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Old 05-16-2012, 10:09 PM   #1
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solar installation questions

I just purchased a 1989, 32 ft, Excella and plan to use it exclusively off grid, and if possible with only solar, no gen set. I have read various submissions here and am a bit confused about what Airstream installed in this unit. Would this Airstream have a 600 watt inverter and any solar wiring installed at the factory? If not does it have anything, or do I start from scratch? I'd sure appreciate any comments and information. Thanks.
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Old 05-16-2012, 10:35 PM   #2
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"Inverter" or "Converter"? I'm not aware that the factory installed solar pre-wire that early, ane even if so, the consensus on the Forums is that the factory pre-wire is pretty light duty, and not up to handling a significant-sized solar panel array. It could easily be true that the factory installed a 50 amp converter, used when "on grid" or on "shore power" to charge batteries and run the 12 volt systems, which at 12 volts would be 600 watts ...

For the solar side of things, you will probably be best off starting from scratch unless it already has solar panels on the roof installed by the PO, a good charge controller, adequate wiring, a decent battery bank, etc.

And IF you have the original factory Univolt converter, it probably ought to be one of the first things to go in your "upgrade" plan. The ones from that vintage are single stage and would in all events probably cook your batteries to death if you ever were "on grid" for very long.

Congratulations and welcome to the Forums. You will get lots of advice here, all free, some of it worh something, some of it worth what you pay. There are lots of threads on solar installs, so do use the search function and do some reading. Some folks on here will tell you that you can't run your coach on solar panels. Well, despite the naysayers, many of us do run on solar, but you have to have some sun, and you have to take into account, the limitations of such systems.

My smaller coach spends most of it's time "off grid" or "boondocking" and I have not used my genset since installing a photovoltaic system (equipment supplied by AM Solar) and a larger battery bank. But my coach is smaller than yours, I run everything from 12 volt, and don't use an inverter (except for a couple of low-draw battery chargers that I occasionally run from a 300 watt inverter), have converted every fixture to LED lighting, and try to find cool sunny places to park the trailer. You can do it, but of course there are limitations. A good start is to go to the AM Solar website and read all of their "educational" materials. You'll likely learn a lot.

Keep reading, and good luck in your quest!
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Old 05-16-2012, 10:49 PM   #3
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I have read quite a lot in preparation for adding solar to my unit but it is much younger so there are many more informed than I to answer extended questions. I don't think your '89 Excella was pre-wired for solar, but you can research/confirm that by reading the literature on Airstream or contacting them.

If your behaviors limit electrical usage daily to a few items like lights and the parasitic draw of radio and monitoring boards then the small solar panel offerings from Airstream are adequate. However, much more than that and you'll need bigger wires than were installed and more wattage in the panels than Airstream offers.

Sizing your system is a structured, step-by step assessment and design process to be satisfactory for your lifestyle. It starts with an inventory of all your electrical components, expected/desired usage patterns, and a battery size/type evaluation. A spreadsheet is the best way to start.

I suggest visiting AM Solar's web site and reading their threads on designing a solar system.
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Old 05-17-2012, 06:36 AM   #4
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For an inverter: Stock, probably not. But someone could pay them (or someone else) to install one. I think JC did the installation on mine, because there's someone else on here with one that looks very similar. My guess is that if you're not sure, you probably don't have one.
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Old 05-17-2012, 06:54 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by complicated View Post
I just purchased a 1989, 32 ft, Excella and plan to use it exclusively off grid, and if possible with only solar, no gen set. I have read various submissions here and am a bit confused about what Airstream installed in this unit. Would this Airstream have a 600 watt inverter and any solar wiring installed at the factory? If not does it have anything, or do I start from scratch? I'd sure appreciate any comments and information. Thanks.
Best advise....contact "Lewster" here on the Forums, he'll answer all your questions.

Bob
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Old 05-18-2012, 12:37 AM   #6
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Many thanks to all who have posted and helped thus far. Much appreciated.
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Old 05-18-2012, 04:43 AM   #7
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Solar

I would recommend you do your own. We did and are very happy with it. What is important is good info. This site we found helpful.
The 12volt Side of Life (Part 1)
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