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Old 11-21-2015, 07:14 AM   #1
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Best bang for your buck

I have not taken delivery of my new AS yet but I am thinking of ways to be self sufficient when it comes to electricity. I will be buying a generator first and I am considering a solar system in the long term but is there anything else I could do in the mean time. Would a 4 stage converter/ charger , different inverter or different batteries make sense. Whatever I do now I do not want to do over again when I decide to install solar panel.
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Old 11-21-2015, 08:05 AM   #2
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Just my perception of the common consensus

It seems like people feel that a generator is the best bang for the buck over solar, and a lot easier than installing solar. Of course the generator would be more handy on rainy cloudy days.

The problem I hear about from some that have solar is that they didn't add enough batteries. They say that around midday the batteries get to full charge while the sun is still beating down. I would suggest a bank of AGM batts that don't need to be vented.

As for me, I think I would want a portable solar system, so that I could park in the shade. If your staying out for long periods, you have time for a little extra set up time. Also a portable system could be aimed at the sun better than installed solar panels. Also….I cringed at the thought of making holes in my roof.

As far as doing it right the first time. I would suggest getting an MPPT controller that allowed for expansion, such as an additional solar panel, additional battery, or wind turbine.

BUT….I admit that the installed systems are way cool and less set up.

The longest I stay out is 2 weeks, at an annual event. We share a Honda 3000. I hate picking it up, carrying the gas, and the noise. To me the ultimate would be a Honda 2000, 200 watts of solar, a wind turbine and 4 AGM batts. Which is what I will do when I win the lottery.ha ha
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Old 11-21-2015, 08:11 AM   #3
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Excellent advice. He knows from experience.
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Old 11-21-2015, 08:19 AM   #4
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Since the OP is considering upgrades, one might consider a Magnum MSH 3012 converter/charger as a replacement for the "battery baker special" usually installed by Airstream. It is fully programable and will handle all types of batteries.
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Old 11-21-2015, 09:46 AM   #5
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Yeah honestly , some of my experience is thru osmosis.

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Originally Posted by avionstream View Post
Excellent advice. He knows from experience.
I've run with a camping club, some 200 strong, for 15 years, about 10 outings a year. We've tried it all, seen a lot of " interesting " experiments, a lot of failures, and a lot of success.

My mother once said " You don't have to be smart, but it's good to know who is smart "
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Old 11-21-2015, 09:56 AM   #6
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You will get lots of suggestions. My two cents is to wait and see how you use your camper and decide what you need. You have mentioned the areas of upgrading for self sufficiency. How much you want to upgrade will determine the answer to your question.

I went basic on solar- a system quite capable of charging two systems batteries. Went with Renogy Systems. I bought a solar controller that would allow a second battery bank in the future but that is doubtful. My needs are met with a two battery system and the recharge rate is acceptable. Your needs may be different. Same with a generator. I wanted something mainly to operate the AC, not power every possible need. Bang for buck generator is better than solar. Get an LP conversion generator.So far it has been great. I did upgrade my tow vehicle. I don't get better mpg- same, but it I have over twice the torque. Upgrading the converter is important depending on what they are putting in now. Mine had one that I simply used the upgrade kit from the company. It has an override that I can switch the stage to what I want as well- of course what you will need depends on how you will be camping
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Old 11-21-2015, 10:18 AM   #7
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We can't use solar efficiently....has something to do with where we camp.




You might consider this....

Ck your converter specs, you may already have a 3 stage, some of the AS's have them. If not definitely up-grade.
.....I would recommend the largest,(grp27), Lifeline AGM's that will fit.



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Old 11-21-2015, 10:35 AM   #8
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Quote:
The problem I hear about from some that have solar is that they didn't add enough batteries. They say that around midday the batteries get to full charge while the sun is still beating down. I would suggest a bank of AGM batts that don't need to be vented.

As for me, I think I would want a portable solar system, so that I could park in the shade. If your staying out for long periods, you have time for a little extra set up time. Also a portable system could be aimed at the sun better than installed solar panels. Also….I cringed at the thought of making holes in my roof.
True. The formula for solar is tricky. The efficiency loss is great regardless of controller type and it is just plain expensive. Basically mine is 300 watts to charge the equivalent of one battery that gives me up to 1000 +- watt hours of use AFTER subtracting for charge loss and inverter loss. That takes a day to charge back or 5 hours. My usage chart was around 750 watt hours liberal use (at most). My actual usage comes in around half that amount so I COULD go maybe two days or so on one charge per se. They told me that they figure for 2-2-5 days on a system.

As far as portable, that is what many write-ups say. Park under the trees and your two grand roof system is all but useless. The suitcases are popular for at least some charge.
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Old 11-21-2015, 11:37 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mandolindave View Post
It seems like people feel that a generator is the best bang for the buck over solar, and a lot easier than installing solar. Of course the generator would be more handy on rainy cloudy days.

The problem I hear about from some that have solar is that they didn't add enough batteries. They say that around midday the batteries get to full charge while the sun is still beating down. I would suggest a bank of AGM batts that don't need to be vented.

As for me, I think I would want a portable solar system, so that I could park in the shade. If your staying out for long periods, you have time for a little extra set up time. Also a portable system could be aimed at the sun better than installed solar panels. Also….I cringed at the thought of making holes in my roof.

As far as doing it right the first time. I would suggest getting an MPPT controller that allowed for expansion, such as an additional solar panel, additional battery, or wind turbine.

BUT….I admit that the installed systems are way cool and less set up.

The longest I stay out is 2 weeks, at an annual event. We share a Honda 3000. I hate picking it up, carrying the gas, and the noise. To me the ultimate would be a Honda 2000, 200 watts of solar, a wind turbine and 4 AGM batts. Which is what I will do when I win the lottery.ha ha
Yup. This is my current situation, bad battery bank and too small. We have 405 watts on the roof. I think what I like about the solar is just the ease. No setting it up and no listening to it hum. I like the fact that it just starts working when the sun comes up.

We do have a Honda eu2000i generator. New they cost about 1/2 of the total cost I spent on solar. If you kept track of gas, I think that could cost just about as much as solar after a year of use. If you were full timing and using it regularly. A weekend camper might not see that for a long time.

Another thing, the generator has to be maintained (obviously). I just recently had to change the spark plug and oil in mine. So there is that cost, but it's still relatively minimal.

I would certainly suggest replacing the converter. Solar can be an expensive endeavour, but doesn't have to be. And should be determined based on your use.

I'm working on installing a lithium battery bank next week in Yuma of about 400 amp hours. It's pricey but there are additional benefits.

I guess it boils down to how you want to use your Airstream, camping style, what your preferences are. No right or wrong answers really.
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Old 11-21-2015, 12:10 PM   #10
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Batteries seem to be the weak link in many arenas

Not just the number of batts, but in the past, the performance was not up to par with a lot of the other components. Even NASA had some complaints about the performance of batteries.

The lithium batts sound like a leap forward. Just as far as my trailer is concerned….I had an easy time finding places to mount and hide my AGMs. The lithium unit that I saw in a photo of appeared to be a little harder to mount and hide. Although it looked so cool that you might not need to hide it.

As I recall there were some other issues I read about. ( are they 24 volts ?)

Hope to see some photos of them installed.
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Old 11-21-2015, 12:14 PM   #11
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Just did some looking about

AM Solar has lithium batts that look like and are sized like a conventional car batt.

The one I spoke of was a very nice looking wall mount unit
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Old 11-21-2015, 12:52 PM   #12
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We have the factory-installed solar with two Group 24 AGM batteries. It actually works very well most of the time, the weak link is the battery storage capacity. As mentioned, in good sun fully charged by noon, so we don't need more solar capacity as much as we need more battery capacity.

I like the idea of Lithium batteries but it also requires an expensive charging system and then "might-as-well" have better solar panels and so forth. Our next upgrade will probably be two Group 27 AGM batteries and continue with good power management practices. We have to look at cost vs actual benefit, rather than "which one is best" in all things Airstream and tow vehicles.
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Old 11-21-2015, 01:07 PM   #13
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Best bang for your buck:

1. Add solar, Renology panels are good value.

2 DIY and use the existing pre-wiring.

3 Get a battery monitor or make sure to include this option with your solar controller. It's important to know your consumption and battery state.

4 Don't upgrade your batteries until you understand your energy needs.

5 Don't bother upgrading your converter even if it's only a single stage battery charger since you'll be disconnecting the charger from the batteries when connected to shore power or when in long term storage anyway.
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Old 11-21-2015, 01:22 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mandolindave View Post

As I recall there were some other issues I read about. ( are they 24 volts ?)

AM Solar has lithium batts that look like and are sized like a conventional car batt.
They're not 24V, some come in that. And most of the issues have been resolved in newer generation chemistries.

AMSolar's batteries are actually 3.2v cell's that they sandwich together to make 12.8v. The 4 cell's end up being the size of a regular group 24 battery. So their 400aH kit is rather big in size, even though you can arrange the cells however you want.

Other companies sell 200aH and even 300aH cells that are already at 12v like Elite Power Solutions.

Lots of options.

Quote:
Originally Posted by alano View Post
Best bang for your buck:

1. Add solar, Renology panels are good value.

2 DIY and use the existing pre-wiring.

3 Get a battery monitor or make sure to include this option with your solar controller. It's important to know your consumption and battery state.

4 Don't upgrade your batteries until you understand your energy needs.

5 Don't bother upgrading your converter even if it's only a single stage battery charger since you'll be disconnecting the charger from the batteries when connected to shore power or when in long term storage anyway.
This is a good suggestion. I have a friend camping here in Mojave with me and he has 300 amps of Renology on the roof and a 100-watt suitcase portable from them.

So our setups are similar, and I'm only really seeing a few more amps than him. We've been comparing. I seem to have better efficiency in low light, but he does just the same during the afternoon.

Honestly, it has made me rethink that. I'd recommend that route too as best bang for buck.

I like to play around with stuff, but I do like to do so reasonably.
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