Like many, we were excited about these “future of electrical system” kits. We bought a 5kWh kit and, initially, we were quite smitten indeed. What a beauty! A few months later the honeymoon period ended. Alas, after much testing and, trying to kindle the love, our cupid never showed.
In this post, we’ll do our best to compare an EcoFlow Power Kit (specifically the 5kWh “Independence” Power Kit) to a “traditional” system using high-quality, value-priced 12-volt lithium batteries and a bunch of top-quality Victron Energy components and explain why we’re sticking with the Blue Power.
But, You’re Biased!
Yeah, that’s a bit true, but not exactly what you think. It’s worth pointing out that selling EcoFlow products is very profitable (notice how many ads there are for these things). In fact, we’d actually earn more money selling you an EcoFlow kit vs. the Victron bundles we discuss in this post. We did sell the Power Kits for a few months but decided to stop selling them recently after considering the limitations. We take our pledge to only sell the very best, road-tested products – the stuff we’d use in our vans very seriously. What follows are the reasons we wouldn’t use an EcoFlow kit in our vans – even if we were DIY’ers who were not experienced with electrical systems.
The Short Version
The EcoFlow products are beautifully designed and generally work well if you don’t need advanced features. By far, the biggest advantage of an EcoFlow Power Kit over a professionally installed Victron system is how simple it is for a non-experienced DIY’er to install and configure the system. This benefit does not disappoint and we were duly impressed. Here’s a photo album of us unboxing and hooking everything up. Overall, it’s actually a great system and ideal in certain situations. If the limitations we present in this post are not relevant to you, then EcoFlow is a great option.
However, as you’ll see later in this post, at today’s prices, you can get everything you need for a comparable (arguably better) Victron system for about $1,900 less than the EcoFlow kit which is about the cost of having an experienced professional installer wire up your Victron system. That is what we’d recommend to most people so that you’re not subject to the limitations we detail in this post and you can have true confidence in your system – both that it will work well and that it will be maintainable and upgradable for the life of your rig. We even have a directory of installers you can browse and, if you’re in our area (Florida) we have some trusted installers we can recommend if you reach out.
Let’s get some math stuff out of the way. If you don’t like math, ya can skip this part… Battery capacity is often measured in amp hours (Ah). But, power consumption is better measured in watts. So, many people refer to the capacity in a system with kilowatt watt hours (kWh) which takes into consideration of the system voltage. To convert between amp hours and kilowatt hours you multiply the amp hours by the voltage. To do the reverse (get amp hours from kilowatt hours) you divide the kilowatt hours by the volts. In our testing of our EcoFlow Power Kit the 12-volt option operates at 13.8 volts. In systems using 12-volt batteries, the voltage is going to be anywhere between 14.4 on the high end, to 12 on the low end, depending on the battery state of charge (SOC). So, when we do conversions, we’ll use the average of those – 13.2 – as the voltage value. For instance, to convert a 5kWh EcoFlow battery to amp hours for a 12-volt system, we’ll divide the specification of that Power Kit Battery of 5,120 by 13.2 to arrive at 387 amp hours. Or, to convert a 280 amp hour rated SOK battery to kilowatt hours we’d multiply 280 by 13.2 to arrive at 3,696. We think this is fair math but you can grab your calculator and adjust that voltage value for yourself if you want to see the impact of using something like 12.8 volts.
If you’re not familiar with EcoFlow Power Kits, the most popular of them is a 5kWh “Independence” version. It comes with:
- One 5kWh battery (5,120 kilowatt hours) which is equivalent to a 387 amp hour battery (at 13.2 volts). Up to 2x additional 5kWh batteries can be added to the system. At today’s prices, they are about $4,600.
- The Power Hub, which is where most of the components of the system connect to (batteries, shore power inlet, solar input, DC-DC charger input, and the output for all loads). Compared to a traditional/Victron system, it acts as the inverter/charger, DC-DC charger, solar charge controller, etc.
- A combination 120-volt AC and 12/24-volt DC load center. The EcoFlow batteries are natively 48-volt but this is converted for use with your DC loads (lights, fans, water pump, etc.). You can select between 12 or 24-volts. It can provide a maximum of 1,000 watts of DC power to the DC load center which is about 70-75 amps in a 12-volt configuration.
- A “console” which is the touchscreen that provides control and monitoring for the system.
- All the wiring needed to hook the system up – shore power inlet, wiring to your vehicle battery for DC-DC (alternator) charging, MC4 solar power cables, etc. The only wiring you need to provide are for the branch circuits that come from the combination AC/DC load center and power your actual loads in the rig.
Compare the Specs
Speaking of math, if you’re engineering-minded and want to dive into all the numbers, we’ve made a comparison sheet between the systems we’re discussing in this post in this Google Sheet.
EcoFlow Power Kit Limitations
Customer Service/Tech Support
It’s no secret that EcoFlow has less than stellar customer and technical support. Some people describe it as “the worst” or “non-existent”. To be fair, others have had great luck. However, we put a lot of time and effort into having the very best customer service in the industry (don’t take it from us, read our customer reviews) and when the manufacturer doesn’t pull their weight in this regard it can reflect poorly on us. We don’t want to rely on “luck”. So, this was part of our decision to stop selling their products.
Lack of Modularity
One of the awesome features of the EcoFlow is that it’s easy to install and there are only a few bits and pieces. But, this also means that there is no modularity. So it’s a bit of a double-edged sword and you’ll have to decide which side of that blade you’d like to fall on. The simplicity of the EcoFlow is great for sure but it creates single points of failure. It’s very handy to be able to swap out a single component if it fails while the rest of the system keeps working. For instance, if your Victron solar charge controller kicks the bucket, you can keep charging other ways such as DC-DC (alternator) charging or shore power. On an EcoFlow kit, these are all inside one box. A traditional system, with lots of individual blue boxes, allows you to stay on the road and limp to the next dealer. Also, any Victron component with the word “smart” in the name can be configured and monitored via Bluetooth with their VictronConnect app. It’s very helpful to be able to monitor and see historical data on each specific component in your system when troubleshooting any issues.
Limited Parts Availability
Speaking of dealers, Victron Energy has distributors and dealers literally around the world. So, if you’re in limp mode with your power system, you will be able to find the parts and the support and installation professionals you need just about everywhere you might find yourself. In our experience, getting parts for EcoFlow Power Kits is very much the opposite. There are very few stocking dealers of EcoFlow and they don’t have all the fiddly bits you might need. This is made worse by the proprietary nature of their connections. One example: we ordered a replacement battery cable for the Power Kits that has a proprietary connection on each side. We patiently waited for over 3-weeks for this cable and were eventually told that it would be many more before it would ship. Keep in mind this is the cable that connects the batteries to the Power Hub! So, if it fails or breaks or your dog chews through it, you have no power. For us, it was only inconvenient since we are just testing this stuff in our mad van laboratory, but if you were on the road, this would put you completely out of business for way too long.
One of the things we love about Victron Energy is that you can “use what you want” from their product lineup and not be locked into “everything” Victron. For instance, in the example Victron system we’re actually using SOK batteries because of their impressive price/performance. Of course, we also sell and recommend Victron batteries – particularly if you’re building out an external BMS system. In a EcoFlow system, pretty much everything but your solar panels are going to need to be from EcoFlow. Another example is Victron’s Venus OS which powers their GX devices like the Cerbo GX which is an absolutely brilliant device for controlling and monitoring Victron gear. But, it also works with 3rd-party stuff like SeeLevel tank monitor and Ruuvitag sensors. The open ecosystem allows you to add some super cool functionality to your rig and this ecosystem continually grows to become increasingly vibrant over time. Victron also regularly updates firmware for all their devices – generally through Bluetooth and their VictronConnect app. Some who use Victron equipment might say it’s too often! But, these upgrades often come with new features and functionality that are completely free!
High Cost of Adding Battery Storage
Later in the post, in the cost comparison section, you’ll see that the example Victron system starts with more battery storage capacity than the 5kWh EcoFlow kit (over 40% more) and if you wanted, you could quite easily add a third, 280Ah (3,696 kWh) SOK battery for $1,149 at today’s prices (even less than that if ordered in our bundle) which comes out to about $.31/kWh or storage. Compare that to an EcoFlow 5kWh (technically 5,120) battery that is selling for $4,600 today which is well over twice the cost per kWh of storage at around $.89. This goes back to the advantage of modularity and not being locked into a closed ecosystem of products. This is an example of how being “stuck” in a closed ecosystem can be expensive.
DC Output Limits – Not Great for DC Air Condition
The DC output to the AC/DC distribution panel is limited to 1,000 watts (75 amps when set to 12-volt mode). This isn’t much of a limitation in most cases. But, if you’re in Florida (or similar), and want to run a 12-volt DC air conditioner it becomes a major limitation. Many of these DC air conditioners use around 55-60 amps when running on high (check out our comparison sheet). So, if you are running your AC unit on high, you’re only left with around 15 amps for ALL of your 12-volt loads such as refrigerators, water pumps, Maxxfans, etc. which just isn’t enough leftover juice to use a few of those things simultaneously with a DC air conditioner. Also, there isn’t a simple way to wire up the heavy-gauge wire (like 4 AWG) from the AC unit to the EcoFlow AC/DC distribution panel. You can “hack” the wiring in a few ways but, at this time, you can’t get any more juice.
The EcoFlow Power Kits have plenty of 120-volt AC power to run a more traditional rooftop unit but if you look closely at the specifications of those they typically use about twice as much power as a 12-volt DC air conditioners. So, if you want to stay cool off-grid, you’d likely need to pay for extra batteries which are, as we’ve already noted, very expensive. The workaround is to use a 48-volt air conditioner with the EcoFlow that connects directly to the 48-volt battery “bus” but you’ll still have to fight with the proprietary connectors on the EcoFlow Power Hub/battery.
No Secondary Alternator for You
We are big fans of getting the most out of your vehicle engine. Since you’re driving around anyway, why not get massive power from a dedicated secondary alternator or heat your water while you cruise down the road? With a Victron system, you can integrate secondary alternator charging into your system with ease and no limitations. EcoFlow Power Kits have an integrated DC-DC charger similar to the Victron Orion XS units. The input labeled for “alternator” is rated for up to 60 amps and allows for up to 1600 watts. In our example Victron system we show 2x Orion XS DC-DC chargers running in parallel for a maximum charge of 100 amps (1,320 watts).
A Nations secondary alternator system with a Wakespeed regulator can charge at over 3,000 watts (!) at normal engine RPMs as you can see from the graphic below that compares Nations 12-volt alternator with their 48-volt version. That’s nearly double what you would get from the “standard” DC-DC charger setup charging from your vehicle alternator with either the EcoFlow or the Victron setup. By the way, the general guideline for charging from your vehicle alternator is to limit the charging current to less than 50% of the alternator’s rating – for instance, if the alternator is rated for 220 amps, you’d want to limit the DC-DC alternator charging to around 100 amps. This is to prevent the early demise of your alternator. So, a secondary alternator is like having a generator running anytime you’re driving at the cost of a small impact on your fuel efficiency – something similar to other belt-driven stuff in your engine like an AC.
Importantly, if you price out our Victron-based secondary alternator power system bundle, at today’s pricing, it’s about $2,800 more than the internal BMS bundle we’re using for the price comparison in this post. This is primarily due to the premium Victron batteries and the accompanying external BMS (Lynx Smart BMS) PLUS the actual Nations alternator kit and Wakespeed regulator.
On the EcoFlow Power Kits, it’s possible to wire additional alternators/output to “solar input 2” or “solar input 3” but those are limited to 30 amps each and only the first input (labeled for alternator charging) can have its input current adjusted in the app. Using all 3x inputs on the EcoFlow kit would yield around 120 amps or around 1600 watts at 12-volts. Of course, using all the solar inputs for DC charging would prevent you from having solar charging. If you happen to have higher voltage chargers, maybe the power could be increased up to 1600 watts per input at higher voltages since the inputs allow 13-60 volts. If this sounds complicated, we agree! It certainly starts to erode that easy-to-use simplicity of the EcoFlow system.
So, what’s the issue with wiring up a Nations alternator to an EcoFlow Power Kit? Basically, there is no point/benefit! It’s an expensive, 280 amp alternator paired with a Wakespeed regulator that outputs over 200 amps at most RPMs but the EcoFlow Power Kit “inputs” are limited to 60 or 30 amps. So, you could, technically, configure the Wakespeed regulator as if it were charging a standard 12-volt lithium battery and limit the maximum charging current to 60 amps but it’s considerably cheaper and easier to just pull 60 amps from your vehicle batttery/alternator! Limiting the current output of a high-current alternator seems silly indeed. And, even if you were willing to forfeit solar charging, we don’t know of a way that we’re aware of to “split” the Nations alternator output across the 1x, 60 amp, and 2x, 30 amp inputs while respecting those current limitations to each port and what would happen if it didn’t work exactly right? Would your entire Power Hub be destroyed?
There are other, even more technical issues such as what kind of charge profile would you configure on a Wakespeed regulator for something that is actually a DC-DC charger input and not a battery? Would it have to behave as if it’s in “bulk” phase always so that there is never a current drop?
Here again, the Victron system that seems complicated on the surface is, in reality, a lot easier and massively more reliable in this context. We’ve done the work to figure it all out and published it on our blog. We’ve also installed many of these systems and have high confidence in them. As far as cost, our Victron/Nations/Wakespeed secondary alternator bundle with a lot more battery storage (8,712 kWh vs 5,120) and all the benefits of a proper secondary alternator system is “only” about $1,000 more expensive.
Keeping in mind, that we’re not comparing apples to apples. Well, maybe we’re comparing different kinds of apples? Anyway, fruit aside, we tried to come up with a comparable system using high-quality, value-priced batteries like these 280Ah SOK batteries and a bunch of Victron Energy equipment. The best way to do this is through one of our many discounted bundles where we can offer you the very best pricing and help you gather up compatible components. And, unlike buying from Amazon or elsewhere, we are here to help you through your installation journey. Trust us, many people learn the hard way that Alexa isn’t very helpful when it comes to electrical system troubleshooting.
1) Start with a Discounted Bundle for Primary Components
So, we started with our “internal BMS bundle” which simply means that the batteries have a Battery Management System (BMS) integrated into each battery (internal). In some cases, externalizing the BMS which is then shared by ALL the batteries in your system makes sense. For instance, a secondary alternator system where the charging rates are massive.
Here’s a video of how we configured it:
By the way, we have free example wiring diagrams that pair up with all our discounted bundles to help guide you, or a professional installer. We refer to them as example wiring diagrams quite intentionally. There are so many ways to accomplish the same thing, safely and effectively that there is no single way to approach a power system. However, they are a great, totally free, starting point. This is the example wiring diagram (with 2x batteries instead of 3x as shown in the example diagram) we’ll be using for our pricing comparison.
2) Accessory Bundle
The “discounted bundles” are designed to get you the primary components needed but not things like shore power inlets, load centers, fusing, wires, etc. While the primary components tend to be pretty aligned by “architecture” (internal BMS vs. external, etc.), these “accessories” are more universal and vary much more based on the nature of your system and particular installation requirements. Thus, we cooked up an “accessory bundle” (welcome to better names, please help!). So, step two for our price comparison was to configure the “accessory bundle” to follow the example wiring diagram for our internal BMS bundle.
Here’s a video of that configuration.
3) Fiddly Bits
Between these two bundles, you’ll have everything you need outside of the “expendables” like lugs, heat shrink, wire management, a few beers, etc. For that, we have this spreadsheet for some recommended stuff that is frankly, too small and fiddly to be in our store.
The total for those two bundles, at the time we’re writing this post is $5,281. You’re probably going to need about $100 in “fiddly bits” (lugs, heat shrink, wire management, etc.). So, let’s round the grand total up to $5,400.
Lower Pricing for Victron Energy Equipment
One pretty incredible thing to be aware of is that, at the time of this writing (early 2024), Victron Energy has had two consecutive quarterly price reductions across their product catalog. Yes, you read that right… their pricing went down – twice – in six months! Every single other vendor in our store has either held steady or increased prices. But, Victron is a special company that manages their supply chain incredibly well and has decided to pass on the savings they’ve earned with their efficiencies to their customers.
Bottom Line on Cost
The 5kWh EcoFlow “Independence” Power Kit, at the time of this writing, is selling for around $7,300. So, the Victron-based system would be about $1,900 less expensive which, as we point out earlier, is very likely enough to hire an experienced professional installer to wire up your Victron system to overcome the limitations of the EcoFlow in this post. You’ll also benefit from an additional 2,272 kWh (172Ah) of battery storage with the Victron system which is pretty substantial.
What About the Future
We fully expect the EcoFlow products to get better over time and we’ll certainly be keeping an eye on them. You never know, perhaps we’ll rekindle the flame one day assuming this honest hot-take doesn’t burn any bridges. We hope not! We’re always looking for the most awesome stuff for camper vans and RVs. So, if new stuff comes to light, we’ll keep ya posted.
Interested in 48-Volt Power Systems
If so, check out this blog post that details a Victron Energy-based 48-volt secondary alternator electrical system that is truly massive!