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Old 07-18-2015, 09:59 AM   #1
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2013 25' Flying Cloud
Provo , Utah
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Solar Panels Charging Batteries while in storage

I recently bought a 2013 Flying Cloud 25 with factory installed Solar panels. I know nothing about the system and the dealer did not explain them to me. When the trailer sits in storage, in the direct sunlight the batteries go dead. Aren't the panels supposed to keep them charged? Do I have to do something to make the panels function?
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Old 07-18-2015, 10:10 AM   #2
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Yes, the solar charges the batteries any time there is sunlight. No switches or anything. You need to take a voltmeter while it is sunny and measure the voltage at the battery terminals. If it is not over 13 you have a blown fuse(the solar panels have a fuse in the feed to the battery) or a bad solar controller.
Larry
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Old 07-18-2015, 10:24 AM   #3
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We have the factory solar and it works very well for us. The solar is always supplying power to the batteries, sunny or at a reduced level on overcast days, if the system is operating well and the batteries are good.

Read the Owners Manual to understand the function of the Battery Disconnect Switch, and understand it well. However, it does not stop the solar from charging the batteries in USE or STORE positions.

I would start troubleshooting by checking the condition of the batteries. The previous owner may have ruined them by overcharging continuously with the factory converter/charger (which is a poor battery charger but a good converter) or letting them repeatedly discharge completely.

If you get new batteries, don't use the factory converter/single-stage charger to charge them. When plugged into external power put the Battery Disconnect Switch in STORE position; this will isolate the batteries from the converter but the solar will still charge them. We've been doing this since our Airstream was new without battery problems. You may want to consider replacing the factory converter/charger will an higher quality unit so you don't have to worry about it.
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Old 07-18-2015, 10:36 AM   #4
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Thanks for the reply. I did have to replace the converter/charger on my 2009 Bambi. They seem to be a weak link in the Airstream line. My guess is that the previous owner did let the batteries completely discharge for long periods of time as this AS has been used very little. It is a 2013, with the "new smell" still inside, tires with no wear, absolutely flawless inside which indicates that is has been stored a lot.
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Old 07-18-2015, 11:58 AM   #5
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Solar Panel not working...

Great advice from all. I, too, found that in-line fuses fail (but save you from costly repairs). The pain of them is where they are located - not really convenient. PLEASE don't let dealers get away without DETAILED explanation of this system, should you get the option. Also, I note you state your tires show little wear. Don't be mislead by outer appearances! RV tires are very prone to "dry-rot" as they just sit due to oxidation. You'll wear out your tow vehicles tires and THINK your trailer tires are safe. It's not mileage. It's time from build date for trailer rubber.
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Old 07-18-2015, 12:31 PM   #6
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I had solar panels on my 25 Safari and they worked really well, never a problem. There was a monitor panel that indicated the voltage level as well as the charging amps. I now have a 30' Excella and it doesn't have one, been considering having panels installed on it.
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Old 07-18-2015, 02:37 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chuck Barber View Post
I recently bought a 2013 Flying Cloud 25 with factory installed Solar panels. I know nothing about the system and the dealer did not explain them to me. When the trailer sits in storage, in the direct sunlight the batteries go dead. Aren't the panels supposed to keep them charged? Do I have to do something to make the panels function?
The Airstream supplied solar system is lacking in several ways, but certainly should function to keep your lightly used batteries from going flat while in storage--provided that light can reach the panels.

The weakest connection is that they skimped on the solar converter. It's a one stage converter that constantly floods your batteries with charge when light hits the panels. Instead, there should be a three stage converter that charges at full volume until close to full, then backs off to a slower charge rate, and then when batteries are full, goes to a tiny trickle charge rate. Picture a bucket that you're filling with a hose--full blast until you get near the top, lower rate, and then just a tiny drip to handle evaporation.

When we upgraded for boon docking, we found that the AS supplied panels were a joke for that purpose (although they should be fine for you for storage and if you primarily use the coach with full hookups when you're in it.) It was when we increased our batteries from the supplied two 12v AGM's to four 6 volt AGM's and we spoke to the battery manufacturer (Lifeline). They were terrific at explaining why the AS chargers were just not acceptable for decent battery life. We are currently on our sixth season, boon docking occasionally for two weeks at a time with no issues at all, now that we've added additional panels, batteries, and upgraded to an MPPT three stage solar controller.

All the advice given here is good. AND if you don't intend to camp without hookups, the Airstream set up should be adequate, BUT you need to replace the solar controller with a three stage one. The MPPT's are more efficient than others (we use BlueSky). So if it's not a blown fuse, it's most likely your AS supplied controller that has fried your batteries (if indeed they're gone.) Following the guidelines in the other posts will let you know whether it's a fuse and whether the batteries are gone.

Good luck!
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Old 07-18-2015, 05:26 PM   #8
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Yes dkottam has the idea. My 2015 FC needs the battery switch turned on for the solar panels to be able to charge the batteries.
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Old 07-19-2015, 10:04 AM   #9
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Where can I find the Solar system fuse to the batteries?
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Old 07-21-2015, 10:00 AM   #10
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Thanks everyone for your help. Lsbrodsky was right. The fuse was blown and Urbanologist was right, they do their best to hide them. Mine was located in the front of the trailer under the dinette seat on the street side. All's well with the Flying Cloud. Headed out next week for it's maiden voyage.
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Old 07-21-2015, 10:37 AM   #11
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Great news! Glad we could help.

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