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Old 12-01-2014, 07:06 PM   #1
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New Airstream! :) Solar Panel and Generator?

Hi All,

My wife and I have just very recently purchased a new 2015 FC 23FB! We are very excited! We can't wait to take delivery of the unit, and go out on our first of many adventures together!

The unit comes with the factory installed solar bundle (53watt panel + 2 glassmat batteries + a control display). We plan to do a considerable amount of 'boondocking', and our power needs will be: heat fan, lighting, radio, maybe a little tv (we have 1000W inverter in the unit - I think this allows us to watch tv?), and to operate the water pump.

The question we have for the forum is the following: should we wait and see how the solar performs in recharging the battery during the day, or should we take advantage of some sales going on, and buy a 2000w Honda/Yamaha generator? If you have the solar package mentioned above, your thoughts and experiences would be great! We tend to think to wait and see how it all works out before making a considerable purchase.

Thank you for your thoughts.

Mimi and Dan
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Old 12-01-2014, 07:30 PM   #2
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I had solar on my former SOB. I found my 100 watt topped batteries, but cloudy days and shady trees and we did not have enough charging. With the Airstream, I am electing to have two good batteries, park in the shade, and no solar. Living my life without excess I can last 5 days on batters everything you said including fridge fan, but no TV since we never turn it on.
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Old 12-01-2014, 08:39 PM   #3
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Just so you know, the water pump runs only on your units 12 volt system. There is no need for solar or gender power to make it work.
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Old 12-04-2014, 02:48 PM   #4
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53 watts for two batteries is pretty low. Probably just meant to keep the batteries topped up while in storage If you are a heavy 12v user while boondocking 53w may not replenish your batteries by then end of the day. Most roof solar is above 200 watts. You could always get a portable 160w or 200w solar panel (Zamp), add more panel to the roof or a 2000w generator. Hopefully the solar controller in your AS would allow you to add more panels.

I'm taking a trip next June to North Rim Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce staying at the park campgrounds so I'm deciding whether to purchase a 2000w generator or a 200w portable solar setup. I'm leaning to solar.

Kelvin
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Old 12-04-2014, 03:22 PM   #5
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You made a great choice in trailers. We have the 2014 FC 23FB. We do a lot of Boon docking and like to have all the conveniences of home. For that reason we have a generator to run the microwave coffee maker etc. and charge the batteries. We went with the Honda 3000 for the rare occasions when we want to use the A/C. We don’t have solar but plan to install it in the near future so that we don’t need to run the generator for long periods of time to charge the batteries. In my opinion I would get a generator and after you use your AS for a while you might decide to add a second solar panel. Good luck with your new AS.
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Old 12-04-2014, 03:36 PM   #6
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We have the stock Airstream solar set up and it is fine for keeping the batteries topped up (a real blessing ) and provided you have good sunny conditions, will recharge the batteries after a day/night of use. However, if you have cloudy days and or shade, all bets are off as the 2 stock batteries do not have a lot of reserve.

We will be significantly upgrading our solar/battery system next month to 675 watts of panels on the roof and four golf cart batteries with a total of 440 AH capacity under the bed (AGM's.) We currently have 180 AH capacity in our AGM batteries. Our new setup is probably overkill but that's how we roll!

I would hold off on buying the generator until you've had a couple of trips under your belt. It is so nice not to have to deal with that particular piece of equipment.

If you must have AC, then a generator (or a pair) is the only way to go. We plan to move to avoid the need for AC or on rare occasions where there is no choice, will duck into a facility that has AC power.
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Old 12-04-2014, 03:55 PM   #7
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Hi -- there are so many variables to the "solar question" that your question is hard to answer. How many days in one place (because driving recharges)? How much do you run the heater? How many days in a row will you be off-grid? How many amp-hours are your batteries? Etc.


From our experience camping in mixed conditions my first guess is that 53 watts is not going to get you very far. I suggest 200 watts minimum, and then see how things go for you. Upgrading to 6volt golfcart batteries will help, too. (We have done both, and are going several days unplugged in mixed solar and temperature conditions with full battery charges by noon.)

As AnnArborBob said, if you want to run the A/C while off-grid a generator is your only option, and then the solar question becomes one of how less often do you want to run the generator.
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Old 12-04-2014, 04:18 PM   #8
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Here too, new Airstream, new solar panel and the generator question. After my recent extended trip I'm kind of glad that we didn't go right out and buy a new gennie. So far the solar panel has been doing an amazing job. I'm taking a wait and see attitude, not really sure that I need a new generator right now (six weeks ago I was all set to buy one.)
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Old 12-04-2014, 04:54 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by danandmimi View Post
Hi All,

The unit comes with the factory installed solar bundle (53watt panel + 2 glassmat batteries + a control display). We plan to do a considerable amount of 'boondocking', and our power needs will be: heat fan, lighting, radio, maybe a little tv (we have 1000W inverter in the unit - I think this allows us to watch tv?), and to operate the water pump.

The question we have for the forum is the following: should we wait and see how the solar performs in recharging the battery during the day, or should we take advantage of some sales going on, and buy a 2000w Honda/Yamaha generator? If you have the solar package mentioned above, your thoughts and experiences would be great! We tend to think to wait and see how it all works out before making a considerable purchase.

Thank you for your thoughts.

Mimi and Dan
Our custom order for our 23' Airstream Safari included 2 - 53 watt panels, which work well for us when doing non-hookup camping for 5 days, as documented in my thread, Factory Installed Solar Charging System.

If you just ordered your trailer and it has not been built yet, you might want to have your Airstream dealer contact Airstream and update your order to at least 2 solar panels (I think three can actually be placed on the roof of a 23' trailer).

Congratulations and good luck with this!
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Old 12-04-2014, 06:01 PM   #10
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I'm in the camp that says you're not going to have enough wattage for the load you're planning on using. I have a 150 watt panel on top, plus an 80 watt portable. I would like to have another 150 watts on top. Maybe a flexible panel...
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Old 12-04-2014, 06:07 PM   #11
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We have the stock (2) 53 watt solar panels and (2) Lifeline AGM batteries. In sunny conditions the batteries are usually recharged before noon each day, but cloudy days provide little. The two batteries are manageable with our use if fully charged each day.

So the solar is good enough as is, will probably put in the next size larger AGM batteries when these finally wear out, but not until.

I would hold off on the generator for two reasons. You may do very well with the stock solar system when you learn to live within it's capabilities, we do and no longer bring a generator on our extensive annual travel. And living on the east coast you may decide you must have air conditioning for summer camping, and a 2000 watt generator is not enough. You may also decide boon docking isn't all that great and seek sites with electrical hookup.

Know that advice on this forum tends to go into overkill as a solution quickly, whether it be solar, generator, tow vehicle, or trailer size. Management of what you have is a better strategy.
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Old 12-05-2014, 08:19 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dkottum View Post

Know that advice on this forum tends to go into overkill as a solution quickly, whether it be solar, generator, tow vehicle, or trailer size. Management of what you have is a better strategy.
Oh, no Doug, you spoiled it! I was going to next implore him to get an F-450 dually diesel which is the "minimum safe vehicle" needed to safely pull a modern 23 foot Airstream!
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Old 12-05-2014, 11:20 AM   #13
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Hi from AZ. . . I thought the factory/dealer installed solar was 2 53 watt panels & 2 additional AGM batteries. . . . it was on our '05 . Works fine for keeping batteries charged, does ours. regards, Craig
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Old 12-05-2014, 12:01 PM   #14
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Do all of the new Airstreams have LED interior lights? -- That's where I would start, if they don't...
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