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Old 08-27-2007, 12:26 AM   #1
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Factory Installed Solar Charging System

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! This system allows us to camp quietly in areas without an electrical hook-up, minimizing the worry about draining the battery too low, and minimizing and/or eliminating the need for a generator…. For example in the Anza-Borrego Desert, CA:
http://www.airforums.com/forums/f396/silvergates-safari-home-last-29471-9.html

This thread is for those who either have an Airstream Factory-installed Solar Charging System, or who are considering this option in their Factory Trailer Build Order.

Please share information, photos, issues, ideas and experiences about your factory-installed Solar Charging System. I also invite others who have a solar charging system, especially with the same components as the factory-installed system, to share information.

Please note - This is not a thread for the discussion of generators, which can be found elsewhere on the Forums.
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Old 08-27-2007, 12:30 AM   #2
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So let’s start…

(But first a disclaimer: I am not an electrician or an engineer. If I misspeak about anything in this thread, please feel free to post what you think is correct.)

Below is a photo of our two Solar Panels installed by the Airstream Factory on our 2007 23’ Safari SE. Note that the electrical wires from the Solar Panels enter the trailer through the street-side roof and (I’ve read) go down to a harness behind the exterior refrigerator access door. The Airstream Owners Manual states that the wires from the solar panels are connected to the green and yellow wires of the pre-wire system at this point and portable solar panel wires can also be attached here (accessed through the exterior refrigerator access door). But when I opened this access door, I did not readily see the yellow and green wires or where to attach portable panel wires.
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Old 08-27-2007, 12:34 AM   #3
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The limited information that I have is contained in my Airstream Owners Manual for the Safari (p. G-10 as seen below). The manual states that Airstream Travel Trailers are pre-wired for an Intermountain Solar Technology Solar Panel/Charge Controller/Display System. The owner’s instruction manual for the solar charging system was not included in my Airstream delivery case. I am in the process of contacting the solar manufacturer to obtain this information. I think they are now called AEE Solar, which has the same phone number: 800-671-0169.

If anyone possesses the solar charging system owner’s instruction manual, please post the manual’s main points (for example, the cleaning/care for the solar panels) on this thread and/or contact me.
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Old 08-27-2007, 12:42 AM   #4
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(BTW, click on the above diagram to enlarge it).

The yellow and green electrical wires then bring the solar generated amps to the Charge Controller – Buss Bar Area in the inside front trailer area, seen and accessed under the L-Lounge.
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Old 08-27-2007, 12:46 AM   #5
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Hey SilverGate...Looks like a nice relaxing weekend was had by all out in the middle of nowhere....

We have a 2006 19' Bambi SE LS with a factory solar panel, charge controler and display panel. It's great, though when we first got the unit, we were getting no readings at all on the display panel...back to the dealer we went...seems there was a wiring problem with the panel up on top, so it wasn't charging properly. We haven't relied on the solar power too much as yet...just a couple of times so far, but we are looking forward to lonelier, quieter places as time marches on....and since we're in AZ, there's plenty of sun to do the magic!

One thing I'd recommend to anyone getting this equipment...read the manuals and information and ask all the questions you need to of the dealer or seller so that you understand the display readings, etc...and experiment at home with it before you actually plan to use it on the road...just to make sure it is functioning properly...and to get a feel for the amount of charge you can expect and how long that will last you. The few times we have relied on the solar panel, we were pleased with the performance...we had the power we needed...

Thanks for starting this thread...looking forward to what others have to say/report...the more we know the better it goes.

TB
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Old 08-27-2007, 12:46 AM   #6
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The Charge Controller is made by Zettler and has "25 amp shunt" marked on its side.

It is part # AZ971E-1C-12 DE. It is the black box with a yellow wire and has light indicators showing if the battery is charging, full, partial, or low. (My battery is currently is full, as I am hooked up to shore power at home).
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Old 08-27-2007, 12:48 AM   #7
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When the Charge Controller detects that the battery needs charging, it shunts solar generated amps to the two LIFELINE AGM (Glass Matt) Batteries, also installed with the Solar Package Option by the Airstream Factory. (These batteries never need water to be added… again, one less worry)!
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Old 08-27-2007, 12:51 AM   #8
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The Panel Display shows the status of the battery in % Remaining, and in Volts. It also can display the Solar Charge Amps currently being produced as well as a running total in amp/hrs.

At the bottom of the panel display is printed SUNEXPLORER TM. I would like more information about this component.
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Old 08-27-2007, 12:54 AM   #9
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I utilize this Panel Display frequently while camping at non-hook-up sites and keep a daily log of the status of the battery and Solar amps produced. This has helped us get to know and understand our trailer’s electrical life and rhythms.

We have learned that we can comfortably run the two Fantastic Fans, stove light and exhaust fan while cooking breakfast, and listen to the stereo without causing a significant battery power drain. If the battery voltage does drop a bit during the peak usage (during morning meal preparation and dish washing), it rebounds to 100% by mid-morning in sunny Calif.

From postings on this Forum, we learned not to use the microwave oven unless we have a 20 amp electrical hook-up or the AC, which requires a 30 amp electrical hook-up.
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Old 08-27-2007, 12:58 AM   #10
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It’s a good idea when ordering the Solar Charging System Package Option to also order the Full Awning Package. The awnings help to keep the trailer cooler.

BTW, the inverter was also a good option that allows us to re-charge our 2-way radios, and watch the LCD if we wanted.
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Old 08-27-2007, 01:03 AM   #11
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So now it’s your turn…

If you have an Airstream with the factory-installed Solar Charging System, please share your experience, notes, information, and ideas here.

Others who are seriously interested in this system or have similar components of this system are also encouraged to share information.

Also, if you have in-depth knowledge about any of the system components, please share the information here.

SilverGate
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Old 08-27-2007, 10:22 AM   #12
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I am remodeling a '72 Overlander. Are the solar panels something you can install yourself or does it need to be done at a dealer?
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Old 08-27-2007, 01:23 PM   #13
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SilverGate...

I do apologize for making my earlier post (post #5) right in the middle of your most excellent introductory info...I didn't know you were continuing with more posts... Perhaps a moderator can move my post #5 to a postion after your final intro post (#11) so your intro is uninterupted?

The AS manual that came with our unit (2006 19' Bambi) also references Intermountain Solar Technology Solar Panel/Charge Controller/Display System on the same page, but the info I have for the actual solar panel indicates the panel manufacturer as BP Solar... A PDF of "General Information" is attached below...it offers some info about handling/use/maintenance, etc. The full insert has electrical connection schematics, etc.

We also have an operating and installation instruction booklet for the Sunexplorer Charge Controller/Display Kit. Also below is a PDF of the pages showing user instructions and trouble shooting, which helps one understand the operation of the display panel, and gives some trouble shooting hints. The full booklet has electrial schematics, etc. The manufacturer is Atkinson Electronics, Atkinson Electronics, Inc....

Hope this is helpful!
TB
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Old 08-27-2007, 09:24 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TBRich
Thanks for starting this thread...looking forward to what others have to say/report...the more we know the better it goes.

TB
Thanks, TB… and a Special Thank you for posting the two pdf files containing the manufacturer’s operating and maintenance instructions…

Just what I needed… and just what we need to do build on our information base!

As you say "the more we know, the better it goes".

Last night I sent private messages to at least six others here on the forums who have the factory-installed solar system, inviting them to contribute their experiences, ideas, and information so that we can build on our knowledge base… Hopefully they will respond!

Thanks again,

SilverGate
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