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Old 09-02-2016, 11:49 AM   #1
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What solar panels (Watt amount) should I look for?

Just came back from our first trip dry camping with our 23' Flying Cloud. Batteries lasted 3 days on a 5 day trip. Planning to add solar panels.

What size, in terms of Amps and Watts, is optimal? Will most likely have the dealer install

Anyone know how many panels will fit on a 23' Flying Cloud?
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Old 09-02-2016, 12:05 PM   #2
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Here is one of the better web sites for learning about airstream/rv solar (with a direct link to the "education" section):

http://amsolar.com/diy-rv-solar-instructions/

There are others, of course, but many people on these forums either have used these folks, or have great respect for their expertise and willingness to help.
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Old 09-02-2016, 12:21 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Portiemobile View Post
Just came back from our first trip dry camping with our 23' Flying Cloud. Batteries lasted 3 days on a 5 day trip. Planning to add solar panels.

What size, in terms of Amps and Watts, is optimal? Will most likely have the dealer install

Anyone know how many panels will fit on a 23' Flying Cloud?
Lots of good info about solar panels on this site.
MY OPINION (Lets not start a fight) is start with at least 180 watt. If you star with less you will keep buying more and/or bigger ones as you learn your wants and needs. Buy a good controller( NO CHEAP ONES) larger than you think you need so if you add more panels you don't have to buy larger controller. I DO NOT mount mine panel on trailer so that I can keep moving it to keep it in the sun and I can park in the shade. I have one 180 watt and it fine for me and my 2 batteries in my 1989 29 ft Squarestream boondocking long term.(As long as sun is shinning)
I have found that on the newer Airstreams I have seen that came prewired for solar that some of the wiring is to small to carry the load.
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Old 09-02-2016, 12:39 PM   #4
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I would go with a Zamp portable 180 watt system. This allows you to park in the shade and set the panels out in the sun. 180 watts will be more than adequate for recharging the factory Interstate batteries. I use a portable 150 watt system and recharge my batteries with no problems. I have 2 6 volt 230a golf cart batteries. I recently added another 100 watt panel on the roof wired into the factory prewire. On a good day, we are recharged in about 3 hours.
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Old 09-02-2016, 01:46 PM   #5
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Whatever you do, don't let a dealer install your solar. Have it installed by a professional that specializes in solar.

We are camping in Oregon, and I spent 45 mins helping an older couple who came over to talk about my solar. They paid a lot of money, to be ripped off by a dealer that didn't' install their solar properly. Not only did they fry the solar control (crossed wires and melted board), they didn't actually hook the solar controller up to the batteries. I felt so bad for them. And the dealer is on the other side of the country, so right now they have useless panels.

Others have their own horror stories about dealers. They're not qualified and usually don't know WTF they are doing.

Talk to someone like Lewster or call the guys at AMSolar to find an installer.

---

Panel size is really based on a number of factors. But as others have stated, if you are starting out, a good portal setup between 150~200 amps should suffice.
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Old 09-02-2016, 01:49 PM   #6
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There's a lot of good threads to read through in the forums on this. Here's one: http://www.airforums.com/forums/f448...ort-62608.html
The portable Zamp system is an inexpensive way to get into the Solar game and will probably work for you. If you lasted 3 days with standard batteries then you shouldn't need too much wattage. The conundrum is that you really can't measure your use until you install a good metering system with your solar. Now that mine's installed I see that I use 30-50 AH (Amp Hours) a day without the furnace (big power hog at 7 Amps). I wanted simplicity in the use of the system so we replaced the batteries (2 Lifeline 6 Volt 265AH) giving us about 130 AH of use (you should not drain the batteries below 50% (12.1V)). After upgrading batteries and the power converter we added (4) 100 watt panels on top and wired to a BlueSky controller and used 4 gauge wire to get the power where it's needed without too much loss. I now look for sunny campground sites and have yet to need a generator. We are always charged up by 1PM even when there is early morning fog or mild overcast and I leave the system on to keep the batteries happy in storage. I spread the panels out on the roof and went with 400 watts to cover our needs in cloudy conditions or where we have partial shade. Good luck with your quest. As mentioned, AM Solar is a great resource and nice people. Lew Farber in the forums has provided a lot of good advice and, locally, Vinnie's Northbay Airstream Repair has a lot of Solar Installation experience. Up next for us is installing Anderson Connectors on the truck and trailer and a 25' 4 gauge cable to charge from the vehicle in cases of endless dark skies instead of the inconvenience of carrying a genny and gas for the few times we may need it. I have a special 1700 RPM idle switch in the truck for this.
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Old 09-03-2016, 08:07 AM   #7
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[QUOTE=BoldAdventure;1844969]Whatever you do, don't let a dealer install your solar. Have it installed by a professional that specializes in solar.


+1 to what Bold said. We had the dealer install solar when we purchased our AS in 2013. It was expensive, and never worked properly. And it was difficult to deal with the large hole in the wall left by their flush mounted controller when I recently updated the system with a new controller, etc.

Consider starting with a portable system while you spend some time determining your needs and educating yourselves about RV solar. There's lots of good info on this forum. I also learned a lot from reading this site: https://handybobsolar.wordpress.com/
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Old 09-03-2016, 08:14 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Portiemobile View Post
Just came back from our first trip dry camping with our 23' Flying Cloud. Batteries lasted 3 days on a 5 day trip. Planning to add solar panels.

What size, in terms of Amps and Watts, is optimal? Will most likely have the dealer install

Anyone know how many panels will fit on a 23' Flying Cloud?
My rule of thumb is that you want AT LEAST the same number of watts of solar panel as you have amp-hours of house batteries. That is the minimum wattage that can keep your batteries charged on a day-to-day basis assuming you get a reasonable amount of "good" sunlight each day.

So if you have 160 amp-hours of house battery, you want at least 160 watts of solar panel, though more is almost always better.
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Old 09-03-2016, 08:56 AM   #9
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Looking ahead you might want to change to Lithium batteries in the future.
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Old 09-03-2016, 09:48 AM   #10
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A portable system is good to start out with. I have the 200w Zamp portable system. You can park in the shade and put the panel in the sun. I'm also going to have 200w installed on the roof and in ideal situations will be able to combine the roof and portable panels together for 400w. Our power needs are modest. I have also purchased a propane converted Honda 2000 for situations where solar is marginal as a backup. Along with solar, you should also replace the stock charge/converter with a 3 stage charger (PD4655 $220). Replace the Interstates with a decent wet cell battery, true deep cycle, such as Trojan. You can fit a couple of grp 27 or 2 6v with more capacity.

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Old 09-03-2016, 10:57 AM   #11
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I agree with all the posts. Do not let the dealer install as their underpaid employees usually have no idea what they are doing. Do the install yourself if you are handy and if not follow the suggestions of others.

I installed two 100w Renogy panels on the roof my Airstream and used a Trimetric 2030 monitor and Solar Controller. I absolutely love watching the meter go back to 100% charge before noon on most days. I have a two battery system and boondock most of the time. I don't carry a generator anymore unless I know the temps will be hot enough for the AC. I love solar.
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Old 09-03-2016, 12:12 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BoldAdventure View Post
Whatever you do, don't let a dealer install your solar. Have it installed by a professional that specializes in solar.

We are camping in Oregon, and I spent 45 mins helping an older couple who came over to talk about my solar. They paid a lot of money, to be ripped off by a dealer that didn't' install their solar properly. Not only did they fry the solar control (crossed wires and melted board), they didn't actually hook the solar controller up to the batteries. I felt so bad for them. And the dealer is on the other side of the country, so right now they have useless panels.

Others have their own horror stories about dealers. They're not qualified and usually don't know WTF they are doing.

Talk to someone like Lewster or call the guys at AMSolar to find an installer.

---

Panel size is really based on a number of factors. But as others have stated, if you are starting out, a good portal setup between 150~200 amps should suffice.
It will seem more expensive to go with Lewster than what the dealer offers but, among other fixes, the wiring in the trailer should be replaced with a heavier gauge. Doing it right the first time will save you lots of money. We didn't know about Lewster when we bought our trailer and had the dealer do the install. Had Lew do a bunch of upgrades but still saving up to replace the Go Power panels with AMSolar panels.
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Old 09-03-2016, 12:28 PM   #13
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You are not far from AMSolar so give them a call. I ordered two 100 panels from them a number of years ago and then added an additional 65 watt panel they had. Last year I removed the wiring from the battery compartment, installed an aluminum battery box on the tongue then placed two Trojan 115 amp hr batteries in the box. I run both Fantastic Vent fans most of the day and early evening without dropping more than 20% of my battery power. I did my own installation with the instruction given by AMSolar.
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Old 09-03-2016, 01:15 PM   #14
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If you want fixed panels, I agree with the advice of going with a solar specialist. Had we decided on fixed panels, we probably would have hired AM Solar to do the work based on their reputation. But, the quote we received from them was more than what we wanted to spend. So, we bought the Zamp 200W panel, upgraded our batteries, and bought a small generator.

We live in our Airstream FT and work from the road, so we probably have slightly higher than average power needs when wild camping. Our setup works very well unless we are in cold, overcast weather for more than a few days (Pacific Northwest as an example). While having a fixed panel system would be nice, this more affordable solution works well almost all the time given our needs and travel style.

Here is our review of the Zamp panel:

http://www.naturephotoguides.com/travel/blog/review-zamp-solar-200-watt-portable-solar-charging-system-zs-200p
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