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Old 04-23-2014, 10:56 PM   #1
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Add more solar panels, or not?

No dumb questions, right? So.....

Wondering if, when we're in Jackson Center in July, we should upgrade our solar.

Talked to AS in Ohio today. It sounds like they can probably remove our 50w solar panel, and replace it with a 100w panel.

I'm not sure how much difference this will really make, whether or not we'd even notice, and whether it's worth it or not. Dang, I forgot to ask how much that would cost.

Anybody upgraded their solar? If so, to how many watts? And what was the great benefit to doing so?
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Old 04-24-2014, 12:15 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by weirdstuff View Post
No dumb questions, right? So.....

Wondering if, when we're in Jackson Center in July, we should upgrade our solar.

Talked to AS in Ohio today. It sounds like they can probably remove our 50w solar panel, and replace it with a 100w panel.

I'm not sure how much difference this will really make, whether or not we'd even notice, and whether it's worth it or not. Dang, I forgot to ask how much that would cost.

Anybody upgraded their solar? If so, to how many watts? And what was the great benefit to doing so?
The answer to your question can only be from you.

What all do you want the solar to do?

That then dictates how many watts of charging power you would need.

Also, keep in mind that the maximum output depends on the position of the sun. When the sun is directly overhead, then the output is at maximum. When the sun is say 25 or 30 degrees off directly overhead, then the output can considerably drop to less than half.

Many things today can operate in 12 volts DC, so forget a coffee pot or toaster.

Solar panels can be ganged, so there is no need what-so-ever for you to trade yours in for a larger capacity panel.

Should you decide to go past 100 watts, then make sure you add a regulator to the system. That prevents overcharging the batteries.

The formula is W=EI

W=watts
E=volts yours will be 12 volts DC
I= current in amperes

Make sure the panels are properly mounted so that they don't shake when traveling. If they shake, the aluminum will quickly fatigue and crack. Then you have a very expensive problem to fix.

Andy
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Old 04-24-2014, 12:24 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by weirdstuff View Post
No dumb questions, right? So.....

Wondering if, when we're in Jackson Center in July, we should upgrade our solar.

Talked to AS in Ohio today. It sounds like they can probably remove our 50w solar panel, and replace it with a 100w panel.

I'm not sure how much difference this will really make, whether or not we'd even notice, and whether it's worth it or not. Dang, I forgot to ask how much that would cost.

Anybody upgraded their solar? If so, to how many watts? And what was the great benefit to doing so?
I should have added that having 3 panels side by side is the best for consistant output. Have one in the center of the roof and one on each side of it, so they are at an angle. Park the trailer so the sun crosses the roof from one side to the other.

In that way, the output will almost be the same as the sun moves accross the roof.

The output will of course drop should clouds appear.

The sun is what the goal is.

Parking in the shade, kills the deal, as one of out customers learned.

Andy
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Old 04-24-2014, 01:47 AM   #4
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There are a few of us here that upgraded (Boxter71 for one). I replaced my 50 watt panel with two 100 watt panels from AM Solar and it was the best upgrade I made. I leave my fridge running 24/7 and it keeps the house batteries fully charged. When I go dry camping, I can watch TV till 2 am, and the batteries would be 100% charged by 9 am. I haven't upgraded my solar charge controller yet, but it's highly recommended. Many here use AM Solar panels and their Signature Pro 25/6 Core System. http://www.amsolar.com/home/amr/page...6pro_core.html
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Old 04-24-2014, 05:10 AM   #5
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It all depends on your use if your very conservative 50watts is good to keep batteries full when stored,and will extend time until your batteries are low,when in use ,I have a 60 watt panel on a cabin and it's fine for running 1-3 light for 4 hours at nights and during the day charging cell phones ,laptops, shaver,small t.v.,but on cloudy days it's not enough , so to upgrade to 100watt would be a good thing ,the more power you have the more you tend to use it's a good thing to have more then you use as your batteries will last longer, the other thing not sure if any charge controllers out there are capable of doing this like my home charge controller is ,, when batteries are fully charged and it's in the float mode the charge controller on my home solar energizes a relay that sends power to my hot water tank then when voltage drops on batteries charge controller disables hot water tank relay and charges batteries and when fully charged the cycle repeats, and this way when charge controller fully charges batteries and in float mode the solar panel energy is not wasted. I would do lots of research before doing any upgrades as from my knowledge rv solar is poor ,batteries are not true deep cycle,(90% are not deep cycle if you see cold cranking amps rating it's not a real deep cycle battery)charge controllers are not mppt charge controllers, wiring is not made for larger solar panel setup,some cases solar panel wiring is not u.v. Type wiring , best thing is go on a home solar web site forums like midnite solar forums learn your stuff then you can select your components that are right for you.

Don
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Old 04-24-2014, 06:14 AM   #6
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You can find a very informative thread on AI solar upgrades here: http://www.airforums.com/forums/f240...es-111952.html
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Old 04-24-2014, 08:42 AM   #7
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If you want to get your house batteries fully charged without having to plug into shore power you will need more than just added solar panels. You will also need a good three-stage solar controller. The stock system from Airstream can only get your batteries fully charged if you plug-in.

Read the thread suggested by Lewster and also search this forum for "solar". There are lots of discussions on solar options.

I upgraded my Interstate with 400 watts of AM Solar panels and their Signature Pro 25/6 Core System. This includes upgrading to 6 gauge wire and a Blue Sky Solar Boost 2512iX-HV MPPT controller. I did the install myself and spent about $3,000 on the pieces needed to complete upgrade.

My next step will be adding battery capacity. I want to be able to boon-dock for a week without have to run generator unless I need air-conditioning.
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Old 04-24-2014, 08:53 AM   #8
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Thanks everyone for info.. I will research more.

We would be having Airstream in Ohio do the work, if we do it. They were the ones that told me there might not be enough space on the roof to ADD panels, and suggested that we could REPLACE ours with the 100w panel.

I think the biggest benefit for us, would be that, when we're dry camping, we'd be able to watch a video, have lights on, and not be as concerned about running down the battery.

Our storage facility is indoors, so, the panels wouldn't help keep batteries charged while stored.

Thanks again....more research to do.
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Old 04-24-2014, 10:15 AM   #9
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The #10 wire roughed in by the factory for a solar installation is just barely adequate for the two 53 watt panels in the factory installation. I measured the distances involved and there would be voltage drop on a 31' long trailer using the factory wires on the factory installation. To preclude voltage drop in DC circuits over distance, the wire size has to get larger.

We used size 2-0 from our eight 100 watt AM solar panel connection box on the roof to the Tri-Star 60 MPPT solar charge controller. We used that same size to the batteries. The factory converter was replaced with a Magnum MS-2800 pure sine wave converter/inverter.

Images of our installation:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/ofvz8cxfflpoc6o/IW1az8J_7U
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Old 04-24-2014, 04:31 PM   #10
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If you do decide to do it at Jackson Center, make sure that either the existing wiring is adequate or that they will upgrade it to handle the additional current.
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Old 04-24-2014, 05:13 PM   #11
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<snip>

We used size 2-0 from our eight 100 watt AM solar panel connection box on the roof to the Tri-Star 60 MPPT solar charge controller. We used that same size to the batteries. The factory converter was replaced with a Magnum MS-2800 pure sine wave converter/inverter.

<snip>
800 watts and 2/0 wire!! Are you charging up your Tesla tow vehicle, or what?!?

I thought I was going heavy with (2) 100 Watt panels and 4awg!
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Old 04-24-2014, 05:22 PM   #12
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I haven't up-sized my solar; it's still the Jackson Center original. It's adequate to keep my house batteries fully charged in storage. Near the Gulf Coast in my apartment complex parking lot where there's no shade to speak of, 50w is enough to keep up with the few parasitic drains that can't be shut off.

I don't consider my Interstate to be much of a boondocking vehicle, so I'm not trying to squeeze every amp-hour I can out of the system. And besides, I'd much rather park in full shade when I'm using mine than park in the sun where the solar panel can get its daily dose of Vitamin D.

As long as the batteries don't run down too far to start the generator for a recharge, I'm good.
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Old 04-24-2014, 07:01 PM   #13
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800 watts and 2/0 wire!! Are you charging up your Tesla tow vehicle, or what?!?

I thought I was going heavy with (2) 100 Watt panels and 4awg!
2/0 IS a bit heavy, but surely doesn't hurt anything! The more the merrier, as they say!!!!. We use 2 AWG for an 800 watt system. That's what AM Solar recommends for not more than 2% voltage drop (the maximum that we tolerate) in the solar charge lines, so switz' voyage drop will probably be under 1%.

We generally use 2/0 for the battery-to-inverter circuits on runs of 5 feet or less. Anything longer than that we go with 4/0, per Magnum spec's.

And by the way, it's a Magnum MS-2812 inverter/charger, not a converter/inverter.
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Old 04-24-2014, 08:47 PM   #14
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2/0 IS a bit heavy, but surely doesn't hurt anything! The more the merrier, as they say!!!!.
Absolutely. I have no doubt that if you figured out what your panels cost, in dollars per kWh over their life, and then figured the incremental cost of heavier wire in terms of dollars per kWh, the wire would be a much better deal than the panels.

Here's a well-known (in utility circles, at least) article from almost 30 years ago that explores the concept of paying more for efficiency as opposed to paying more for generation: "Saving Gigabucks with Negawatts" by Amory Lovins
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