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FAQ’s with Nelson Figueroa, President of Millennium Luxury Coaches

Got Questions? Or maybe just curious to learn more? Take a look at our extensive FAQ that is full of great info. Just click a question to reveal the answer.

FAQ

AGM versus Lithium, which battery?

Over the past few months, I’ve received several calls and emails asking for my opinion on the new lithium battery versus the traditional AGM battery, which is part of the valve-regulated lead-acid battery family typically used in a motorhome application. Batteries are the real workhorse of any auxiliary electrical system and there’s no room for lightweights.

AGM batteries were developed in 1985 for use in Military aircraft and then introduced to the civilian aviation, marine and RV industry around 1992. Replacing the common flooded lead acid and gel cell batteries, they were specifically designed to combine the best power, weight and safety standards available at that time. They have continued to develop over the years with advancements in their efficiency and safety ratings and continue to become lighter and sleeker. AGM batteries offer a low internal resistance and rapid migration of the acid into the glass mat plate. Simply stated, AGM batteries deliver and absorb higher rates of amperage. This is important in the RV industry because of the constantly changing environmental conditions as well as the unique power demands of each user. From Maine to Arizona, 0 to 120 degrees they perform well in a variety of temperatures. With unregulated charge and discharge rates, we’re not limited to how much power we can pull or how quickly we recharge. This comes in handy when you’re making a quick pit stop for lunch on a 105 degree day. We can pull enough power to run four A/C units and the house without having to kick on the generator and then when we hit the road again initiate a rapid charge cycle to power them back up.

In contrast, the Lithium-ion battery starts degrading as soon as it leaves the factory and only lasting two or three years from the date of manufacture, whether you use them or not. When exposed to heat, lithium-ion battery packs begin to degrade much faster than they normally would. If you’ve ever held a cell phone to your ear for too long or held a computer on your lap, you know that heat is a natural byproduct of most batteries, but especially lithium batteries. Highly sensitive to charge and discharge rate, it’s necessary to have an ancillary onboard computer to manage the charging cycles and limit amount of power output as well as how quickly they regenerate to full capacity. You’d be limited to an A/C or two on that same pit stop and would need an extended period to recharge. If a Lithium-ion battery becomes completely discharged, it’s ruined. There is also the concept of Thermal Runaway which is a condition in which a Lithion-ion battery pack fails and has the potential to burst into flames. With the sensitivity to temperature and charging rates and higher potential for safety issues, they’re just not a good match for the RV market.

Green Car Advisor notes that the FAA has recorded six fires onboard passenger and cargo jets linked to lithium-based batteries since March of last year and it’s apparent that legislation will be drafted in the near future regulating the use or shipment of Lithium-ion batteries on airplanes. The FAA has denied the request from some airplane manufacturers requesting to use Lithium-ion batteries citing, “The battery does not contain the additional safety standards that the administrator considers necessary to establish a level of safety equivalent to that established by the existing airworthiness standards.”

The strength and durability of your electrical charging system lies in your choice of batteries. An AGM battery is like a workhorse while a Lithium-ion battery is like a Unicorn. If you want to power your cell phone your best bet is to use a Lithium-ion battery if you want to power your motor home there is no better battery technology than the AGM. Unless you believe in Unicorns!

From the first Millennium conversion, you did things a little different than most converters. Can you give us the cliff notes?

You’ve got miles of wiring, often linked by connectors, components, fuses, terminals and such, and then we bury it all behind cabinetry and send it rolling down the road. It can be a recipe for disaster! We’ve replaced the bulk of those connections with a home automation system that consists of 7 components, off the shelf, designed by a company that has pioneered the process, Lutron. In addition to this automation powerhouse we provide back-up redundant systems with manual bypasses. It’s virtually impossible to get stranded with a downed system. There’s always a way around built in.

We frequently see Crestron control panels in coaches but you use BOTH Crestron and Lutron. Can you explain why?

dsc_0247-300x195o From years of experience working on coaches, I knew right off the bat that serviceability was the most important factor in an electrical system. I wanted to minimize system failures and maximize our ability to take care ofMillennium Luxury Coaches partners with Lutron Home Automation those failures should they occur. By paring two industry giants, Lutron and Crestron, we get the best of both worlds. Lutron is a power house for automation and they have mastered the art of lighting control. They have a service network of over 3500 dealers nationwide which services the residential market. Their crews are mobilized and since our “home on wheels” carries its own program, any one of these dealers can service and repair our units. Their 8 year warranty is unmatched in this industry. Since Crestron has perfected the audio/video control system and with their new iPad, iPod Touch and Apple TV applications, we’ve blown the doors off our capabilities for networking.

This sounds like it could be complicated. What if you’re not the most technically minded individual?

That’s the beauty of it. Our coach is designed for the client who just wants to “set it and forget it”. We’ve done the hard part, the behind scenes programming that allows you to accomplish in one step what often takes three or four with other conversions. “One touch” buttons that perform multiple tasks keeps users from having to think too hard.

Does Millennium use prefabricated wiring harnesses?

No we don’t. Prefab harness wiring requires inter-harness connections and connections can and do fail; often in difficult to access areas. We use point to point wiring from source to component; it takes longer but assures reliability.

Is a Millennium luxury coach a 12V system or a 24V system?

Neither, or maybe both. Technology has evolved so much since the days of old automotive control systems. Our coaches don’t rely on one specific voltage. They use 12v, 24v or 110v, whatever we need to get the job done. This allows us to select the best components, fixtures and systems available in the marketplace, without being constrained by their power requirements. The same concept applies when we’re searching out a switch, motor, or even an a/v component. We look for the best component for our application, not the best 12 or 24v component. Since we’re not limited by power requirements, we’re free to pick the best possible match in any situation.

Millennium adds a second alternator in addition to the alternator installed at the Prevost factory. What purpose does this serve?

The factory installed alternator that comes standard on the chassis is dedicated to chassis the batteries and functions. We install an additional 335 amp air cooled alternator, dedicated to house batteries and powering the four 3500 watt inverters. It provides peak performance even at idle, so when parked or city driving you’re still taking advantage of all the charging capacity available.

You set the industry on its ear a few years ago when you started using four 3500 watt inverters as opposed to the industry standard of 2, why do we need those extra two?

Millennium-Luxury-Coaches-104-200x300We’ve spent years perfecting this process and apart from the obvious answer of “more power”, in a nut shell, it eliminates the guessing game of load management while traveling. o You’ll never trip an inverter because you turned on too many things at once. It goes back to the “set it and forget it” philosophy. We want our clients to be enjoying their vacation, not trying to become proficient at load management.

Millennium is a big proponent of roof airs, why do you feel they’re the best way to cool a coach?

Without a doubt, roof airs are the most efficient way to cool a coach. With any other system you’re either moving cold air through ducts over a distance or you’re moving refrigerant through lines over a distance. Both of which are inefficient, problematic and take up valuable real estate. A roof A/C unit is a self contained unit and it resides on the roof…cheap real estate. Not to mention that the more air circulation you can provide to the air compressor the better. The roof is the perfect place, not in a coach bay 10” above the hot pavement! For serviceability they can’t be beat. I can replace a roof air with less effort than it takes to even diagnose any other cooling system out there!

Speaking of cheap real estate, you also mount the radiator for the generator on the roof. Why is this better than the typical installation in a bay?

I spent some time overseas and it’s pretty common practice in the hotter climates. We know heat rises. It’s so much better to have that heat exchange happen on the roof, up and out of the way of the living and entertaining areas. We also exhaust the generator and aqua hot through the roof for those same reasons. A secondary benefit is keeping the radiator from direct contact with road grime, it’s a much cleaner environment up there.

We know there are several options available for hot water heating systems, why have you chosen to go with the Aqua Hot system?

Aqua Hot is a complete diesel furnace and we use the entire system as it was designed for peak performance, as opposed to just taking one element and then trying to tie it into our own engineering. It provides hot water on demand and can heat every ounce of water on board as you need it, without a drop in the water temperature halfway through your shower. It doesn’t require the generator and there’s no need to take up valuable space with a secondary hot water tank like some conversions require. With any other system you have a small hot water tank, separate from your fresh water tank, and once you’ve exhausted this tank you’re constantly trying to play catch up until the system has had time to regenerate another tank full. We’ve done side by side comparisons and in every instance, the Aqua Hot outperforms all the other systems. It also has an engine fluid circulating pump that ties into the engine cooling system. It extracts heat while the coach is in transit, so when you arrive at your destination you’ve got plenty of hot water and it was created in a very efficient manner. With an Aqua Hot system, there’s no having to time the showers so that everyone gets hot water.

Have More Questions or Need a Little Advice?

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With well over 100 years of combined RV experience, we’ve worked on just about every make & model RV, been to just about every RV park around, and of course build our own line of custom Prevost coaches. We at Millennium would be happy to help you in whatever way we can, be it helping with a problem, answering a question, or just recommending a great place to stay for the night. Email us at info@mlcy.com and we’ll get back to you right away.