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Old 12-21-2004, 07:01 AM   #1
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Boondocker Solar Package

Have any of you had the Boondocker Solar Package installed as an option on a new Airstream, or added a solar package to an Airstream after purchase? I would be interested in hearing about your experience, cost/benefits, and recommendations.
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Old 12-21-2004, 07:29 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by flyrodder
Have any of you had the Boondocker Solar Package installed as an option on a new Airstream, or added a solar package to an Airstream after purchase? I would be interested in hearing about your experience, cost/benefits, and recommendations.
Thanks,
flyrodder
Flyrodder,

I did a solar install on my '04 22' CCD last summer and, frankly, could not live without it. We recently completed a lengthy trip and knowing the batteries were charged or charging was a big deal since much of our trip was sub-freezing and the furnace was running (the trailer and tow vehicle were disconnected for long periods of the time and A/C was unavailable).

Here are the details >> Xray's 22' CCD Solar Install Link

I don't know what the solar install factory option is costing (A/S did not offer the complete solar package on the '04's - only the pre-wire package as "standard") but I would shop around. The install was very easy since the wiring was already there. My 75W system cost less than $700 and I was able to hide the electronic monitor in the galley overhead - something I doubt A/S will do with theirs. I like my monitor/controller since it reports the battery condition via digital readout versus an LED system. I find myself checking the battery system often.
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Old 12-21-2004, 07:33 AM   #3
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Boondocker Solar Package

Greetings flyrodder!

Welcome to the Forums!

Quote:
Originally Posted by flyrodder
Have any of you had the Boondocker Solar Package installed as an option on a new Airstream, or added a solar package to an Airstream after purchase? I would be interested in hearing about your experience, cost/benefits, and recommendations.
Thanks,
flyrodder
My experience is with Vintage coaches, but I did have AJL Solar add a solar package to my '64 Overlander almost six years ago. With all of the options, the installation was around $2,000 - - this included three solar panels, a solar charge controller, a power inverter/charger, and three gell cell batteries. The package means that I have little worry about going as much as three days without city power (I could probably go longer without shore power, but three days is just about my limit without hookups), and that is with near continual use of my television and two Fantastic Vents as well as occassional use of my Endless Breeze box fans. It has been a great addition for my Overlander, but it isn't one that I am considering for my Minuet as it is utilized as a weekender coach and with such use it rarely would benefit from the solar system. AJL Solar is typically at each of the International Rallys, and that is where I had them install my system - - there were a few minor "teething" problems with my installation (that didn't impact day-to-day use) that were corrected at the next International Rally.

Good luck with your research!

Kevin
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Old 12-21-2004, 07:41 AM   #4
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IMHO, a gen is the way to go. True solar can help, but with a gen, 1000 watts for around $700 it does give more bang for the buck. If I recall back when we got our unit, they didn't have the solar package (it was suspended or something), though the Safari is pre-wired for it. Also when it was avail, I believe it was about $1k factory option. Solar is nice, but you need to be in a good shot of sun to get the full benefits. Our last real boondocking trip we were in the woods and a good solid sun hit was darn near impossible.....with all those pesky trees.

Most Airstrems come with 2 batteries standard, if you get one of the models that does, you'll be able to last longer than a coach with just one battery. Ours took about a full week of boondocking to start to get pretty low (CD, lights, fans, etc).
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Old 12-21-2004, 08:17 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Silvertwinkie
IMHO, a gen is the way to go. True solar can help, but with a gen, 1000 watts for around $700 it does give more bang for the buck. If I recall back when we got our unit, they didn't have the solar package (it was suspended or something), though the Safari is pre-wired for it. Also when it was avail, I believe it was about $1k factory option. Solar is nice, but you need to be in a good shot of sun to get the full benefits. Our last real boondocking trip we were in the woods and a good solid sun hit was darn near impossible.....with all those pesky trees.

Most Airstrems come with 2 batteries standard, if you get one of the models that does, you'll be able to last longer than a coach with just one battery. Ours took about a full week of boondocking to start to get pretty low (CD, lights, fans, etc).
Twink speaks wisdom for the "typical" boondocker and many of us find the need for both solar and a genset. However, there are instances when solar is the better choice (given that you live in a typically sunny part of the country - we do). For instance, there was a time when our CCD was unhitched and parked outside our hotel lobby (our rig would not fit into their parking garage, thankfully) and a generator was strictly forbidden. The weather was so cold (around 10 degrees) we opted to camp inside for a couple of nights. But, our batteries were charged and the furnace was running. And, no freeze-up...

Our CCD is parked on a friend's acreage right now for the winter. The solar system just keeps working away, unattended. Our battery is fully charged and at little risk of freezing.

I can't count the times when we were thankful for having "gone solar". Solar provides us with peace of mind.
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Old 12-21-2004, 09:52 AM   #6
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If you go the generator route - how long can you run a honda type generator before you destroy it - can you run 24 hours/day or do you just use it to charge batteries several hours a day.

I've thought about a generator, but figure it would not last very long if run constantly.

Or maybe my question is how many hours running time can you expect a generator to last before its toast.

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Old 12-21-2004, 10:09 AM   #7
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Generators

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken J
If you go the generator route - how long can you run a honda type generator before you destroy it - can you run 24 hours/day or do you just use it to charge batteries several hours a day.

I've thought about a generator, but figure it would not last very long if run constantly.

Or maybe my question is how many hours running time can you expect a generator to last before its toast.

Ken J.
Like a car engine, lifespan is directly and critically related to OIL CHANGES. This is the one maintenance item that more than pays for itself. The difference between a car that's going strong at 150K miles and one that's dying at 80K is usually how regularly the oil was changed.

Small generators run at high RPM's and do burn some oil so it's good practice to check the oil level every time (or at least every other time) you refuel.

Letting any gasoline engine "dry" - i.e. letting it sit for a month or two, then starting it up without manually pumping oil thru the system is also a good way to cause excessive wear so either learn how to pump your oil or just start the generator once a week is good preventative maintenance. Run the engine long enough for it to warm up - gets rid of condensation.

Paula Ford, "Tin Lizzie?" - still working on the nickname
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Old 12-21-2004, 10:55 AM   #8
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Don't lose sight of..

.. the fact that solar is quiet, and odorless..

The results of having a 75 watt panel on my old '95 Sovreign prompted me to have a 100 watt panel installed on the new Safari.
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Old 12-21-2004, 12:09 PM   #9
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I struggled with the decision of solar versus generator for quite some time, until my batteries went dead during a 2 month storage.

So I installed solar. Two 80W panels (one on top, one to move around on the ground), one good charge controller, and installation = $1300. Mine was installed bypassing ALL the Airstream 'stuff'. Actually the airstream solar prewireing works only with their $400 controller. Its wiring was too short to be of use in my 25' safari. And the AS solar pre-wiring goes thru the battery disable switch (go figure that one).

I'm very pleased with my solar as at 40 degrees, my forced air head will almost drain my battery. I also bought a Mr. Heater for the nights after heavy overcast. My next changes in sequence: change to 6V batteries, add catalytic heater, get Honda generator.

Storage for a generator is a problem, but I did find out that a Honda 1000 generator will fit upright into the rear outside storage compartment of my trailer by 1/4 inch.

Enjoy.
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Old 12-21-2004, 03:54 PM   #10
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There are advantages to using both. While "Boondocking" for long periods of time, a generator can initially be used during the "Bulk" phase to quickly bring a battery up from 50% State of Charge to 80%. The battery can accept a large DC amperage charge (typically 45-55 Amps on newer Airstreams) if using an inverter generator (like the Honda EU series) and your 120 VAC converter/charger.

But when the battery reaches about 80%, it's internal chemical properties prevent it from accepting more than about 8 Amps DC charge. This is called the "Absorption" phase. Continuing to use a generator at this point is wasteful, not to mention that "gassing" will probably occur.

Here is where a solar panel could be useful. It will continue to provide a steady charge of varying lower DC Amperage (based on panel size and sunlight exposure). On a good sunny day, this may be enough to charge the battery through the "Absorption" phase up to about 95% Charge and even into the "Trickle" phase. With little use, the battery will eventually "Top Off" just like it would be on Shore power.

Depending on your geographic location, type of use and budget, one or the other or both may be the answer to a properly charged battery. Don't forget, that sulfation is a killer of regularly charged batteries. A "desulfator" is an inexpensive way to keep the lead sulfate from building up on the plates.
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