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Old 02-12-2003, 01:31 PM   #1
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2002 25' Classic
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solar advice

Bought our third airstream last year (25 classic). Considering solar panels. Would appreciate some advice from those who have done it. Goal is to extend self contained capability...perhaps expand later to include inverter, extra battery. Wife and I are pretty conservative in our power demands. We camp throughout the year, more in the summer. We are prewired for solar. Have labeled amp draw on all appliances. Some initial questions...
1) Are there preferred brands/installers?
2) How important is tilt capability (considering 49N and winter camping)?
3) Recommended watt rating for a two panel system (using existing two 105A batteries).
4) Ballpark price, much variation?
5) Is it worth the trouble and expense?
6) Any do's/dont's?
Answers to any, all or questions I didn't know to ask would be most helpful. Many thanks in advance.
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Old 02-12-2003, 01:55 PM   #2
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I installed one 150-watt solar panel on my Safari and have been quite satisfied with the results. The following links contain a wealth of information on designing and installing solar panels: http://www.rvsolar.com
http://www.windsun.com
I purchased mine through windsun and they were very helpful.
I chose not to add the ability to tilt my panel becaues I did not wish to carry a ladder with me. The ability to tilt the panel in winter would be very helpful as I sometimes have to supplement the solar panel with a generator on extended stays.
Good luck and keep us informed,
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Old 02-12-2003, 02:54 PM   #3
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Glad to see you made it on-line with your questions. Good luck on responses!

Fred Ettline
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Old 02-12-2003, 03:09 PM   #4
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Thanks, Fred. and thank you Jerry. I'll check out the links. I've recently read a book that may have come from the first one. Is one 150W better than two 75W? What a treat to talk to consumers rather than just salespeople. I hope others will chime in also.
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Old 02-12-2003, 03:34 PM   #5
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Jerry,
Where'd you find a 150W 12V panel? Largest I've seen is the 120W Kyocera KC-120 and the 110W Shell/Siemens SM110.
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Old 02-12-2003, 04:16 PM   #6
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Moe, I believe you may be correct that it is 120-watt.
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Old 02-12-2003, 07:00 PM   #7
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Solar panels

I just finished installing two solar panels on my 28 ft. Excella. I selected one Kyocera 120 Watt and one Siemens 75 Watt. I chose those because their dimensions allowed the mounting hardware to be attached at the roof rib locations. Don't forget to also install a controller (or controller/monitor) or the panels will drain your batteries at night.

I haven't dry camped with them yet, but everything checks out with a multimeter. Our first test will be March when we will spend three nights without hook-ups.

I probably overpowered for my needs, but since I do not intend to tilt the panels (I don't want to carry a ladder either) I am hoping the excess wattage will make up for the lack of tilting.
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Old 02-12-2003, 10:22 PM   #8
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Thanks, Les. We're looking to install panels in April. I'll be interested in your assessment after your shakedown in March.
Presently, I'm leaning toward a tilt setup, although I haven't seen one yet. My thought is that I can pull my truck along side and use it as the ladder. Might not be feasible in a campground, but in most open areas would be okay. From what I understand, tilt capability only has merit from late fall to early spring. If the mount is secure, the option might be useful to me.
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Old 02-13-2003, 12:08 AM   #9
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solar advice

My experience is with a Vintage coach so may be a bit different in some respects. I am not a do-it-yourself type for this kind of installation so sought out a professional for this service. Research led me to AJL Solar one of the regular vendors at the WBCCI International Rally. They installed a complete system in 2001 at the Sioux Falls, SD International Rally that consisted of two 50 Watt panels, a charge controller/monitor, and two gel cell batteries. I must give the folks at AJL Solar credit for patience as they had to cope with a rather strange rewiring job that was the result of a misguided trip to a brand X dealer for electrical service. A spring hail storm damaged one of my panels and I had AJL replace that panel with two 75 Watt panels at the International Rally in Rapid City along with upgrading to a Power Inverter (I believe it is a Trace, but the trailer and receipts are not readily available), and a third gel cell battery.

I agree with Les, and chose to have fixed mounts for my panels. I dislike heights and don't want to deal with any more tools than absolutely necessary when on vacation. The fixed panels have performed flawlessly and I have never been without 12-volt power since the installation of the Solar panels. I have dry camped up to six nights with this setup without significant concerns about electrical power.

The photo below shows one of my 75 Watt panels (toward rear) and the remaining 50 Watt panel (toward front).




Good luck with your decision!

Kevin
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Old 02-13-2003, 12:56 AM   #10
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Kevin -- Very pretty trailer and thanks for the reply. I'm curious...where are those three gel batteries?
I did attempt to contact AJL. No return call and additional calls got no answer. No matter.
Most available advice suggests I can start small and add on as necessary. Presently thinking of two panels w/existing batteries + control/monitor. Glad to hear that you got what you need...hope I do too.
Brian
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Old 02-13-2003, 07:31 AM   #11
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solar advice

Greetings Brian!

Locating the batteries was one of the biggest headaches with my Vintage coach as the original single Group 27 battery was located in the one-stop service compartment at the far rear of the coach beside the bathtub. One of the goals with the conversion was to move some weight forward from the rear of the coach so the batteries were located on the floor of the wardrobe closet that is a short distance from the rear of the axles. Before attempting this relocation, the advice of my Airstream dealer was sought as I didn't want to chance overloading the structure - - his advice was that the chosen location had the best support of the possible alternatives, and he also disuaded me from purchasing a fourth battery.

According to a recent post from Terry Tyler on the Vintage Airstream Club List, I believe that the folks from AJL Solar are performing installations off-site at a Rally in either Arizona or New Mexico so that may explain why you have had some difficulty contacting them recently.

Kevin
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Old 02-13-2003, 11:31 AM   #12
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Thanks, Kevin. If it is convenient sometime, I'd be interested in seeing a picture of your battery placement. My setup will be different, of course, but at some point I'll want a third battery. Mixing battery types is a no no, so there'll be a lot more headscratching before any motion in that direction. My present batteries are one year old...might just as well get the use of them and learn solar life before tangling with extra panels, batteries and inverter.
Brian
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Old 02-13-2003, 01:48 PM   #13
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solar advice

Greetings Brian!

I will post some photos of the interior solar installation once I get the coach back from its stay at one of my favorite Airstream spas. I don't have a scheduled pickup date as yet, but will keep a post-it on my home bulletin board so that I will get the photos as soon as the Overlander returns to its home on my side driveway.

Kevin
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Old 02-13-2003, 04:47 PM   #14
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Solar Panels

I have installed 2 Kyocera KC-80 panels with a digital regulator flat mounted on our AS with 3 batteries. 1 bat lives in the bat compartment, the others under the sofa behind the storage trays. I had caculated total amp hrs of 50.73, and our usage varies between 43.73 and 46.85 at the present. We drycamp exclusively and the locations normally don't receive TV which we don't have. We have had no shortage of power and the panels charge completely every day even when the sun is scarce. Also, we cook the old fashion way. With the stove and oven. All materials were purchased from RV Solar Electric in Scottsdale. I don't think the tilt option is worth all the trouble as todays panels are so efficent. You can see from the power requirements, that I have plenty of room for additional needs. Complete material cost including shipping with my installation was right at $1000.
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