My fridge has continued to work as it’s supposed to, but it seems the damage has been done to my batteries. At sunset last night, after many hours with hundreds of watts of charging, they were only up to 12.5 volts. That’s just 80% of their normal capacity. As much as I charge them, they simply will not take in any more juice. This morning they were at 12.2 volts, 60% of capacity, and I can only discharge them to 50% without damaging them further. In their current state, my batteries can barely get me through one night, without using Starlink. I think the drain from Starlink a few days ago, plus my runaway fridge overnight on top of that, discharged the batteries below 50%, and now I’m stuck with reduced capacity as a result.
I’m thankful for my emergency fund because I just dipped into it to buy two 206 amp-hour SOK LiFePO4 batteries. They’re not cheap, but if I have to replace my house batteries anyway, I might as well make a massive upgrade in the process. Why SOK? People from Will Prowse to Vancity Vanlife to my friend Yellow Wolf (who just arrived here in Quartzsite) have them and speak quite highly of their quality. They have a seven-year warranty, much better than the two years my Renogys are approaching the end of. I’m also glad I “futureproofed” my original electrical system design by using chargers that I can reset to work with lithium batteries instead of AGM. Aside from that easy reconfiguration, these should be plug-and-play.
Lithium batteries are much more expensive than AGM, but I can use up to 90% of their capacity, rather than 50% of AGM. So while I’ll still have 400 amp-hours of capacity (412, technically), I’ll be able to use 360 of that instead of 200. This is a massive upgrade. It’ll give me a bigger buffer in case of multiple days of clouds or rain. In a situation like the runaway fridge, it would not have discharged my batteries into the danger zone. I’ll be able to run Starlink for longer, too.
Also, they’re much smaller and lighter than my AGM batteries. I’ll only have about 100 lbs. of batteries instead of 250. That’s like kicking a 150 lb. passenger out of my van! That’s not much, considering the van now weighs 7900 without the trailer, but it’s something. I’ll also gain some under-bed storage, which is always handy.
I’m still having sticker shock. This was a HUGE unplanned purchase. But it would already have been expensive to replace my old batteries with identical ones. If I’m already forced to make the investment, I might as well upgrade my system while I’m at it. I was hoping to run these Renogy AGM batteries until I get my next rig, but I no longer have a choice in that matter. At least I have the emergency fund to pay for these, plus I’m in a place where I can actually receive packages.
I have ideas for future projects. I may keep one of my weakened AGM batteries to power the inside of my trailer, a far less critical need than powering my van. Those possibilities are rather intriguing. I’ll sell the other (or maybe both?) to someone in need at a discounted price, with full disclosure as to their weakened status. If their electrical needs are less than mine, it might work perfectly for someone. But all that will wait until I get my van sorted out.
In the meantime, I’ll conserve as much power as I can, and try to stretch these batteries through each night until I can recharge them the following day. There could be worse failure modes, like both batteries frying completely and leaving me with no power at all. And with Yellow Wolf here, I can recharge my Jackery off her excess solar power if my system doesn’t keep up. I’ll get through this.