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Old 09-09-2007, 09:07 AM   #43
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We have four AGM batteries (Optima blue tops) and I would have to agree with 2air's suggestion that adding batteries is the cheapest way to increase capacity. The only penalty is weight.

We have 2x115 watt panels for a total of 230 watts of generating power on the roof. We matched this to four Optima batteries which have an approximate capacity over 300 amp-hours. We use the Tri-Metric 2020 monitor to accurately gauge our usage and battery status. A good digital battery monitor that tracks amps used with a shunt (not a voltage gauge) is a critical element and you really need it to understand what's going on. The factory supplied "red-yellow-green" monitor is not good enough for solar users.

Our solar controller is a BlueSky Solar Boost 2000e, which optimizes the voltage generated by the panels for best battery charging (this is what they mean by "MPPT"). It also manages the charging of the batteries more effectively than the Parallax controller that came with the coach, using 3-stage charging rather than 2-stage.

Out west we have been exceptionally pleased with our solar power system. In the east it doesn't perform nearly as well due to tree cover and clouds, so we often have to plug in. Like OrangeKid our worst spot ever was probably in the redwood forest in northern California where we basically never saw the sun. But our solar power allows us to remain in great national parks where hookups don't exist, for long periods of time and so for that we love it.

Our typical power usage per day with both laptops going for a while, charging up small devices like cell phones, lights, etc., is about 40-60 amp-hours, but if we need furnace it can rise over 100 amp-hours. On a sunny day in summertime out west we can replace 80-100 amp hours, so when the sun shines we are completely self-sufficient, and when it doesn't we have four batteries to rely on.

By the way, we programmed our TriMetric to reflect a total capacity of 180 amp-hours (not the 300+ we really have). That way the percentage-remaining meter shows us our "safe" battery discharge. When it approaches 0% we know we have some emergency reserve but also that going lower will shorten the life of the batteries. For long battery life, calculate your battery capacity to be about double what you expect to use in a worst-case scenario.
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Old 09-12-2007, 02:44 PM   #44
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Awings Added!

We just had street side and rear awnings added to our 06 19' Bambi... Hoping the additional "portable trees" (as our dealer called them ) will help better control the interior temps in our AZ sun...to give the AC a break when cooling and also to lower temps when we are relying on the factory solar package for juice...

I call them the "flying butresses" because when all the awnigs are deployed, it looks like it's about to become airborn... We are pleased.

TB
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Old 09-13-2007, 01:19 AM   #45
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Originally Posted by TBRich
Hi DogLick... I personally would not want to tackle the installation of the solar panels because I simply don't feel qualified. However, if you are handy enough in such matters and understand the schematics, I don't see why you couldn't, especially if you were doing it as part of a remodel.

Our Bambi only has one panel up top, as there isn't a whole lot of real estate up there...it's mounted in front of the AC unit. I would guess that the larger the coach the more panels you'd want because the power demand would be larger, but again, I am not the one to answer that aspect either.

So what good am I? I'm enthusiastic..does that count??

Happy Solar Trails,
TB

My wife and I installed solar power on our 25' CCD which we bought used. We didn't use the factory equipment because I wanted more capacity ro be better able to charge the batteries in marginal conditions, for winter boon docking when the furnace runs a lot at night, to charge my extra batteries and to power my amateur radio equipment. I believe the small Airstream systems are 50 watts and the larger systems 100 watts. We installed two 130 watt Kyocera solar panels and a maximum power point tracking charge controller, fairly new technology available from several manufactures, on our 25' CCD.

We used all the factory pre-wiring and yes, it was difficult to find the ends of the yellow and green wires in the bottom of the refrigerator cabinet and difficult to work under the front sofa to get to the main CD buss to connect the wires to the 12 volt system.

Silvergate originally wanted comments on the factory installed system and equipment so I haven't posted much on our system. I'll gladly upload a short article and photos previously published in the Sierra Nevada Unit newsletter on our installation to this thread if he would like or I could post it to new thread if there is any interest. Please let me know.

For those with solar, either factory or aftermarket, you can purchase a 12 volt lunch box cooker at a good truck stop that will heat chilli, hot dogs, stew or any thing you can cook in a pot. It comes with a 12 volt cigarette lighter plug and pulls 10 amps. Works great forthe day time lunch when there is plenty of sunshine. Chilli for two and two hot dogs took 30 to 40 minutes. I can attest to the ten amp load; the amp meter on the charge controller confirmed it whileour meal was heating.
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Old 09-13-2007, 04:33 AM   #46
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Don (Motoman) – Although I do intend for the main focus of this thread to be primarily on the Airstream Factory-installed Solar Charging System, we are getting some excellent quality posts about other solar charging systems and components, such as detailed by rluhr.

So, yes, I think it would add to our growing solar knowledge base here (and would be appreciated) if you would upload a short article and photos on your solar installation. (BTW, thanks for asking). Actually, my main concern is that this not get into a discussion about generators!

TBRich – Congratulations on getting the extra awnings which will help keep the trailer cooler when you need to park in the sun for its energy. Glad you are pleased with them!

Rluhr – Thanks for your detailed report on your solar charging system… and for checking out my system… and for encouraging me to boondock early on!

2air’ and thecatsandi – Thanks for posting more details about your factory-installed solar pkg.

OrangeKid – Thanks for your report… we have nearly identical trailers and systems… and we share in the growing appreciation of switching to LED lights.

Razorback - Thanks for your input about your factory-installed system.

5cats - Thanks for your comments and good technical points and questions.

Based on the reports here so far, it looks like I should have qualified my initial introduction to this thread, "There aren’t that many of us who have Solar Panels, Charge Controller, and Display System installed by the Airstream Factory during the build of the trailer. We, who have them, think they’re great!"…

It should have read, "We, who have them, think they’re great, depending on the size of our trailer, where it is used, and how it is used!"

So let’s keep those quality solar reports coming in!

SilverGate
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Old 09-13-2007, 10:32 AM   #47
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While I agree that more batteries would be the cheapest inital way to increase capacity. In the long run I would still go with more solar panels. Installing two more batteries would require me to make two new battery boxes. Access to the batteries would have to be under the couch.

The panels while more expensive initially but there is no recurring cost. I purchase them once in twenty years. I am likely to have to replace the batteries at least 5-10 times. That would be at todays prices $750 to $1500 over the life of the panels. More than the cost of the panels.
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Old 09-13-2007, 08:09 PM   #48
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Orangekid, we camped, for four days at Fishing Bridge, in the middle of this past May. It was wonderful and we intend to go back. We woke up one morning to twenty-four degrees and seven inches of snow. What a present to see Yellowstone covered in snow. Best of all there was hardly anyone there. No waiting, no lines and beautiful views of the park and the Tetons. Go and enjoy...
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Old 09-13-2007, 11:20 PM   #49
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Airstream Solar Panel Pre-Wire

Below is a photo of where the Solar Panel black and yellow wires connect with the Airstream yellow and green Pre-Wires near the refrigerator. In my case I found these wires connect nearby the furnace and wheel-well.

The yellow and green wires then lead to the battery buss bar in the front of the trailer.

I’m still not sure where I would easily make a connection if I ever wanted to add a portable or flexible solar panel.
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Old 09-13-2007, 11:43 PM   #50
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We returned last week from a 3-night outing at South Carlsbad State Beach, CA., a non-hook-up campground.

We enjoyed sunny California days for the most part and our Solar Charging system did quite well, as I have learned to expect with our 23’ Safari with 2 – 53 watt panels, while using the typical appliances such as 2 Fantastic Fans, Stove light, Stereo, Inverter, and LCD. We did, however, avoid using the overhead Halogen lights (We plan to replace these with LEDs).

My Solar Log of this outing again shows that by mid-to-late morning of each day the AGM batteries returned to 100%. And my average daily production on this trip was 38.5 Amp/hrs.

(Click on the picture to enlarge it.)
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Old 09-19-2007, 12:58 AM   #51
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OrangeKid - Fishing Bridge and Coulter Bay are both great spots. Never been there in a TT, but that will change in the future !

TBRich - just brought the BAmbi home one week ago, so I have nothing to report on the solar. I did shuffle through all the manuals they gave me in the Kelty briefcase, and I didn't see anything on the solar. Is it connected and charging the system all the time ?
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Old 09-21-2007, 12:55 AM   #52
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tetstream
OrangeKid - Fishing Bridge and Coulter Bay are both great spots. Never been there in a TT, but that will change in the future !

TBRich - just brought the BAmbi home one week ago, so I have nothing to report on the solar. I did shuffle through all the manuals they gave me in the Kelty briefcase, and I didn't see anything on the solar. Is it connected and charging the system all the time ?
OrangeKid... Yes, if you have factory installed solar, it should be working all the time...it's not something you turn off and on...unless it's dark out or you're in extreme shade (even in shade there is some charging happening). You should be able to monitor the amount of charging taking place with the monitoring panel...on our 2006 Bambi it's located near the kitchen sink... Having said that, ours was not working properly when we first got it...there was a mis-wiring problem up above...once repaired, however, it has always been active... So if you see no evidence of activity through the monitoring system, you should have it checked out...

If you read through the earlier posts in this thread and you'll get a lot of helpful information...and SilverGate is a great resource for all things Factory AS Solar!

Good luck!
TB
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Old 09-21-2007, 01:59 AM   #53
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Tetstream – The answers to your concerns are on page 1 of this thread.

BTW, I noticed that you did not answer TBRich’s question in his post #40 here…
namely, was your solar panel installed by the Airstream Factory, or by your dealer.
Are you sure you actually have solar?

See TBRich’s post #13 here for additional information on your solar charging system, including user instructions and trouble shooting, if it is a Factory-Installed system.

See my posts #6 and 7 here that answer your question. Once your solar charging system is installed, everything is connected, but your batteries are only recharged when the charge controller detects that they need recharging, then it shunts solar generated amps to the battery(s).

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Old 10-06-2007, 09:30 PM   #54
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tsunami
Orangekid, we camped, for four days at Fishing Bridge, in the middle of this past May. It was wonderful and we intend to go back. We woke up one morning to twenty-four degrees and seven inches of snow. What a present to see Yellowstone covered in snow. Best of all there was hardly anyone there. No waiting, no lines and beautiful views of the park and the Tetons. Go and enjoy...
We spent a week at Fishing Bridge, Yellowstone, the week after labor day and the RV park, which has 350 spaces, was full every night. We are glad we had reservations. It was beautiful and the first night it got down to 26F. We spend two additional weeks at Colture Bay RV park in the Tetons, and that park was also full every night for the first week. It was a spectacular trip.

Both parks had full hookups so we did not have to worry about the solar. But on the way to Yellowstone we spent three nights on Antelope Island State Park in the Great Salt Lake and our solar worked perfectly. The AGM batteries were fully charged by mid-morning.
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Old 10-08-2007, 03:25 AM   #55
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OrangeKid
... on the way to Yellowstone we spent three nights on Antelope Island State Park in the Great Salt Lake and our solar worked perfectly. The AGM batteries were fully charged by mid-morning.
OrangeKid: Thanks for your report that your factory-installed solar charging system continues to work perfectly for you.

We returned last week from a 3-night, non-hook-up, outing in the Cuyamaca Mountains, near Julian, CA. See details of our October/Halloween adventure, starting post #295 at:
http://www.airforums.com/forums/f396/silvergate-s-safari-home-last-29471-21.html

Our solar log below will show that our batteries returned to 100% by late morning during the first two days after we arrived.

You will also see a jump in the amps produced when the sun cleared the nearby trees shortly after 11 a.m.

On the third evening we enjoyed seeing our trip’s pics on the LCD (inverter on). At this point our batteries were still doing fine at 75%.

It was mostly cloudy during the next morning, but amps were still produced, bringing the batteries from 65% to 95% by 12:34 p.m.

rluhr: Thanks for posting your log of daily temperatures, sun conditions, and power use/gain when camping at non-hook-up sites starting with September 27, 2007 (at Yellowstone) on your Tour of America blog: http://tour.airstreamlife.com/wordpress/index.php?paged=2

Thank you also for the detailed discussion there on how that cold Montana weather and using the furnace affects the power budget, the importance of conservation efforts, such as lowering the thermostat, and looking at better power management systems.

SilverGate
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Old 10-13-2007, 07:12 PM   #56
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Solar, factory

I too have 2 53W factory solar panels with 2 AGM batteries on a 05 Classic. I enjoy boondocking here in the 4 Corners area and I wouldn't do without them.
Attached (hopefully) is a basic but helpful referance on AGM batteries.
Great info, Larry
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