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Old 06-01-2016, 01:52 PM   #1
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Supplement Factory Solar with Portable Solar

We have the factory 106 watt solar panels on our Airstream which work well for most of our travel needs, especially in the abundant sun of the Southwest. However we are limited by shady campsites and cloudy weather in extended travels.

Would, for example, a 200 watt Zamp portable suitcase complete solar system be compatible with our factory system. Then we could add extra solar charging when needed, and move the panels into the sun if our site has a nice shade tree.

That is, can we simply take out the suitcase, set it up and clip the output to our batteries? Or will the Zamp system and our factory system not get along, both charging our batteries at the same time, different circuits and controllers?

My guess is that they would work together as our Airstream converter/charger and factory solar system does, or our truck's generator/charging system when towing. No problem?
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Old 06-01-2016, 01:56 PM   #2
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That's what I do, albeit, wired to one master controller, bypassing the Zamp controller and having a permanent pigtail in the batt box for portable plug in.
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Old 06-01-2016, 03:08 PM   #3
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If the controller that comes with the Airstream is 15amp then purchase the Renogy 100w panel system that comes without the controller. Run extension wires inside to the controller area and connect the wires from the roof and the portable extension in parallel then run the positive/negative wires to the controller. You could put the wires in an electrical box, 1 set in each from the roof solar and another from the portable extension. One wire output to the controller.
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Old 06-02-2016, 08:34 AM   #4
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So I can just clip the complete portable package such as a Zamp suitcase directly to our battery terminals for whatever benefits the portable can provide.

Guessing again here, I assume our factory Atkinson solar controller will sense the increased battery voltage provided by the portable unit and switch off the factory rooftop panels. Would using a common controller, such as Rich described, allow factory rooftop and portable to work together supplying power to the batteries? Recommendation for a good one to handle up to 400 watts solar?

Sorry for the elementary questions here, I've got good electrical background in aviation, but it goes back a ways; I remember carbon pile voltage regulators. Maybe I need to get up to date and study solar controllers.
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Old 06-02-2016, 11:32 AM   #5
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I too have the factory solar and was looking to add a portable panel for extra charging and for use when parked in the shade. After doing some research and speaking with Lewster, I took his advice and swapped out the controller to a Morningstar SS-15, it is a MPPT converter and I got it for about $250.

I purchased a Renogy 100 watt foldable panel without the controller and added a quick connector to connect Renogy panel to Renogy Splitter that allowed me to connect the roof panels and the renogy panels together in parallel and have a single output line to the converter. I added a marine battery disconnect switch to turn off the roof panels if needed but don't think you will need to turn it off even if parked in the shade.

If you do this, remember to swap out the 10 amp fuse on the line going from the converter to the battery hub. I forgot to do this and as soon as I hooked up the Renogy panel, went through hassle of trying to figure out why nothing was working. Yes, I blew the fuse. Check with your controller manual to check for correct amperage fuse. The Morningstar SS-15 is 25 Amp.

After replacing the fuse, I got about 40 Ah on a partly cloudy day and in some tall trees where the roof panels were in the shade for a good part of the day.

I spoke with rep from Morningstar about maximum watts of panels I could use with this controller and he said that it would handle up to 300 watts, which means you could use 2 100 watt renogy panels along with your roof panels.

Very happy with results so far.
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Old 06-13-2016, 10:16 AM   #6
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Happy to report that with the 100 watt factory panels, 1 renogy 100 watt panel without controller, and a Morningstar MPPT SS15 charging controller, was able to collect 100.5 AH on a sunny day going from about 8am until 5pm when the clouds rolled in! Had no problem running a coffee machine in the morning and did not have to use the genny once! Very happy with this set up!
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Old 06-13-2016, 10:36 AM   #7
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That's what I like about the supplemental portable panel, you can place it and aim it to get the best output. Can be more effective than roof panels of a larger rating.

I think we will get one, trying to decide somewhere between 100 to 200 watt rating to supplement the 106 total factory rooftop panels. I don't care for overkill with any of our travel equipment, dragging anything around the country we don't regularly need.

We have two Lifeline Group 24 AGM batteries, probably will change to Group 27 soon, these are original equipment. Our power needs when boon docking are not large, no heating elements or cooling compressors.
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Old 06-13-2016, 11:42 PM   #8
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Just ordered renology 100 watt suitcase with its own 10 amp controller to supplement the 200 Zamp watts on the roof. Hoping this gets us to the promise land. Next step replace the group 24s with group 27s or maybe that Trojan group 31. Assuming I can shoehorn into the stock box. Read a post where it was done. Good knowledge on this topic.


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Old 06-14-2016, 05:39 AM   #9
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I got the Renogy 100 suitcase a few weeks ago and made a 12ga, 20' extension cord for it. I also made a quick connect to the batteries to avoid the alligator clips. I've only done a driveway test so far but I was happy with the results.

We don't have big electricity demands when on batteries, no need for television or even the radio. So we routinely last several days on just the batteries. We do not have any roof panels.

I think this will be just the thing we need. The real test will come in September when we will be at a no generator campsite for a week.
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Old 06-16-2016, 03:41 PM   #10
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I have 2 Lifeline Group 27's. They are rated at 100AH each. So if I am able to capture about 100AH on a summer day, allowing for extra AH for charging back to full, assume that gives me about 70-80 AH a day to use without having to use the Genny in a perfect world, which seems very doable for us.
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Old 06-16-2016, 04:28 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dkottum View Post
That's what I like about the supplemental portable panel, you can place it and aim it to get the best output. Can be more effective than roof panels of a larger rating.

I think we will get one, trying to decide somewhere between 100 to 200 watt rating to supplement the 106 total factory rooftop panels. I don't care for overkill with any of our travel equipment, dragging anything around the country we don't regularly need.

We have two Lifeline Group 24 AGM batteries, probably will change to Group 27 soon, these are original equipment. Our power needs when boon docking are not large, no heating elements or cooling compressors.
I would double check with Lew (Lewster) but I believe you can attach cables from an auxiliary solar charger directly to your battery terminals even though you have the factory solar. Note that some portable solar setups (i.e., panels & controller) can also be connected to your seven pin connector on the trailer thereby bypassing the need to open the battery box and attach any alligator clamps. If that is of interest you might want to look into that.
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