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Old 05-23-2016, 12:51 PM   #1
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2016 30' Classic
Sammamish , Washington
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Return to Airstream Factory for Solar?

Has anyone returned to Jackson Center to have Airstream install solar, if so please let me know about your experience, equipment and costs. I would like to get solar installed on my new Classic to keep my batteries charged when I am not using the trailer.

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Old 05-23-2016, 02:40 PM   #2
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Rather than drive to Jackson Center consider having Marvin Braun, Lew Farber (Lewster on the forums) or AMSolar in Eugene, OR do the work of you. Nothing inherently wrong with the Airstream supplied/installed system but you can do more for less with one of these three folks. And all operate around your area without the long drive.

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Old 05-23-2016, 05:49 PM   #3
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Sammamish , Washington
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I do appreciate the suggestion but I would rather have the factory do the work for the following reasons:
1. The panel pre-wiring for the 2016 Classic is no longer in the refrigerator compartment. Access to the pre-wiring for both the solar panels and the monitor requires drilling (on the roof and above the range). I prefer to not have the after market companies practice on my trailer.
2. I do not need or want to pay for new monitor and heavy gauge wiring. I prefer to use the existing wiring since I only want a 50 - 100 watt system.

If anyone has experience with the factory / service center install, please reply.
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Old 05-24-2016, 10:10 PM   #4
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If you consider the solar system that Airstream installs, you can do much better by specifying the system you want and seeking out the experts that Gary suggested. The Airstream solar charger doesn't include a three-stage battery charger or quality battery monitor. By selecting quality components you'll get better value for your money and a solar installation that has room to grow. For example, I have a 2015 Classic and I installed the Blue Sky 3024 controller and IPN Pro remote. My system reused the existing solar pre-wiring and CAT5 cable. I installed it myself but if that's something you're not comfortable with, I can assure you these guys and many others who specialize in solar installs can do a clean install and reuse the existing wiring.
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2014 RAM 2500 w/Cummins Diesel
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Old 05-24-2016, 10:48 PM   #5
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So a small solar system will certainly help keep batteries charged when not using the trailer, as long as it is parked outdoors vs. under cover.

If you want more than this from such a small system, however, you will be disappointed. From our experience, even a 150 watt system is not enough to keep the batteries charged while camping without electric hookups unless we're camped in the blasting sunshine and are incredibly stingy with our usage. As long at that's cool with you, the system installed by the mothership will probably do the job.

To make life easier for yourself, you may also want to check with your local Airstream dealer. Ours put in the 150 Watt Zamp system we have today. It uses the built-in solar wiring that Airstream puts into trailers. Within the margins you've established (e.g. just charging batteries when you're not using the trailer), that system would also meet your needs.

Happy solar charging!
Rocinante is our 2014 International Signature 27FB
(Named for John Steinbeck's camper from "Travels With Charley")

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Old 05-25-2016, 07:43 AM   #6
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I can speak for Lew only as I have taught with him at the Vintage Restoration Rally's. His is a true professional and I would not hesitate for a minute to let him put a hole in the roof in my Airstream and aircraft metalwork is one of my professions. You are kidding yourself if you think Airstream can do a better job then Lew. You will get better quality components, more capacity, a cleaner install, and probably a better price.
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Old 05-25-2016, 10:21 AM   #7
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I had the factory install my 150 watt panel, controller and display. The cost was about $2200. The work was terrible and the controller and display are poor quality and design. The display has issues, however only aesthetic. The controller had to be replaced in 8 months, for which Airstream offered no assistance. I had to contact the supplier and purchase a new one and then fight to get a refund when they received mine back. The factory failed to install a required inline fuse for the panel. To access the preinstalled wires, the had to remove the shroud of my Fantastic Fan. When they put it back, they nicked the negative wire with a screw. Took me months to figure that out. Back to the controller, while it is rated at 30 AMPS, it does a poor job of handling the current above about 8 Amps. I have a truck mounted panel that I can plug into the system to supplement the roof mounted system but the controller doesn't like the added amperage. The additional panel is properly wired to be upstream of the controller and it should work. The controller is also not a multi-stage and, as often discussed in this forum, that is a bad plan for the house batteries. If you are worried about drilling holes in your roof, you should know that Airstream will drill plenty. At least 8 to hold the panel and they still have to drill a hole to access the preinstalled wires. I ended up having to repair their work on the roof as well. Perhaps it depends on the tech that actually does the work but my experience was not good. And that doesn't mention the metal filings that I kept finding for about a month after they finished.
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Old 05-25-2016, 10:57 AM   #8
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Mothership - NOT!

You'll not get what you're hoping for at the factory. However, you seem to be convinced otherwise. They are not the guru's on ADVANCED solar technology! Don't justify the journey to Jackson Center AND pay them for JUST keeping your house batteries charged. My PanAmerica has a basic solar system (factory) that came with it via the dealer. Just NOT what you'd expect - given the price of a new PA! Some things just aren't best done by Mother! She means well. Heck, do your homework on this and check out experts as noted by the forum members.
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Old 05-25-2016, 11:30 AM   #9
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Don't waste your money on Airstream solar. It's nothing but a little over a novelty with very sub standard charge controllers and components. Listen to what others on this thread have mentioned and whom to contact. They are not steering you wrong and the installation will be superior as the equipment to Airstream's. There will be NO holes drilled anywhere in your roof, not even for the solar mounts. They are experts. I have had two systems from AM solar and most recent a 400w system installed on a 26U. You will not regret and will be elated going the path(s) suggested.

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Old 05-25-2016, 12:23 PM   #10
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Go with AM solar, don't bother with the undersized pre-installed wire or the too-small and cheap overpriced Airstream system. Do it right

Search for posts by Lewster. He knows what he is doing. Period.

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Old 05-25-2016, 03:09 PM   #11
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Go with 'lewster." He has the technical background, certifications, and ability to do the job right the first time. The Airstream factory is excellent and I have them do all my repairs and modifications. But, they are not as capable with solar. Mainly, because of costs, but engineering as well. I had "lewster" do mine with AM Solar components; 800w Blue Sky solar, 600ah lithium Po, and a 3,000w Magnum inverter charger. Everything went like clock work. I could not be more pleased with the results. I love playing with it and staying off the grid. Lew is a prince of a guy and very easy to work with. I would repeat the experience in a heart beat. The experience is worth the trip many times over.
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Old 05-25-2016, 05:02 PM   #12
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The Airstream factory package is junk compared to what's out there in the private sector.
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Old 05-25-2016, 05:04 PM   #13
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I'd 2nd AMSolar / Lew Farber...better system and you don't have to worry about "practicing" on your rig...they are pros, and not new to this game, by any means.
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Old 05-25-2016, 05:14 PM   #14
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I was at the factory in March, the week our Pendleton (#62) was built. We added the solar package at our dealership and I did see it being installed. I had terrible wifi in Lima (hotel) and in Jackson Center, but what I was able to learn is exactly what the majority say in this thread. It's basic, basic solar. Aftermarket offers so many options that are better than the factory, I wish I had waited. Just didn't know any better.
My plan now is to add portable panels, and tie them into the current system. Still in testing mode, but have had weeks of cloudy weather in TX (unusual) and so far it looks like it tops off the batteries (AGM x 2) but would not be enough reserve for long term boondocking. We do travel with a Honda 3000i generator so I can run one A/C unit and get a full charge on the batteries without sun. Some of the dry camping sites that we have reserved this summer (National Parks) have pretty dense forest canopies, so I doubt I would rely on any solar system for an entire week. I'll just run the Honda during the late afternoon for a couple of hours. Good luck with your decision. I love JC but it's a long haul from Austin and I don't know if I would trust my dealership...

Don't look back, you're not headed there anyway
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