.  You might want to move those wires a bit to be sure they don't do that.

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#8 BlueSky


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Posted 28 April 2021 - 10:41 PM

i am wondering if your solar panel cables could conceivably shade the panel.  You might want to move those wires a bit to be sure they don't do that.

The solar panel wires are taped down and won't shade, but the Yakima rack tube will.  I actually get plenty of solar to power the battery even with cloudy days, so it is not a big deal to lose a little.  I'm not running an inverter or anything big.


It would be nice to have a 90 degree plug into the top of the camper so the wires don't stick up as shown in the photo. I'm on the lookout for that.

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#9 Gentle on my world

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Posted 29 April 2021 - 12:08 AM

Nice setup. I see you have what looks like the controller to the battery being fused?  Did you fuse the panel as well?



I just installed a renogy 100 watt starter kit. https://www.renogy.c.../#tab_prd-specs

Edited by Return west, 29 April 2021 - 12:16 AM.

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#10 rando


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Posted 29 April 2021 - 12:42 AM

The  battery to controller should be fused (unless they are right next to each other) as the battery can provide almost unlimited current on these wires.   The panels to the controller does not need to be fused as the panel can only provide limited current which is always going to be less than the fuse rating anyway.    Some folk use a circuit breaker between the panels and controller, but this serves as a switch as opposed to a current limiting device. 

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