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Old 08-05-2013, 02:11 PM   #1
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How Do I Estimate Correct Amount of Solar?

In the coming weeks, we plan to start the process of selling the current Airstream (or trading it in) and upgrading to a 30 foot Airstream. In preparing to get it right the first time, I want to ensure we purchase the correct Solar Power system on the new Airstream that will meet our power demands.

The new Airstream will:

1. Be purchased with the Solar system installed at the Dealership (which Dealership we select will be dependent upon the best negotiated purchase for the Airstream and accessories as well as the best reputation/knowledge with Solar systems).
2. Have 2 air conditioning units, 2 flat screen televisions and the rest of your typical components and appliances requiring power.
3. Be utilized for a significant amount of boondocking in a couple of years.

We are going to purchase a Yamaha 2000 watt companion generator to compliment the current 2000 watt generator to get 4000 watts total generator power.

Following are the questions?
A. How much Solar do we need?
B. What's the most Solar the Airstream could handle?
C. How much should we budget for Solar system, purchased and installed at an Airstream Dealership?
D. Are there any Dealerships with good or bad reputation with Solar installation and support?
E. Has anyone installed one of those Wind Power systems on their RV and your assessment of its performance and value? Cost of the system?
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Old 08-05-2013, 02:31 PM   #2
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The limiting factor is usually the space on the roof, unless you want portables sitting around.

Our new Airstream has the two panel factory installation, nicely integrated into the trailer with monitor next to the inverter switch. As much of the trailer is set up for propane, they provide plenty for our annual six month travels. We boondock a several weeks a year, usually between destinations with hookups.

We no longer bring a generator with us. Yes we stay away from hot, muggy climates in the summer.

doug k
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Old 08-05-2013, 02:33 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank&Mike View Post
Following are the questions?
A. How much Solar do we need?
B. What's the most Solar the Airstream could handle?
C. How much should we budget for Solar system, purchased and installed at an Airstream Dealership?
D. Are there any Dealerships with good or bad reputation with Solar installation and support?
E. Has anyone installed one of those Wind Power systems on their RV and your assessment of its performance and value? Cost of the system?
A. As much as you have room for on top of your trailer. You can't add enough to hurt your batteries in the space available.
B. More than will fit on your trailer, by a wide margin.
C. You may want to buy aftermarket, and just let the dealer do the install. Factory solar setups are definitely undersized.
D. No answer.
E. Wind power is interesting technology, but not terribly efficient, unless you routinely camp in areas that have too much wind for you to put out your awning.
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Old 08-05-2013, 02:39 PM   #4
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You can't add enough to hurt your batteries in the space available.
Mmm...I'm no expert, but ours has 260-270 watts of panels on the roof, and the trailer the OP described is a 30' like ours. I'm pretty sure that's enough to hurt batteries on a sunny day. I replaced the controller with a better 3-stage model to be safe.
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Old 08-05-2013, 03:54 PM   #5
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Mmm...I'm no expert, but ours has 260-270 watts of panels on the roof, and the trailer the OP described is a 30' like ours. I'm pretty sure that's enough to hurt batteries on a sunny day. I replaced the controller with a better 3-stage model to be safe.
Yeah, you do need a proper charge controller. Panels with built-in controllers are not as good as panels with separate controllers, unless you're just installing one panel.
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Old 08-05-2013, 04:17 PM   #6
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We are looking to install four 150 watt panels on the roof of our 27FB Classic when it gets here at the end of January. We will also use a Magnum 2812 inverter to generate about 2800 watts of AC power and charge the four Lifeline GPL 6CT 300 amp-hour batteries.

I suggest some light reading to help you with making an informed solar power decision by going to this website:

AM Solar's Educational Pages for RV Solar Systems

Among the suggestions I received was to obtain a "Kill-a-Watt" device at the hardware store and start checking the power consumption of the AC powered electrical devices you would like to use in your trailer. Once you get a feel for the load for the cellphone chargers, laptop chargers, TV, DVD player, night lights, shaver, hair dryer, toaster, coffee pot, microwave, etc then you can more accurately determine the minimum solar system necessary to replenish the batteries.

Oversizing the initial installation is a lot better than being too small down the road.
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Old 08-05-2013, 04:22 PM   #7
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Check out the kits available from AM Solar on their website. They provide excellent guidance on size required for your anticipated needs. Also a quality installer is critical for future hands off operation. (Like Lewster) It is also possible and desirable to have the set up integrated into your current ac system so that all your ac outlets provide power when running from the inverter. My system works like this (dealer installed) and it is simply excellent. My son's system on his Globetrotter works the same way and it is a self install from AM Solar. Jim
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Old 08-05-2013, 05:41 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank&Mike View Post
A. How much Solar do we need?
Around 400 watts.

Quote:
B. What's the most Solar the Airstream could handle?
Maybe a little more than that. Perhaps a little less. As others have alluded to, there isn't much room on the roof, especially with two air conditioners. Several 30' classic owners have been able to install 3 panels in the 100-150 watt range. To get much more than that, you have to use panels of varying sizes, which complicates other aspects of the installation.

Quote:
C. How much should we budget for Solar system, purchased and installed at an Airstream Dealership?
Around $4,000. But why would you have an Airstream dealership install a solar system? Most of them know nothing about such systems and you're likely to end up with an expensive system that doesn't work.

Quote:
D. Are there any Dealerships with good or bad reputation with Solar installation and support?
Site policy doesn't allow negative comments about vendors. Therefore, I cannot answer your question truthfully and completely.

Quote:
E. Has anyone installed one of those Wind Power systems on their RV and your assessment of its performance and value? Cost of the system?
I have used stationary wind power systems. In general, they are noisy, and due to the presence of moving parts, require ongoing maintenance and pose a certain hazard of injury if not handled with respect. Solar is superior in most regards.
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Old 08-05-2013, 10:29 PM   #9
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Switz, thanks for posting the link to AM Solar. Crashed my old computer and I am in the process of rebuilding links to "my favorite places"
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