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Old 06-01-2015, 06:53 PM   #1
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2011 28' International
Cedar park , Texas
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Solar advice please

I have a 2011 Airstream International Serenity with factory installed solar.
There are two (52 watt?) panels installed on the roof. 2 group 24 glassmat batteries

I need your help. Looking at what we should do to prepare for full time travel. We will be traveling San Diego to Alaska so there are areas with limited sunlight. We will boondock along the way.

Do we upgrade our solar? Is my system expandable? Should we add to the system that is there with more panels and larger capacity batteries or new system all together?
Is it worth it if some areas we can not get the sunlight we need?
Just buy a generator instead?
I have been reading all different posts and it is confusing so far. Any help you have is much appreciated.

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Old 06-01-2015, 07:02 PM   #2
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To me it makes sense to buy a generator like the Honda 2000i. That will always supply you with power.

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Old 06-01-2015, 07:25 PM   #3
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The Airstream Solar package is of marginal capacity but if it were me, I would leave it alone and add a generator. Then when you travel you can see just how often you really need more power and have to run the generator. You may be OK as you are with what you have now, including the charge power from your tow vehicle while driving.

I don't know when Airstream went to LED lights, replacing the halogen ones they had used for quite a while. If you do not have LED lights you should spend some money replacing the halogens with LED's prior to your trip. They reduce your electrical draw for lighting by about 80%. A much better return on your investment than adding more solar at this point.

This is from a solar advocate who has been working with solar for 20 years and have it on both of my trailers.

Now, you may find that you really do need more solar capacity, but only a trip and your personal use of 12 volt power will tell you that.

Prior to the trip, you might also consider replacing the batteries with new ones. Unless they have been very well cared for, 4 year old AGM batteries may be on their last legs, and can be hard to find and expensive on the road. I don't generally recommend new batteries "just because" but in this case you might consider it.
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Old 06-01-2015, 08:23 PM   #4
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Old 06-01-2015, 09:10 PM   #5
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We travel about the country each year with the factory solar and leave our Honda 2000i at home so we don't have to mess with it or put up with the noise.

But it takes careful conservation when in repeated cloudy weather. Although advocates of "keeping it simple", I would recommend the same as idroba above. Get a Honda 2000i and gas can, put in LED lighting (some 2011's already have it) but use the smaller lamps as much as possible, and replace the probably worn Group 24 AGM batteries with new Lifeline Group 27 AGM batteries (they will fit turned fore/aft I have read) for very useful extra capacity.

There are some emerging very large solar, Lithium ion battery, and inverter systems coming along, extremely expensive. You might wait until they are less costly and possibly improved.

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Old 06-01-2015, 09:23 PM   #6
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Cedar park , Texas
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Thank you for all the responses so far.
-our 2011 has all led lights and the batteries seem to have been replaced recently. We got it used about 3 months ago. I didn't mention it earlier and probably not important for this thread but it is the international 28 model.
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Old 06-01-2015, 09:48 PM   #7
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A&M solar in oregon check the webb site, stop in on your way up the coast.
make an apointment, and let them sort it all out.
#1 2000 gen
#2 have bats load tested, (life line brand seem to be best) if you need to replace them
#3 replace 50w panels with 100w panels
pm me if you like, BTDT
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Old 06-01-2015, 09:58 PM   #8
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The factory prewires with #10 wire which is just adequate for their two 53 watt solar panels when that system is installed. Thus no expansion with the existing wiring and perhaps controller. The factory typically only energizes three AC power outlets from their 600 watt inverter in 2011 models. That is not enough power for a toaster, microwave or most hair dryers.

We elected to leave the factory solar option off our new 2014 Classic and install a more robust system after we got the trailer.

The battery technology is changing. What was the best choice in batteries for us (Lifeline model 6ct) in May 2014 we have just replaced with lithium iron phosphate batteries this year. Both sets of batteries were rated 12Vdc and 600 amp hours. The four Lifeline batteries weighed 372 pounds and one could use a maximum of 50% of their rated power. The lithium battery weighs 168 pounds and we can use at least 80%n of the rated power. The Lifelines were not inexpensive, but the lithium was three times more expensive as leading edge technology.

We rewired all the AC in the trailer so every outlet has the capability to run off the battery through a 2,800 watt Magnum MS-2812 converter.

Swapping all the trailer ceiling lights (even the exhaust fan light) for LEDs from a vendor like LED4RV will make your lighting load almost non-existent. The television might become the power hog! Run the water heater and refrigerator only on propane and your electrical requirements drop immensely.

Our experience with our 25FB with a single dealership installed 155v watt solar panel was we could not recharge the battery completely on a sunny day after the furnace operated during the night when on battery power only. Thus we ran a Honda 2000 a few hours every day to bring the stock battery to a full charge for the next night.

Enjoy the experimenting to find what works for you.
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Old 06-01-2015, 10:17 PM   #9
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Hi, my trailer does not have solar panels, but I do have a Yamaha 2400 generator; On our Alaska trip, a few years ago, I brought my generator with us. We were gone for 50 days and drove over 10,000 miles. In that time we never used our television and never used our generator. And I never used the extra five gallons of gas that we carried either.

I also have several battery powered LED puck lights.

After a partial melt down with one of my light fixtures, I changed all of my 1141 bulbs to LED's.

Note: we seldom boondock, but sometimes there is no other choice.


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