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Old 05-07-2016, 06:12 PM   #1
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When was the 50 watt solar panel upgraded to 100 W

We have a 214.5 model AI. Not sure which solar panel we have. Either way, it has not been an issue for us as we don't usually park without shore power. We have boondocked for three days without a problem by using the gen set twice a day for a couple of hours, and the unit is stored plugged in. Just curious as to when the solar upgrade was made.
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Old 05-07-2016, 06:55 PM   #2
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If you need to use the genset twice per day for a couple of hours when you boondock then something is not working properly with your solar setup. I'd check with your dealer or find a qualified RV solar person to look at your setup.
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Old 05-07-2016, 07:24 PM   #3
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When was the 50 watt solar panel upgraded to 100 W

On a sunny day under full sun, a 50 watt panel should give you up to 3 amps as displayed on the solar display. A100 watt panel will give you maybe 5 amps.


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Old 05-07-2016, 08:04 PM   #4
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In my part of the country, E Tenn, my 50 watt panel max'd out at 2.6amps. I replaced it a 100 watt panel that hits 5.6 amps. No battery issues in storage yet.....except that the shunt controller it came with (Atkinson) makes the battery drain down before it will kick in to charge. Not a problem if I have several days of sun, but if I get a string of rainy days it will struggle. In process of adding a new controller and 2 more panels......and changing batteries.
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Old 05-07-2016, 08:30 PM   #5
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In my part of the country, E Tenn, my 50 watt panel max'd out at 2.6amps. I replaced it a 100 watt panel that hits 5.6 amps. No battery issues in storage yet.....except that the shunt controller it came with (Atkinson) makes the battery drain down before it will kick in to charge. Not a problem if I have several days of sun, but if I get a string of rainy days it will struggle. In process of adding a new controller and 2 more panels......and changing batteries.
The standard controller is designed to kick in at 12.3 volts or thereabouts, and this shows on the display as 80%. I suspect they may all have this behaviour.
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Old 05-07-2016, 09:09 PM   #6
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Busb2 you have the 50W solar panel. 2015 was the 1st for 100W.
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Old 05-07-2016, 09:38 PM   #7
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If you need to use the genset twice per day for a couple of hours when you boondock then something is not working properly with your solar setup. I'd check with your dealer or find a qualified RV solar person to look at your setup.
Actually, that's about typical for a stock Airstream Interstate that hasn't received an aftermarket solar upgrade.

Airstream Interstates have a lot of energy hogs on board that will suck down the house batteries. MILATV (I think, but my memory might be faulty) did an empirical study of his usage while boondocking, and determined that his batteries would run down to a 50% charge state in about 18 hours while boondocking, not even a full day. The newer the Interstate, the more energy-using appliances are installed, and the shorter the time between recharges because the stock house battery bank is always two Group 24 batteries.

The two Group 24 house batteries only have a total 160 to 170 amp-hours, of which you can use 80-85 before hitting 50% discharge.

A stock 50w or 100w solar panel on an Interstate is not adequate to the task of replacing 80 amp-hours a day, so it's inevitable that you'd have to run the generator at least once a day.

And since the generator is electric-start and requires the house batteries retain enough power (cold cranking amps) to even start the generator, running the generator twice a day is actually a wise move, in my opinion. It ensures that the batteries never get too low to start the generator; which would end your boondocking trip entirely.
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Old 05-08-2016, 07:20 AM   #8
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Actually, that's about typical for a stock Airstream Interstate that hasn't received an aftermarket solar upgrade.
Protagonist, that's pretty pathetic! What you've got is basically a trickle charger to top off the batteries while in storage.

I guess I'm spoiled with 540 watts on our roof (soon to be 740.) We hit 35 amps-in all the time (note I have a TT with a bit more real estate on the roof than have the Interstates.)
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Old 05-08-2016, 07:28 AM   #9
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Protagonist, that's pretty pathetic! What you've got is basically a trickle charger to top off the batteries while in storage.
Exactly! And when I bought mine, that's really all I expected from the solar panel. But I didn't buy my Interstate for boondocking, and the lack of adequate solar capacity for boondocking didn't bother me.
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Old 05-08-2016, 08:49 AM   #10
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AnnArborBob, do you have any pics of your install? What brand and model panels did you use? I would like to install something similar. I am concerned that too many panels will look odd.
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Old 05-08-2016, 08:59 AM   #11
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To UKDUDE...the shunt controller will not take a battery to full charge. It reaches a set point and shuts down, whereas the PWM and MPPT controllers will not stop charging until the battery is full....as long as there is sun available. I am sure the LEWSTER can provide a more accurate and detailed response...he is the master in this subject.
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Old 05-08-2016, 09:10 AM   #12
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The Atkinson controller should go the way of the Parallax converters supplied in the trailers........ THE GARBAGE BIN!!!!!!

I simple swap out to a Morningstar 10 or 15 amp basic solar charge controller will greatly improve your system's performance and WILL provide for proper 3-stage battery charging.

It's really a no brainier!!!! You can even add Morningstar's remote monitor if you like.


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Old 05-08-2016, 09:49 AM   #13
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To UKDUDE...the shunt controller will not take a battery to full charge. It reaches a set point and shuts down, whereas the PWM and MPPT controllers will not stop charging until the battery is full....as long as there is sun available. I am sure the LEWSTER can provide a more accurate and detailed response...he is the master in this subject.

Yes, I fully agree with you and Lew that the Atkinson/Sunexplorer controller is less than perfect, but better than nothing for us boondockers. Mine will take the charge up to about 95% before shutting down which is definitely not optimal practice to maintain the batteries. A 3 stage controller is best.


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Old 05-08-2016, 12:27 PM   #14
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AnnArborBob, do you have any pics of your install? What brand and model panels did you use? I would like to install something similar. I am concerned that too many panels will look odd.
Here are two pictures of our current installation. We will be getting two additional panels in another week or so. They are Grape Solar panels provided by AM Solar. (BTW, these were installed by LEWSTER.)
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