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Old 06-13-2006, 05:32 PM   #1
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Value of Airstream Solar Package?

Any opinion on the factory installed solar package? The standard installation I believe offers two 53 watt panels. Are the components quality for the price etc.?
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Old 06-13-2006, 05:45 PM   #2
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We like the option. It keeps the batteries topped off nicely. The batteries with the solar option are the dry type, which some would say is an advantage too. I like the information that the controller provides. It's a nice way to keep tabs on electrical usage.

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Old 06-13-2006, 07:42 PM   #3
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Craftsman -- You need to go into such a consideration with eyes wide open. There are practical limits to what solar will do, and then at a rather high price. Maintaining charge seems exorbitant to do what a battery minder can do for $30-40. A quiet Honda generator at $1000 is cheap compared to solar. There are small little window solar collectors mentioned in the forums if you want a no-fuss charge maintainer while in outside storage. Solar cannot keep up to allow nightly TV watching and nobody carries enough batteries to run a microwave. One always needs a hookup to run A/C, so that's not really in the argument. But an occasional 110-volt hookup will always solve your battery charging issues.

Some cost-benefit analyses have been offered on the forums -- RoadKingMoe comes to mind. Glass mat batteries as noted have benefits but can be part of your normal replacement plans. It is costly to throw out good lead-acid batteries if they aren't worn out. You'll have to sort thru a lot of threads if you use the search function, but this decision is so costly that the research is well worth it.

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Old 06-13-2006, 07:51 PM   #4
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I like it so far

We've had two after market solar systems installed on our previous two AS trailers and I rate the factory package (solar panels, controller, inverter and AGM batteries) as superior. Now I haven't given it a real good boonying test yet either. But just sitting in the RV storage area (in blazing downtown Tempe AZ) is providing a 100% battery amp hours per the controller. Canoe Stream makes excellent points and we won't be dry camping without the Honda generator. That and our solar system should work pretty fine.
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Old 06-13-2006, 08:28 PM   #5
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Solar Package

I'm just beginning and this forum has been really helpful and I appreciate all of you. Why would you need both solar and a honda generator? I had thought it was more either/or. How much does the honda generator weight?
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Old 06-13-2006, 09:46 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by tslanier
Why would you need both solar and a honda generator? I had thought it was more either/or. How much does the honda generator weight?
The solar package on it's own can't recharge the batteries completely. There are many posts on this (try amp hours in your search). The EU2000i can be picked up one handed like a suitcase. I'm seeing the shipping weight listed as 53lbs.
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Old 02-04-2014, 10:27 AM   #7
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Cool Flexible Solar Modules

I have installed solar panels on both of my 1955 and 1975 Vintage Airstream trailers. Adding an extra battery (or two or three) with a solar panel, a charging unit and a small inverter allows me to camp without an electical hookup or gas generator for about 10 days. Basically the solar generator trickle-charges the batteries while there is enough sunlight. Therefore they don't charge during rainy days and in the evening. I also replaced all of my 12-volt light bulbs to LED's to greatly reduce battery drain, and I cook and run the refrigerator on LP gas. You don't have to spend a lot of money on expensive "kits" once you know the basic components of a solar system. You can purchase a flexible 100-watt monocrystaline solar module for under $300. What is nice about the flexible modules is that you can screw them right onto your curved Airstream roof without distorting the lines of your classic trailer.
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Old 02-04-2014, 04:02 PM   #8
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I didn't order the solar package with my trailer as I thought it overpriced for the output. I did install my own via one of the AM Solar packages. My 28' had room for four panels, so I generate up to 400W. I added two AGM Lifeline batteries as well. If you have to do a cost/benefit analysis, you will probably balk. They do work great and when I'm towing my batteries are always 100% full when I pull in (if there's been any sun at all). I don't believe the panels replace the generator(s). IF you want to use A/C and you have no campground hookups you have no other option than a generator. Like many on the Forum, I bought the two Honda 2000's. They work great. I do NOT see the solar panels replacing the generators....though if you didn't want to boondocks with A/C you could definitely keep your batteries filled with the solar -- if you've got sunlight, that is.
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Old 02-04-2014, 04:32 PM   #9
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Interesting that most of the negative comments regarding RV solar are from 2006!!!

Solar has come a long way in the past 8 years, with components getting more efficient, smaller, cheaper and better overall. It is fairly easy to design a solar charging system that WILL keep your batteries charged completely. I have designed and installed many systems that do just that, with power to spare.

Some systems have 2000 watt sine wave inverter/chargers that can even run the entire trailer….less the roof A/C of course. It comes down to what your electrical requirements are, how much you are willing to spend to satisfy those requirements and how much space you have available for the placement of solar components on your trailer.

It's a far different solar world when compared to 8 years ago.
Lew Farber...RVIA Certified Master Tech...ABYC Certified Master Marine Electrician
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Old 02-04-2014, 07:16 PM   #10
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Factory Installed Solar Charging System
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Old 02-04-2014, 10:40 PM   #11
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Is smaller better? Perhaps!

When taking what I already know about solar and combining it with knowledge gained from those with RV solar experience I am going "small" with my panels that I attach to the roof. This decision is based on a point somebody made in an earlier thread. They were saying that many times being parked at a site you may have sun only in patches across the roof of your RV. The panels I have tried are 55 watt and measure 24" x 24". These are designed to charge a nominal 24 volt battery but I feed them into a MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) controller in a parallel configuration with each other. This gives me the advantage of MPPT technology and keeps my panels small so the loss from partial shade is reduced. When the voltage input to an MPPT controller is twice that of the battery voltage then you will have roughly double the current into the battery once the DC to DC conversion occurs.

If I see the need for portable panels they will be larger, in the 200 watt per panel and can be placed where the entire panel will be in the sun. These will be controlled by their own charge controller. These will utilize a separate charge controller and will be in series to gain the advantage of lower voltage drop if the distance is great.
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Old 02-04-2014, 11:35 PM   #12
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I have factory solar on my new Eddie Bauer. Virginia - land of rain and sun and many forests. I also have an inverter for the first time. In my situation, solar is a "OK to have" but not at all essential. I have a small Honda 1000 generator that weighs less than 30 lbs and is the size of a small sewing machine that worked just as well on my former A/S. And as deeply forested as Virginia country can be the generator is much more reliable at night, after 3 days of rain, in the shade, etc.

I got a great price on the unit with all sorts of bells and whistles. Have had the inverter prove very useful once when some clod stole the 30 amp power cord. However to heat the A/S on that chilly night, what was really helpful was a regular heavy duty extension cord snaked up through the fantastic fan vent, down the roof and over to the post. Space heater took the chill off nicely. The batteries would have been flat by morning if I'd tried to run a resistance element heater from the inverter outlet. If we had been boondocking I would have fired up the generator to run the space heater.

If I lived in the Southwest desert - I'd be more impressed with solar. The people I know who are very happy with their solar here in the east generally have ground mount panels - they can FIND a patch of sun when I often find myself parked in a position where my roof mount panel is getting virtually none. Of course it takes TIME and a bit of effort to set up ground mount panels, and in today's world, chaining them to a tree isn't a bad idea. But you don't sell the system when you sell the trailer - and you could easily use it at HOME if you are in an area where power is expensive and/or unreliable.

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Old 02-04-2014, 11:54 PM   #13
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We also have the factory solar. It's nicely installed and I like it, no longer take the generator along on our cross-country travels when we seldom have hookups. But we don't travel to the south during summer when we may want A/C. I hate the noise of generators and the A/C unit.
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Old 03-07-2014, 07:00 PM   #14
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OK, I have no much the solar option is from Airstream. Here's what the components are worth, roughly, at retail.

100 Watt Panel: $200, with hardware
MPPT Controller, with remote display: $300
Wire and connections: $100 - $200 or so
Installation labor by somebody who really knows what the #$^% they are doing: $750 (that's a wild guess)

I don't know prices on AGM batteries, but you can look those up pretty easy yourself.

What does Airstream charge?

"Between what matters and what seems to matter, how should the world we know judge wisely?" - E.C. Bentley, Trent's Last Case
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