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Old 02-14-2018, 10:55 AM   #1
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Fixed vs Portable solar panels

I've read the many posts about adding solar panels to the roof of our AI's and upgrading the controller to a MPPT to solve boondocking battery issues.

Have any of you considered the option of doing portable solar panels instead of fixing additional panels to your roof?

Thanks

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Old 02-14-2018, 10:59 AM   #2
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I would worry about the security of portable panels.
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Old 02-14-2018, 10:59 AM   #3
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I have both. 100w on roof and 160w portable...since I camp mostly under tree cover, I need to have the capability to chase the sun spots.
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Old 02-14-2018, 11:55 AM   #4
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One of the nice things about class Bs is the ability to move on quickly which can be adversely impacted by having to set up portable solar panels (not to mention how much of our precious stowage space they consume). But the ability to tilt a portable solar panel can significantly increase it’s effectiveness in winter or early/late in the day and could low for a small portable panel to out perform significantly larger roof top panels.
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Old 02-14-2018, 12:48 PM   #5
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Storing these would be an issue... I can see the need, when boon-docking, to be able to seek the sun...

For those with roof racks, this would be easier... you can make it so that they are mounted on the roof for when under direct sunlight, and remove/relocated with an extension cord when parking under the shade... that way there are no storage concerns...

Just thinking out loud
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Old 02-14-2018, 01:09 PM   #6
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I have the Zamp 120w portable and like them a lot. Plug and play, very easy and handy since the newer Airstreams come prewired at the tongue for them and this saves having to drill potential leak holes in the roof to mount permanent panels.I only bring them when I know I'll need them for boondocking, which is infrequent for me. They fold into their own built in suitcase-type container for easy transport. Portable setup is less expensive, too.
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Old 02-14-2018, 01:33 PM   #7
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Portable solar panel plug in point 2017 AI

Where does the portable solar panel plug into? I am very interested information from anyone with a 2017 AI with only the one 100w solar panel on the roof.
A portable flexible (roll up panel) would be a great addition for me. I find myself starting the generator in the morning just to bring the batteries back up from 50%. The ability to place and tilt the panel would be great.
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Old 02-14-2018, 02:01 PM   #8
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Pez Vela, sorry I was talking about a trailer not and Interstate coach.
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Old 02-14-2018, 02:24 PM   #9
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Quote:
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Pez Vela, sorry I was talking about a trailer not and Interstate coach.
And that's the fly in the Chardonnay with respect to adding a "solar suitcase" to the Interstate. First you would need to rig up some sort of connector/adapter to the existing panel(s) on the roof. This wouldn't be too difficult (could be done with a MC4 Y cable and a length of cable that you could run from the roof to the suitcase), but then you're still stuck with the craptastic Atkinson solar charge controller that comes standard on our rigs.

I've said it before, and I'll keep saying it: The single biggest positive change you can make to the Interstate with respect to the charging sources is to replace the OEM-provided Atkinson solar charge controller with something better. I did this to mine for $175 all-in, and it made a HUGE difference.
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Old 02-14-2018, 04:01 PM   #10
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Have any of you considered the option of doing portable solar panels instead of fixing additional panels to your roof?

Mark
I added 200 Watts of portable without disturbing the existing solar. I ran 10AWG wires from the terminals on one of the AGM batteries to a connector beside the rear hitch. I plug the output from the new controller into that connector. The controller goes to two flexible 100W solar panels in parallel. I use a ladder to put the panels on the roof behind the AC while parked. They are stuck down with suction cups so they don't blow away. They can also be placed on the ground if desired. Just remember to take it down before driving away.

It's not highly optimized but it buys a good amount of time while boon-docking. It's simple and can be upgraded easily.
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Old 02-14-2018, 05:00 PM   #11
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Note to longer-term subforum participants... Mister B and Mr. B are two different users, two different Interstate owners. I had me a proper head-scratchin' moment there, before I figured this out.
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Old 02-14-2018, 05:58 PM   #12
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I appreciate all of your replies and suggestions.

I was planning on doing something similar to what lovetowander posted.

The Zamp panels I am considering have their own controller so I will bypass the Atkinson and the fixed roof system and wire a plug n play harness directly to the airstreams batteries. I then can plug the wires that come from the Zamp panels into that harness.

I plan to set them up on the ground and move them to track the path of the sun.

As for storage, the panels when folded will fit behind the 2nd row drivers side captains chair.
We currently rotate that seat 90 degrees to the right and pull it as far forward as possible to store camping chairs. We'll need to relocate those chairs somewhere else. We've even toyed with the idea of taking one or both of the second row seats out. That will be a project for later.

We're currently snowbirding it and enjoying the warmth and sun of the desert southwest.

Since we're doing a lot of boondocking out here on BLM land, we're going to upgrade our solar capabilities next week.
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Old 02-14-2018, 07:03 PM   #13
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If they really have their own controller there is no need to wire them into the battery. Just get a cigarette lighter adapter and plug it into the exterior 12v outlet.
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Old 02-14-2018, 07:16 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by LoveToWander View Post
I added 200 Watts of portable without disturbing the existing solar. I ran 10AWG wires from the terminals on one of the AGM batteries to a connector beside the rear hitch. I plug the output from the new controller into that connector. The controller goes to two flexible 100W solar panels in parallel. I use a ladder to put the panels on the roof behind the AC while parked. They are stuck down with suction cups so they don't blow away. They can also be placed on the ground if desired. Just remember to take it down before driving away.

It's not highly optimized but it buys a good amount of time while boon-docking. It's simple and can be upgraded easily.
This sounds like a great solution. Could you please post some photos of your setup?

Thanks,
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