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Old 11-13-2015, 07:17 AM   #1
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Putting the solar into the canopy?

maybe this is a dumb question . ..if so, please forgive . . .newbies sometimes ask stupid questions.

I'm considering solar options for an 18' Caravel, which does not currently have a canopy, and doesn't have enough surface area for much of a solar system. I will eventually want to add a canopy . . . probably a large one. I'll probably use a pickup as a tow vehicle, and I'm likely to spend weeks if not months at a camping site, so a bit of time doing setup isn't a huge concern.

Has anyone integrated solar PV into their canopy? Perhaps in a unit that folds up and goes into the tow vehicle, rather than rolling up onto the side of the Airstream?
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Old 11-13-2015, 07:27 AM   #2
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Just get a portable solar panel that sits on the ground. We have a 150 watt system and it works great. The one thing you have to change on these is to move the charger from the back to a location closer to the batteries.
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Old 11-13-2015, 10:56 AM   #3
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Has anyone integrated solar PV into their canopy? Perhaps in a unit that folds up and goes into the tow vehicle, rather than rolling up onto the side of the Airstream?
Not practical. It would have to be independently supported, not held up by the awning— considering that rainwater accumulating in an awning can cause it to rip due to the weight, and too much wind can also cause it to rip, I wouldn't trust an awning to hold up the weight of solar panels. Especially with people sitting under it where they would be smacked on the brainpan by a falling panel if the awning fabric did rip…

And that completely ignores the ergonomics of trying to raise a solar panel overhead to the top of an awning every time you use it. Mrprez had the right idea. A portable system that doesn't have to be lifted overhead to deploy it is a much better option.
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Old 11-13-2015, 11:14 AM   #4
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Are you planning to have a shell on your pick up? consider mounting the solar there instead of on the trailer. there has been some discussion of this on other threads, search around and see what you find. I have been considering this option myself as my wife is dead set against solar on our trailer.
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Old 11-13-2015, 03:02 PM   #5
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My wife is the other way around. She would not at all be happy with me spending time and money installing a solar system to charge the trailer batteries on the truck so that it would only work when the truck is parked close enough to connect to the trailer batteries, but if that's what you want......


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Old 11-13-2015, 03:47 PM   #6
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Solar panels as F&R window protectors

sandgrubber:

As more practical location for two solar panels on your Airstream trailer would be as front and rear end window protectors, hinged at the top (one of their long sides) so they could be raised to catch the sun and whenever you wish to uncover your trailer's end windows. Solar panels are strong enough to withstand some small road debris and they serve a second purpose in charging your trailer's batteries. Not as efficient an operating location as mounting them of the trailer's roof, but it certainly beats on top of soft awning fabric.
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Old 11-13-2015, 05:18 PM   #7
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sandgrubber:

As more practical location for two solar panels on your Airstream trailer would be as front and rear end window protectors, hinged at the top (one of their long sides) so they could be raised to catch the sun and whenever you wish to uncover your trailer's end windows. Solar panels are strong enough to withstand some small road debris and they serve a second purpose in charging your trailer's batteries. Not as efficient an operating location as mounting them of the trailer's roof, but it certainly beats on top of soft awning fabric.
GREAT IDEA Fred!!! I actually had a client with a Casita and we were going to do exactly that; use the solar panels for exterior window coverings on top hinges. He sold it and upgraded to a much larger unit where we did a traditional roof installation.

I would definitely cover the front panel with a Lexan protective cover though. The glass is tough but so are windshields…..and they crack regularly!!
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Old 11-14-2015, 05:17 PM   #8
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A true solar panel canopy for your Airstream

If you are willing to assemble and disassemble a solar canopy every few weeks when you move, then you could construct a frame to replace your current awning altogether. Solar suppliers sell lightweight extruded aluminum rails that solar panels slide into. This frame would require posts anchored to the ground and strong brackets on the trailer. Average solar panels are about 40" wide by 65" tall and weigh over 40 lbs each. You could build an array 2 panels by 5 panels (10 panels total for about $3,000) for a nice (but heavy) canopy about 10 feet by 16 feet. It would be for shade only as some rain will come thru between the panels. Ten 300 watt panels connected to micro-inverters would provide about 2.4 kW of 240 volts AC electrical power, which could be split in two 120 volt circuits and could also charge your batteries thru your camper's converter/charging system. You would have plenty of power for appliances during the day. Sounds like a fun project to me.
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Old 11-15-2015, 05:27 AM   #9
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If you are willing to assemble and disassemble a solar canopy every few weeks when you move, then you could construct a frame to replace your current awning altogether. ...
That's the sort of thing I had in mind. I won't need A/C or heating, so I think I could make do with 1 kW. A kit like this might provide everything except the battery for $1205 and result in an surface a under 8' x 12'.
eg., 1kW Solar Panel Complete Kit 6 180Watt Sharp Solar Cell 24V RV Off Grid Power | eBay

The great thing about this option is that I'm eventually moving to New Zealand. It would be wonderful to have a little 120 V power system operating so I could bring a few of my favorite 120 V toys with me. If I set it up as a canopy stand, it would easily be moved to a porch roof.
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Old 11-15-2015, 10:57 AM   #10
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If you weren't dealing with issues of where to put the batteries, would you think the Tesla Power Wall was a good solution?
Tesla Powerwall
Seems to deliver a huge storage capacity with idiot-proofing for $3k.
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Old 11-15-2015, 11:06 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by sandgrubber View Post
If you weren't dealing with issues of where to put the batteries, would you think the Tesla Power Wall was a good solution?
Tesla Powerwall
Seems to deliver a huge storage capacity with idiot-proofing for $3k.
Given the size and weight of the battery pack, I suppose it could be laid flat under the floor in between the frame rails, if the frame was modified to provide adequate mounting points. It's 7" thick, so you might also have to raise the floor and/or lower the belly pan to make it fit, but it could be done. Rather than a dedicated inverter, you could use a step-down transformer to go from 400vDC to 12vDC and use your existing inverter for the A/C side. But the real question, not answered by your link, is this… just how much solar do you need to feed this beastie? The huge storage capacity is good, but not if you have to charge it for a couple of weeks straight— or have a (figurative) acre of solar panels charging it for a day— before it's full.
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Old 11-16-2015, 08:17 AM   #12
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If I recall correctly, you must orient the Power Wall in an upright position. Lithium batteries, unlike AGMs, are position sensitive and must have the terminals vertical.

You can also purchase a 400 amp/hour lithium battery pack ( or any size you like) specifically for RV use that is ready to use with no voltage compatibility issues. AM Solar's batteries can easily be configured to fit unusual spaces.

The one watt per amp/hour rule of thumb still applies to lithium's.


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