An Early Christmas Present -> Our New MSH3012 PSW Inverter
We’ve been scheming to upgrade our charger/inverter system for a few years now. The Magnum 2012 Modified Sine Wave charger/inverter that came with our coach worked OK, but being the geeks that we are we’ve been drooling over newer technology for a while. Thanks to a “perfect storm” combo of some new, snazzy technology, a sweet price deal and the opportunity to install it at AM Solar we now have a system which will get us into the technological new age, as well as set us up for some super-secret solar upgrades in the future.
For those not in the know chargers/inverters are devices that do two things:
- Charging = they help charge your house batteries. Basically they convert AC from shore power or a generator to DC that your house batteries can take. Pretty much all RV house batteries are deep-cycle batteries which require 3-stage charging, so the charger has to be smart enough to do this.
- Inverting/Powering = they help power your internal AC connections when you’re off in the boonies (i.e. not connected). Basically this means they invert the DC power that is stored in your house batteries to AC power that your interior appliances/electronics can run on.
The Old Debate of MSW Vs PSW
Our old model was a Modified Sine Wave (MSW) inverter which puts out a quasi-square-type form of AC power that is sometimes commonly called “dirty” power. The best type of power is a smooth sine curve, so a simplistic way to look at it is that the MSW is kind of like fitting a square plug into a round hole -> it can be done, but just not that “cleanly”. MSW runs most stuff fine, but there’s some appliances that don’t like it, and we’ve seen this in the RV over the years -> our microwave has fried a few times, batteries on computers go quicker, speakers buzz, GFI outlets buzz, motors don’t like it etc. It’s fine, but it’s just not optimal. Despite this, we’ve never been that motivated to upgrade. After all upgrading is kind of pricey, and we’ve run the past 5 years on our MSW with a lot of boondocking and few negatives. So, why bother?
Well, that’s how we felt until…..hybrid technology & lithium batteries hit the market.
Now, I should start by saying that NONE of the stuff I’m about to write about is essential to boondocking. Many folks run just fine on MSW inverters and will never need any of this fancy stuff. But it is most DEFINITELY geeky cool, and being total geeks we are drawn to this like zombies to human flesh (had to put a little Halloween reference in there, ya know). So, here’s the geek stuff:
The Coolness Of Hybrid Technology
Hybrid technology (often called “load support” or “load sharing”) is a super-cool idea. Magnum came out with its first hybrid charger in 2013 and since it’s a drop-in replacement to our old model that’s when we really started to perk up. Typical inverters take power from one source (your RV DC batteries) and convert them to AC to power your internal rig AC systems. Hybrid technology inverters are able to take power from a combination of two sources -> external AC power and/or RV DC batteries, and do the same thing. The cool feature is that you can manage or prioritize those two sources as you wish essentially “boosting” power when you need it and creating some interesting scenario’s. So, for example:
- Moochdocking boost -> When moochdocking (= driveway surfing) with friends, you can hookup to a regular house cord (the Magnum can be dialed down to a minuscule 5 Amps) and your system will manage draw between shore power & your house batteries so that you can run everything you need in your RV without tripping your friend’s circuits.
- Paid RV Park boost-> If you have solar power and you’re staying in an RV park with paid electricity you can tell the system to prioritize your RV batteries over shore power so that you minimize your electric bill.
- Generator boost -> You can carry a smaller generator and rely on the load-share feature to handle power spikes (e.g. when your air-con starts up) with your batteries when you need it.
- Tie-In to AGS -> Lastly you can tie everything into AGS (auto-start on your generator) so that if your batteries fall too low your rig will default to the generator. All you do is set your limits and the system automatically manages the rest. Coooool!
The Draw Of Lithium Batteries
There’s no doubt lithium batteries (specifically LiFePO4) are the future of RV’s. I’m not going to go through the nitty gritty details of lithium technology (Technomadia already did plenty of in-depth articles about this & I recommend you read them if you’re interested in the tech side), but I am going to tell you why we want them.
Lithium batteries are lighter (so, you can pack more amp hours into your battery compartment), they charge much, much faster (you don’t have to wait for the never-ending absorb cycle of lead-acid batteries), you can use more of them (you can draw them down to 20% rather than the meager 50% of lead acid) and…well…they’re just coooool!
The problem is they charge totally differently from regular lead-acid. Instead of a 3-stage charge cycle they only need 2-stage and the voltages are all different so this means your charger either has to support lithium or be custom programmable. We have lithium somewhere in our future, and our old charger/inverter could not handle them. The new MSH 3012 most definitely can.
Aaaand Bringing It All Together…
There’s a few other reasons the new charger/inverter is cool, but those were our biggies. The stock price for the MSH3012 is ~$2,200, but iMarine.com was selling the device for a steep discount just under $1,600. We nabbed one in Cape Blanco together with the new geeky ARC50 control panel, but hadn’t gotten around to installing either. By pure chance AM Solar had a cancellation while we were here and managed to fit us in for the install. “Awesome Aldan” was our designated guy and created brand new cabling (we needed a few thicker cables) as well as completing a meticulous and beautifully neat install (they really do provide attention to detail here at AM Solar -> drool-worthy cable stuff if you’re into that kind of thing).
So we’re now ready and upgraded for our future. Who knows what the next months will bring 🙂
P.S. If anyone is interested in a screaming deal on our former MSW2012 together with free control panel, contact us via e-mail. A MSW inverter/charger is fine for a starter system and ours is in perfect, working order. These things still sell new for ~$1,500. We’ve been happy with it for all our boondocking these past years.
Related Posts & Links:
- Technomadia’s series on Lithium Batteries -> Click HERE
- RV tech magazine review of the MSH3012 -> Click HERE
- Vendors we used -> iMarine.com for the equipment and AM Solar for the installation
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in this blog post may be affiliate links, so, if you click on the link and make a purchase, I will receive a commission. Amazon, the Amazon logo, AmazonSupply, and the AmazonSupply logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. WheelingIt is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do
OOOHHHH…AHHHH…very cool stuff indeed….love the hybrid aspect of the Magnum….they are built close to us in Everett, WA….congrats…and lithium is definitely the cool way to go! Someday 😉
The hybrid feature is soooooo cool. I have to believe all RVers are gonna want it eventually. Plus this thing is just custom programmable every which way. it a good geek upgrade.
Excellent post you can’t go wrong with Magnum products!
PS Paul you look a lot like Jeff Bezos CEO of Amazon 🙂
Noooooo…not Jeff Bezos. My hubby is so much more handsome 🙂
Hope he does not have a laugh like Jeff Bezos 😉
He has a MUCH handsomer laugh 🙂
Dawn from Camano Island says
Wow! This is a fantastic upgrade–congratulations! We’ll be meeting the folks at AM Solar January 5th. Then, southbound!
Awesome! You really can’t go wrong with AM Solar. They’ll take good care of you.
Vaudois handley says
I think it’s awesome that you guys are finally upgrading however I would caution you against the lithium batteries as if they get below 20% they may not recover at all unlike the lead acid batteries which were covered below 20%. Experiences prom firsthand and after talking to other people using these batteries in vehicles they’ve not doing it anymore.
If you install lithium, you’ve got to have safety stops that prevent your batteries from being damaged. most folks install some kind of EMS system to handle this. Also the type of lithium batteries we’re talking about here can be cycled down to 10%, but most RVers who use them set the safety stop at 20%.
I’ve not met a single RVer who installed lithium and decided to go back to lead acid. Then again, most RVers who go this route are pretty technically minded….and that makes sense. The tech is still early/advanced enough that I would still not recommend lithium for beginners.
What we’re doing here is definitely not for everyone 🙂
Woohoo – can’t wait for you guys to get into Lithium Batteries – It’s what we want to do too (Last year we also upgraded our MSW inverter to a (Victron MultiPlus) PSW that should work with Lithium, in anticipation!) so you’ll be our guinea pigs! Technomadia’s experiences are a year or more old now and I’m sure things (such as prices and availability) will have changed in this exciting developing area, so I’m sure you’ll be using the best route! Any ideas WHEN you might be getting around to Lithium batteries? 😉
Oh sweeeet! The Victron Multiplus is a lovely inverter. I’m particularly impressed with the snazzy interface on their remote panel controller. you guys are set for the upgrade.
Not quite sure when exactly we will be going lithium, but it will be soon….
I tried to email you about the inverter but your contact button didn’t work for me. (It’s probably a problem on my end.)We might be interested.
I made your cauliflower dish the other night. I’ve been trying to eat more Turmeric and I had bought the cauliflower thinking it would go good with it so the timing was perfect. Thanks for the recipe!
I forgot to add that it was delicious! My Dad is also on a Turmeric kick lately so I called today and gave my Mom the recipe.
I’ll e-mail you with details on the inverter 🙂
One of the few times in life I don’t do my analysis, then procrastinate on a decision for several months, was when I had my 1200W Solar Panel with Midnite Classic150 Controller installed. I said let’s ‘be done with it’ and upgrade the inverter to better serve our new Lifeline 800AH battery bank. MS2800 PSW, all of the normal goodies too, like the ARC50 and I went with the BMK meter too.
Has served me well, but dang if the the MSH series of magic did not come out within 6 months of our install… Just the sharing of power with the Solar Panels would have paid for itself over the years at our Coop where we have metered power:)!
You are lucky you have a new awning to get under, as I’m drooling in your general direction:)!
Following the Lithium journey of Technomadia as it unfolds. I sure hope in the anticipated 7-10 years of usage I expect out of the Lifelines – that Lithium will have evolved both in knowledge of use, and volume of supply options, and at lower prices. Watching Musk’s new lithium battery plant plans with great anticipation.
Things are changing, and we all know that Change is Good!
Great system for you and Paul – CONGRATS!!!
Yeah, we’ve been thinking about an inverter upgrade for years, and the hybrid tech was what finally snagged us. Bummer you missed it by such a small window, but that’s typical tech. In 6 months we’ll probably be drooling over some new snazzy thing that we missed too. We did not end up getting the BMK although we thought about it -> we already have a separate battery monitor (LinkLITE) that does the job for us right now. Maybe down the line.
I love learning about these new technologies for RVing, especially as it relates to boondocking. Thanks for sharing this. I’m hope you’ll be reporting on some new lithium batteries and some new solar in the not so distant future? 😉
We may well be, we may well be 🙂
Lithium is cool tech—I have it myself—but it’s nothing like spending $1600 on a pure sine inverter to protect a $50 microwave hahaha! Actually I have both kinds—a 1500W MSW for the microwave and central vac, and a 300W PSW for everything else.
As annoying as it is to fry our microwave, that’s definitely not the reason we did the upgrade. Lithium future and hybrid tech was what intrigued us. Plus it definitely helped that this was a drop in replacement yo our old one.
Very interesting even if I only understood about 1% of the article…good thing I have a husband that is more geeky than I am ( and I have some very geeky friends ) …sounds like you got a very good deal…and how lucky for your followers that you share so much..
Bill Joyce says
We have been enjoying our MHS3012 since it was installed by AM Solar in May.
Sweeeet! You guys got the new tech early. were still learning all the custom modes on this thing. Lots of manual reading going on.
Jealousy, envy, wish I were there to modify…. So you talk about the great wiring job. How about some wiring pictures? Pictures of the final installation. BTW, what do you have for batteries presently? At the present time I am planning to re power our 5th wheel with new(er) batteries. I am crossong my fimgers that Lithium will A: become more widely available and popular and B: the price will drop a bit. Congrats on your new toy. Can you now run your air conditioner off of the batteries alone?
After I wrote & published the post I thought about taking some wiring pics. I’ll do that when we settle at our next stop and add them in. I need to show folks the lovely job Aldan did 🙂
We can’t “quite” run our aircon of the inverter yet, but we’re getting there. The lithium batteries will complete the process. We are sooooo close.
Hard to get a great pic of the wiring, but here’s probably the best one. This pic is the main portion of the wiring which is on the wall between the bin w/ our inverter and the bin (next door) with our batteries. You can see our new, chunky wires going into the hotpost in the middle bottom and also into the house switch in middle top. The big fuse hanging on the top right is a spare 400Amp fuse (just in case the one we have blows). Our batteries are just out of view in the bottom.
hector Lopez says
quite geeky indeed! may your next oven live to a ripe old age …
LOL…I’m thinking all our electronics will thank us for this upgrade 🙂
Is the equipment still avail? If so what are you asking?
We’ve had a few inquiries, but I’ll e-mail you the details.
Maynard Correll says
Nina: We can’t say enough “good” about how Greg and Beth treated us a couple of years ago out at AM Solar when we had them upgrade our battery bank to (6) 300 amp Lifelines along with (4) 160W panels… The install was awesome… Glad you are enjoying the PSW.. That’s in my plans somewhere…
Wonderful to hear you had a great experience there too. They really do very nice work, & being avid RVers themselves they totally connect & understand us RV folk.
Gail Docter says
Aldan is indeed the man! Offer him a stout after hours and watch his eyes light up. 🙂
Now, that’s a nice little tip! We didn’t get to feed him any stout, but I’ll have to remember that for next time.
Cool Cool Cool….
Love AM solar, and Greg and Deb. They installed our solar panels for us Nov 2011. Made us feel at home. Caron was about 4 days into a broken foot, received from a hike, when we were there. Deb, having done the broken foot thing herself previously, was very caring of her and full of motherly advise to care for her foot. Just great people.
I thought you guys have a 24v system in your coach Nina. Why did u install the Magnum Energy MSH3012M 3000 Watt 12V, instead of the MSH4024M 4000 Watt 24V? Just curious.
Also I was thinking of doing this switch-over myself until you said the Aldan had to beef up some cables. Any idea which ones?? Otherwise..there goes that idea.
Great post as always Nina.
Nope, we’re still plain old 12V inside the coach. We do have 24V solar panels which is probably where you remember the number. For cable upgrades we had to beef up our main cable from the inverter to the batteries from 2/0 to 4/0. This involved a few segments of wire since they go to a hot post.
And by the way totally with you on Deb and Greg treating us like family. They were both great about making sure we felt comfy and cared for.
Jodee Gravel says
Sometimes stuff I don’t understand is still really cool in its results – like inverters and lithium batteries that sound like the smart way to RV. Since we intend to have as much solar as we can haul I’m sure we need to get tech-savy real quick (Bill is mostly there already, me, not so much).
Lithium is pretty advanced stuff, although it’s been around in the boating circles for a while. Solar is pretty main-stream now and you’ll find lots of good info on it.
Thank you for introducing us to AM solar years ago. We had our solar system installed by them this summer and are very happy with it and their work.
We nearly went with the 3012 but decided to wait until it has a little more time in the real world, we went with the 2812. One of the coolest things about the 3012 is that if you tie your front Air conditioner into the inverter you can drive along using the alternator plus battery/solar charged to run the unit without needing you generator.
We wanted to have the AGS installed be AM solar was soooo busy they were not able to install it. We’ll have to look for Marvin this winter or wait until we drive north to Oregon in the summer. Did you install an AGS?
We already had the AGS previously, so all we did was tie in the new inverter to it. We love the AGS feature, especially as a safety net for our pets (e.g. If we’re away from the rig and power goes out…we can preset our aircon and the AGS can kick in as needed).
Neat little scenario on running the air while going down the road. That’s a hybrid idea I hadn’t yet thought of.
Curious as to how safe lithium is in the event of an accident and battery packs get punctured? And insurance rates for such? I can’t forget lithium giving some jets problems in the sky with thermal runaway and things going “poof”.
Love you early adopters though, that live life on the cutting edge. Keep up the good work, Nina!
The jets did not go poof, they did not fall out of the sky. The batteries got hot and smoked. Technomadia did a good article on this subject, which is here.
The lithiums we talk about in RVs are a different chemistry. We are looking at Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4 aka LFP) which are totally different, and inherently more safe than the Lithium Cobalt cells that were in the Dreamliner jets in 2013. I’m not worried 🙂
Oh, and you won’t get any hits on insurance rates either.
Now you’ve done it!!! You’ve got the cowboy dreaming of lithium batteries!!
Lithium is cool. We could quadruple our usable amphours in the same space that we have now (and for about the same weight). It’s an impressive upgrade.
Moochdocking!!! Great term!! Did you invent it?
You know I don’t remember anymore LOL. I think the term has been floating around for a while and I picked it up somewhere, but I can’t for the life of me remember where.
I’m not a very tech savvy person but you wrote this in such a way that even I can understand it. I usually skip over this type of article and leave it to Ron. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.
Cool. I try to write so that anyone can understand the basics, so I’m glad that is coming through.
Gary Haynes says
You are gonna love the Magnum. I’ve got it in my Airstream. Makes things very versatile. I can run the A/C with a single Honda 2000, and if the sun is shining on the 705w of solar panels it is almost zero loss on the batteries.
Sweeeeet! Great to know you love it too.
Todd B says
Our 1986 Wanderlodge has the original modified sine wave inverter in it and I’ve been eyeing an inverter upgrade. We have so much phantom draw in this rig and an old inverter just seems like a waste of precious power. I’m curious about your real world experience with this unit. I used iMarine to purchase our smart charger and found they had great prices as well as good customer service. Looks like I need to check out the site now that a new inverter is on the horizon! Thanks for the great post!!!
Getting a big Pure Sine Wave probably won’t help your phantom draw much (our new 3000 watt PSW actually draws a tad more base current than our old 2000 watt MSW), but it does give you a lot more options (e.g. The hybrid stuff). If you’re looking for power savings a small, dedicated PSW (say around 400 watts -> just for computers and such) may be the way to go. It’s an inexpensive upgrade that lots of folks do. The Morningstar 400 SureSine rates very highly and is worth a look.
Jerry Lewis says
Thanks to you, my 3012, BMK, and ARC50 are now sitting in my storage room. I’ll use them to replace the Xantrex 3000 that came with my used coach purchase in June.
Now, it’s battery time. I need to replace the 2 seven-yr-old OE Lifeline 8D’s. I want to put in LiFePO4 but am having trouble finding which ones to buy.
I don’t want to do a put-together-myself like Chris did. I want to buy Balqon’s 9Kwh Battery Pack with built in BMS and catas fuse. Per their brochure, it provides 500 AH at 50% DOD. It costs $3,350. However, I hear they are really poor to deal with regarding being responsive to questions. I read about one poor guy who bought a very large set from Balqon that came with no instructions.
What other sellers that you’ve been thinking seriously about would you have me add to my must-talk-to list. I’m ready to spend the money, but with whom?
I have it on good insider authority that AM Solar are close (within a few months?) to negotiating/creating their own Lithium system and offering that to the market. We’re kind of holding out to see what they come up with since they would offer great support.
A bunch of guys selling cell packs (e.g. Elite Power Solutions) but I’m not sure of completed systems.
Any update on the new inverter? Still getting all my ducks in a row for my next rig.
We’re still loving it! In fact we’re parked at an RV park right now where electricity is paid by meter so we’ve been fooling around with the load share feature. It’s a super cool inverter/charger and we’re still learning all the whiz bang features.
Cool thx. Keep us up to date.
Reed Cundiff says
We also have a Magnum PSW inverter (4kW). Have heard similar unforunate stories about Balqon but their prices are good. We have 4 x Manzanita Micro LFP 180 amp-hr at 12 V (4 CALB LFP cells each). These are in series for a 48 V nominal system (basically 16 CALB cells in series) which provides around 9 kW-hr of energy. Power goes to AC via the Magnum inverter and to the 12 V DC via a 505 W 48V-to-12V Meanwell converter. We were using fairly dirty (voltage varied 80 to 145 V) line power on beach near Tulum. Son and family came down to spend time on beach and brought down a battery charger so that line power went through battery charger to battery bank (then AGM) and then air conditioning could be used from battery to inverter… He designed and fabricated current system so that we do not use the 50 amp recepticle but just use a 15 amp (110) extension cord. Since you cannot get better than 15 amps in Mexico, nothing more is required. But we have only used this on three occasions in 18 months.
The problem with the Balqon 9 kW system (which son looked at) is that it weighs 260# or so and you need to find somewhere to install that much volume and weight. Son went with the four Manzanitas (designed for EVs) since even though the four of them weigh the same as the Balqon for equivalent energy storage(the EV crowd call it fuel), he could place them symmetrically in the forward compartment of 5th wheel which is designed to carry an Onan 5.5 kW generator. Called the manufacturer and they said that it was designed to hold 400#.
Reed and Elaine
Thanks for sharing your set-up. It’s great to hear what others have done and how they’ve arranged their system.
Don Fera says
I just finished installing this same inverter. I bought 6 months ago, but an extended trip to Canada got in the way. Anyway, just finished the install today. I was severely disappointed by the noise level the inverter puts out while charging. My thought was that there had to be something wrong with my unit because I can’t imagine that anyone would design a product that would be so obtrusive in normal operation. Have you been disturbed by the noise emitted while the unit is in charging mode? Looking for answers…
Nice blog by the way, one of these days I will make the time to do likewise and would be very pleased if I could even come close to writing one as fun and easy to read as yours.
I would definitely call the manufacturer. Ours is VERY quiet, and there are no sounds at all inside the RV. Now granted ours is in a bottom bay of the rig, but I haven’t noticed anything at all.
Don Fera says
Thanks for the response. Magnum is on my list of calls to make. Since I bought the unit over 6 months ago, I am doubtful of much warranty type support, but maybe they will have suggestions. Or maybe the transformer is just in the break-in process. How’s that for wishful thinking? 😉
So, just to be doubly sure I went down to the bay with the inverter on to check the noise levels up close. The thing is practically silent. I mean nothing at all….just a faint whirring if I put my ear on the inverter itself, but nothing audible further back. So, there’s definitely something amiss with yours. There should still be warranty on it after 6 months. Good luck with the fix!
Nicholas Bluhm says
I used AM solar for my install and I agree with you they are great people with great technology.
I have two 150 Solar panels on the roof of my truck camper and can tilt them as required.
Originally I had 2 6 Volt AGM Lifetime batteries; surprisingly the terminals began to leak acid and after six years I got a full warranty replacement from lifetime and have installed the same batteries again.
I made my own 3/0 Cable connections source in the materials at Lowe’s and a industrial electrical supply house for the terminals….connecting the cables to my Samlex 2000 pure syne inverter….lastly I fabricated a heavy duty extension cord with two male ends and simply plug into the inverter and wallplug to power my RV.
Critically important to Connect the inverter via the shunt in the battery compartment and not directly to the batteries….also important to unplug the onboard battery charger when powering the house from the inverter.
I am able to power my microwave, Nespresso machine, blender and electric griddle during the day and only consume down to 80% by the end of the day.
RV Solar Panels says
Well, I’m in the beginning stages of this process! The system that you have installed looks like it is a pretty sweet upgrade! One day I will have an upgrade like this. I have a 33′ Colorado 5th wheel that I am currently working on!
This has been a really great series to read. Cant wait for more articles like this!
I have so many questions! I am new to the RV life on the road — Malibu Stacey’s Barbie Camper or the Nomadmobile as some call it became my home in January. It’s taken time to settle in and I say there is a “daily fiasco” in RV living. I am presently having solar installed — huge leap indeed and will read everything you wrote to pick up advice.
Two questions, what about the hard water issue — my hair and skin hate the hose water. Any suggestions?
Secondly, when I have more questions (probably about the solar), what’s the best way to ask you?
Many folks buy a water softener to add to their inlet, especially in the SW (where water can be very hard). Most of them are easily regenerated with salt. Just search on the forums or spots like Camping World. You’ll see them round.
For other questions feel free to ask directly in the blog. That way other people can enjoy the answers too. Or, if you have lots (lots) of questions I recommend the RV forums like iRV2 or RV Dreams. You’ll get lots of people chiming in there to help.
Love the setup you have going! We may have to look into new Lithium Batteries, we currently have 2 lead acid batteries with a draw coming off them and we cannot find where its coming from. How many watts is your new inverter? We are currently running at 2000 Watt Kisae inverter, seems to fit our needs. Check out our setup on our website, http://www.ventureoffgrid.com
Love the site and your posts!
Our new Magnum inverter is 3000 watts. It’s worked great for us so far. Currently the Magnum “hybrid” model does not come in 2000 watt-size. Only 3000 or 4000 watts.
Doug Earl says
I have been hearing about tesla wall power, have you any knowledge of this device? From what I understand it replaces all your batteries, it actually is a power storage unit. I believe they are pretty pricey right now but my hope is that when we do get setup to Fulltime the price of these will come down, they’re actually nice looking don’t take up much space because they bolt to the wall and they’re about 4 inches thick by 4 ft long and 2.5 ft wide. Enjoy and I look forward to your thought on this.
Just glancing at the specs it looks like they are VERY high-voltage batteries (350-450V) which doesn’t really mesh into a 12V RV environment. The target is homes which don’t need DC. So, without knowing more I can’t see this working for RV’s just yet. Maybe in the future?
Mark Hinman says
My girl and I are planning on going full-time in the fall of 2017. Since I found Wheelingit last year, I pretty much look at your blog on a daily basis, to follow a link, read a campground review, or read of your personal experiences in places that we’re interested in visiting on the road. Plus, we’re always interested about what you guys are up to!
At this point, we’re trying to tally-up the total cost of our rig, a mid- frame 5th wheel, with a 12 cu ft RV fridge. We want the option of living off the grid as much as possible, mostly to be able to camp in nice places. But every time I get back to trying to size a solar system for our needs, my brain hurts after about 15 minutes! Since I have a rough idea of how you and Paul manage your system (similar to our ideas), it would be helpful for me to know a few things:
1) What is the current wattage of your PV?
2) Are you still running the 4X220 Ah 6v Lifeline AGM battery bank?
3) What size is your fridge? (sorry to be so personal…)
4) And, do you ever run the fridge from the batteries whilst boondocking?
Obviously, we’re wanting to get as much out of the solar as possible, as it will be a major investment. Any insights you could offer from your experience would be greatly appreciated.
Looks like you’re planning well ahead. I’ll try to answer all your questions:
1/ Our solar setup is still 600 Watts. We haven’t altered it since we installed in in 2011 and it still works perfectly well for us and satisfies our needs. If we were installing today however we’d probably add more…just coz it gotten so much cheaper and you can never have too much solar
2/ Yes we’re still running with 440 amp hours of battery. This also works well for us. We typically only draw them to down to 70% with occasional draw-downs to 50%.
3/ Our fridge is 13 cubic feet or so (I’m not certain exactly, but around there)
4/ We never run the fridge on electric while boondocking. Only ever on propane. It would be terribly inefficient on electric and would present far too much draw. If we ever do upgrade to a residential fridge, we’d need to upgrade (increase) both our solar and house battery capacity to keep up while boondocking.
Mark Hinman says
Thanks Nina! That helps a lot. I e-mailed Larry from Starlight Solar, and he said that with 1000w coming in, I might be able to run the fridge for 7 hours in the summer, and 2 hours at the winter solstice, under optimal conditions, and minimizing other electric usage. Probably not worth the additional expense.
Yeah, that would seem about right. With newer coaches that have residential fridges most folks are installing 1000-1400 watt systems. You could get away with less, especially if you choose to tilt in winter, but those electric-only fridges do need quite a bit. We’ve always estimated that we’d need *at least* 2 more panels and 2 more batteries for a residential.
Noticed you are looking into the fridge situation for your camper. We are currently full timers with solar and a 2000w inverter. We converted a chest freezer into a fridge and run completely on solar. We have calculated it uses somewhere around 100watts a day which is minimal compared to the normal fridges in campers consuming about 400watts. You can check out or setup here http://ventureoffgrid.com/full-time-fifth-wheel-living-top-5-gadgets/
Best of luck to you guys on your adventures!
Mark Hinman says
Thanks for the info- checked out your site, looking into it!
I wonder what sort of additional hacks one could do if they used a Prius as a tow vehicle, with its additional generator and batteries. Hmm… Food for thought. 🙂
Bettina Arrigoni says
Great blog! Now that you have had time to play with the inverter- what do you think? Have you been able to program it to really prioritize batteries and then it will automatically shift to shore power? Then will it go back to batteries ? We have a similar set up to your rig and are thinking about upgrading and just wanted to see if you were still happy with it.
Thanks for your incredible sharing!
Richard Wilkes says
Paul, I know this blog is old but relates to your recent overall system upgrade…. Has anyone evaluated the Xantrex system for it’s attributes compared to the Magnum system? Seems to have most of them, but I cannot see where the Xantrex Freedom SW3012 12V 3000W Inverter/Charger allows for the maximum current when on the pole for 15, 20 amp boonsmooching. They are comparable system costs and otherwise seem to be geared to do much of the same, at least on the surface.
A quick perusal of the specs and it seems the Xantrex definitely has load assist/transfer features, but doesn’t offer true “synch” hybrid functions. It seems to have a load transfer feature whereby if shore power fails, it can transfer to battery. Plus is has a generator assist feature which (again) seems to work via a load transfer (or load splitting) function. But there’s no true synch hybrid function (that I can see) whereby the inverter synchs with generator or shore power to actually combine the output of both to power a single ac load. Maybe others will chime in, but those are my thoughts.
Oh and just a minor point, but I (Nina) actually write all the posts on the blog including the techie ones 🙂
Richard Wilkes says
Nina, Thank you for the reply. First thanks for the nudge that you are in fact the author or the blogs. In no small part accept my apologies. Between the two of you this is a very top rated site regardless of topic!
I spent some time yesterday looking at both and the user guides. A couple of things came up. The units apparently have a similar pedegree from Trace who Xantrex bought out and some of the employees went to start MagnaSine. The Xantrex Freedom is large and heavier by more than 10 lbs. The Xantrex definatly has both L1/L1 legs being hooked up to the input from the Generator and Shore power Transfer Switch. My fifth wheel is 50 Amp and everything is set for L1/L2 legs. The breaker panel is also broken out that way for some things being on L1 and others on L2. The Freedom unit has 60 amps of pass through power capacity. Xantrex monitors both. MagnaSine appears to only have one leg of input and output pos/neg and ground for both input and output. This seems to indicate you can only hook it up to one of the legs and the other let would remain dormant if the generator or shorepower are not present. Is this correct and is this how your rig is configured?
On another interest note, MagnaSine appears to be based in Everett Washington very near Fluke and Boeing that I worked at a combined time of over 20 years. I may just have to drive the 4 miles and talk to them in person if available.
Richard Wilkes says
I forgot to add that the MagnaSine allows for 30 amps of pass through vs the 60 for Xantrex. If it’s on one leg that would answer the difference and probably resolves why it is lighter and smaller. They are both the same cost with some price searching on the internet. A small edge to Xantrex for $
Our inverter is connected to a single incoming 50 Amp line from our main breaker panel. On the output side we have a sub panel that contains all the loads we want to run off the the inverter. So that’s how we’re split. Right now we only have a few items (rear air, block heater, water heater) that are not hooked to the inverter. Most everything else in the coach can be run from it, if we wish.
Doug Hewins says
Enjoy your blog very much. I just did some upgrades to my 2005 Airstream, including the installation of a Magnum 3012 hybrid, solar panels and battery upgrade. I have gone through the manuals quite a bit, but wondered if you have something along the lines of an “idiots guide” to various settings you use on the inverter (I also added the BMK w/ remote) when going into a campground with poor AC service and using the system with a generator (added an EU2000i Honda to the mix to be able to run the air for a short time). Any help would be appreciated.
LOL…yeah, those inverter settings can be a bit of a bear to sort out. Apart from setting the right charging parameters (which you should only have to do once), the setting we use the MOST on the inverter is load support. This allows us to pull from batteries when we don’t have enough juice coming in from the main line (e.g. we’re at a friend’s house on a regular power cord, or we’re hooked up to 30 amps and want to run more than that, or we’re paying for electricity and want to limit what we pull from the park). Basically we just keep the inverter on (all the time) with load support enabled and change the AC input amps as needed.
I think the exact setting you need is in inverter set-up somewhere. I can’t recall the precise path to get to it, but look it up in the manual. Then I recommend you do what we did and program that as one of your “favorites”, so that you don’t go thro’ all the settings in the panel to get to it. Once it’s programmed in as a favorite, all you have to do is click on the fav button that it’s programmed to and you can change the input AC directly from there. Easy peasy!
As an example, right now we’re hooked up to 30 amps and we have the load support set to 20 amps (we leave 10 amps open for our water heater which is one of the few things we haven’t hooked up to the inverter). We can basically run anything we want. Anytime extra power is needed the inverter just pulls it from our batteries.
Hope that helps!
Andrea Carter says
Hi, love your blog thank you so much for all the valuable info!! We are getting ready to start our full time mobile living and just had a MagnaSine MS 2012 installed a few days ago. While the installer briefly went through the MERC (remote control) and provided the manuals, we are unable to get the wall outlets to work. The microwave and in-unit vacuum function properly, so we know the inverter is working, but we’ve tried all the various troubleshooting breakers, fuses, GFI’s and inverter resets to no avail. The installer is not open on the weekends so we wanted to ask if you might have any suggestions for solving this problem. Any insight you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!
Perhaps the other outlets are not connected to the inverter? The majority of RVs only have a sub-set of outlets connected thro’ the inverter so there might be several that don’t work off-grid when you’re relying on the inverter. We found that out the hard way when we first started boondocking. Took us FOREVER to realize half of our coach just wasn’t connected thro’ the inverter (we did a lot of needless trouble-shooting on that one LOL). When we did our solar upgrade we added all the remaining outlets thro’ the inverter. So ALL of our coach outlets function off-grid now.