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Old 01-08-2015, 06:46 PM   #15
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If you decide to add solar to your trailer after the fact, I recommend not using your Airstream dealer to install it. We did that. They installed an "OK" temp compensated 150 Watt Zamp solar system (PWM controller, not MPPT). It works, but it's not as good as it would have been for the money with an expert.

If I had it to do over, I'd get a solar energy specialist to do it right.

At some point in 2015 we may in fact go for a do-over, hopefully still using our existing panel and adding one or two more - at least one panel would be mobile so we can capture those random spots of sunlight vs. wishing we had parked the trailer in a different location. We'd also go for an MPPT controller and a nice usage monitor, and replace those crappy Group 24 flooded batteries with a couple of nice big 6 volt AGM Lifelines wired in series.
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Old 01-08-2015, 06:46 PM   #16
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We went with 200watts and love it, and a good battery monitor, love watching the amps flowing in, all with total silence.

"Silence is Golden"
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Old 01-09-2015, 02:36 AM   #17
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I think solar is one of the most important additions one can have to your airstream. I have an 80 watt panel on my 2004 Airstream and I use FanTastic vent fans on both ends of the trailer. These fans are the models that have temperature switches built in, such that when it is hot (and thus a lot of sunlight) the solar more than takes care of the fan circulation. They don't provide power to run an air conditioner though.
I have switched out all my interior lights to LED lights, so normally, by about 10 AM, the batteries are fully charged back up from the previous nights lighting, etc. (I don't run a TV, or any thing like that though).
In the winter, when the furnace runs a lot at night (cold nights), the forced air furnace fan is a major draw on your batteries. Also in the winter, the sun is at a shallow angle relative to your solar panel such that charging is more of a problem. (I have an 80 watt portable panel that I can point towards the sun in this instance and supplement the power from the fixed roof-top panel). I can dry camp in summer or winter for several days depending only on my solar to keep my batteries charged. I do normally take along a generator so that I can use the microwave or electric coffee pot, but then I only start the generator, brew the coffee, then stop the generator.
Deep cycle batteries don't last as long as one might be accustomed to with say the batteries for an automobile. After 2+ years one might find the batteries discharging faster at night and charging up faster in the morning, but in actuality they are losing capacity and need to be replaced.
I am in the process of changing out two size 24D batteries for two 6-volt golf cart batteries to get greater capacity (changing out because of the above condition where previous batteries were approaching end of life). Had to modify the battery box to make it taller, and remove the WELDED IN 3/8" threaded battery hold-down rod and replace it with a 12" threaded rod.
The other nice thing about solar is you can store your trailer outside and never have to hook it up to electric power, i.e the solar is more than enough to maintain the batteries.
The bottom line is you still need a generator to run appliances such as microwave, etc., and to charge the batteries if you are out camping and have several days of crummy weather with little sun, or to run air conditioning.
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Old 01-09-2015, 03:36 PM   #18
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I was quoted $100 per watt. Parts and labor. Lewster can fill in the other details. Battery change can improve your experience. I think the weight is no change if at all.

Twenty minutes... go for an hour. Western rivers and lakes are refreshing and take your time. Take a "sun bag" fill with water, hang onto a tree and run it into the shower tent you can buy at WalMart. Use river water or from a Forest Service water pump.

Our two Blue Heelers handle crossing shallow rivers (creeks to most every one else) as a bath, as well. Kids on inner tubes come out squeaky clean. The sun is warm. The air is dry. The river... that depends.

A five year old can learn to wear a life jacket, learn to swim and have a healthy respect of being in or near water.

Boondocking can be in your yard, at a Casino RV Park... or in the Rocky Mountains with a Forest Service camp host... each time, push the limits just a little and one day... you will be giving me some pointers.
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Old 01-09-2015, 04:02 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ray Eklund View Post
I was quoted $100 per watt.
Ray, I think you may have misspoken here. I'm getting about 600 watts of solar on my roof and I can assure you that Lew is not charging me $60,000 (right, Lew? )
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Old 01-09-2015, 04:07 PM   #20
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Ray, I think you may have misspoken here. I'm getting about 600 watts of solar on my roof and I can assure you that Lew is not charging me $60,000 (right, Lew? )
WOW!!! $100/watt???????? My prices MUST GO UP!!!!!

In reality, I have had some prospective clients tell me that they can get their solar....installed.....for around $1/watt.

My comment: You must be using those guys in Quartzite!!!!

I've ripped out several of their 'solar systems' after they prematurely failed and they weren't around to honor their 'warranty', which BTW was a 30/30 warranty.

30 minutes or 30 feet after they left the installation site!!!!
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Old 01-09-2015, 04:10 PM   #21
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One too many zeros? $10/watt, installed sounds about right. Raw panels are as low as <$2/watt - $3/watt. (some have minimum purchase numbers)
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Old 01-09-2015, 04:12 PM   #22
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My portable unit was $4.38/watt, with controller and case. Albeit, not the highest quality controller.
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Old 01-09-2015, 04:13 PM   #23
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Solar doesn't get complicated until you add the inverter because you want to run microwaves, hair dryers, hot plates, large TVs, DVD player, margarita machine. Then you have to think about more battery capacity and the solar panels to support them. If you want to get by on just lights, a fantasic fan and a little propane furnace then a portable panel should work fine.

Most 23 to 28" LED TVs pull around 45 watts so a small portable inverter plugged into the TV 12v socket will work.

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Old 01-09-2015, 04:31 PM   #24
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Solar Install, Worth it?

Yes, if you mostly camp without hookups, and for longer than three days.

1. Batteries always at 100% charge in storage yard, so always ready to go camping.
2. Freedom to have nearly unlimited power knowing (if camped in a sunny spot) batteries will recharge again tomorrow.
3. Solar does a great job recharging batteries while driving.
4. One less thing to worry about. Water, and gray/black tanks are issues enough.
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Old 01-10-2015, 01:05 PM   #25
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Yep... it is $10 a watt. Quote from a dealer was $1500 for 150 watts. Sorry. Misplacing a ZERO can also affect what you will owe in Income Taxes, too.

Look at it this way... everyone thought they got a heck of a good deal after figuring that one out. Thanks. Probably the first mistake for the year, or third.
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Old 01-11-2015, 09:27 PM   #26
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Solar Install, Worth it?

Yes, if you mostly camp without hookups, and for longer than three days.

1. Batteries always at 100% charge in storage yard, so always ready to go camping.
2. Freedom to have nearly unlimited power knowing (if camped in a sunny spot) batteries will recharge again tomorrow.
3. Solar does a great job recharging batteries while driving.
4. One less thing to worry about. Water, and gray/black tanks are issues enough.

Yep, these are REALLY good reasons.

My game plan is going to be to wait till the end of the first year of ownership to see how we really use it. Leaning towards "why the heck not" and "bah, it's just money!"
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Old 01-12-2015, 06:59 AM   #27
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Yep, these are REALLY good reasons.

My game plan is going to be to wait till the end of the first year of ownership to see how we really use it. Leaning towards "why the heck not" and "bah, it's just money!"
That's a good strategy with all your "good upgrade ideas!" Like in war, few plans survive first contact.
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Old 01-12-2015, 07:46 AM   #28
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There are many parallels between Airstreaming and sailing. Most sailboats under 40' do not have generators installed because of space constraints.

After many years of sailing, my conclusion was that solar the worst, i.e. expensive and inefficient. Wind generation was a little better(especially if you were anchored in open, wind swept anchorages). The best supplement to the propulsion engine's electrical generation was the small Honda generators. And, of course, boaters would always have better, more consistent exposure to the sun.

A tiny, solar set up just to maintain batteries might make sense. IMHO, solar for our Airstreams just does not make economic or practical sense.
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