What Solar kit would work for a dometic cooler?

Discussion in 'Power - Site Power/Batteries/Generators/Solar' started by caravanserai, May 1, 2021 at 7:02 PM.

  1. caravanserai

    caravanserai New Member

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    Hello,
    We have recently bought a Dometic cooler (model CFX 65W) to use when camping. We have a small Fleetwood Neon 2006 (similar to this one) that we got last year and we're ready to move on from tiny coolers and constant ice resupply!
    Since not all places have shore power, I am looking at a solar kit that would allow us to power this cooler for a multi day trip, along with potentially some lights/fan/phone charging. 200w seems like an acceptable amount but I would love to hear from anyone more experienced in this area. I'm assuming I don't need an inverter at this point if I can run all of that with DC power.

    The questions I have around this are:
    1) I am looking at Renogy right now (though I am open to other suggestions) and I see 3 kits - any suggestions over which one to use?
    Solar Starter Kit
    Solar Premium Kit
    Solar RV kit
    2) How would I connect the cooler to the battery? Is it easy to connect multiple items to the battery at the same time?
    3) Any tips for mounting panels over the top of the trailer vs having moveable ones? Is it easy/ safe to drill and mount the panels on top of the trailer?
    4) In terms of battery, we only have one 12V flooded deep cycle battery. Would that be enough for such an application (several day trip with no shore power, relying on solar panels and prioritizing the cooler)? If not, is a 12V AGM (and if so which capacity) sufficient? I'd rather not shell out for a Lithium battery unless really needed.

    Thank you!
     
  2. rsdata

    rsdata Active Member Gold Supporting Member

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    You have dozens of choices
    one that you might want to look at gives you a 1000 ( or 500) watt Lithium battery rechargeable from solar, 110VAC or 12V from your tow vehicle... integrated MPPT power controller and pair that with one or more Jackery portable solar panels.
    https://www.jackery.com/pages/portable-power-products
    I don't like sunny camping spots so mounting panels on the roof is a poor choice for me.
     
  3. caravanserai

    caravanserai New Member

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    Thanks rsdata, that seems like a good price for a battery + controller + inverter (which seems to be what this device is, right?). It’s a shame their panels are more expensive, but maybe 3rd party panels could work?
     
  4. Dave Brick

    Dave Brick El Cheapo Family Camper

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    That's right. Though they are generally called "solar generators", they generate nothing. They are a simple and safe way of getting portable solar power for camping or emergency household use in case of a power outage.

    You could also buy a battery, and a controller, and inverter (all of which I have also) but the "generator" makes it easy and very lightweight. The Jackerys are nice, but I opted for a Ninjabatt, cheaper and faster charging. Check on amazon.
     
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  5. kennedyma

    kennedyma Active Member Platinum Supporting Member

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    You can assume that Fridge will burn about 1 amp per hour.

    Do you how big your current battery is?
     
  6. caravanserai

    caravanserai New Member

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    Sorry forgot to post the link, this is it.
    So it's an 80AH Flooded Acid battery, I assume 50% is what you get out of it so 40 hours ideally? I know these need some maintenance so I will look into that.

    I'm sensing there are two options here (assuming I get solar panels):
    1) Use that battery or get a better one (100AH AGM for 200ish $, or a fancier 100AH Lithium for 500ish $), a battery charge controller (MPPT), some connectors, and use that to operate the cooler. Can I operate the cooler while charging at the same time?
    2) Use a power generator like the jackery or the Ecoflow River Pro which we be simpler but less power for the money. I think it should be enough power for the cooler but I'm not 100% sure.

    I assume I can plug in the cooler to the car's cigarette lighter output while driving to operate it with no issue (as long as the car is being driven), does that sound right?

    Oh an I'm still wondering if it's better to stick panels on top of the trailer (and be able to charge the battery while driving) vs use a moveable panel that can be placed under the sun when we are camped.. Thoughts appreciated.
    Thanks!
     
  7. kennedyma

    kennedyma Active Member Platinum Supporting Member

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    Thank you for the info.

    Does the trailer have a power converter already in it?

    BTW, you don't have to spend a lot on a Lithium battery. If you bought a 50AH Lithium you're looking at about $300 + Shipping. The plus side is that the lithium only weighs in at 15lbs vs 46lbs for your current battery.

    Here's my setup:
    The Jeep/TV
    1. 30Amp DC-to-DC Charger
    2. 60AH Lithium Battery
    3. Dometic CFX3 55IM
    4. Lights and other charging equipment

    I've never wanted for power with this setup. Now it does assume that I drive my Jeep ever couple of days, but I've found that always to be the case for my style of camping.

    Now for my PUP, I have 100ah in it, which is way overkill. I enjoy camping in the Northern woods of WI which don't provide a lot of sunlight. So I carry a small propane generator
    This allows me to top up the battery if I ever have to with a fuel I already have onboard the PUP.
     
  8. SteveP

    SteveP Well-Known Member Platinum Supporting Member

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    You might get 24 to 30 hours use out of that G24, less if other usage is included. I would definitely go with a bigger battery and my recommendation would be the biggest you can afford. I personally would go with 100 ah LiFePO. You can charge and run at the same time.

    If you go with a "solar generator" you need to look for the hidden specs. Many of the non-LiFePO models output at a lower voltage rate and will not even start your fridge. You'll need a bit less than 10 amps at 11.8 volts at minimum but if you start at that level it will only run for a few minutes. I don't have a Jackery but I appreciate that they put these specs up front, most others hide them or don't publish them at all. From the reviews I have read the Jackery will run your fridge for a while.

    You should be able to power the fridge from your 12 volt port in the TV but probably only when the engine is running. You may have to set the lvd in the fridge to the lowest setting, which is 11.8. If you leave it plugged in long with the engine off it may leave you stranded. It would help to know what your TV is.
    Why not both. I like having my panel on the roof but since you've decided on 200 watts I'd recommend 100 watts on the roof and 100 watts portable. The wiring is not that hard to set up.
     
  9. caravanserai

    caravanserai New Member

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    I'm not sure what a power converter is in this case.

    Is the DC-to-DC charger's job to allow you to charge the battery when the car is running? I was thinking I would connect the cooler itself to the 12v outlet in the car while driving instead. But maybe I can do both?
    I don't need 120V at this point at least so I can skip an inverter for now.

    For the cooler and lights, do you connect each directly to the battery or do you have something in between? (to make it easier to charge multiple items without fiddling with the battery each time).

    Thanks! I am learning quite a bit from this thread.
     
  10. caravanserai

    caravanserai New Member

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    Is that where a regulated 12V DC output would be useful? It seems most of these devices don't have that, the Jackery does but it seems to take a long time to charge.. I guess there's no perfect & cheap device out there.
     
  11. SteveP

    SteveP Well-Known Member Platinum Supporting Member

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    None that I've seen. Battery chemistry is important when running a fridge. Some of the older Li-ion batteries simply output lower voltages, sometimes as low as 10.5 volts and need the regulator to boost the voltage so that they can run a fridge. Let's face it, the original intent of these things was to charge phones. Some, like the Jackery and the Bluetti, have LiFePO batteries that output higher voltages. The Jackery I was looking at earlier has a 20.5 volt battery which will need a regulator to get it down to the voltage needed to run the fridge. The Bluetti I looked at yesterday had a 5 cell LiFePO battery so I would expect it to output near the same, see Connect a Solar Power Generator to 12v System?. The charge rate is dependent on the charger built into box and I assume it's regulated to lower amperage to avoid blowing the fuse in your auto power port.
    You can but please don't. You want to minimize connections to the battery and you'll need at least 2, one for the solar controller and one for the trailer, to start. The more wires you have attached to the battery terminals the more confusing it will get.

    Most pups come stock with a power panel, that includes 120 volt breakers for shore power connection, a 12 volt fuse panel, and a converter to convert 120 VAC to 12 VDC. The WFCO 8735 seems to be most commonly used currently. This is useful when camping with shore power and allows people to minimize or go without a battery. For dry camping it's mostly dead weight.

    I would use at minimum a 12 volt fuse panel mounted inside the camper, 4 circuits will probably be more than enough based on what you've said above. This should meet your 12 volt needs within the camper and require only one connection to the battery. But it has no 120 VAC connection or capability.

    It sounds like you have a fairly unique opportunity, starting with a basically a blank pup and building a system customized to your needs. You should figure out how much power you need daily and size your battery bank to provide at least 3 days power without having to recharge.

    I would consider the power box vs battery question to be an either/or proposition. But you need to compare apples to apples. For your big fridge plus other uses I'm going to guess you'll need at least 100 amp hours of usable battery capacity, so when you look at power boxes you need to look in the 1200 to 1350 watt/hour range.

    The power box + solar panels is pretty much a plug and play solution, requiring no wiring in your pup if you're happy with loose wires laying around. Plus it's portable and can be used without the pup if needed. Some can be moved from the pup to the TV to power the fridge both at camp and in transit with no additional wiring required. But, if one necessary component in the box fails it's probably scrap.

    The 12 volt battery should be securely tied down in the pup. You will have to allow for separate chargers, adaptors and inverters based on your needs, which all costs extra money. And you'll have to assemble and connect all this stuff together. But you have the advantage of only having what you need and if any single component fails it can simply be replaced.
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2021 at 10:25 AM
  12. caravanserai

    caravanserai New Member

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    Our camper is really basic, it does not come with a power panel. If I wanted to wire things to the battery (four output), would I use something like a fuse block? Or a panel? Or both, hah

    It seems I would have the battery connected to both the solar charge controller & to the panel/fuse block, then I wouldn't have to directly mess with it every time then. I assume if I want to charge it inside the car, I would need a DC-DC charger.

    I have ordered the 200W panels for now. They come with a cheapo PWM controller but maybe I should get a MPPT one, though I can wait on that.

    That leaves me as you mentioned with two options
    1) But a 100 AH battery, likely lithium, get a panel/fuse block (no inverter for now), connect things and whatnot.
    2) Pay a bit more for a power box like this one for 1K. This will have a small inverter (and no need to buy an MPPT), but it is not upgradable and can't be as easily fixed.

    We have small kids so I'm a little apprehensive about having too many wires around... Maybe option 2 is the way to go.

    Thanks Steve!
     
  13. SteveP

    SteveP Well-Known Member Platinum Supporting Member

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    The panel looks pretty neat but I don't see anything that states amp value of the breakers or of the total panel.

    One thing about this model is that it does not come with a car charger cable. Likely because, like the Bluetti, it charges at a faster rate and trying to charge it from a typical auto power port will blow the fuse. Another thing is it doesn't have very many 12 volt output ports. I would prefer at least 2 barrel ports, one will be dedicated to the fridge and it would be nice to have another for other possible uses. Running things off of the inverter side will probably use up the battery faster due to conversion losses. It does have good reviews and a couple on Amazon mention success running large fridges.
     

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