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Old 11-07-2019, 09:24 AM   #1
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2014 Interstate Ext. Coach
Cedar Rapids , Iowa
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Revisit on solar panels and TPMS sensors please

My apologies for brining back topics that are already covered. It's getting very cold and it seems very early this year, but maybe it's just me wanting to spend more time out in the Interstate!

We purchased the Interstate to get away, but being small business owners sometimes prevents me from having the time to research and build upon my knowledge banks before asking. Hope some of you don't mind! Seems like the extra time I do have, I'd rather be tinkering around making something fit or fix something in it anyway! So thanks in advance as it helps to condense Q and A, at least for me.

So to the dirt... I'd like to "boondock" for a night or weekend on an acreage with no electricity or water at this point. I have friends and family that are close, so I could make things happen if need be, so to speak, but what's your thoughts on the solar panel/battery upgrades? I don't want to bust the bank at this point, but we only have the one solar panel which they should have almost forgotten about, in my opinion, with our 2014. Can we upgrade to 3-4 solar panels and have enough to make it through the night without running the generator? We used our Dyson heater which I assume draws a lot, but could I run it through most the night off solar on a good day without plugging in?

I can install electricity on the location but haven't decided if I want to sell it or keep it to stay on at this point, so what options do you think would work best? It doesn't make sense to dump tons into this coach as we'll probably upgrade to a newer model eventually. I'm not super into lithium yet, but maybe your input would change my mind. We have two new AGMs installed at this time.

Now, I will have the winter to research, but just want to see your thoughts with who has better solar and possibly batteries. There's a lot of talk about upgrading, but not much has been said after the fact. Are you happy, worth the money, can you stay out and about, how long, what do you use in the coach, etc.?...

And TPMS sensors.... anyone have recommendations for brands that worked well? I know the info is out there, just throw it at me if you would. I'm thinking of getting this done before totally putting it away for the season.

Thanks, hope you are still out and about unlike us! Not ready to separate for the season yet, but Mother Nature is winning this battle!!
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Old 11-07-2019, 09:35 AM   #2
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Wow, just my opinion but you are never going to find an electric heater that makes any sense to run of 12v batteries through an inverter. Your battery bank would be as large as your vehicle and you could never have enough solar to recharge a bank that big. Just think about a puny 600w heater, barely enough to heat anything, would take 50 amps DC. You would be better off with an electric blanket, then run your engine to warm up the vehicle in the morning. There are portable propane catalytic heaters that are safe and they work, I used to take one sailing with me in northern climates. But I would never go to sleep with one running.
Larry
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Old 11-07-2019, 11:29 AM   #3
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I am not familiar with the 2014... but don't you have a propane furnace? If so, use that. No need to turn on the generator for that. That is how we slept one night in Mississippi, but ours is a 2018.



On the TPMS, we have the TST TPMS 507 Series and it has been working great.


Link: https://tsttruck.com/507-series-6-rv...r-display.html
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Old 11-07-2019, 11:29 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hawk-ination View Post
. . . So to the dirt... I'd like to "boondock" for a night or weekend on an acreage with no electricity or water at this point. I have friends and family that are close, so I could make things happen if need be, so to speak, but what's your thoughts on the solar panel/battery upgrades? I don't want to bust the bank at this point, but we only have the one solar panel which they should have almost forgotten about, in my opinion, with our 2014. Can we upgrade to 3-4 solar panels and have enough to make it through the night without running the generator? We used our Dyson heater which I assume draws a lot, but could I run it through most the night off solar on a good day without plugging in?
Yes you can add more solar to help you boondock. But you should also replace the lousy solar controller installed by Airstream. It is little better than junk. I added four 100 watt solar panels and a BlueSky MPPT controller plus 440AH of battery power using four 6V Lifeline AGM batteries. I can run my refrigerator and make coffee with a K-cup maker without having to plug in.

But forget about using a portable electric heater, like your Dyson, unless you are plugged into shore power. Your Interstate has a good propane furnace that works. I use mine all the time when not on shore power.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hawk-ination View Post
. . . And TPMS sensors.... anyone have recommendations for brands that worked well? I know the info is out there, just throw it at me if you would. . .
I consider TPMS a must have. The only reason they are not installed by Mercedes on a 3500 Sprinter is because they are not required by US DOT due to a loop hole in the regulations that excludes vehicles over 10,000 lbs GVMR or with dual rear wheels. A truly stupid situation. I installed the TST brand TPMS after I got a inner dual flat on one of my first road trips.

https://tsttruck.com/

I won't own another vehicle without TPMS.
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Old 11-07-2019, 11:37 AM   #5
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Hi

Winter is not a good time for solar. The angle of the sun is low, that cuts panel output. The days are short, that limits hours of sun. In a lot of places (like right here right now) you get clouds and rain / snow on top of all that. The difference between all that and a sunny summer day in the southwest could be > 3:1 in terms of solar power generation. Not to say that solar is a bad idea, it's just not at its best heading into the winter.

As noted in several posts above, propane is a much better way to heat an RV than batteries.

Bob
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Old 11-07-2019, 11:39 AM   #6
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On the batteries... I added two more for a total of 4... AGM at this time. Ours is a Lounge (smaller fridge). Overnight using batteries have not been an issue. But we have not had the need to use it more than one night without hookups, so not really sure how long we could go on batteries and propane alone without the need of the generator. Others that have done this, will sure chime in...
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Old 11-07-2019, 06:51 PM   #7
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So great info so far....
And drop the Dyson off the list... I knew it was an electricity hog, so lets take that off the table of options.

I hadn't ran the heater at all as it's been warm through October and then...well, the bottom dropped out. I turned it on but we got no manual or instructions with our Lounge so I am learning as we go, and I think I have done everything wrong with the thermostat that you can, as the AC blower kicked on with the heater...normal????... I'm guessing not, but don't know.
We just happen to like the air movement and remote temp options with the Dyson, but we were plugged in at the campground when we needed it, so it was no major deal. Not off the grid, we were on shore power.

I'm too tired to throw out brand names tonight but what brands did you put in for solar panels and controller. Why is the AS controller worthless, just curious...Thanks for the info so far.
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Old 11-07-2019, 07:07 PM   #8
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Oh, and ignore if I am being silly cause yeah, I didn't read about how the heater works either. Refer to top post...

Sounds like we should add two more batteries, an easier addition since we sell them. I think that's just a battery box addition and a couple cables. Maybe you should start a supply store for all these parts you have added on Wachuko! It would be a no-brainer for the rest of us!

And yes Mike, agreed on the TPMS. I wish they were more durable though. The add on versions must be better than some of the OE sensors as I haven't seen one complaint about them but hear many from certain customers, but it seems to run in certain brands over others.

Snow and clouds are certainly a big consideration as you said Bob, and that I'm sure can be an issue at times.

I'm thinking of starting off slowly so I'm not looking to add the full AM Solar package at this time. (Ok, I would love to but my pocketbook might not like it.). Would be happy to have a cup of coffee and not freeze my toes off while enjoying the scenery for a day, so your advice is great so far.
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Old 11-07-2019, 08:17 PM   #9
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Bend , Oregon
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Hello ~

AC starting up, when youíre trying to run the thermostat...

Itís likely you were plugged in to shore power? Or your inverter was inadvertently turned on perhaps.

iirc, the 2014 unit had a finicky thermostat aft, which sometimes blasted AC when I was looking for heat (when plugged in to AC).

Advice: unplug van, turn off inverter, set to heat (furnace), set temp, turn to manual or auto. Change out your smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector batteries ...

Will heat up the van effectively. In fact, Iím in Ohio today getting ready to fall asleep to the furnace at this moment.
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Old 11-07-2019, 09:21 PM   #10
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Indianola , Iowa
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I installed this Victron mppt on our 2013 lounge we bought last May:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075NPQHQK/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_ZWnXDbTND4MSW

We donít really sit in one spot for more than a night so alternator charging was more important than solar. For that purpose, I installed a sterling 60 amp dc to dc charger that I bought from Battleborn when I bought the 2 lifepo4 battleborn batteries. Battleborn recommended that for the size of battery bank I bought. I only have the 50 watt solar panel that airstream put on it from the factory, but I plan to swap that out with a 100w panel from Renogy using the same brackets (hopefully). I donít know that itís worth adding more at this point.
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Old 11-07-2019, 11:45 PM   #11
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Interesting concept with the alternator idea. Will look into that too.
Another question I could look up the answer on, but why change the theme of the day. Is the Victron plug and play basically?

Thanks for speaking up on the AC/heat control. It causes me fits. I've tried to watch videos and they hit the button and walk away...I'm sitting here lost and frustrated as can be because it's not working right!

Would have loved a chapter in the manual titled "Airstream for Dummies" or something with all the little tricks of what doesn't work when something is out of line. I think that's been the biggest learning curve on it. On a positive note, it does teach you to take a breath and go look for more information instead of panicking! I have to admit to failing at that concept at times.
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Old 11-08-2019, 12:03 AM   #12
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Just looked up the TST system. That's a no-brainer and thanks for the bump on it. Must have.
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Old 11-08-2019, 06:22 AM   #13
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After 35,000 miles and more than 500 nights in our Interstate here are some thoughts:

TPMS: I have had terrible luck with the TST 507 flow through sensors. FOUR of them have failed. Once, a sensor stopped permitting anything more than 56lbs of air to be in the tire. Others simply stopped working, even though fresh batteries were tried. Several have exhibited severe physical wear after vibrating/rubbing on the openings in the Alcoa rims... to the point of leaving the inner air stem exposed along one side. I think the extra weight of the flow through sensor is a source of these problems. I tried replacing a couple of them but they keep failing so I will eventually switch to the cap style and forget about the flow through feature. I've tried over inflating my tires to compensate for running 10,500 lbs all the time on average but the ride suffers so I'm now running 62lbs cold (60 degrees) because the tires are your first line of defense in soaking up road irregularities. Still recommend TPMS, just not these.

Solar: I added 200W from AM Solar and did it myself. Highly recommend this total of 300W or better yet 400W. Also replaced the controller with Victron and did it myself to $ave. Must do.

Batteries: I like NateAllen80's solution the best but I have not gone lithium yet. For now, I upgraded AGMs to 220Ah and then I doubled that capacity by running my Goal Zero Yeti 3000 as a auxiliary and backup battery solution. I keep it under the lip of the sofa, which we always have in the down position. Thread on that story is here: http://www.airforums.com/forums/f240...-a-177828.html I would like to remove the microwave that we only use for storage and put the Yeti in there but my client (wife) has not approved that weight saving step.
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Old 11-08-2019, 07:45 AM   #14
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Interesting concept with the alternator idea. Will look into that too.
Another question I could look up the answer on, but why change the theme of the day. Is the Victron plug and play basically?
The Victron is pretty much plug and play, but your solar monitor in the upper cabinet won't work any longer. The bluetooth functionality in the Victron unit I purchased (and some of the other models also have built in bluetooth or a dongle you can purchase) let you use the Victron Connect app to both program the charge cycles and monitor your solar stats. There are cheaper options that still allow use of the data cable and to replace the existing solar monitor in the cabinet with a different model, so if that is important to you check into a Renogy or Epever with the paired solar monitor. I wanted the custom charge profiles the Victron was able to provide for with use of the app, so I went that route and am very satisfied.
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Old 11-08-2019, 07:53 AM   #15
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There is no right answer for needed solar wattage and battery capacity. It depends on how you use the coach. We are on the go nearly every day, providing several hours of Sprinter alternator charging. I upgraded to 200W of solar with a Blue Sky MPPT controller, and still have the two Group 24 Lifeline AGM batteries. The above works for us - even with the stock BIM. My next step would be to upgrade to a Blue Sea ACR to replace the BIM. I have no doubt that the Bleu Sea is better, but we have been able to get by without it.


But if you plan to stay in the same place day after day (ie no Sprinter alternator) then the above will not work. You'd need to plan on running the generator for a while (an hour?) in the morning to get most of the bulk charging done, then (hopefully) let the sun bring them to 100% (absorption and float charge).
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Old 11-08-2019, 08:37 AM   #16
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Hi

Victron has been making power gizmos for boats / off grid homes / RV's for a long time. They have a lot of experience and seem to have worked out "what not to do". They make good stuff, but they do indeed charge for it. One might argue that "you get what you pay for".

Is every single thing they make ideal? nope. Are there no problems ever with any of their stuff? nope. Is it all suitable for use in an RV? nope. That said, the stuff normally talked about ( MPPT solar, BMV 712, Multi 2000 / 3000 ) all seem to work well in an RV.

Bob
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Old 11-08-2019, 10:10 AM   #17
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We changed over to 2 Battleborn Lithium Ion batteries and use a portable 160 Zamp and can run like that with heat for days. Boondocking is awfully fun and freeing. Best to you,
Jay
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Old 11-08-2019, 10:38 AM   #18
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Look at a Goal Zero 3000. It will run your fridge and freezer overnight. If you have a generator, you could recharge it with a supercharger within a few hours, or if the sun is out, you could recharge it with SEVERAL 200 watt panels. I have found alternative uses for my 3000. When not in the Airstream, I keep it at my house and charge it with some panels in my back yard. I use it to charge all of my Makita and Milwaukee batteries which I use to provide some lighting for my house. I also have an ECHO electric mower that is powered by lithium batteries. The 3000 provides plenty of power for the ECHO batteries eliminating gas, gas tanks, oil, spark plugs, and reduces noise and pollution. And as there are no fluids to leak out, the ECHO can be stored on end thus reducing space in my garage. Other uses for the 3000- I recently powered a slow cooker for 6.5 hours with no problem. Tomorrow night, I'm part of a large art show in Atlanta at I.D.E.A. Gallery and Gallery 4945. The space that we're in is older and does not have a lot of plugs on the wall. I'll be using the 3000 to light part of the show. Use propane for heat. @coasttocoastphotoatl
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Old 11-08-2019, 04:14 PM   #19
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https://www.amazon.com/Heater-Big-Bu...-garden&sr=1-4

This would work well with propane.
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Old 11-08-2019, 05:46 PM   #20
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. . . Several have exhibited severe physical wear after vibrating/rubbing on the openings in the Alcoa rims... to the point of leaving the inner air stem exposed along one side. I think the extra weight of the flow through sensor is a source of these problems. . .
Sounds like you have the sensors attached to the stock OEM inner tire plastic valve stem extensions. If you do that is a scenario for a flat tire.

Add-on TPMS sensors must be mounted on metal valve stems. If they are on rubber valve stems the weight of the sensor will cause the valve stem to fail and result in a flat tire.

For the Sprinter with Alcoa wheels you need to use one of the Dually valve setups.
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