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Old 02-12-2012, 09:34 PM   #15
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27FB Solar Install Part 8 - Weighing It All...

Given the roughly 600 lbs of batteries and electronics added to our trailer, and only removing 70lbs (the stock batteries), I was curious to see the effects the installation. I was interested in two values, the change in tongue weight and change in total gross vehicle weight.

To measure (roughly) the tongue weight, I used a simple fulcrum based on a 4x4. To check it out, I first weighed the trailer before any changes.

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The trailer jack was 1 ft from the pivot point, and I added weight 10 ft on the other side. I first measured how much weight I had to add on the 1 ft side to counteract the weight of the unloaded 10 ft side. That was 187 lbs. I then put the jack on the beam and made sure the entire trailer was level when the beam was exactly horizontal (the tongue load varies quite a bit based on the front to back angle of the trailer. I chose to use “level” as my standard).

To balance the 4x4 with the trailer stock took 55 lbs. With the 10 ft lever, that meant 550 lbs plus the 187 lbs of the beam itself, for a total of 737lbs. I checked its relative accuracy by adding 100lbs to the tongue and indeed had to add a corresponding 10lbs to the 4x4.

Fast forwarding to the completed job, I again measured. My first try didn’t go so well, and in fact at the moment I took the picture, all hell broke loose as the weight tower fell. The telling shot below shows the level I was using to make sure the 4x4 was horizontal, being launched into space! Sorry about the motion blur!!

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Being a little more careful, I got the following:

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The new weight was 102 lbs. Thus the new tongue weight is 1,020 + 187 = 1,207 lbs., or increase of 470 lbs. Given that I’ve added about 600 lbs under the bed, the rest of the weight is on the trailer suspension.

Once hooked up to my TV, my once perfectly level rig was sagging a bit! I raised the hitch ball 1” by adjusting the hitch assembly. I left the equalizing bars at their same “two links” and the rig was now level again.

All of the above measurements were performed with a full fresh water tank, both propane tanks full and empty grey and black tanks. This is our usual tow configuration. All gear was aboard but our clothes and food.

To find out how much the whole trailer weighed, I headed off to a local gravel supply outfit that has a huge scale for weighing loaded trucks. They were kind enough to let me drive on and read weight for free, and then drop the trailer in their yard to weigh the truck alone. The total rig weighed 15,520 lbs. The truck alone weighed 8,480 lbs. Therefore the trailer weighed 7,040 lbs. This leaves us with 560 lbs of “stuff” that could be added.
Of course this assumes empty grey and black water tanks. Either one of those filled would blow the entire weight budget.

Several observations: 1) I need to upgrade to 16” wheels and better tires asap. 2) A fully loaded F350 weighs a lot- over 4 tons! (this with a GVWR of 11,700lbs), 3) I’m glad I bought the biggest TV I could get, and 4) I'll ALWAYS visit the dump station before traveling (or at least don’t replace the fresh water that ends up in the grey and black water tanks).

My last post will be thoughts on this whole thing.…
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Old 02-12-2012, 09:44 PM   #16
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27FB Solar Install Part 9 - Conclusions...

Perspectives…..

In no particular order, here are some thoughts on this whole project.

1) I’ve written all these posts while camped in Big Sur. We’ve been here since Thursday night, and its now Saturday night. There has been little or no sun the whole time, with rain off and on. Both Amy and I have been working on our computers all day Friday and Saturday.

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We’ve been nice and cozy, running the heater when we want, making coffee every morning (that takes 88 amps for the 10 mins it runs), liberally used the microwave (115 amps when running), watched DVDs in the evening and we ran all manner of routers and modems indiscriminately. Our SOC is now 76%. Given that I don’t want to go below 50%, I am very glad that I have six batteries. Maybe this summer I won’t need all six, but as long as I can get to my destination safely, I love having the amp-hours. I know there has been a lively discussion about how much energy to haul around, with most discussions starting with, “conserve”. Call us power gluttons, but we bought the trailer to enjoy it in the way we live.

2) I’ve been in the high tech business for years, and have watched many “cycles” of technology over the years. We are definitely in the “wild west”, “early days” of solar power, especially in RVs. It is way, way too complicated still for normal people to implement a solar system. Sure, we have one stop install shops (like AM-Solar) who can fix you up, but good ones are hard to find. I am an electrical engineer by training, and pretty handy, but without the terrific support of AM-Solar, I’m not sure I could have made the right decisions and had a successful install. There will be a major startup opportunity one day for a company to develop the technology to truly “productize” solar. With the Chinese now driving solar array prices way down, at least the material cost will soon become reasonable.

3) Batteries, batteries, batteries! There’s nothing like installing 500 lbs of batteries to help you appreciate the energy contained in a couple of gallons of gasoline! Luckily the entire automobile industry is driving technology in this area, so I’m sure that technologies like Li-ion are not that far away for us. Though, I’m not sure how comfortable I’d be sleeping on top of 2,000 Li-ion computer cells (ala Tesla)!

4) All the primary vendors selected by AM-Solar were terrific. Given my past experiences, especially with equipment manufactured offshore, it is amazing that every single component of this pretty complex system worked, the first time. A huge credit to Magnum Energy, Morningstar Corp and Lifeline.

5) If anyone wants to “do it yourself”, you definitely should use a consulting company/supplier to help guide you through it. If your source of components delivers a great price but won’t talk to you on the phone, its not worth it. I know that there was some noise a while back about AM-Solar in particular, but I’ve gotten to know Roger, David and Michael well over the last three weeks, and they are knowledgeable, professional and anxious to help ALL the time. If you’re doing an Airstream install, Michael is your man, he’s done a ton of them and has opinions on all.

6) I think Airstream should get very serious about solar and energy in general. It’s not enough to work with an outside company. They need to hire inside people who really understand the issues and are committed to being world class in solar and energy management. Putting in 10 gauge prewire for a solar system is just one sign they are not serious. Given Airstream’s current price points, the delta cost for solar out-the-door is not that big a deal. But, those factory systems should be extremely well engineered and integrated into the trailers’ energy management systems. I can tell you what an eye opener for both Amy and I to see in real time how much current every powered device uses (she remarked this morning on how much current the incandescent light above the stove took relative to all the LED interior lighting). I know that the very first time we camped in our brand new, $80K trailer, we cooked, used the lights, went to sleep with the furnace set to 65 degrees and woke up with a dead factory battery. Even simple battery monitoring and state of charge for the factory batteries would be a step in the right direction and consistent with Airstream’s philosophy.

7) If you’re at all handy, this is one hell of a fun thing to do. I’m not working right now, so could spend “infinite” time on this and there were multiple times when Amy would say to me at 11pm after working non-stop all day, “we have to stop!”.

Go for it! One day, we hope to see you at one of those beautiful, “no hookup” sites!

Parting Shots…

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Old 02-12-2012, 09:50 PM   #17
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Lew,

Crap! As you can see by my subsequent posts, the system is all done. I was just so tired every night, I didn't have the energy to post updates. I would have love to have known about stranded power cable. Oh well, when it breaks eventually, I'll only have myself to blame!

On the Magnum Charger, yep, we're using it. I'm only keeping the factory converter around in case the Magnum ever fails. Love the fact that it's got Lifeline battery profiles already set up.

As for the cable size for the inverter, since my run was less than three feet, I went with #2/0. I think we'll be OK given the short run distance.

Thanks so much for the response!

Hugh
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Old 02-12-2012, 10:33 PM   #18
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Looks like a great install. Congratulations. I hope, one day, to add solar to our trailer. Taking notes.

Thanks for posting.
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Old 02-12-2012, 11:14 PM   #19
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Hi, you did a fantastic job, but this has chased me further away from wanting a solar system. Actually, I was thinking of having two 100 watt panels put on my trailer, to charge my two group 24 wet cell deep cycle batteries, for the rare occasion that I will be in a non-hook-up site for a day or two. [simple system] I am not a boon docker, but I have had to stay at a few places without hook-ups. And I don't plan, or want to, power any 120 volt items off of my batteries.
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Old 02-12-2012, 11:32 PM   #20
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Hi, you did a fantastic job, but this has chased me further away from wanting a solar system. Actually, I was thinking of having two 100 watt panels put on my trailer, to charge my two group 24 wet cell deep cycle batteries, for the rare occasion that I will be in a non-hook-up site for a day or two. [simple system] I am not a boon docker, but I have had to stay at a few places without hook-ups. And I don't plan, or want to, power any 120 volt items off of my batteries.
This is what I have put in.... got all the gear from AM Solar, aside from a 1000W inverter I've used for 7 years or so... Trimetric battery monitor, Heliotrope controller and two group 27 batteries (since that was in the trailer when I bought it). I've switched nearly all the lights to custom LED configurations. I use a CPAP machine, so the inverter is key. Since I don't use a furnace (we put on sweaters ), 200W is plenty so far for lighting, inverter, water heater & fridge igniters .... We've camped at Burning Man, Death Valley (early spring - it snowed!), Mt Ranier, etc... and the solar has worked just fine for us.

Yes, I have to boil water to make coffee... and we don't have a microwave. Hair driers are right out, too. The one thing I need to do is to find a better toaster substitute. .

- Bart
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Old 02-13-2012, 12:58 AM   #21
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Bart...Solar toaster? lol...I've tried a few of those stove-top, burner fired 'toasters', and they are all crap, IMHO...

We're pretty much back to making our toast in the old, scratched up, thin-walled frying pan - bit of butter and it's toast in a couple of mins...

Speaking of 'solar' devices...years ago We had one of those redwood 'cask' type hot tubs in our backyard...I built a rabbit hutch nearby that had an angled roof that I fit two 4x6 ft water heater collectors...

I plumbed the collectors with a thermostat and small circulating pump to move the hot water into the hot tub during the day - we had great 102+ degree hot tub water every night for a few cents to run the pump!

Those collectors (made in Israel) were made of copper, with a steel frame and special glass on top to 'trap' the heat...still have the collectors, but these days our dog uses one to lay on during the cool winter days for her 'sun bath'...
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Old 02-13-2012, 03:39 AM   #22
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I feel your pain!

If at all possible, regardless of the short distance, I would upgrade to 4/0 battery cable and a 400 amp class 'T' fuse......... just to be on the safe side!
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Old 02-13-2012, 03:47 AM   #23
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Hugh,

Great post!

Now you see why AM Solar is the ONLY solar outfit that I would be associated with. Have fun with your new rig!
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Old 02-13-2012, 08:03 AM   #24
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Fyi

Looks like Z8 started a new thread for each phase of the project. Search for 27FB Solar.
Brad
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Old 02-13-2012, 10:05 AM   #25
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Looks like Z8 started a new thread for each phase of the project. Search for 27FB Solar.
Brad
Great information presented here Hugh. We merged the threads together here so all the information is in a single location.

Kevin
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Old 02-13-2012, 10:28 AM   #26
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Z8,

Thank you for the excellent documentation, commentary and pictures. Your workmanship and attention to detail are commendable! We won't be going whole hog like you did (our 120V needs are limited when camping) but it's good to know what's possible and you've given me ideas for our 27FB solar future. Wish I had a nice room to work in and scaffolding like you did!

Best,

Brad
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Old 02-13-2012, 11:14 AM   #27
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Brad,

Independent of what kind of system you install (+/- number panels, inverter, battery number and size, etc, I think there are a couple of key ideas)

Unless the power of the panels is 100 watts or less, I wouldn't use the factory pre wire for the output of the panels (you could certainly mount the charge control monitor using AS's location and wiring in the kitchen below the tank monitor)

In a simpler system, say just a solar charge controller and using stock batteries, I'd still put the charge controller under the bed (pre wire is there too).

If you go the new solar wire route, I think the routing I used (down the cabinet, under the sink, under the trailer), is best. I would not do the whole conduit thing, and just tie wrap the cable to the gas line.

Say you did 2 panels and stayed with the factory battery location only and no inverter, you could do the whole thing easily in two weekends.

Hugh
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Old 02-13-2012, 11:55 AM   #28
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Hugh,

Great post!

Now you see why AM Solar is the ONLY solar outfit that I would be associated with. Have fun with your new rig!
Hi Lew,
Tried to send a private message but I must be on the terrorist list.Anyway,I live in Gresham and would love to discuss the addition of solar panels and costs. My email okpete42@aol.com. If interested please send contact number and we can dicuss the possibilities.
Pete
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