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Old 06-01-2016, 06:59 PM   #1
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A professional solar installation!

A big THANKS to Lewster here on the forums! He did an outstanding job installing a 'boondocking' solar upgrade for me back in February.

After reading a bunch about solar upgrades here and elsewhere I sent Lew a PM asking the usual questions: how many watts, how many amps, when can ya do it, how much, etc.

It turned out that he was free about the same time I was visiting family in Naples, FL. Score!

I had the Airstream solar package already, but it just wasn't doing it for me. It was good for minimal lighting and frugal use of the water pump as long as every day was sunny and bright. Big disappointment, considering the price, but what did I know?

Lew helped me decide on 400 watts on the roof and two 6 volt 300 amp-hour Lifeline AGM golf cart batteries. That would more than double my useable amp-hours from the stock system. We later upped that to four 6V AGMs.

When I dropped the trailer off with Lew in Naples, I about had a coronary when I saw that a Costco-sized bottle of olive oil had broken loose and spilled all over the galley floor. Lew happened to have oil spill pads and made short work of the mess - thanks again Lew - you totally saved my bacon there!

In less than three days Lew had removed the old batteries, 'controller' and solar panels and cleaned up the rat's nest of original wiring under the bed. He installed four new 100W panels on the roof, the Blue Sky solar controller and four 6V AGM batteries under the bed, and even installed the Blue Sky remote in the same location in the galley as the old solar display. He also replaced the old Parallax 'battery burner' with a Progressive Dynamics converter/charger. I couldn't quite manage adding the Magnum inverter/charger, so that's a safer solution for the new batteries in case I ever need shore power.

Lew installed a marine quality master battery disconnect as well as an isolator switch for the solar array. All of the cable runs are sheathed in conduit and all connections are securely fastened with swaged fittings. Everything is 'dress right dress' and all switches and cables are clearly marked with machine printed labels. I couldn't be more impressed with the quality of Lew's installation - better than factory by far!

Does it work? You betcha - first night with the new system was COLD (what, in Florida? ). Ran the furnace (a 10 amp load) all night and barely made a dent in the batteries - the display read 98% remaining the next morning.

I can now go several cloudy or shady days before the batteries start to get low, but even on cloudy days they get a halfway decent charge. The freedom this affords me is huge. I imagine the system will pay for itself over time since I don't have to pay a premium for full hookup sites and can now boondock for extended periods. The peace of mind knowing that the system was professionally designed and installed is well worth the price of admission!

And I now only carry SMALL bottles of olive oil.

Thanks Lew!
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2007 Dodge Ram 2500 short bed 2X4, 5.9 Cummins ISB, automatic 48re, bed cap
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Old 06-01-2016, 07:06 PM   #2
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What was the ball park figure for that project?
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Old 06-01-2016, 07:37 PM   #3
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Lewster is the best!
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Old 06-02-2016, 09:17 AM   #4
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Lew is directly responsible for the success I had in adding 600W of solar, 4 of the 6V AGM's, and a Magnum MSH 3012 to my '15 Classic. Having all that "juice" really increased the flexibility/comfort of my trailer for being able to go and do without an external power source. Yes, I do have a Honda EU3000i Handi for A/C in the wilderness, but all those batteries/solar/inverter installs make my trailer incredibly flexible.
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Old 06-03-2016, 07:02 PM   #5
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I was on the fence about getting a generator, but the idea of recharging my batteries from THE SUN really was the deciding factor. I haven't gone full time yet and when I do I hope to be able to follow the 75 degree F zone as much as possible.

The only reason I think a generator would be needed is if I ran the A/C. I've heard that adding an electronic hard start kit may allow one to run a smaller genny (less noise, fuel) but I'm not quite ready to commit to that yet. Let's see how long that lasts! For now, it's so nice and quiet...

One small issue with my installation is that even though the batteries are under the bed (front bed model) the tongue weight increased about 120 lbs - now about 15% of the gross. I had an Escapees Smartweigh done and discovered that the front trailer axle is carrying a significantly larger part of the load than the rear axle. Trailer tows great, but I need to balance my load a little more toward the rear.

AWCHIEF, I'm not sure if forum rules allow me to discuss pricing. You can get a pretty good idea of costs if you go to AM Solar's website. Be sure to be sitting down when you look at the price of LITHIUM batteries!
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Old 06-03-2016, 11:19 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Powerarrangr View Post
I was on the fence about getting a generator, but the idea of recharging my batteries from THE SUN really was the deciding factor. I haven't gone full time yet and when I do I hope to be able to follow the 75 degree F zone as much as possible.

The only reason I think a generator would be needed is if I ran the A/C. I've heard that adding an electronic hard start kit may allow one to run a smaller genny (less noise, fuel) but I'm not quite ready to commit to that yet. Let's see how long that lasts! For now, it's so nice and quiet...

One small issue with my installation is that even though the batteries are under the bed (front bed model) the tongue weight increased about 120 lbs - now about 15% of the gross. I had an Escapees Smartweigh done and discovered that the front trailer axle is carrying a significantly larger part of the load than the rear axle. Trailer tows great, but I need to balance my load a little more toward the rear.

AWCHIEF, I'm not sure if forum rules allow me to discuss pricing. You can get a pretty good idea of costs if you go to AM Solar's website. Be sure to be sitting down when you look at the price of LITHIUM batteries!
What's the difference between the two axles? And the real question is, how much difference is too much?

I got individual wheel weights on my 25FB a few months back, and my front axle was also heavier than the rear: 3240 vs. 2780 (total 6020).
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Old 06-05-2016, 03:27 PM   #7
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Front axle is 3,270 lbs, rear is 2,440. About 830 lbs difference. I'd like to see closer to half that, but I might be dreaming. The conversion added about 450 lbs and most of that weight is due to the four golf cart batteries.

This puts the front axle 530 lbs under its maximum rated load of 3,800 lbs and I haven't even started really loading it yet. I'll have to reweigh when I'm fully packed. I'm also going to make sure the trailer is level with the ground while hitched to the truck - it's possible that the front is slightly low as well.

It's hard to find places to put stuff in the rear (dinette) area of the coach. There's a lot of wasted space in that area. I'm thinking about putting in a recliner on the curb side and possibly building a workstation on the street side which would give me more storage rearward.
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Old 06-06-2016, 05:24 PM   #8
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Another very satisfied Lewster installation. Originally 650W solar panels with 4 Lifeline 6V batteries. Then in December, he swapped those for a 300A lithium battery. Sure miss those 600A from the Lifeline's but don't miss the weight. If I could just lose that much weight that easily! I love the solar! Lewster is the ultimate professional who believes if you are going to do, do it right the first time.
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Old 09-02-2016, 10:59 PM   #9
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Install question

Power ranger. Regarding your solar install. Getting ready to do same project on a 27 Safari. Two 145 panels run to Blue Sky 3000i. Then to Lifeline agm. Did you use a marine style battery switch above your solar controller? Then a 40 or 50 amp breaker between the controller and the batteries?
And if you used a combiner box what size wire did you use between combiner and solar controller. Thanks
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Old 09-04-2016, 08:05 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrunoT View Post
Power ranger. Regarding your solar install. Getting ready to do same project on a 27 Safari. Two 145 panels run to Blue Sky 3000i. Then to Lifeline agm. Did you use a marine style battery switch above your solar controller? Then a 40 or 50 amp breaker between the controller and the batteries?
And if you used a combiner box what size wire did you use between combiner and solar controller. Thanks
Yes and yes - actually it's a 30A breaker/switch. Lew used #6 AWG cable from the combiner box on the roof down to the controller. Thicker cable is needed for longer runs between the combiner box and the controller to maintain efficiency. There's a chart that explains this somewhere, I'm sure.

The #10 AWG cable used in the solar pre-wire on later Airstreams really isn't big enough to get the most out of a solar array.

Hope this helps!
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Old 09-04-2016, 08:25 PM   #11
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I agree. Lewster is the best. We had work done early summer and it was a pleasure to work with him. He is so knowledgable, and is conscientious. Wish we didn't live so far away, as we now have more things that we "wish" we would have had done.
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Old 10-14-2016, 10:59 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Powerarrangr View Post

One small issue with my installation is that even though the batteries are under the bed (front bed model) the tongue weight increased about 120 lbs - now about 15% of the gross. I had an Escapees Smartweigh done and discovered that the front trailer axle is carrying a significantly larger part of the load than the rear axle. Trailer tows great, but I need to balance my load a little more toward the rear.
Dear Power:

Thanks for sharing photos of your install. I also have the 25' Flying Cloud FB with transverse queen bed. Did you and Lewster consider putting the battery bank in the storage bay closer to the axles--the bay where the brown plastic tray is located in your photo?

Also, how were the #6 cables routed from the roof top combiner box to the charge controller?

Thanks for sharing your experience. Very helpful to my planning for a PV install.
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Old 10-15-2016, 09:29 AM   #13
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Haha, Lew originally recommended that location and I wanted to use that space for storage because of the access door. So the batteries are a foot or two farther forward which increased my tongue weight considerably. We're talking right now about either relocating the AGMs or making the lithium upgrade.

The combiner box on the roof is mounted above the wardrobe next to the bed. The cables come down along the front streetside corner of the wardrobe directly down to the storage bay under the bed. Very neat and clean installation - I never even see the cables.

Lew is very friendly and easy to talk to about this stuff. I started my dialogue with him through a private message on the forum and we took it from there. I highly recommend reading his posts on the subject as well.

One other thing: I probably *could* have done this myself, but DC current is a different animal. Other than this, I do all of my own work. The system works flawlessly as designed and should last a very long time. After seeing the attention to detail and the excellent quality of Lew's work, I know I made the correct choice.

Hope this helps!

J.
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Old 10-15-2016, 11:15 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Powerarrangr View Post
Haha, Lew originally recommended that location and I wanted to use that space for storage because of the access door. So the batteries are a foot or two farther forward which increased my tongue weight considerably. We're talking right now about either relocating the AGMs or making the lithium upgrade.

The combiner box on the roof is mounted above the wardrobe next to the bed. The cables come down along the front streetside corner of the wardrobe directly down to the storage bay under the bed. Very neat and clean installation - I never even see the cables.

Hope this helps!

J.
Power!

Thanks for answering my questions!

Probably will start with a minimal system, but want future expansion capability. I was thinking of the blue sky 3024 mppt charge controller and two of AM Solar's 100 watt panels. Could then expand to 4 panels parallel (12V), and if that wasn't enough, 6 panels series/parallel (24V).

If I had my combiner box in the refer compartment I could avoid a roof top hole. I would have to drop the waste tank shroud to get the heavy wires from the combiner box up to the battery buss bars at front of the trailer. Your chosen cable routing is better if we can live with the extra hole.

I was thinking of using Airstream's #10 Solar pre-wire wiring for a BMS display.
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