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Old 06-21-2011, 12:51 AM   #155
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Solar on 2010 27FB

I completed my solar installation this weekend; like all projects, not everything went according to plan, but I think it went well. Today I let the system charge the batteries; when I got home this evening it was in "float" mode. I'll get a better idea on it's performance next time I take the rig out.

I selected the AMSolar SunRunner 45/4, with 3 100W panels. The panels are mounted across the roof just forward of the air conditioner, similar to eheffa's arrangement. As the 27FB has sufficient roof real estate forward of that to add at least two additional panels (one each side of the fantastic fan), I sized the controller and cable (4 ga.) to accommodate that in the future.
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The big black wingbolts will go, in favor of stainless steel hex bolts.

A roof mounted combiner box is used to connect the panels to the down cable, which runs down the refrigerator vent, and through the cabinetry street side. The cable exits the bedroom bulkhead at the floor on the streetside wall, runs through the nightstand to the storage locker under the bed, where the controller is mounted, right next to the 12v bus bars. The cable is enclosed in a plastic wiremold raceway as it runs along the edge of the floor; i wish I could have concealed it completely, but I hope as we live with it, it will blend in.
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One wrinkle - although I found the (inadequate) 10 ga. solar prewire, the factory omitted the RJ-11 controller prewire from the bus bars to the micropulse monitor in the galley. So I ran the RJ-11 alongside the 4ga, and mounted the monitor high on the living area bulkhead above the TV. I like the location, but for anyone else considering this placement, beware the refrigerator duct in the back half of the cabinet. I nicked the corner of it while cutting the hole for the monitor panel, requiring me to repair it with some foil duct tape.
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All in all, a fun project. This thread was immensely helpful in planning the project. Looking forward to seeing how the system performs out on the road....

Steve
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Old 06-21-2011, 08:32 PM   #156
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Steve, just curious... What type of batteries do you have? Also, do you have an inverter?
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Old 06-21-2011, 09:07 PM   #157
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Still have the original SRM24 flooded cells - eventually I may swap those out for AGMs. As far as inverter, I've just got a small 200w inverter that I plug into one of the DC outlets to power television, or recharge other electronic gadgets.
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Old 06-22-2011, 09:31 AM   #158
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Originally Posted by steverino
Still have the original SRM24 flooded cells - eventually I may swap those out for AGMs. As far as inverter, I've just got a small 200w inverter that I plug into one of the DC outlets to power television, or recharge other electronic gadgets.
Cool ... enjoy your solar!
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Old 06-22-2011, 12:36 PM   #159
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steverino View Post
I completed my solar installation this weekend; like all projects, not everything went according to plan, but I think it went well. Today I let the system charge the batteries; when I got home this evening it was in "float" mode. I'll get a better idea on it's performance next time I take the rig out.....

All in all, a fun project. This thread was immensely helpful in planning the project. Looking forward to seeing how the system performs out on the road....

Steve

Nice work Steve.

Thanks for the pictures & detailed explanation.

It is a great help to have the panels in place keeping the batteries charged & ready to go. It is also very freeing & opens up many more options to be able to go to unserviced campsites & not have to worry about power issues.

Let us know how you find it in action.

-evan
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Old 06-22-2011, 12:48 PM   #160
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steverino View Post
Still have the original SRM24 flooded cells - eventually I may swap those out for AGMs. As far as inverter, I've just got a small 200w inverter that I plug into one of the DC outlets to power television, or recharge other electronic gadgets.
Your installation looks terrific, Steve. Great job. However, with three 100 watt panels on your roof you have lots of excess power being wasted by having only two Size 24 batteries to store all of that power. You really should consider upgrading to two Size 27 AGMs, at the very least. In fact, with three 100 watt panels you are generating enough power for six to eight Size 27 batteries.
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Old 06-22-2011, 01:12 PM   #161
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I have joined the AM Solar group. A month or so ago our dealer installed system failed. I thought it might be the controller. The company appeared to have gone bankrupt, so the warranty was worthless.

Lewster contacted me because he was coming through this general area on his way back to Oregon and said he could stop by and check the system and would bring a controller with him. That was fine with me because Lew understands this stuff better than me and I am roof-adverse.

Lew got here Saturday evening with his snazzy Mercedes Sprinter full of stuff to fix RV's. We troubleshot the dealer system and went through emotional ups and downs. The plug to the panel was dislodged, but putting it back in produced no more than 1 volt. Lew tested the controller and it appeared ok. Finally he took the panel off the roof and we tested it on the ground. There were 2 male plugs—one on each side depending how it was installed. We got many different voltages with a multitester; then we used the female plug and got lots of volts, but when we put it back on the trailer, no voltage at all. The panel didn't look right—the blue color was wrong in places. After taking it down, removing the caps on one end, and then bypassing one of the panel plugs, and getting nowhere, we decided the panel was bad, probably had one or more broken contacts internally, and was ready for the trash. At times it seemed the problem had been solved (plug is out, panel was producing about 20 v. for a time), but the simple solutions didn't work.

On the Sprinter Lew had 4 100 w. AM panels and was willing to take 2 off. This would solve things right away, provide more than twice the watts I had before, and since they were used for a while, save me some money. He can install new panels with more watts for his service vehicle. With the time that was left on Sunday (Lew and I both believe an early start is for birds, not us), Lew dismounted the 2 panels and started to prepare the Airstream for new-to-us panels.

The dealer installed the original panel by screwing the feet into the roof, but there is tape available so strong (and very expensive) that you no longer have to pierce the roof. The dealer did not use the prewired #10 wire that goes up through the fridge vent, but used #10 wire, drilled another hole into the roof, and snaked it into the fridge compartment. How could the dealer not know Airstream had prewired? Our previous experiences with the Denver dealer were bad and this was no surprise to me. Lew filled all the holes with much sealant and then rains came, having held off until then.

Monday the new panels got mounted, though more rain showers slowed down the process. I forget whether he used #8 or #6 wire, but it went down through the vent and we mounted the controller where the first one had gone, over the TV. This controller has temp compensation, but the gain in efficiency seems to be so little that running a wire back to the batteries seemed unproductive, so we didn't do that.

One panel went where the old one was, just behind the A/C on the roadside, and the other is a but further back on the curbside. There space for 2 more panels. The newer ones are smaller and produce 100 watts and there are 150 w. ones too. I could go to 400 w., but see no reason for it. The combiner box (fancy name for junction box) is ready for more panels. We considered upgrading the battery wires from the controller, but snaking it through the trailer is not productive unless I want to get more panels. To upgrade those wires would probably mean dropping the belly pan to get to the batteries.

If you want 400-800 w., then you want an inverter to run major appliances (A/C, microwave, TV or toaster) and we just don't care about that. We can boondock longer without using the generator, but water, especially grey tank capacity is the limiting thing for everyone. If you find a spot in the national forest that is not a formal campground, you can drain some grey water on the ground without harming the environment, but otherwise, water capacity, fresh or grey, is an issue. 96 w. kept the batteries charged pretty well except in cloudy weather, short fall days, or under trees and in narrow canyons (Yosemite, for ex.).

We ordered 2 Lifeline series 27 glass mats and a new Iota converter to match up better with the solar system, provide better battery life, replace the rapidly dying OEM series 24 batteries and have a 3 stage charger in the converter. We could have gotten 2 6 v. Lifelines and had more capacity, but it seemed like overkill. We have the 1000 w. Honda generator when all else fails, but should not have to use it very often. We hardly use it now. Of course, if I really want to use the microwave or toaster, there's the generator. At altitude, plugging the generator into the shore power cable does not provide enough power for the taster or microwave, but a direct connection to the generator might work—never tried that, but it doesn't seem to be worth it. The batteries and converter should come tomorrow and I can install them Friday.

The next thing is to look into a surge protector for the whole system. I don't want to spend even more money, but it does make more sense. The cost of a blown out system is far more than the cost of a surge protector.

Thanks to Lew for the house call and finding a way to solve the solar problems. I wasn't much help with the solar system, but we did repack the wheel bearings and install 2 new self adjusting brake packages very quickly.

Gene
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Old 06-22-2011, 01:31 PM   #162
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I have joined the AM Solar group.

Thanks to Lew for the house call and finding a way to solve the solar problems.

Gene
Lew is the man! He provided invaluable advice for my inverter and solar installation. You went to the right guy, Gene.
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Old 06-22-2011, 01:40 PM   #163
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It was also fun to spend time with Lew telling lies and finding out what we had in common. We both grew up in the NYC area, so we understand that culture and are products of it. Not only is he knowledgeable, but fair also.

When I get to the camera, I will be able to post photos of Lew on my roof and the mystery of what Lew actually looks like (it's pretty scary, so keep the children away from the computer) will be revealed.

Gene
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Old 06-22-2011, 03:02 PM   #164
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Lew is the Mr. Gadget of Airstreams. He stopped through Birmingham, Alabama earlier this month ... I learned a lot! He was extremely fair with me as well.
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Old 06-22-2011, 03:05 PM   #165
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We got our Lifelines from Lew also, great guy very helpful.

You actually got a picture, it's not just vapors is it?
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Old 06-22-2011, 03:11 PM   #166
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Bob, I haven't transferred the photos to the computer yet and maybe there will be no one there.

UA', I heard about your installation. Sounds like you will be able to power a small city from your roof.

Gene
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Old 06-22-2011, 03:25 PM   #167
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Bob, I haven't transferred the photos to the computer yet and maybe there will be no one there.

UA', I heard about your installation. Sounds like you will be able to power a small city from your roof.

Gene
I guess there is something liberating about knowing you can survive off grid indefinitely. I mean, you never know ... right?

Regardless, it was fun pushing the envelope with Lew. The "solar A/C" remains a mystery ... until lithiums get their final tweaks.

My son and I took my very old 40W panel home and are using it to power a light in his tree house. The world of energy will change during the next generation ... pretty exciting stuff is on the horizon.
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Old 06-22-2011, 03:41 PM   #168
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Our old panel could be used for a table, but it wouldn't even power an LED bulb. Lew said the technology was 10 years old and we bought the trailer 3 1/2 years ago. I guess the company deserved to go bankrupt.

Gene
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