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Old 12-15-2014, 09:36 AM   #1
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phoenix , Arizona
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Solar For Sport 22'

Hi there,
I'm one of the newbies here so bear with my questions. I'm contemplating (actually I decided already buying Airstream Sport 22'. I love its layout and am hoping to find an older make than 2015. Me and my boyfriend will move into it permanently in August 2015 (after our rent is up). Yes, I know its small, but we are kind of 'green minimalists' and will make it work.
Here is the question: I'd love to have solar panels on it. The dealer is offering them for extra $1000. Should I go with that or should I buy them somewhere else and install them myself? I've read the threads about installation and I could do it if it saved me some major cash. Does anyone have any opinion? Has anyone done solar on Sport 22'?
I'm also wondering how the panels work. The Sport has only one battery. Is that enough or should I purchase another one? For that matter, where would I fit this extra battery?
Thanks!
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Old 12-16-2014, 09:08 AM   #2
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Go with a GR29, you will need a bigger box. We love our 22' but wouldn't want to full time in it.
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Old 12-16-2014, 10:07 AM   #3
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With respect to your dealer vs. DIY install for solar, that is totally dependent on your and your boyfriend's skill level and abilities. The dealer will cost more since you will be paying a labor rate of $80 to $100 an hour plus the dealer needs to make a profit or he won't be a dealer for very much longer.

A more important question that you should be asking yourself at this point in the process is: what are you trying to accomplish with your proposed solar set up?

If you are simply trying to keep your battery topped up and you will be hooked up to shore power most of the time, keeping your current single battery and going with a limited capacity solar panel will be fine (cost can be well under $1,000 fir this and DIY is relatively simple.)

On the other hand, if you are planning on being "off the grid" for extended periods of time, the stock Airstream battery setup will not work, especially if you plan to run your furnace for any length of time. In this situation, you will want to add a lot more battery capacity and a corresponding amount of solar to keep them charged up. The cost of batteries, solar panels, controllers and installation for this scenario can range between $2,000 to $10,000 depending on capacity and whether you DIY or work with a professional.

I would suggest that you follow the following basic steps:

1. Determine what you want to accomplish.
2. If you decide you want to do extensive "off the grid" camping, then do an inventory of your energy needs (figure out how many Amp Hours per day you need to power what you want to run.)
3. Identify and/or design a system with the capability that will help you achieve your objective and/or find a professional installer that can help you with the design and installation.

You will need a lot of information in order to navigate this path. Use the "Search Function" on this forum to find threads that are relevant to your questions, look at web site of bloggers who have done this (here is a link to a good blog with lots of information in this subject: http://www.technomadia.com/2014/12/solar-planning-conducting-an-rv-electrical-consumption-audit/) buy a book or two on the subject, and keep reading!

Keep in mind however, that you will not be able to run your AC off your batteries and solar setup. If that is important to you, then I would pass on the solar for now and look for a generator solution.

Good luck!


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Old 12-17-2014, 09:06 AM   #4
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Thanks so much for advice. I talked about it more with my boyfriend and we decided to pass on solar for now. We will probably be hooked up at the beginning while we are getting house-trained
Thanks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Old 12-17-2014, 10:01 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nanaenes1 View Post
Thanks so much for advice. I talked about it more with my boyfriend and we decided to pass on solar for now. We will probably be hooked up at the beginning while we are getting house-trained
Thanks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
That's a very good idea. Take things slowly. You will be surprised at how your priorities evolve over time. Things that seem important before you get started will not seem so after awhile, and then you will discover new priorities! Remember that none of this is "life threatening" and America's abundant nationwide retail system is your own personal "off-site inventory!"

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Old 12-17-2014, 01:42 PM   #6
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Good advice!

Congratulations on your new Airstream, Nanaenes1!

The guys have been giving you excellent advice. Other than a small solar panel to keep your battery topped off, you will need some pretty extensive solar to successfully camp without hookups. We're very green too, and decided a log time ago that generators are noisy and "un-green", so we invested in and are very happy with our solar setup. But there are definitely $$$ involved.

Ours consists of 4 AGM Lifeline (brand) 6 volt batteries, wired together to make two larger 12 v sets (which is the current that your Airstream works on when not plugged in--then of course it's 110v, just like at home. A less pricey solution is 4 6volt golf cart batteries wired the same way. Along with this comes an all important charge controller (we like BlueSky brand) which makes sure that your batteries get a fast charge when low, but when full, it switches to a "trickle charge" so as not to damage them--think like when you're filling a bucket with a hose--high pressure to fill fast, then a trickle to keep it topped up. Airstream roofs are curved, so to keep it looking pretty you usually need narrow solar panels. We have about 300 watts worth on our roof. Then you'll also need an inverter to convert the solar energy to useful energy in the coach.

But the advice and your decision to wait and see make a lot of sense. We used to exclusively camp without hookups on our first, non-airstream trailer, and had even more solar on the roof. We were very happy with this to run lights, furnace, charge computers/phones, listen to stereo, etc. We could even use a high wattage appliance like a hair dryer or vacuum for VERY short periods of time if we did that early in the day so that the light had time to recharge. When close to the summer solstice, June 21, when the sun is highest in the sky, we could even run the microwave for a minute for hot food in the middle of the day, but you'd watch the batteries drain down REALLY FAST and then would take a while to charge back up. And I certainly wouldn't do it late in the afternoon!

Once we got the Airstream, we found that we dry camp a lot less. It's so beautiful inside that we just enjoy being hooked up more, and especially nice to run the AC or heat pump, microwave and all those other power sucking goodies! We do still dry camp for two weeks twice a year, and our setup is perfectly adequate if we remain conscious of when we use power draining appliances (early in the day) and whether it's cloudy or sunny, and winter or summer (the sun is at a lower angle in the winter, so charging is not as complete.)

When you do determine what you want to do, you might also consider using a single 100-120 watt free-standing panel as a less expensive solution. One guy we know at one of the two week dry camping spots charges his batteries with 1/4 the solar panels that we have by placing the panel on a stand and "aiming" it at the sun as it moves across the sky. Of course, you have to remember to do this, and you need a safe place to carry the glass/aluminum panel when you travel, and have to put it away if it's really windy. But you do save lots of $$$ and can remain green.

Happy trails!
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Old 12-18-2014, 10:30 AM   #7
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Thanks Gecko for extensive tutorial. I will probably have to reread it once we do go solar, since it's a bit too technical in some parts
We don't have the Airstream yet. I'm in the process of gathering as much info as possible prior to our purchase. The only finite thing is our decision on moving into the Sport 22' full time next August.
I'm cruising on web for good loans as well as the actual Airstream. We would prefer an older make (2010), but are prepared to buy 2014 model in worst case. We have an RV park picked out and it's got the full hookup, so we should be fine during out first settling in. Also at the beginning, I've read that there are some solar lanterns out there that work for about 8 hrs once fully charged. And of course, I can always save some money with good old candles
But thanks everyone for your input and opinions. Every time I think I know enough, something else pops up and I end up with even more questions
So appreciate the help from all you seasoned airstreamers
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