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Old 07-31-2017, 04:01 PM   #1
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2017 Interstate Grand Tour Ext
Houston , Texas
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Our (reluctant) DIY Solar Upgrade

We are not enthusiastic DIY people. But we've been unable to find a turn-key solar upgrade by an experienced provider, not too far from home, and in an acceptable time period. So we are reluctantly embarking on our own upgrade of our 2017 AI GT. We'll be following the excellent plan described by McRider in this post:

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f240...ml#post1949787

Our basic scope is add 2 more 100w solar panels (total 3), MPPT solar controller, and 2 more (total 4) AGM batteries. Today I fired off the initial procurement orders, and plan to start work in the next few days. We'll add the PV panels and solar controller first. In a later job we'll add the battery cage and batteries, probably paying a shop to do that part.

I'll keep a record of our work, and post a consolidated reference document at the end of the job. It looks like the first phase (PV + controller) will run about $1500 in parts, including some tools I donít have.

Roof Panels

Go Power! (GP-FLEX-100E) 100W Flexible Mono Crystalline Solar Expansion Kit
http://amzn.to/2vZ8xsq
2 x $488.35

Make-2-Fit PL 7817 Screen Frame Kit, 3/8 in. x 3/4 in. x 60-Inch, Aluminum Frame & Plastic Corners, Mill Finish, Pack of 1 Kit
http://amzn.to/2uRklMY
2 x $23.92

3M VHB Tape RP45 Gray, 3/4"x 36 yd. 45 mil
http://amzn.to/2hhxImo
$29.28

Solar Panel Cable 6 Ft - Mc4 Pv Extension- 10awg - 600vdc - Sunlight Resistant
http://amzn.to/2uOsnIc
$12.68

Solar Panel Cable 10 Ft - Mc4 Pv Extension- 10awg - 600vdc - Sunlight Resistant
http://amzn.to/2uNWjUE
$14.99

Solar Controller

Victron BlueSolar 100/30 MPPT Charge Controller - 30 Amps / 100 Volts
http://amzn.to/2ud3Bho
$201.45

Victron VE.Direct Bluetooth Dongle
http://amzn.to/2uOgKkF
$59.90


Tools I didn't have

GreatNeck 58233 12 Inch Plastic Miter Box
http://amzn.to/2uOfttE
$10.70

Black & Decker WM125 Workmate 125 350-Pound Capacity Portable Work Bench
http://amzn.to/2hgZlMC
$28.68

Genesis GHG1500A Dual Temperature Heat Gun Kit, Grey
http://amzn.to/2vc4POf
$17.71
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Old 07-31-2017, 04:17 PM   #2
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Wow, good luck to you, and keep us posted!! That's quite a big commitment for a first project!

I recently had an off-forum Interstate owner tell me that theirs was finally complete. I don't know what their timing was exactly, but I know they tried to get Airstream to do the upgrade before their Interstate was delivered to them, and Airstream declined. Then they went looking for outside vendors and asked me some questions; I recommended Lewster, of course. I got a note about a week ago that the job had been completed by AM Solar, but the whole chain of inquiry started back in March, so it was perhaps somewhere around three to four month time frame, start to finish. And they got lithium as well, so that was a big job - reportedly, it took the crew five days to complete.

Look on the bright side - you are fixin' to save a boat-load of money on the installation with the DIY approach.
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Old 07-31-2017, 04:53 PM   #3
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Sounds like a great project. I own a 2017 GT as well and have been in the fact finding and planning stages of a similar upgrade so I am really looking forward to seeing and hearing about your project as it will be very relevant to my proposed upgrade(s).

Good luck!.

John
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Old 07-31-2017, 05:23 PM   #4
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Hi

One thing to consider: Running batteries in parallel isn't a perfect situation. The setup works much better if the batteries are matched to each other. The best way is by testing and sorting batteries. For most of us, the only practical way is to use batteries out of the same batch. Dropping two "new" batteries in with a pair that's a year or two old is not going to give you peak performance. How much degradation over "best case" can only be answered by a bunch of testing ....

Maybe a distant cousin is looking to buy some slightly used AGM's ...

Bob
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Old 07-31-2017, 05:31 PM   #5
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Check and see if the federal energy tax credit (30% of project cost) is still available. It applies to solar projects on RV's (or at least it did previously).
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Old 07-31-2017, 06:05 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by InterBlog View Post
Wow, good luck to you, and keep us posted!! That's quite a big commitment for a first project!
I wouldn't attempt it without McRider's plan and example.
... I got a note about a week ago that the job had been completed by AM Solar, but the whole chain of inquiry started back in March,
I looked at AM Solar; Oregon is too distant a site for us at present; didn't even try to find out far out they are scheduled. The other usual suspects (Lewster et. al.) are booked months out.
Look on the bright side - you are fixin' to save a boat-load of money on the installation with the DIY approach.
There is that. But at what psychological cost? I hate this stuff.
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Old 07-31-2017, 06:07 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by John_H View Post
... have been in the fact finding and planning stages of a similar upgrade so I am really looking forward to seeing and hearing about your project as it will be very relevant to my proposed upgrade(s). ...John
Be sure to review the PDF file in this post:
http://www.airforums.com/forums/f240...ml#post1949787
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Old 07-31-2017, 06:09 PM   #8
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...use batteries out of the same batch. Dropping two "new" batteries in with a pair that's a year or two old is not going to give you peak performance. ...
Bob
Our van is new in April of this year, and we haven't boondocked much. Existing should be close to new. If we fall a bit short of optimality, I can live with that.
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Old 07-31-2017, 06:16 PM   #9
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Check and see if the federal energy tax credit (30% of project cost) is still available. It applies to solar projects on RV's (or at least it did previously).
Great suggestion, thanks. I oppose all tax loopholes, except those that apply to me.
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Old 07-31-2017, 07:01 PM   #10
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Did you use go power panels to match existing? Perceived quality?

Those are quite expensive.
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Old 07-31-2017, 08:52 PM   #11
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Did you use go power panels to match existing? Perceived quality?

Those are quite expensive.
Yes, to match existing. I did not research alternatives because my goal is to maximize success and minimize effort. Cost is a secondary concern. I want to reduce variables and unknowns, since I really don't want to do the project myself in the first place.
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Old 07-31-2017, 11:21 PM   #12
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How are you fabricating your battery cables? You need the right tools for that. And right size cabling to go with it.

I hope you know this can be quite a dangerous DIY project. The currents involved are horrendous and shorts can be catastrophic. So please be safe. Ask questions if you have any and we can answer but as noted, this is not a starter project by any means, as excellent as that pdf doc is.
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Old 08-01-2017, 07:21 AM   #13
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How are you fabricating your battery cables? You need the right tools for that. And right size cabling to go with it.

I hope you know this can be quite a dangerous DIY project. The currents involved are horrendous and shorts can be catastrophic. So please be safe. Ask questions if you have any and we can answer but as noted, this is not a starter project by any means, as excellent as that pdf doc is.
Good advice, certainly. I plan to delegate the battery upgrade to a local RV or marine shop if I can assure myself of their competence.

As far as the other elements, I am using existing wiring and following the design and steps McRider has already proven to work.
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Old 08-01-2017, 07:32 AM   #14
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Our van is new in April of this year, and we haven't boondocked much. Existing should be close to new. If we fall a bit short of optimality, I can live with that.
Hi

I'd suggest doing the battery "add on" sooner rather than later. Yes, this is a massive project. No, you can't do everything first. I just would not push the batteries out into next year.

Bob
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