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Old 04-25-2014, 11:31 AM   #15
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Just talked to Jim at AS in Ohio. He said that, on the Interstate, you could probably add another 50w panel on the front end of the roof, but that the roof slopes there, so you'd see the panel more.

Other option is to remove the existing 50w panel, and install a larger panel there. There is room for a larger panel, and he told me how much larger the dimensions could be. So, you'd just have to find a higher wattage panel that fits those dimensions.

I think we're just gonna leave the solar alone for now. When we go on our big trip, we'll have a better idea as to whether or not we really need/want to upgrade based on our actual travel habits.
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Old 04-25-2014, 11:50 AM   #16
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What were the dimensions Jim gave you for a potential replacement panel. I have not climbed up to measure just yet......getting lazy I guess.
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Old 04-25-2014, 12:00 PM   #17
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What were the dimensions Jim gave you for a potential replacement panel. I have not climbed up to measure just yet......getting lazy I guess.
He did not give exact dimensions, but told me that roughly, there's about 10" to spare in one direction, and about 12" to spare in the other direction.

Do NOT use this as exact info...just in case I wrote it down wrong or something. Please verify with him, or do your own measurements.

I think he said that the only stock panels they have are the 50w panels, and that if we did want a bigger panel installed, they'd have to order it for us.
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Old 04-25-2014, 04:50 PM   #18
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Weirdstuff,
I posted pictures of two 100 watt panels; one mounted in front and the other where the stock 50w panel was mounted. The front panel does not tilt much. Lots of good info from lots of knowledgable people here:
http://www.airforums.com/forums/1343814-post.html
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Old 04-25-2014, 06:55 PM   #19
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Weirdstuff,
I posted pictures of two 100 watt panels; one mounted in front and the other where the stock 50w panel was mounted. The front panel does not tilt much. Lots of good info from lots of knowledgable people here:
Parked Battery Life - Page 5 - Airstream Forums
David, thank you so much! That looks great. And all the info there about brand, and cost...super helpful.

Do I understand correctly, the following? When there's no sun, the house battery will still deplete (cloudy day, or evening/night time). And that the benefit of having more solar is that, when the sun comes back out, that it will charge the house battery more quickly. So I don't get more power, I just will get the ability to charge back up more quickly. Right?
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Old 04-25-2014, 08:01 PM   #20
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Of course you can always start the generator or the engine to charge the house batteries if you get too many cloudy days.
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Old 04-25-2014, 10:57 PM   #21
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Add more solar panels, or not?

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David, thank you so much! That looks great. And all the info there about brand, and cost...super helpful.



Do I understand correctly, the following? When there's no sun, the house battery will still deplete (cloudy day, or evening/night time). And that the benefit of having more solar is that, when the sun comes back out, that it will charge the house battery more quickly. So I don't get more power, I just will get the ability to charge back up more quickly. Right?

That's correct. I use my AI as a daily driver so I leave the fridge running 24/7. The factory 50w panel did not keep up with the demand, but the 200w panels keeps up with the fridge, all the parasitic draws, and keeps the batteries charged. Of course when it's overcast, the panels aren't nearly as effective, but they still put out almost as much as the 50w panel did on a sunny day. Fortunately, we haven't had many cloudy days in So Cal so I rarely have to plug into shore power, and the only time I run the generator is to keep it exercised. I might add a 3rd panel if I lived in Oregon, but it's rained on my Interstate maybe 4 times since I got it last April.
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Old 04-26-2014, 07:13 AM   #22
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Here are some solar panel sizes from AM Solar. We used eight of the GS100 panels and they fit between the Air Conditioners and the edge of our trailer roof and might work as well on the vans. The length includes the mounting brackets.

These High Efficiency Solar Panels turn Sunlight into Power for your RV Lifestyle

GS100 100 watts 20.70" x 44.175" 14.5 pounds

GS135 135 watts 21.02" x 60.500" 20.5 pounds

GO160 160 watts 26.00" x 61.375" 25.5 pounds

Note that they have a flexible solar panel unit in development.
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Old 04-26-2014, 10:19 AM   #23
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Just as a side note; I use the GS series exclusively on Airstreams as the narrow profile works best with the matching narrow curved dude profile if the roof.

I also use special talked feet on the outside edge to allow for a flat installation. And BTW, those dimensions are with mounting feet attached.
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Old 04-27-2014, 10:06 PM   #24
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The link below is to an old article on an Airstream Life Blog. It contains great practical information on why solar panels are a good solution.

http://airstreamlife.com/maze/2010/0...ry-of-the-sun/
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Old 04-28-2014, 06:27 AM   #25
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A very nice basic blog about battery charging and the benefits of solar.

To take it a bit further, if your batteries are depleted to, say, 50% depth of discharge (DoD)....they will read about 12.2VDC. Assuming that you have a quality multi-stage charging system like a Magnum inverter or good solar charge controller, here is what happens with your charging current.

Let's say that the capacity of your charger is 50 amps, and your battery bank is 300 amp/hours of Lifeline AGMs. At 50% DoD, you need 150 amp/hours of current to be provided to the batteries to bring them back to 100% charge. The charging system starts in bulk charge, where the current and voltage both increase up to the maximum capacity of the charger, which in our example is 50 amps and 14.2 VDC (assuming the temperature at the batteries is 77F).

Once this level is reached, the charger switches to absorption charge ( I like to call it taper charge, and you see why shortly). The voltage and amperage stay at the maximum level until the battery starts filling, and then an interesting thing happens: the voltage stays at 14.2 VDC but the charging amperage begins to drop or taper as the battery continues to fill. the charge amperage will continue to drop until the battery is almost full.

At this point, the charger goes into float charge, where the voltage now drops to the specified amount required by the battery manufacturer, which in our example is 13.2VDC and the current also drops to a minimal amount (usually between 1-5 amps). This charge phase keeps the batteries full and happy at between 12.8 and 13.2 VDC.

This is a very simplified version of 3-stage charging. There are actually 4 and 5 stage charging systems available (Magnum uses these) but this a basic example. All of the specifics are available as to required voltage per cell, actual charging times, etc. which are wholly dependent on the type and size of your battery bank and the age and condition of said battery bank.

Any questions?
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Old 04-28-2014, 01:31 PM   #26
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I think Ohio may not be the best place to get advice on maximizing with solar panels...Click image for larger version

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Old 04-28-2014, 01:44 PM   #27
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I think Ohio may not be the best place to get advice on maximizing with solar panels...Attachment 210806
Is that your rig? If so, more info please on what you've got going on and where you got it done!

Do you think AS Ohio just doesn't have lots of knowledge about solar in particular? Or is there another reason?
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Old 04-28-2014, 01:53 PM   #28
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I'm going to say: Do it. We love our solar system.

We just got back from a trip where we boondocked from Wednesday afternoon to Sunday morning. The camper worked so well that I forgot we didn't have shore power a couple times. We were running the furnace at night (temperatures down in the 40s each night), plus we had some rain, albeit in the evening hours mostly, so it didn't interfere with charging from our solar system. We were also using the water pump, including taking showers, and we used the fans during the days sometimes. Most of our commonly-used lights are LEDs.

I did run a generator twice, but both times it was to run the microwave. The batteries were already charged when I fired up the generator.

We have three 70 or 75 watt panels, but given their age, they're probably not producing more than 60 or 65 watts max. There is also a third battery, which I think isn't strictly necessary. There's also a giant inverter installed that will run everything but the A/C. This system was installed by the original owner, although I upgraded the solar charger to a three stage version.

I was saying to a friend that I have no idea how long our batteries would last for us before needing recharged, because every morning the sun comes up and starts charging them again. I guess I could wire up a switch to shut off the solar system, but I can't think of a good reason I'd need to do so normally.

My only gripe with the system was that we don't have enough 12 volt sockets to plug in phone chargers. In particular, there are none by the bed, where we usually keep our phones at night. I've ordered two off Amazon to rectify that oversight; I'll install them in the closets next to the bed and connect them to the wires for the lights that are already there.
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