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Old 11-25-2018, 01:15 PM   #1
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Interstate Battery & Solar Panel Upgrade

Hi all,

I'll appreciate your experienced thinking on this matter. I have a 2016 Interstate (OEM 100 W Solar and 2 House Batteries). I will be in Ohio in early February and am planning on an overnight stop at Airstream Jackson Center and having them upgrade my Interstate to the 2019 configuration, which is 300 W Solar and 4 house batteries.

I'm told this is an easy one-day effort. Wondering if others may have already made the this modification, and are you pleased with it? Was it worth it? Any problems/issues I should be aware of.

Many thanks to the community

PirateChris
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Old 11-25-2018, 02:46 PM   #2
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Welcome Aboard!! 👍

PC,

Don't rush...there are much better options outside of the JC offerings.
I'm sure other interstate owners will chime in. 👍

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We also have a "Pirate" on board...
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Old 11-25-2018, 04:06 PM   #3
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Personally, I would not have Airstream do any modifications to your rig. I have no idea what they charge, but I'm sure that you can gat a similar upgrade done with 300 watts of hard panels (not their soft ones that will actually wear out in a couple of years), a Victron solar controller (far superior to the little POS that Airstream uses) and better batteries for the same price that they will charge.

Something to look at for sure!
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Old 11-25-2018, 07:31 PM   #4
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Interstate Battery & Solar Panel Upgrade

Yup. Do your research first. Look at AMSolar. They sell kits and have excellent installers available as well.
Airstream charges way too much for their solar systems.

We did a kit from AMSolar a few years ago, self installed, with a single rigid 150 watt panel. Never have a problem keeping our batteries (2 GC-2 flooded lead acid) well charged.
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Old 11-25-2018, 09:02 PM   #5
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Regardless of who does it you need to make sure that the type of the solar panels match exactly. Also, you may run into issues putting two new batteries in with two 2016 batteries.
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Old 11-26-2018, 12:19 AM   #6
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You can have a competent retail operation that does batteries all day do a load test of your batteries if you are concerned about two new ones "matching" the OEM ones. But yeah it's best if they are all the same vintage.

Agree on going with fixed panels. I have one 100W flexible and I installed two 100W fixed panels from AM Solar myself. It was easy after watching their YouTube video on it. But I regret going with a Serial connection (I was nervous at first about too many amps going through the stock 10 gauge wire from the roof to the now Victron solar charge controller). With Serial, the whole array gets dragged down in output if you have a partial shadow, even a little one. I tested that myself by putting my hand on just one cell and watching the bluetooth readout on my phone.

I'm changing that to Parallel as soon as I can borrow a tall enough ladder. Should be an easy switch out using combiner Y connectors. With 300W I'm pretty sure I'll be safe with that 10 gauge wire, hopefully the only drawback is maybe I miss out on a couple % efficiency.

Definitely add battery capacity !! I also have a Grand Tour and even with upgraded 220Ah (110Ah usable) I barely have enough power for the 16 hours we need during an average dry camping overnight. Four batteries starts getting heavy but is probably your best bet unless you have the bucks for lithium and the extra stuff that goes with that.
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Old 11-26-2018, 07:54 AM   #7
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I went through this a couple of years ago. I wanted to put 400 watts (rigid panel) on the roof and add more AGM batteries...and new controller. While this would’ve met my immediate power needs, it felt like a “baby-step” towards my real goal.....extended boondocking.
I considered the amount of labor just to get that first step done, and what it might take to get “all the way”. Granted, lithium batteries aren’t cheap, but I would be so close to where I wanted to be anyway, so I took the plunge. Also gained the capability to use AC off batteries.
My system, all AM Solar supplied, was installed professionally (thank you Lew) and after 2 years I am convinced it was the best path for me. Performance has been flawless.
Good luck to you in your decision process!
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Old 11-26-2018, 02:21 PM   #8
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Solar conversion

Just completed a conversion to 400 W solar fixed panels, Victron 2400 watt inverter and 400 amp hour lithium. I used Lew Farber who spends half his time in SW Florida and half in Oregon. Haven't used it yet but am looking forward to boodocking. It should provide plenty of power for off the grid if we have sun and can also run the generator to charge the batteries. The lithiums are expensive but are much more capable and less prone to damage from over use. The Victron will actually shut down before we damage the batteries. There is a handy app which provides detailed stats on usage, charge etc.
We are going deep in the Everglades in January and will test them out.
Good luck!
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Old 11-27-2018, 10:17 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wildwilly. View Post
Just completed a conversion to 400 W solar fixed panels, Victron 2400 watt inverter and 400 amp hour lithium. I used Lew Farber who spends half his time in SW Florida and half in Oregon. Haven't used it yet but am looking forward to boodocking. It should provide plenty of power for off the grid if we have sun and can also run the generator to charge the batteries. The lithiums are expensive but are much more capable and less prone to damage from over use. The Victron will actually shut down before we damage the batteries. There is a handy app which provides detailed stats on usage, charge etc.
We are going deep in the Everglades in January and will test them out.
Good luck!
Would you mind sharing the cost? I have 2015 Ext Lounge. Thinking about upgrading whole system as controller versus battery issues going on now.
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Old 12-01-2018, 06:51 AM   #10
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Check AMSOLAR for pricing

They are very helpful and reasonably priced. The installation isn’t that hard if you want to do it yourself. Or get Lew to do a professional job. We removed the airstream solar panel and solar controller then installed victron. My only regret was investing more in magnum controller and AGS rather than going all victron. Doing it again I would go victron all the way. Their app is awesome. Magnum is way behind in this respect. Batteries are easy enough to hang underneath if you stick with AGM.
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Old 12-01-2018, 01:08 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Titus View Post
Regardless of who does it you need to make sure that the type of the solar panels match exactly. Also, you may run into issues putting two new batteries in with two 2016 batteries.
Last month I had my local AS dealer install second tray and a second set of batteries. While they were the same type, the were newer. I know this wasn't ideal but I am hopeful that the four batteries will last and perform for a good period of time.
I have the one solar panel that came with my Interstate. I believe I have room for two more in the aft part of the roof. I see no reason to get rid of the existing one which leads me to the conclusion of adding two more of the same flexible panels. I would wire them in parallel. There is always going to be some shading (yes, I know that there are a few days a year for a few minutes that the sun would be perpendicular - but even then I have an antenna which does shade the existing panel unless it is in the deployed (up) position).

My calculations tell me that the existing 10 ga. wire will be fine. As to the charge controller, I do want it to fit in the "box" I do not want it outside. So I calculated that a realistic maximum current of 18 amps. So to keep the size of the controller down my plan is to use the Victron 100/20.

My primary objective is to ensure that I have enough capacity to get through a night with the refrigerator-freezer and other phantom power drains.

I have no current (pun?) plans to change the inverter or other electronics.

I would appreciate any critical comments on what I've done and propose to do.

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Old 12-01-2018, 02:41 PM   #12
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Overall it sounds OK. If you add more panels upgrading to wire heavier than 10 ga would be a good idea. My 400 watt system has a 6 ga wire drop to controller as recommended by AM Solar. Also be aware that flexible solar panels only have about a 5 year lifespan before their efficiency drops off significantly. Glass panels are good for 25 years. What you use depends on how long you plan to use your coach.
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Old 12-01-2018, 03:55 PM   #13
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Actually, The flex solar panels have a dedicated life span of 5 years. Their actual life span is closer to 2 years TOPS! I have experimented with the soft panels quite a bit over the last 4 years or so and have found every type to be unsatisfactory. YMMV on this topic, but I would NOT use a flex panel for any installation that I am involved with.

On the Interstate vans, I remove all of them and replace with the 100 watt glass versions which last about 25 years. Huge difference!!!!!
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Old 12-01-2018, 10:22 PM   #14
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Right on Lew! I just can't believe Airstream puts those crap flexible solar panels on a van at their market topping price point. Goes along with the crap solar controller they use. What a rip off.
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