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Old 09-10-2010, 06:29 AM   #1
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Solar Panel Costs

If you purchase a trailer with a solar pre-wire feature, what does this include. What else, other than the panels, needs to be purchased. I inquired about getting the solar panels when I was going to buy a A/S in 9/2009 (Camping World dealership in Woodstock, GA flooded and all their inventory was lost...to include my new, delivered trailer) and they quoted me around $250. I am in the process of purchasing in the next week and again inquired about installation of solar panels and the Camping World Atlanta dealership in Oakwood quoted me a $1200 figure (for a lot more than the panel).

What comes with the solar pre-wire?
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Old 09-10-2010, 07:07 AM   #2
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I don't know what "comes with" the factory "pre-wire" but there are a bunch of threads on here that suggest that the factory solar wiring is too small a gauge of wire to be totally effective. Voltage drop in the wire is a big deal - you want to capture every milliamp that the panels will generate, and losses in the wiring are avoidable but expensive.

In addition to the wiring (or replacement wiring), you will need the panels themselves, mounts for the panels, a charge controller (and DO get an MPPT charge controller - it will maximize your battery charge), perhaps new batteries, and most folks recommend a battery temperature sensor - so that your charge controller will send the batteries as much current as they can take without overheating.

I went to Lew Farber (Lewster on the Forums) in Florida and had him provide and install the whole shooting match with panels, etc. from AM Solar. It's worth chatting him up for ideas - he's had a solar system on his rv - repair van for years, powering his entire workshop, and he has a wealth of information. My system (two 130 watt panels and three Lifeline batteries) leaves me where I never have to be plugged in to shore power or a generator unless I need/want to run the air conditioning. You will love it, if you boondock much.

Good luck.
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Old 09-10-2010, 09:53 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by benjisgal View Post
If you purchase a trailer with a solar pre-wire feature, what does this include...
solar prewire simply means there is a wire running from approximately the fridge box to the roof.

this wire is inside the wall/roof between the inner and outer skin.

if panels are attached TO the roof a hole can be cut to fish out the wire and connect.

so solar PREwire is simply a cosmetic connivence added during production.

essentially all newer streams have this.
__________

adding solar energy to an rv involves adding EVERY BIT of solar package equipment needed to the trailer.

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f448...ice-39392.html

the likelihood of spending much time OFF the grid and where are important considerations.

solar is simply a method of REcharging batteries, that is highly dependent on access to SUN.

imagine if the only water carried IN the stream was rain water?

how easy or hard would that choice make camping anywhere but a rain forest?
_________

a small generator is a LESS expensive, reliable, simpler approach to recharging batteries.

IF rv hookups are available (power/water/sewer) neither solar OR a genset are needed.

new rv'ers imagine they might speed long periods of time AWAY from connections...

seldom is this true and seldom is it part of NEWbie rv'n to the extent we might imagine.

there are full service rv parks or partial service/connections in essentially all parts of the north american content...
__________

a truly USEFUL solar setup will run 2000-4000$ installed.

while we think of it as "always on" and free from the sky...

planning the purchase, thrifty power use, keeping the SUN overhead and EXPENSE are still issues.

cheers
2air'
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Old 09-10-2010, 10:39 AM   #4
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I have a more positive take than the poster above.

I see different classes of solar system, depending on usage.

Occasional light user: usually in storage, or at a 30/50 amp hookup, but wants solar: about $200 for a 20W panel, wire and a decent charge controller - this will be enough to charge maintain batteries in storage, but will not charge them. It could also run a couple of LED lights during the *day* but that's it. $200.

Occasional heavy user: usually in storage, or at a state park or in the wilds, no hook-up. 100-200W will fully charge the batteries in a day or so of good sun, and run the 12v circuits, but you'll have to forgo the A/C. You'll be fairly self-sufficient. You'll also need a good charge controller and heavy duty wiring. $600-800 self install. $1000-2000ish for pro install.

Light boondocker: Serious about having power to be off grid. 300W+ of panels. 2 or 4 batteries. Heavy duty charger and cabling, monitoring. You watch TV and have lights blazing - all the comforts of home! (but, as always, no AC) $2500-3500 self install, $5000+ pro install.

Serious boondocker: Ironically, the serious boondocker uses far less power as they are very aware of the limit nature of the resource. They'll usually have smaller panels, and larger battery storage so they can survive a few dull days and winter, but don't demand much of their batteries. 100-150W of panels, charge controller, batteries. $1000-1500 self-install, $2500+ pro install.

Prices are guides, YMMV. Your stereotypes may vary also. How do YOU use your AS and how do you think a solar panel would change that?
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Old 09-10-2010, 10:59 AM   #5
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there is nothing negative in my post...

except the implied need for + and - connections and grounding in reality.

the o.p. is not likely to DO any install,

and hasn't defined HOW the solar package will be used.

in fact MOST new buyers haven't sorted out

how the solar bits fit into their grand camping scheme.
________

by far the most bang for bucks and every day utility, especially while boondocking...

comes from the LP gas system and a couple of healthy size lp tanks.

fridge, hot water, heat, cooking and even lighting can be had simply from lp gas.

and without regard to parking IN the sun.

yes solar is can be a useful tool, but the buy IN price is still an issue.

while a lpgas or a petrol powered genset are MUCH more pay as you go...

and without much/any installation cost beyond what is ALREADY built into the stream.
_________

the op asked about PREwire, it's a simple thing really.

the "cost" of panels is entirely dependent on which panels

and ALL of that info is readily available online.

judging 1 post negatively and another positively is more complicated.

cheers
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Old 09-10-2010, 11:12 AM   #6
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Solar 'pre-wire' is just that........WIRE! And Airstream provides you with only 12AWG wire, which is way below what is necessary for almost any solar charging system.

Having installed many solar charging systems, I use a minimum of 8AWG for simple installations and 6AWG for larger (400 watts+) systems. MPPT charge controllers are a MUST, as they are the most efficient and depending on the manufacturer, provide true 3-stage battery charging, also a MUST.

Next is your battery bank. This must be sized for your intended usage, then size the solar array to keep them charged. We use Lifeline AGM batteries exclusively on our solar installations and have found them to be quickest and easiest to re-charge and provide the longest service in the field, but talking batteries here is like religion and motor oil, everyone has their own opinion and swears by what they use. We use what works for us and our customers, and we use pallet loads.

Another factor to consider is the output voltage of the panels. We use custom built 40 cell panels that are 'hotter' than most panels available. Our MPPT charge controllers use this extra voltage to 'boost' the available charging amperage seen at the batteries, resulting in faster, more complete charging.

The system in my service van has 4 X 100 solar panels and 2 X 300 amp/hour Lifeline GPL-6CT 6VDC golf cart batteries in series. This system is used to power all of the auxiliary 12VDC loads in the van (stereo, lighting, driving and fog lights and most interior power applications), rather than using the engine battery. The prime use is running a 2000 watt sine wave inverter to power corded tools while on the job site. This system also did a nice job of acting as a 'power post' for my Airstream 19CCD when it was being towed by the van.

Installing solar is not really a difficult job, but the system parameters should be set by a pro, someone with experience in the field of designing and installing these systems. Welcome to AM Solar - Your RV Solar Specialists since 1987 would be a good place to start.

Your move................
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Old 09-10-2010, 12:21 PM   #7
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Another reason to use a company like Am solar: it's not enough to just be good at math and installations.

Pros like that know the questions to ask to properly figure out not just how you use your system, but just how solar will change how you use your system by changing your thinking about power generation and consumption. Too often, people install oversized systems based on current use, then replace their tungsten bulbs with LED systems, and replace a CRT with an LCD and their power demand halves or more...

Solar affects other systems, so a good review of the other systems is also in order. Replacing/updating other systems might work out as FREE if they cost the same or less than the extra you might have paid for an unnecessarily large system.
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Old 09-10-2010, 06:36 PM   #8
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I waiting for $1 per watt panels.
Seems to me it will be just a matter of time given the green push.
Then I'll plaster the AS roof with enough to recharge the batteries after each day of not conserving.

Tom
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Old 09-11-2010, 10:39 AM   #9
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Dave Park nailed the usage requirements in his first post, so I'm just going to chime a little as someone who spends a significant amount of time dragging solar panels and batteries into remote areas to power clandestine systems.

The RV installer folks will rip. you. off.

You need a good charge controller between the solar panel and battery bank, which will run you $50 for a $300 85W solar panel (which means 12v at 5 Amps - the math doesn't add up I know, but usually a 12v solar panel will give you 17v of juice at peak hours - thus the need for the charge controller and the definition of an 85W solar panel).

I think 12 gage wire is beefy for RV use, and won't lose too many milliVolts over the length of an Airstream. I think the real concern is how to appropriately mount the solar panel to the roof so that it's durable enough for highway travel. For this reason, I would talk to the folks at AM Solar. They are not the people that will rip you off. Camping World will rip you off.

I can't promote solar panels enough. They are highly tolerant to cloudy conditions and partial sunlight, and even a trickle charge will enable your battery to extend quite a while. Trickle charge is better for your battery life than a periodic large generator charge. The most important thing is to not let your battery drop to below 50% charge, because then it will rarely return to 100%. More like 80%, and then the slow half-life death begins. You want your batteries topped up every day.

Did you know... most laptops and flat panel TVs run on 12 vDC? They convert the AC power within themselves so the high voltage doesn't short circuit their highly sensitive...er... circuitry. So placing an inverter after a 12v battery to provide AC power to a TV that takes AC power and converts it to DC power so the TV can operate is kind of like using a generator: wasteful.

It's 2010. Is anyone else ready to take advantage of the free energy yet?

NO? How about this then...

(2) 85W solar panels, (2) charge controllers, (2) 115-Amp-hour batteries, and wiring materials cost less than $1000. Now you are done and can forget about everything but driving in sunlight and ordinary maintenance.

or

(1) Honda 2000ei for $1000. Now you get to fill up two things every time you go to the pump. Love that price of gas. It's all the way down to $3 a gallon now!


Quote:
Originally Posted by henw View Post
I waiting for $1 per watt panels.
Seems to me it will be just a matter of time given the green push.
Then I'll plaster the AS roof with enough to recharge the batteries after each day of not conserving.

Tom
I'm not sure this is going to happen. Probably about the time solar panels are prevalent is about the time we'll run out of material for PV cells to balance the price. I saw recently that a scientist discovered a way to use a small biosphere to create electricity. Something like 7 different algaes trapped in a glass sphere generate electricity when exposed to sunlight. Cool or weird? That's science for you!
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Old 09-11-2010, 10:58 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by SpaceEgg View Post
Dave Park nailed the usage requirements in his first post, so I'm just going to chime a little as someone who spends a significant amount of time dragging solar panels and batteries into remote areas to power clandestine systems.

The RV installer folks will rip. you. off.

You need a good charge controller between the solar panel and battery bank, which will run you $50 for a $300 85W solar panel (which means 12v at 5 Amps - the math doesn't add up I know, but usually a 12v solar panel will give you 17v of juice at peak hours - thus the need for the charge controller and the definition of an 85W solar panel).

I think 12 gage wire is beefy for RV use, and won't lose too many milliVolts over the length of an Airstream. I think the real concern is how to appropriately mount the solar panel to the roof so that it's durable enough for highway travel. For this reason, I would talk to the folks at AM Solar. They are not the people that will rip you off. Camping World will rip you off.

I can't promote solar panels enough. They are highly tolerant to cloudy conditions and partial sunlight, and even a trickle charge will enable your battery to extend quite a while. Trickle charge is better for your battery life than a periodic large generator charge. The most important thing is to not let your battery drop to below 50% charge, because then it will rarely return to 100%. More like 80%, and then the slow half-life death begins. You want your batteries topped up every day.

Did you know... most laptops and flat panel TVs run on 12 vDC? They convert the AC power within themselves so the high voltage doesn't short circuit their highly sensitive...er... circuitry. So placing an inverter after a 12v battery to provide AC power to a TV that takes AC power and converts it to DC power so the TV can operate is kind of like using a generator: wasteful.

It's 2010. Is anyone else ready to take advantage of the free energy yet?

NO? How about this then...

(2) 85W solar panels, (2) charge controllers, (2) 115-Amp-hour batteries, and wiring materials cost less than $1000. Now you are done and can forget about everything but driving in sunlight and ordinary maintenance.

or

(1) Honda 2000ei for $1000. Now you get to fill up two things every time you go to the pump. Love that price of gas. It's all the way down to $3 a gallon now!




I'm not sure this is going to happen. Probably about the time solar panels are prevalent is about the time we'll run out of material for PV cells to balance the price. I saw recently that a scientist discovered a way to use a small biosphere to create electricity. Something like 7 different algaes trapped in a glass sphere generate electricity when exposed to sunlight. Cool or weird? That's science for you!
If you're 'satisfied' with 17VDC output from your panels....fine! It's like the proverbial slow boat to china! We prefer the 24.8voc from our panels, which will usually add 50% to the charging amperage seen at the batteries.

And please quantify your term 'ripoff'. What do you do for a living and what do you charge for your labors ( I am NO fan of CW, by the way)? You DID mention that AM Solar will NOT 'rip you off' but where do you get your information and how do you come by your expertise in the field of RV solar? Did you stay in a Holiday in recently?

In all seriousness, the point is to get expert information FROM EXPERTS ! Anything else may be one guy's experience, but is definitely not enough to properly guide you when designing a system for your specific use and requirements. Too many folks on these forums consider themselves 'experts' (or post like they are) after doing a little reading in the internet and/or installing a system for themselves. Sorry, that just doesn't cut it any more, when most of what they say is opinion or regurgitation of some stuff that they may have read elsewhere. Get training, do research, design and install a couple dozen systems and THEN talk to me about 'expert opinions'.
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Old 09-11-2010, 11:32 AM   #11
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Lewster is right.Doing business requires a bit of a mark up. If companies did not do so they would not be around very long. They are here to provide a service. Not all people can afford to experiment or have the knowledge to do it themselves. I have made my system do what I need. It took some expermentation and $$$ to do this. Lewster and others will do it for you the first time.
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Old 09-12-2010, 10:14 AM   #12
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didn't mean to offend

Quote:
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And please quantify your term 'ripoff'. What do you do for a living and what do you charge for your labors ( I am NO fan of CW, by the way)? You DID mention that AM Solar will NOT 'rip you off' but where do you get your information and how do you come by your expertise in the field of RV solar?
Questions, questions. I'll make this quick - I consider it a ripoff if someone charges me labor that costs 2-3 times the amount of materials to perform the work - a figure I have commonly seen. You probably do not fall into this category. Solar systems and electricity are much simpler than most people think, and they get taken for their dollars because of that. The "ripoff" sentence was perhaps a callous comment.

I require blood sacrifices for my labors. Or bacon.

I acquired my expertise in solar panels from my work, where I build (by hand) a system that measures the strength of the solar wind and uses it to image the geology 500 miles beneath your feet. I also multi-task and try to contact my home planet. Trust me, I've got the photovoltaic portion covered.

What apparently was not communicated well in my last post was that I think solar energy is the way to go and you can save a lot of money if you Do-It-Yourself. As I mentioned before, consulting an expert on certain topics, such as how to properly mount a panel for highway durability, is a good idea.
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Old 09-13-2010, 08:01 AM   #13
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That's where I got my system - very good folks to deal with.
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Old 09-15-2010, 12:23 PM   #14
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Are you asking about voltage?
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