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Old 12-26-2014, 11:03 AM   #1
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Max solar setup for 2015 FC 19?

Hi everyone,

This is my first post here (I've been lurking) so I'll start by saying thanks for all the info! I've decided to buy a 2015 FC 19 (for full time living between May and October) and seeking help on getting the most solar power I can using rooftop solar film and portable panels/film.

I've been reading the threads on here and I've been doing some off-grid planning for a few months now. I currently have some portable panels - those I use now, I don't intend to incorporate into a larger system. I would like the system I plan to buy to include new portable panels, and rooftop solar. I've noticed the brands and names I'm seeing here are different than those I'm familiar with in other niches around the web (PowerFilm, Goal Zero) and are specifically geared towards the RV afficianado. I'm wondering how these systems compare to these other brands?

I live in Canada, as such A/C isn't as big an issue as compared to the southern States (though it will be used), but of course the length of day and angles are also different. I have higher than normal power needs because of my computer setup. Though I can limit the power my cpu's are drawing, I would like a system that assumes at least a two monitor setup.

For the roof of the FC I'd like to use a flexible panel or film, such as Go Power Solar Flex Panels, PowerFilm, or whatever is suggested by those here. I have been saving, and I expect a large upfront cost and would like to carpet as much of the roof as possible without ruining the beauty of the Airstream. After that I'd add whatever portable power I'd need and have those panels going into the FC's battery system.

Up to now, I was leaning towards 4, 90 watt panels from Goal Zero. That's enough for my mobile office. So the panels on the roof would be for the usual things.

Because this will be my home for half the year, I don't want to skimp - within reason. I would prefer not to use a generator, I enjoy peace and quiet!

I'm still reading in this forum and I apologize because I'm sure some of these questions have been answered before - its hard to know what is "best" when things seem to be getting better all the time. I admit I'm new to all of this so it's a little overwhelming still.

Thanks for any and all help!
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Old 12-26-2014, 01:20 PM   #2
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I would start by figuring out how much battery power I needed, the how much solar I need to charge those batteries each day, spring into fall. No expert here, we use two factory group 24 AGM Lifeline batteries which is conservative, two group 27 AGM would be better for us.

Two factory 53 watt solar panels recharge our batteries each sunny day before noon. Overcast days do little but that's the way it is with solar and why extra battery reserve is good.
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Old 12-26-2014, 02:16 PM   #3
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Thanks dkottum,

I've read that advice here before (determine your needs first, then build from there). And I'm just wondering why? In my situation, I believe the space available for the batteries and space available for the panels will be the limiting factors. I'm sure that whatever the maximum is of these two factors, will likely still not be enough for a system that supported the A/C in summer, heater in winter, microwave, tv, fridge, computer, etc...which is why I'm asking what system, would currently give me the most amp hours for the space available on this AS? After looking at prices, I'm fairly certain that price won't be my limiting factor either (I'll run out of space on the roof before money). I'm not trying to sound rich or anything...its just that I know there isn't a tonne of space up there.

My reasoning is the same for batteries. I'm assuming the battery housing can only be enlarged a certain amount (I've read some people had it extended 2 inches or so) - assuming the maximum extension is done, I would like to put the largest capacity batteries that can fit. Does that make sense? Again, from my (admittedly basic) understanding of things, size and space available will limit me more than price.

Thanks again for your help, I'll try to determine my expected usage. Ideally, I'd like to hear from a 19' owner who's equally power hungry and recently done an installation.

For example, when I use Go Power's Calculator on expected usage (and I was conservative), they are suggesting their largest package - (three GP-RV-160) - would three of those panels fit on an AS 19 FC?
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Old 12-26-2014, 02:53 PM   #4
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Will this system fit the space available?:

Solar Extreme Charging System (480 watts) | GPElectric
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Old 12-26-2014, 03:25 PM   #5
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gstreamer,

I think only you or another 2015 19' FC owner are going to be able to figure how many panels you can fit onto your trailer. That's because only you know how many roof penetrations (fans, skylights, vent pipes, etc.) you have to work around. You're not just working with total roof square footage but how they will fit into the allotted space. So the number and size of panels and their layout will depend upon how the roof space is carved up. Different brands have different size panels and size configurations. Your goal should be to develop a plan that will maximize every square inch of un-shaded, usable space regardless of brand. Once you've done that, then you can research what brands, types, and sizes of panels can be fit into the space available.
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Old 12-26-2014, 03:30 PM   #6
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I have a solar system installed at home and a second system install at a cabin out east, so I have some experience with solar , and also had a 2012 airstream 19 foot , number one the roof will not have enough surface area for solar panels and you will have to use supplement portable panels , You will also not have enough room for batteries unless upgrade them , the factory solar system from airstream is one 53 watt panel mounted in front of the a.c. There is room on the roof for one more 53 watt panel at the rear of the trailer behind the a.c . The factory charge controller is not the most efficient you can get a mppt charge controler it can produce up to 30 % more power and most charge controllers that are mppt type have a equilizer charge mode for battery maintenance ( this will give you the most life and capacity for you batteries, ) my home system is 1320 watt system it provides about 35 % of all my energy used ,doesn't include heating, air conditioning, heating water for showers etc ,or my 3/4 hp water pump, so it all depends on your energy consumption every person is different and so would be there energy consumption. On a rainy day my 1320 watt system will produce a lot less energy 100 to 300 watts , so if you had will say 120 watts of panels on the roof of your trailer and say 2 portable 120watt panels you should have enough power on sunny days but will run out on cloudy days ,( this all depends on what your powering, )also roof mounted panels aren't as efficient do to there angle to the sun and the panels produce less energy when there hot ( the trailer reflecting heat off the roof to the panels) also most of the time the trailer is parked out of the sun for interior comfort, the cheapest way to go is conserve energy by swapping all light to LED bulbs , turning things off when not used , we are very energy conservative people just for a guide , also you will have to charge your cell phone ,laptops ,cameras all when its sunny out when there's lots of power ,what I meen you must always think ahead and watch the weather forecast to plan your energy usage remember no sun means no or almost no power, and now your relying on your batteries and since your airstream has room for just two group 24 batteries you don't have a lot of storage capacity. Hope this gives you some kind of a guide , good luck .
Don
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Old 12-26-2014, 03:41 PM   #7
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Thanks Scamp,

It's unfortunate, but not unexpected to hear that there wasn't enough room for that many panels. I expected I'd need some portable panels to supplement the system, but I was hoping to get more than 100 watts from the roof. I wont be getting the factory installed system because I haven't seen many positive comments about it.

Thanks again, definitely gives me some good info to go by. Will keep reading.
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Old 12-26-2014, 03:52 PM   #8
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Trying to support air conditioning and a electric resistance space heater of any type is an unreasonable goal of solar for an Airstream such as yours or mine. I wouldn't attempt microwave either, or any electric cooking devices, electric hair dryers and such. Any heating appliance is a challenge for solar/batteries.

Stick with lighting, tv/radio/computer electronics, Airstream furnace, basic Airstream 12 vdc systems and you will have a reasonable goal. Use your propane system for heating your trailer and water, fridge, and cooking (or gas/charcoal grill).

So start with limiting electrical needs, then enough batteries to power them, then enough solar to charge those batteries.
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Old 12-26-2014, 05:43 PM   #9
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The number of panels and their capacity will depend on the size of them, of course. My current favorite panel is a Grape Solar from Costco. 100 watts for $140 delivered to your door.

http://www.costco.com/Grape-Solar-10...100054656.html

There are other panels available in different sizes. The easiest way to determine the number you can accommodate is to cut a piece of cardboard the size of the panel you choose and then get on a ladder and see how they would fit.

On my 2014 FC 20' I found space for two of these 100 watt panels, and possibly I could add a third one, but there could be some shading issues and overhang issues. So I stuck with two and that works out well for my application.

Since the newer Airstreams have a mostly flat roof, the panels really don't show from below or change the aesthetics of the rig significantly, in my opinion. There are already vents, the AC unit, and various other clutter such as the television antenna on the roof so I don't think curved, form fitting panels are necessary.

I would recommend going to a pair of 6 volt golf cart type batteries wired in series for the 12 volt system. They have the same footprint as the group 24's that you probably have now but are 1.5 inches taller. It is fairly easy to extend the height of the battery box on most trailers. That will increase the capacity from about 150 amp hours in the current set to about 220 amp hours with golf cart types. Start with that and add more capacity later if you find it is necessary. Finding space for more batteries is not easy though.
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Old 12-26-2014, 07:01 PM   #10
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Just for the record.........I have been using 500 watts of PhotoFlex panels from Grape Solar for several months. These replaced 5 GS-100 hard panels from the same company. There is a distinct difference in the photo-sensitivity between the hard and flex panels...causing them to be far less sensitive in low light conditions like early/late sun or overcast days.

Further, they do not have the same power output of hard panels. When my 2- 100 amp/hour LiFePO-4 batteries are discharged substantially (30% or more), the hard panels were capable of between 30-35 amps to the batteries (with full MPPT boost operating). The flex panels have provided no more than 25 amps in similar conditions.

Based on this experience, you can expect no more than 10 amps maximum (if you get that) to your batteries using a 200 watt flex panel array, of course depending on the type of solar controller that you use.

I have also installed 270 watts of solar on a 19's roof (2 GS-135 panels from AM Solar), but you have to reposition the TB antenna, as this is valuable space for a panel.

As idroba has stated, you should start with a larger, more robust batter bank and size your solar array from there, as the batteries are the heart of any system and provide all of the power for your electrical needs. And the Go Power system that you linked to is definitely NOT an extreme system!!!!! I am presently installing a 675 watt solar array (5 GS-135 panels), 40 amp MPPT charge controller, 600 amp/hours of Lifeline AGM batteries and a Magnum MS-2012, 2000 watt sine wave inverter/charger that will power every AC load in the trailer (with the exception of the roof A/C) on a new 27FB. THAT is a robust system!!!!

First, you won't fit one of their 160 watt panels on your roof, let alone 3!!! Next, you don't need a 3000 watt inverter to run a microwave, it is easily done with a 2000 wave sine wave model like the one I'm using in the above paragraph, which also has a premium battery charging system and internal transfer switch included in the unit for on-grid use.

Installing a comprehensive battery, solar, inverter/charger system is not for the inexperienced........ rather, it is a complex affair that should only be addressed by one who is well versed in the synergistic interactions between AC and DC electrical systems with the addition of solar charging.

Suggestion: either do a whole lot of study on the above, or find yourself a qualified designer and installer of RV solar charging systems who also has substantial experience on Airstreams.
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Old 12-26-2014, 11:20 PM   #11
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Thanks for all the great info everyone

Lewster - I definitely won't be doing this myself, I just want to learn as much as I can so I know what to expect, can ensure I don't get ripped off, and because it'll be part of my eventual home. My goal isn't to "become well versed in the synergistic interactions between AC and DC electrical systems" (I was tired just reading that sentence), but just to keep the lights and computer on and my food warm! But really, thank you for all the great info. If you had any recommendations on who to seek out up here in Canada, I'm all ears.

I've also been nudged towards a larger trailer, I may end up with a 25'er now...
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Old 12-29-2014, 08:20 AM   #12
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Here is a thread that may be helpfull, http://www.airforums.com/forums/f295...-a-102045.html I have pictures of my setup on #22. During the install I was told that there is room for one more 50 watt panel for a total of 200 watts.
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Old 12-29-2014, 12:18 PM   #13
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Off-we-go,

Just a quick correction on the description of your system. You have a total battery capacity of 300 amp/ hours........ not 600.

Your Lifeline GPL-6CT batteries are 300 amp/hours each, but are 6VDC, which means they are connected in series to get a total of 12 VDC.

In a series connection, the voltage adds but the amperage remains the same.


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Old 12-29-2014, 05:04 PM   #14
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Also keep in mind that certain modifications can/will be made to increase capability. Batteries could be tucked under the dinette (you'd have to build an enclosure since IIRC that space is open in a 19") or the rear corner bed. You could also remove the TV antenna to gain more roof space for panels.

Like Lewster said, a pro will know best how to maximize this. I know that CanAm RV in London has a pretty capable shop, based on my experiences and seeing others' trailers.

Tom
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