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Old 03-18-2014, 09:49 AM   #15
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I bought a 80 watt folding solar panel off eBay (search "folding solar panel") for about half of what it costs from the source you listed.

The solar controller is rated high enough to be able to handle the additional amperage of these panels, so I tied into the same line as the roof panels and ran a low voltage two way plug to the rear bumper. I simply plug them in for additional power when I need it while boon-docking. Works great.

I probably will eventually upgrade to a better controller some day, though.

Gerald

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Hi All,

I finally bit the bullet and ordered a 2014.5 Airstream Interstate after pining over one for over a year. I'm planning on doing a lot of camping off the grid and was thinking of purchasing some portable solar panels to help keep the electricity flowing. I'm visiting one park in Big Bend that won't allow generator use so I thought solar panels would be a good alternative.

I was considering Goal Zero panel setup as seen here: Advanced Emergency Preparedness - Goal Zero’s RV & Trailer 12v Battery Rechargers - Advanced Emergency Preparedness

OR a Zamp Portable setup as shown here:
Portable Solar Systems | Zamp Solar

Has anybody tried this or have thoughts on how it'll work? Where exactly would I connect the panels? I'm not sure where the coach battery is located or how accessible it is. Do you have any thoughts on the above manufacturers or alternatives?

Thanks for your feedback. I can't wait to get on the road.

Michael
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Old 03-18-2014, 09:41 PM   #16
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Thank you all. It does seem like it's possible to do. It looks like I need to do some more research into the types of batteries used in the coach. Does anyone know if they are AGM? The GoSolar and Zamp system both have their own controllers and it seems like putting a quick connect is pretty simple to do.
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Old 03-18-2014, 10:04 PM   #17
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Based upon what I was told that mine were AGM and what others have said on this forum, yours are probably AGM.
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Old 03-18-2014, 10:13 PM   #18
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Many controllers on the panels have adjustable settings for battery type. So you should be OK no matter what kind of batteries you have.
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Old 03-19-2014, 05:54 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by migriffin View Post
Thank you all. It does seem like it's possible to do. It looks like I need to do some more research into the types of batteries used in the coach. Does anyone know if they are AGM? The GoSolar and Zamp system both have their own controllers and it seems like putting a quick connect is pretty simple to do.
Since you're talking (writing) about a 2014.5 Airstream Interstate, the coach batteries are definitely two Group 24 AGMs. Depending on the brand, about 85 amp-hours each, plus or minus a few. Factory rooftop solar panel is a dinky 50w panel, good enough to keep the batteries topped up while in storage, virtually worthless for boondocking.
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Old 03-20-2014, 04:10 PM   #20
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Protagonist...you have peaked my curiosity about using the external 12v outlet as a possible connect point for a portable solar array controller output. Logically, it seems like it would work without polarity modification, depending upon the current rating of that outlet/inlet. Any 12v electrical folks out there that could answer this one? It sure would be easier than drilling another hole in my battery box for the feed lead.
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Old 03-20-2014, 04:32 PM   #21
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Protagonist...you have peaked my curiosity about using the external 12v outlet as a possible connect point for a portable solar array controller output. Logically, it seems like it would work without polarity modification, depending upon the current rating of that outlet/inlet. Any 12v electrical folks out there that could answer this one? It sure would be easier than drilling another hole in my battery box for the feed lead.
As I said when I first mentioned the idea, I'm no expert. But I can think of three possible modifications you might have to make: Heavier wire gauge; larger fuse; blocking diode to prevent back-feeding when the sun goes down.
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Old 03-20-2014, 04:38 PM   #22
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Check the fuse for the circuit if it's a 10amp the wiring is good for up to 80% of fuse rating for constant use ! It can take short periods of more current to max of fuse rating the other thing from the solar plug you must check the polarity of the plug Center pin is positive this is the usual but some times when putting adapters to plug into a cigarette type plug the polarity gets reversed,the last thing is the solar panel should be fused because if the fuse blows in the rv all the wiring (in the rv )from the fuse to the plug is not protected if there are no fuses on solar panel, some have the fuse in the plug end that goes into a cigarette type plug socket. I charge my battery on my motorcycle through the power outlet with a solar panel in the winter in storage.
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Old 03-20-2014, 05:46 PM   #23
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We have 4 100 watt panels on top and we also have the Zamp 200 watt portable which we love. Sutton RV Service department installed a little plug for the portable to go directly into the battery - photo here:

More Solar - Aluminarium
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Old 03-20-2014, 06:04 PM   #24
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Protagonist...you have peaked my curiosity about using the external 12v outlet as a possible connect point for a portable solar array controller output. Logically, it seems like it would work without polarity modification, depending upon the current rating of that outlet/inlet. Any 12v electrical folks out there that could answer this one? It sure would be easier than drilling another hole in my battery box for the feed lead.

Might check with Jim Parrett at Airstream to z see what the outside outlet is rated for.
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Old 03-20-2014, 07:36 PM   #25
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All good points.....I think if I go portable Solar...I will have a plug installed. I still look ,with much interest, at the work lewster does........may have to bite the bullet and make a field trip to Oregon next year.
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Old 03-21-2014, 04:39 PM   #26
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scamp....The exterior 12V outlet is fused for 20 amp. Hmmmmm.... I still think I may install the ZAMP plug if I go the portable route. Just feel like I am tempting fate to try to use the 12v outlet.
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Old 03-25-2014, 04:10 AM   #27
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Wow your lucky 20amps ,like I said earlier ,if coming off the plug of the solar panel the Center is positive off the battery and fused ,you can't ask for better your using factory wiring on your rv and your well below 80 % of power output of the solar panel. I would do it ! That way you don't have to mess around with aftermarket plugs that could be inferior to the factory plug on your rv,like corrosion problems etc. remember watts=volts x amps when selecting your solar panel allow for aprox 15-20% more output from solar panel because they produce more power when they are cold called hyper voc .
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Old 04-10-2014, 09:31 AM   #28
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I decided to go to the horse's mouth about using the exterior 12 volt outlet as a connect point for portable charging with a panel(s) and controller arrangement. Just got a reply directy from Airstream....in a nutshell....NO. That outlet, while fused at 20 amps, is parallel to other items in that circuit. (The gray and black tank valves for instance.) I knew, going in, that the losses would probably be significant if I took this route. I would be "riding" the wiring to and through the coach fuse box and that would just make a bad situation worse. If I decide to use a portable system, I will attach directly to the battery. Actually, the more I think about this, the more I am leaning to just sucking it up and engaging AM Solar for this project in the future.
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