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Old 10-07-2019, 03:27 AM   #1
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Factory and Aftermarket Solar

Hello all,

If I buy a unit with the factory installed 2 solar panels, can I later add more solar panels from a different manufacturer? Is it better to get it without any factory preinstalled solar and then put the money into doing an installation yourself?

Lastly, are the preinstalled 2 panels enough or an expensive joke?

Thank you.
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Old 10-07-2019, 04:14 AM   #2
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How much is the factory package? What does it include? What do you need?
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Old 10-07-2019, 05:13 AM   #3
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And, "enough" for what? In my 2019 FC 26, they are enough to overnight on a cool evening using the stove fan, bathroom fan, some lights, and a CPAP machine on the inverter overnight. No TV, no streaming video on the laptop, no stereo.
Not enough for a cold night just using the propane furnace and it's electric fan all night. I need a separate battery for the CPAP.
So, for me, not enough, for thee? Depends on what kind of camper you are.
Postscript - I might have enough "solar" but what I really do not have enough of is battery capacity. For my particular camp style, I want about 3 times the current (pun) capacity.
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Old 10-07-2019, 05:48 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rumple View Post
If I buy a unit with the factory installed 2 solar panels, can I later add more solar panels from a different manufacturer?
Yes, this is what I did. On my 27’, I had the dealer add two additional panels. You will also want to replace the solar charge controller.

Quote:
Is it better to get it without any factory preinstalled solar and then put the money into doing an installation yourself?
It’s hard to respond to “better.” I think most people will tell you that you will get more solar “bang for the buck” if you skip the factory option and install yourself. This is my first trailer and I wanted something simple out of the gate that would meet my modest needs and be covered under some combination of Airstream and dealer warranty. It has done that (and more). The real test will be how long it is before I replace this system.

Quote:
Lastly, are the preinstalled 2 panels enough or an expensive joke?
As Acheron points out, “enough” will be different for everyone. I barely use my TV or stereo system and ran my inverter maybe 3-4 times in 100 days of travel this summer. I get the impression this is not typical, though perhaps people with that profile don’t post much on the forums . I ran a generator twice (maybe more, can’t remember).

I suspect if you are heavily dependent on electronics or appliances to enjoy your Airstream experience when not connected, you will find the factory solar inadequate. But as others point out, it’s a question of battery capacity, not necessarily solar energy production.

I think it’s easy to geek out over solar. I went the easy route (factory + extra) so I could geek out on other things that affect my Airstream experience a bit more directly. I’ve looked into a lithium bank and am following Pteck’s thread on affordable power through a Yeti lithium power pack; neither of them are at this point in time of interest to me but may be down the line.
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Old 10-07-2019, 05:53 AM   #5
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Huntsville Solar Works, LLC. I would order it "prewired for solar modules." This way you have the PV wire pre run from the roof to the battery box. And check on this to be sure how its routed, as we have installed some systems, where the manufacturer ran the 10 gauge wire from the roof to the back birth, and we had to attach to that and then continue the run to the battery bank, where we mounted the solar charge controller. On most of our Coach and RV installations we are able to use standard 60 cell modules 250 watt to 300 watt and we usually get 3 of them on the roof. This can supply up to 60 amps to the house battery bank. Lastly, it depends on how your house/coach batteries are set up i.e., capacity and what runs directly off the battery bank. For example, some coaches you can run the fridge off the batteries via an inverter. These customers come to us and want solar so they don't have to a) run the generator to charge b) keep emptying the fridge.
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Old 10-07-2019, 07:37 AM   #6
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The factory system will be a basic system using 90 watt panels from a Zamp Solar. You can get one or two panels from the factory for up to 180 watts of solar. This set up would indeed charge your batteries and allow for some flexibility in your time off grid, but it will not allow you to not be mindful of your power consumption. I have a 200 watt Renogy system installed on my trailer so I am speaking from experience. (We are moving up to 400 watts).

Also a HUGE consideration is your battery bank. There is no need to install a larger solar system to charge a small battery bank. Speed of charge is important<and I understand we all need to capture sun on not so sunny days but if you have over 200 watts of solar and only (2) group 27 batteries then you are going to be pushing a lot of solar to ground. And not into your batteries because they will be full.
During the day power is typically not a problem. It will be at night with a small battery bank when you get into trouble.
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Old 10-07-2019, 09:45 AM   #7
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The factory solar package would be inadequate for my needs. My last Airstream had 400W of solar and 230A of 6V golf cart batteries. A perfect balance and I basically had unlimited battery power for my otherwise stock Airstream. This can be self installed for about $1,500.

I installed 600W on my new Airstream because it fit on the roof. I still have the same two golf cart batteries. I now have excess solar capacity. But I don’t believe one can have too much solar. Too much solar helps charge your batteries under sub-optimal conditions like when you are parked under trees and only get a couple of hours of direct sunlight. Even with my excess solar, I’ve struggled to keep my batteries fully charged over the past few weeks. In the fall, sun angles are lower causing more shade. Also days in fall and winter tend to be more overcast. Too much solar is often a good thing.

I have mismatched panels on my new Airstream. I carefully selected the mismatched panels so the specs were close to my old panels. So far it appears to be working perfectly.

From my experience and usage, I would want 400W of solar ( 360W is good too ). I could not get by on 200W of solar. But I primarily dry camp and rarely use shore power or a generator. I typically use 80 to 100 Amphours of battery storage per day which can be sustained with 400W of solar capacity.
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Old 10-07-2019, 10:05 AM   #8
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note that 50% of rated capacity is very typical for solar.

number of hours of sun, shading, angle, time of year, series vs parallel etc are just of the factors. there are many factors.

but its best not to assume that you'll get on average no more than 50% of the rated capacity

ie 200w from a 400w solar set of panels is a likely best case
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Old 10-07-2019, 10:22 AM   #9
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I agree with what GMFL said. We have 200w on the roof + 160w suitcase to chase the sun when needed. We only have 2 Trojan T-105s which for us is all we require for the type of Boondocking we do (we're minimalist), In saying this we also carry a Champion 3400w generator which we can run on LP if we have a heavy power consumption requirement .. just saying
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Old 10-07-2019, 10:44 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by waninae39 View Post
note that 50% of rated capacity is very typical for solar.

number of hours of sun, shading, angle, time of year, series vs parallel etc are just of the factors. there are many factors.

but its best not to assume that you'll get on average no more than 50% of the rated capacity

ie 200w from a 400w solar set of panels is a likely best case
Agree 100%.

I typically say you will get Watt hours of between 1 times solar panel wattage and 4 times solar panel wattage in a single day. With the 180W stock solar array, that’s between 180Wh and 720Wh. Then to convert this to Amphours, I divide by 13.5. That means the factory 180W solar array is capable of producing between 13.3AH and 53.3AH per day. This is not enough to sustain my 80 to 100AH need.

400W of solar is capable of producing 29.6 to 118.5AH per day.

600W of solar is capable of producing 44.4 to 177.8AH per day.

Then I want my solar array to be able to fully replace my battery’s usable Amphours on a single good day of solar production. So I would double the high number of Amphours for each array as a typical wet-cell or AGM battery bank. 180W would work for a 100AH battery bank. (A stock Airstream with two batteries has 160AH so it’s inadequate). A 400W solar array would work for a 237AH battery bank (Adequate for stock Airstream or my 235AH battery bank). A 600W solar array would work for a 355AH battery bank ( I would say a 400AH battery bank is OK with 600W).

The reason for my above opinion is that if you can recharge your battery bank on a good day of solar, you can sustain a few bad days of solar production by using more battery Amphours than the solar is producing and know that the batteries will be fully recharged on the next good solar production day. This is what I have been doing over the past few weeks with tree shading and overcast conditions - running down the battery bank while waiting for a good solar production day to fully recharge my batteries.
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Old 10-07-2019, 12:10 PM   #11
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i would suggest skipping the factory install and get a system from AM Solar out of Oregon.
also get a robust inverter, and 2 6-volt AGM batteries.

you'll be very happy.
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Old 10-07-2019, 12:21 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by The Maverick View Post
Huntsville Solar Works, LLC. I would order it "prewired for solar modules." This way you have the PV wire pre run from the roof to the battery box. And check on this to be sure how its routed, as we have installed some systems, where the manufacturer ran the 10 gauge wire from the roof to the back birth, and we had to attach to that and then continue the run to the battery bank, where we mounted the solar charge controller. On most of our Coach and RV installations we are able to use standard 60 cell modules 250 watt to 300 watt and we usually get 3 of them on the roof. This can supply up to 60 amps to the house battery bank. Lastly, it depends on how your house/coach batteries are set up i.e., capacity and what runs directly off the battery bank. For example, some coaches you can run the fridge off the batteries via an inverter. These customers come to us and want solar so they don't have to a) run the generator to charge b) keep emptying the fridge.
60 Amps from 300 watts solar of power? Where can I buy one of those?
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Old 10-07-2019, 12:28 PM   #13
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Short Answer: Get all the same at the same time.


Long Answer: If you have the money to buy an AS, what's a few more $$$ to get what you want/need? Why cheap out now? Cough it up and get everything you want now or none at all.
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Old 10-07-2019, 02:56 PM   #14
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I agree with the recommendations for self-installed aftermarket solar. I put in a 340W AM Solar system with MPPT solar controller and battery monitor for about $1,400. After two years I am very happy with the performance. This system has met my battery recharging needs for over 100 days of off-the-grid camping (I'm rarely connected to shore power), and maintains 100% charge in storage so I can leave my batteries in year round in Albuquerque.
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Old 10-07-2019, 05:00 PM   #15
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Great Answers

Wow, some fantastic answers and information. Thank you everyone!
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Old 10-07-2019, 05:18 PM   #16
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Hi

Which trailer are we talking about? New or used?

AS makes trailers in a wide range of sizes. They also put a range of solar packages on those trailers. What they put on has changed over the years.

Bob
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Old 10-07-2019, 08:44 PM   #17
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i agree, if u can afford a new AS, the extra money for Lion, and solar is small chnage

if your are handy, like Red Green, then do it yourself.
not only will you get what you want, but you will better understand the system.

many with factory solar, dont know it works. thus when it doesn't work, they dont know what to do

my 2cents
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Old 10-08-2019, 04:44 AM   #18
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You can buy it for me : ). If you use (3) 60 cell modules i.e., 290 watt - 310 watt, wired in series using 10 gauge wire to the input of a Morningstar 60 ampere MPPT charge controller you will see up to 60 amps output to the battery bank. Generally, this would be around noon and it has to be a sunny day.
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Old 10-08-2019, 07:15 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by the maverick View Post
you can buy it from me : ). If you use (3) 60 cell modules i.e., 290 watt - 310 watt, wired in series using 10 gauge wire to the input of a morningstar 60 ampere mppt charge controller you will see up to 60 amperes output to the battery bank. Generally, this would be around noon and it has to be a sunny day.
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Old 10-08-2019, 08:10 AM   #20
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Great advice from all previous posts. IMO the best advice is to get a system to fit your needs, not anyone else's. We have the factory solar and 2 AGM batteries. We probably have 150 nights and 25,000 miles of use. To date, the factory solar has met our needs.

We don't rely excessively on electronic to date when we camp. Our trips have been a mix of full hookups and boondocking (probably a 60/40 split.). In full sun the factory solar keeps us going with no problem. Shade or rain would be a different story and a solar controller different than the factory would probably work better.

I used to carry a Honda EU2000 as a backup but rarely used it. I then got the Yeti Goal Zero 1000 as suggested by Pteck in his affordable / approachable lithium thread. I've only had to use it 2 times into the last 4 weeeks of a 2 month trip but it does everything Pteck says it will. It takes less room than the Honda and I don't have to carry a gas can.

From all I have read, you can get a better solar system than the factory solar $2,500 - $3,000 cost. However, to date it has met my needs.
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