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Old 12-19-2015, 03:09 PM   #1
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Solar Panels - how well do they work charging trailer batteries

We have a 2015 27FB FC that we had 2 factory installed solar panels - on a good sunny day how well do these work on maintaining my battery charge?

Thanks,

Glenn
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Old 12-19-2015, 03:48 PM   #2
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It's been a good system for us. Provides our lighting, entertainment (tv, radio, etc), furnace and two fantastic fans on many long trips. On sunny days the batteries are normally charged before noon each day. If the forecast is for overcast sky, hunker down and conserve batteries. The additional bonus is when the Airstream is not being used, we never have to worry about batteries running down, always fully charged.

I don't think the system is designed to handle heating appliances such as electric ovens, toasters, or coffee makers. We have propane for that.

The two solar panels generally supply more power than the two factory AGM Group 24 batteries can store. Our next upgrade will be larger batteries when these wear out; they're on their fifth year and going strong.

Tip: When your Airstream is hooked to external power, always isolate the batteries from the factory converter/charger. It is a single stage charger and will overcharge and ruin your batteries over time. To do this, put the Battery Disconnect switch in STORE position. Everything else will be supplied by the convert/charger, but the batteries which will be charged by your solar system.
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Old 12-19-2015, 03:49 PM   #3
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Excellent! I am not sure how many AH I can get but I don't really boondock. They keep my batteries charged while on the road, while in storage, and have done just fine for the few times we have boondocked.

Larry
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Old 12-19-2015, 04:30 PM   #4
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We are using a Blue Sky SB3000i charge controller connected to a 240 watt panel. This system will keep up with a 7 cubic foot 12v. fridge and our lighting and electronics.
The controller will work with higher voltage panels and convert to 12v. This allows you to buy one large panel that would normally be connected in a large system and at a much better price/watt than most 12v. panels. The only caution with this system is you must connect the battery to the controller before you connect the panel.
All in all less connections and wiring than multiple 12v. panels
Bob H
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Old 12-19-2015, 06:21 PM   #5
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The two 53 watt rated factory solar panels can generate about 75% of the 106 watt rating on a good day, or about 78 watts. At 12 Vdc nominal, you are seeing perhaps 5.5 amps of charging. If one uses 55 amp-hours of power from their battery, this system would in theory charge it back in about 10 hours of sunshine or two days.

We were able to install five 100 watt AM Solar GS-100 panels on the roof of our 2015 23D and nine 100 watt AM Solar GS-100 panels on the roof of the 31' Classic.

If you find you need more solar charging capacity in the future, a 27 foot trailer could probably support between five and seven panels.
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Old 12-20-2015, 06:54 AM   #6
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I forgot to mention the battery setup. we have 2 T105 trojan 6v. (golf cart) batteries in series for an approximate 200ah 12v. house battery. The panel keeps them topped up unless you get two heavy overcast days in a row.

I should mention the charge controller makes a big difference. There are some cheap MPPT (china made) controllers that neither function well nor do they give you the information you really need to know. A friend bought one and is very frustrated.
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Old 12-20-2015, 08:51 AM   #7
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Lead acid batteries can handle about a 50% power draw or 100 amp-hours for the batteries mentioned above.
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Old 12-20-2015, 11:43 AM   #8
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They will work fine.
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Old 12-20-2015, 12:30 PM   #9
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The factory system that came in our 2010 28' International was adequate only fur tipping uff batteries in storage and for very light daily use in summer. The AS supplied charge controller was a one stage, and would have ore stately worn the batteries out, according to the manufacturer (Lifeline.) our shakedown cruise involved a February weekend in the Sierra Nevada with plenty of sunshine and temps of about 28 overnite. We awakened to dead batteries in both the AS and TV (couldn't believe there was no protective device to not drawdown starter battery.)

So OK for summer weekend boondocking (sun angle is higher and sun is out longer), but if the furnace is going to be running, fuhgeddabowdit! Unless conditions are ideal, you're not going to fully top off each day, and will run down pretty quickly over a couple if days--faster if it's cold, overcast, or too far away from the summer solstice.

At the very least, check that the newer AS comes with a three stage solar charger. If not, consider investing in a Blue Sky or itger quality MPPT controller. It will lengthen your battery life, and also milk a bit more out of the measly factory panels.

If you find that you are boondocking longer, especially if out of season, you'll most likely want to increase the size of your battery bank and solar panels. As mentioned, AGM and lead acid batteries are designed to only draw down to 50% of capacity or else they will wear out much faster. But adding more batteries bring also more weight--for example, 6 volt Lifetime 220 amp AGM'sweigh about 140lbs/pair. So you'll need to weigh your traiker and consider where the batteries will live. Lithium batteries are a great solution in that they weigh a fraction of the others AND they can safely be drawn down to 89-85% without harm, but they cannot currently be charged at temps under freezing without permanent damage, they must live inside the coach and they are pricey.

If you diceant to upgrade your solar system, let us know--there's a wealth of info available and many different solutions with pros and cons. But first, try you Airstrean out for a few weekends and see how you use it. Be careful not to use more than 1/2 the capacity of your batteries each night. If you notice that at the end of the day you're fully charged because you're primarily using only lights and the refrigerator, you'll be fine. But if you're running the furnace, it's cloudy or foggy, you're not within a couple of months either side of June 21st, I think your system will quickly become overtaxed of you're boondocking fur several days in a row.
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Old 12-20-2015, 01:46 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by gecko View Post
The factory system that came in our 2010 28' International was adequate only fur tipping uff batteries in storage and for very light daily use in summer. The AS supplied charge controller was a one stage, and would have ore stately worn the batteries out, according to the manufacturer (Lifeline.) our shakedown cruise involved a February weekend in the Sierra Nevada with plenty of sunshine and temps of about 28 overnite. We awakened to dead batteries in both the AS and TV (couldn't believe there was no protective device to not drawdown starter battery.)

So OK for summer weekend boondocking (sun angle is higher and sun is out longer), but if the furnace is going to be running, fuhgeddabowdit! Unless conditions are ideal, you're not going to fully top off each day, and will run down pretty quickly over a couple if days--faster if it's cold, overcast, or too far away from the summer solstice.

At the very least, check that the newer AS comes with a three stage solar charger. If not, consider investing in a Blue Sky or itger quality MPPT controller. It will lengthen your battery life, and also milk a bit more out of the measly factory panels.

If you find that you are boondocking longer, especially if out of season, you'll most likely want to increase the size of your battery bank and solar panels. As mentioned, AGM and lead acid batteries are designed to only draw down to 50% of capacity or else they will wear out much faster. But adding more batteries bring also more weight--for example, 6 volt Lifetime 220 amp AGM'sweigh about 140lbs/pair. So you'll need to weigh your traiker and consider where the batteries will live. Lithium batteries are a great solution in that they weigh a fraction of the others AND they can safely be drawn down to 89-85% without harm, but they cannot currently be charged at temps under freezing without permanent damage, they must live inside the coach and they are pricey.

If you diceant to upgrade your solar system, let us know--there's a wealth of info available and many different solutions with pros and cons. But first, try you Airstrean out for a few weekends and see how you use it. Be careful not to use more than 1/2 the capacity of your batteries each night. If you notice that at the end of the day you're fully charged because you're primarily using only lights and the refrigerator, you'll be fine. But if you're running the furnace, it's cloudy or foggy, you're not within a couple of months either side of June 21st, I think your system will quickly become overtaxed of you're boondocking fur several days in a row.

Geez, with all that just start up the generator and enjoy your camping for cripes sake.
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Old 12-20-2015, 02:11 PM   #11
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Geez, with all that just start up the generator and enjoy your camping for cripes sake.
mhem. The solution that seems so easy eventually becomes the an annoying hassle.
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Old 12-20-2015, 03:10 PM   #12
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...just start up the generator and enjoy your camping
...that is, if it's not bothering your neighbors, right?
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Old 12-20-2015, 04:23 PM   #13
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Solar battery Chg.

Quote:
Originally Posted by PSU1981 View Post
We have a 2015 27FB FC that we had 2 factory installed solar panels - on a good sunny day how well do these work on maintaining my battery charge?

Thanks,

Glenn
My wife and I have a 1965 Caravel that we have powered with a 13 watt panel for about 10 years and get along fine. We are not big consumers of battery power and have a charge monitor to let us know if we are running low but have never discharged completely. We have the panel on a long cord that allows us to move it around the trailer to get the most sun and we move it a couple of times per day and that is all.

D Bishop
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Old 12-20-2015, 05:55 PM   #14
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...that is, if it's not bothering your neighbors, right?
Running the generator for an hour or so to get the important stuff done 3 days, we can usually boondock for five days. By than I get bored with it anyway and have to deal with the water and sewer situation.
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