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Old 11-17-2016, 12:11 PM   #1
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2017 Factory Installed 160 watt Solar Panels

We just picked up our 2017 28' FC Twin Bed in mid-September and we took it out for our maiden voyage in October. After winterizing it this month, went inside to remove a couple of items and noticed the Group 27 AGM batteries were dead and the solar panels are connected receiving a charge. The voltage is 10.6 volts and I'm in disbelief. In our last Airstream, I had the Zamp Solar 160 watt solar panels and controller installed after market and never had a problem, batteries remained charged through 2 winters.

I am taking the trailer to Airstream NW this Saturday to have warranty work done and have them tell me what is wrong with the solar system.
The factory installed system came with the Sunexplorer Atkinson controller, After reading through the threads, it appears the controller is a single stage and pretty much garbage. Can I replace the Atkinson with a Zamp 30 amp - 5 stage controller without any additional wiring ?

I am not happy after spending what we have on a new 28' FC and have to replace the controller for the solar panels, and feel that Airstream should replace the controller with something that is not single stage.

Any advice is appreciated...

Sean
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Old 11-17-2016, 12:29 PM   #2
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The Zamp 3ZS-30A controller doesn't support a remote display according to their website. This would mean that the controller might not be accessible for easy monitoring.

My suggestion would be to take a look at the Blue Sky MPPT controllers and IPN remote for the following reasons:

1. A MPPT controller will be more efficient than a PWM controller.
2. You can purchase the IPN pro remote to replace the stock remote. The IPN pro remote includes a battery monitor that will display the available battery capacity directly.
3. This remote will require a 4-pin RJ-11 connection and a twisted wire pair to a current shunt. You can reuse the existing CAT5e cable already preinstalled to create these connections since the CAT5e cable contains four twisted pairs.

Good luck.
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Old 11-17-2016, 12:34 PM   #3
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Sean, too bad you could not contact Airstream befor posting. It might be a simple fix or operator error.
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Old 11-17-2016, 12:49 PM   #4
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Sean,

Could be a number of items. Was the store/use switch turned off? If not then there is a larger load that might be drawing down the batteries. Assuming you are storing outside where you are getting sunlight? What condition are the batteries? If the the AS sat on the dealer lot for many months before you bought then the batteries might simply be shot.

If you replace I would also suggest the BlueSky IPN3024IL Duo and the IPN remote. Many of us that have solar systems have had great luck with the BlueSky products. AMSolar or Lew Farber (Lewster) can help you with questions and even installs in the PacNW.
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Old 11-17-2016, 01:02 PM   #5
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Old 11-17-2016, 01:47 PM   #6
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I'll post after this weekend, hoping it just a loose wire, fuse or human error..
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Old 11-17-2016, 02:27 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by widerightroy View Post
I'll post after this weekend, hoping it just a loose wire, fuse or human error..
Good plan. Get your warranty items in order and check back in, we'd like to know how it went and maybe offer some support if needed.

There are a lot of items on the Airstreams not up to various standards of performance. This forum can offer a thousand suggestions and some are quite good, an opportunity to choose which ones would be good for your own travel and camping needs.

Pick and choose, you don't need them all. Spend some time with your standard equipment and see what falls short for you, and upgrade as you go along. We made no major changes for the first two years and 400 nights camping. Have not had a failure of original equipment since new, but have progressively upgraded as we learned what works for us. We put in a multi-stage converter/charger this spring. We still have the the original solar system and it works well for us, we put in Group 31 AGM Lifeline batteries this fall. We plan a portable solar supplement for when we need it.

Take your time.
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Old 11-17-2016, 02:51 PM   #8
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Old 11-18-2016, 01:35 PM   #9
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Self installed system, 2 150 Watt panels and Blue Sky controller most times 14.06 volts by 10:00AM, average sun. 3.5 years and counting!
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Old 08-06-2017, 10:20 PM   #10
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We are brand new to camping and the Airatream. We are reading as fast as we can! We are considering adding the factory installed two 80 Watt solar panels to the 2018 FB Flying Cloud. What appliances/devises will it allow us to use? Is the controller problem fixed from the previous models? Is there an advantage to having them factory installed to charge our batteries? Any insights about the the 160 solar watt package? We have a lot to learn! Thank you...this forum is so informative!
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Old 08-07-2017, 01:03 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Topeka View Post
We are brand new to camping and the Airatream. We are reading as fast as we can! We are considering adding the factory installed two 80 Watt solar panels to the 2018 FB Flying Cloud. What appliances/devises will it allow us to use? Is the controller problem fixed from the previous models? Is there an advantage to having them factory installed to charge our batteries? Any insights about the the 160 solar watt package? We have a lot to learn! Thank you...this forum is so informative!
I don't think there's anything broken regarding the factory solar installation, however, you can purchase better quality components. Refer to the AM Solar site for components, packages and information. One of the main complaints is that the factory solar controller is extremely basic and doesn't include a three-stage battery charger.

For the same budget you can probably find an MPPT solar controller with a battery monitor. The battery monitor measures the current into and out of the battery so you can see at a glance how much battery capacity you have used. Battery voltage can be a poor indication of battery capacity.

Your trailer includes prewiring for solar panels and a CAT5 cable that can be used to connect a remote display to the solar controller. If you're handy, utilizing the pre-wiring makes the installation much easier. I installed a BlueSky MPPT controller with IPN Pro remote and 400W of solar (4 Renology 100 W panels) in a series/parallel configuration for less than $1500 in parts.

To summarize, for less than the factory cost you can:
1. Select a solar charger with a proper three-stage battery charger,
2. Include a battery monitor to accurately know your batteries state-of-charge,
3. Select from a range of solar panels to better meet your requirements.
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Old 08-09-2017, 09:43 PM   #12
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Thank you for such an informative reply. You have changed our thinking on what solar we get for our 25FB Flying Cloud. Your summary of three advantages encourages us to do a little more learning, and get a bit more bang for our buck. My husband is pretty handy, this seems like it would pay off. Thanks so much! I have the feeling we may be back with a few more questions, as we start this very new adventure!
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Old 08-14-2017, 12:09 PM   #13
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We have factory solar on our 2016 Flying Cloud 27fb and love it. The 2 AGM 80amp/hr Batteries double the capacity and our 2 55watt panels keep everything recharged. Run fans, pump, TVs, lights all night and be charged back up by noon the next day. Seamless installation and easy operation. NO problems, very happy with the value. Zamp Portable would be my 2nd choice.
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Old 08-14-2017, 12:56 PM   #14
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Hi

Zero trouble with charging from the factory system in our 2017. One minor glitch with the monitor display that has not repeated since.

No doubt the DIY parts cost plus "your free labor" is lower than the factory installed price. Getting the trailer to an installer and having them do quality work will very much be a "that depends" sort of thing cost wise.

Bob
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