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Old 02-13-2016, 10:37 AM   #1
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1994 19' "B" Van Airstream 190
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Solar panel help

So i have a 1993 b190 airstream and the generator stopped working the other night. I live in this van full time and want to install a solar panel and battery set up to run my space heater, tv, and laptop. Heres a list of questions ive asked myself. What will fit? What brand inverter and solar panels should i buy? What wattage do i need? How many batteries should I get? Should I attach the batteries to the alternator? How much should i pay for this set up? How long will charge hold? Can i get a whole nights sleep with the space heater? Will i have to cleab snow off of them? Any other questions i should be asking? Do you have any answers. Please help with easy to understand and detailed information.
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Old 02-13-2016, 11:35 AM   #2
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Get the generator repaired and look for a propane catalytic heater. Space heaters take too much power to run off inverted battery power.

Use solar just to charge the house batteries to power lights, TV, laptop/camera battery charging. A 300w sine wave inverter can handle the TV and small electronics battery charging. 200w of solar and 200 ah of battery would work for that power scenario. Once you start wanting to run AC appliances off batteries then you have to increase your battery capacity and add more solar to charge the increased capacity within a reasonable amount of time. Solar panels is limited by the amount of space on your roof.

You could purchase a portable solar panel that plugs onto the battery terminals with alligator clips.

You have to keep the snow off the panels and angle them to the sun to get best results. I may be difficult in Maine during the winter.

How many batteries does your van have and what size?

Do more research and wait for spring and summer for adding solar after you get your generator repaired and a propane heater installed.

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Old 02-13-2016, 11:36 AM   #3
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Running an electric space heater from solar power wouldn't be a very efficient ($$). It would be much better to get a small catalytic heater and plumb it into your LP system. Just as an example, a small 1500W heater combined with two type 31 batteries (100 AH usable capacity) would only last 100 AH / 125 A = 0.8 hours. So stick with LP.

Now the TV and laptop could very well be served with a small system. One type 31 battery would give you 50 AH of usable battery capacity, or 50 AH * 12 V = 600 WH, meaning that you run a 100 W appliance for 6 hours. A 100 W panel could charge it back up during the day. A small 300 or 600 W inverter would be suitable. My guess is that you could DIY a simple 100W solar setup including a type 31 AGM for less than $1000.
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Old 02-13-2016, 11:49 AM   #4
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I suggest you contact "Lewster" here on the forums.
Lew Farber
RVIA/RVDA Nationally Certified Master Tech
Master Tech Energy Systems, Inc.
AM Solar Certified Installation Center
Lifeline Batteries**Magnum Inverters
541-490-6357


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Old 02-13-2016, 06:20 PM   #5
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Lew's a great resource, but there's also a bunch of other folks who can help you, especially if you're wanting to install the system yourself. Go ahead and keep asking questions and I'm sure Lew will shine in when appropriate.
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Old 02-14-2016, 12:17 AM   #6
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1994 19' "B" Van Airstream 190
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Thanks

Thank you for the quick and informative responses. Right now I have two batteries. One deep cycle coach battery and a starter truck battery. Both are pretty big. I had imagined I would have a total of 4 coach batteries to charge. Will this still not be enough? Is there a solar panel combination i could make fit on my roof that will charge 4 batteries and atleast let me warm up the van for a few hours? Can you elaborate more on the alternative lp system? The generator is an onan and cummins onan wants 1000 just to fix it. I noticed my 800/1200 watt heater would work full force but still cause the 2.8kw generator to kick back a nd struggle, but it stayed on all night.

Also my furnace which uses lp does nothing to heat up my van. I have to vents, one by the toilet and one by the side door. The side door doesnt heat at all. But the bathroom gets kind of cozy after a while. Any more thoughts or alternatives? Id like to make this van as self sufficient as possible.
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Old 02-14-2016, 12:58 AM   #7
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IMHO you'll spend much more money trying to get a solar setup to provide heating, compared with adding a catalytic heater running on LP and adding a small solar system for your computer/TV. You'll probably run out of roof space for the number of panels that you'll require.

So maybe you can visit campingworld.com and search for "Olympian Wave 3 Catalytic Safety Heater". You can plumb this into your LP system.

If this seems reasonable then we can address the solar configuration.
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Old 02-14-2016, 07:36 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alano View Post
IMHO you'll spend much more money trying to get a solar setup to provide heating, compared with adding a catalytic heater running on LP and adding a small solar system for your computer/TV. You'll probably run out of roof space for the number of panels that you'll require.

So maybe you can visit campingworld.com and search for "Olympian Wave 3 Catalytic Safety Heater". You can plumb this into your LP system.

If this seems reasonable then we can address the solar configuration.
Actually yes this sound like a good idea. The olympian wave 3 catalytic heater. Although never heard about it before. Where does this go? how do i install it? Are there any places close to manchester nh?
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Old 02-14-2016, 09:08 AM   #9
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Here's a good primer on installing the heater.
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Old 02-14-2016, 09:56 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by alano View Post
Here's a good primer on installing the heater.
Good article thank you. So why would i choose a wave 3 over a blueflame? Also where in my airstream van coukd i permanently install a vent free propane heater. Most designs of the airstream are very similar. I am actually looking to do heavy modification from throwing out the sofa bed and cutting a 28 inch hole in a corner next to the generator start up switch threw the microwave compartment up to the tv jack and ac switch. I want to move every thing around. This b190 has such little space in it. Is there an idea for a good place to renovate allowing a heater? Creative Ideas?
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Old 02-14-2016, 10:46 AM   #11
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No preference for the catalytic vs blueflame. Just make sure the BlueFlame heater includes an oxygen sensor cutoff if you go that route. I'm not familiar with your layout so perhaps other folks will shine in with some placement suggestions for you.
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Old 02-24-2016, 11:13 PM   #12
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1994 19' "B" Van Airstream 190
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Stil need advice for solar panels.

Going back to solar. Which solar panels will fot on my 1993 b199 air stream van? Where? What wattage and inverter will i need to run a tv, laptop, fridge, hair dryer, phone charger, video game console, electric razor etc. ??

What gauge wires? What is the best kind of solar panel? I need as many details as i can get so i can begin this project.
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Old 02-24-2016, 11:33 PM   #13
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There are many different ways to approach your questions. Since you're "B" van might be rather limited on top, why don't you take a look at AM Solar's panels and tell us how many panels you think you could fit on the roof? From there we can help with selecting the solar charger, sizing the wire, etc.
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Old 02-25-2016, 11:07 PM   #14
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I did take a look at their website. Not sure what the dimensions are of any available space on my van. Seems small though. Difficult to getup there because i dont have a ladder. Im hoping yo find a b van owner whos done this before.
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Old 02-27-2016, 07:56 PM   #15
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"alano : There are many different ways to approach your questions. Since you're "B" van might be rather limited on top, why don't you take a look at AM Solar's panels and tell us how many panels you think you could fit on the roof? From there we can help with selecting the solar charger, sizing the wire, etc."

Have you ever done this before?
Why would anyone put panels on the roof?
One would have to park in the sun with the exact, correct angle on the panels. Angle of the panel and keeping them clean also shadowing is critical with any solar install.
Why not have a portable system and park where ever and have movable panels, park anywhere, with extension cables to a sunny location, say 50 feet away from the van/trailer/converter?
As I suggested earlier. Contact a professional.

-Dennis
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Old 02-27-2016, 09:06 PM   #16
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Have you ever done this before?
Why would anyone put panels on the roof?
One would have to park in the sun with the exact, correct angle on the panels. Angle of the panel and keeping them clean also shadowing is critical with any solar install.
Why not have a portable system and park where ever and have movable panels, park anywhere, with extension cables to a sunny location, say 50 feet away from the van/trailer/converter?
As I suggested earlier. Contact a professional.

-Dennis
Yes. Because they don't want the hassle of portable systems. No, you don't need to park in the sun with an exact angle. No, keeping them clean is not a huge concern.

We're here to share experiences. Plenty of folks successfully mount rooftop panels. There's plenty of expertise on these forums to do it yourself if that's your intention. You'll find a range of opinions. It's all good. If you're not comfortable, seek a professional.
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Old 02-27-2016, 09:23 PM   #17
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Some utilize a combination of both. I have 100 watts rooftop and 160 watts of portable.
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Old 02-28-2016, 01:12 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by batman View Post
"alano : There are many different ways to approach your questions. Since you're "B" van might be rather limited on top, why don't you take a look at AM Solar's panels and tell us how many panels you think you could fit on the roof? From there we can help with selecting the solar charger, sizing the wire, etc."

Have you ever done this before?
Why would anyone put panels on the roof?
One would have to park in the sun with the exact, correct angle on the panels. Angle of the panel and keeping them clean also shadowing is critical with any solar install.
Why not have a portable system and park where ever and have movable panels, park anywhere, with extension cables to a sunny location, say 50 feet away from the van/trailer/converter?
As I suggested earlier. Contact a professional.

-Dennis
Thanks for the idea, however the goal is to do as little maintaining as possible. I would not enjoy setting up solar panels every day. Also, i generally park in random parking lots and would not be comfortable leaving my solar pabels out in the parking space next to me. Even if that was not a problem for me, i have very little storage space inside the van. I am definetly going to i stall the panels on The roof. Positioning the van is not a huge burden as i am reparking it often.

This is what im thinking, tear the shower out of the back of the van and converting that into a storae area in which partially holds 4 glass batteries. I am leanibg towards renogy's 3ft by 2 ft 100 watt solar panel. Perhaps 2? I am having no luck getting actual advice for this project and am doing as much research as i can understand.

Until airstream or anyone can tell me exactly how this van is wired physically than this seems like just a dream. I really dont want to pay anyone to i stall this for me.
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Old 02-29-2016, 08:06 AM   #19
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CzZito,
I am not sure about the exact wiring of your van. That shouldn't be a problem to get.
My suggestion to you would be to contact AM Solar http://www.amsolar.com/
and even Lewster for some free advice. Lew is a profesional and has been more than helpful, AM solar has just about ever thing you need and the customer service/advice is good also. They are both very good sources of information.
I would get as much free advice as you can stand, but don't forget free advice is often times worth just what you paid for it.

-Dennis
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Old 02-29-2016, 01:06 PM   #20
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CzZito,

By all means seek a professional if you want. But also, if you're wanting to take the time and learn about the installation yourself, you'll find a bunch of folks willing to share their knowledge and experience and will gladly help steer you in the direction you want to.

You started out thinking you would need to size your system to power an electric heater and you've since backed off this requirement. So know that we know that you might fit two 100 W panels on your roof, we can start a conversation about your energy requirements and how to size your batteries and inverter.

Want to continue the discussion?
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