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Old 01-28-2007, 03:50 PM   #1
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Why Not Free Standing Solar Panels?

Being in the market for solar panels and a generator, it occurred to me that few Airstreamers want to actually attach a generator to their AS. It's just expected that the generator will be free standing by the trailer. So why attach solar panels? When I'm travelling, the tow vehicle does the charging, and when I'm boondocking, why can't I just find a sunny spot and throw out a fixed or flexible panel, or stand one up by or against the trailer? If you buy a new AS, you can take this system with you. But the benefit of this for me is that we own two Airstreams, and installing two solar systems seems redundant and doubly expensive. For a rigid panel, I'm looking at an Evergreen Solar EC-115-GD at 115 Watts/12 Volts. For a flexible panel, there's a military grade 55 Watt/12 Volt that will fold up into a very small package when not in use. Of course, both would require and are designed for an inexpensive solar charge controller, and you could add panels as needed. Am I missing something here or does this make sense? I've been through previous forums and this doesn't seem to be addressed yet.
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Old 01-28-2007, 04:16 PM   #2
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Only concern that I envision is that they develop legs and get lost!
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Old 01-28-2007, 04:27 PM   #3
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Good point, Al. I think I can chain a rigid panel down, though, if that's an issue.
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Old 01-28-2007, 04:35 PM   #4
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I see no problem. You can park in the shade and put the panels in the sun, sounds like a winner.

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Old 01-28-2007, 04:44 PM   #5
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You could make a PVC cradle that would allow you to move the mount around to keep it pointed toward the sun. You could also incorporate a pivot for up and down. If you are always going to be near the trailer then no problem otherwise someone will walk off with it. As far as chaining the panel down, many panels have aluminum frames which allso Z feet to be screwed/bolted to it. If someone wants the panel badly enough, they will circumvent this. You could disconnect and place the panel inside if you were leaving for a period of time. There are some honker size panels out there worth plenty of money and I'd hate to see someone walk off with your investment if you get get one of the over 100 size panels.

I have used a 5 watt and 25 watt panel and have placed them on top of the trailer without problems. In 3 months I will be installing one or two 100 watt panels on top of my trailer which will be mounted with 3M tape and adjustible feet so the only thing I have to do is clean them from time to time.
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Old 01-28-2007, 06:32 PM   #6
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bhunt

i thought about doing the same thing. i thought a brief case type design that would fold up to protect the panels when travelling.

connection to trailer would be made using the umbilical cord. the same circuit the tow vehicle charges by would be used.

and as was pointed out, park in the shade, panels in the sun.

best of all no holes in the trailer roof!

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Old 01-29-2007, 02:46 PM   #7
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Those are good suggestions. Thanks. The theft issue raised by BigAl still baffles me, though. One of the solar panels I'm considering sells for about $800! How can you really secure a free standing panel? That seems to be the biggest problem. Now that I think about it, wind could be another issue. Leave your AS for a hike in the woods, either the wind comes up and blows the panel into that soft aluminum AS skin, or somebody walks off with it for their own use. Anyone have good solutions to those issues?
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Old 01-29-2007, 02:49 PM   #8
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Not only would I be concerned with them walking off, where the heck would you store them? One more thing to drag out and set up. It's enough with chairs, grills, matts and all the rest. Up on the roof and ready to go!
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Old 01-29-2007, 04:40 PM   #9
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Anyone have good solutions to those issues?
dunno, every place i have ever camped i have never worried about theft. most folks are good, i always lock up my hitch reciever so i can at least get back home!

this set up is something one would use for boon docking mostly, chain it to your hitch i suppose.

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Old 01-29-2007, 04:45 PM   #10
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Something else to set up and take down.

And the kids don't have to live and play in fear.
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Old 01-29-2007, 04:47 PM   #11
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i guess if you used the flexible marine panels the kids could hop scotch on them!

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Old 01-29-2007, 06:40 PM   #12
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I have the flexible marine panel. I siliconed the plastic hold downs for the grommet holes to the top of trailer above the front window. Takes a step ladder to get it up there. I feel good about leaving it for short trips away. Feels solid in a light wind. Haven't experienced high winds yet. I can take it down and follow the sun if shade is a problem. Or just spring clamp it to the rock guard awning of the front window. Hop scotch sounds like a fun use for it too. Jamie
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Old 01-29-2007, 06:47 PM   #13
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Been there, done that

I made a PVC pipe frame with adjustable 2 adjustable tilt legs and attached 3 16 watt panels I got from Costco online. It came with a very simple charger and did the trick. HOWEVER, I was using it on my Jayco 23 B and just stored it inside when traveling as I really didn't care if I nicked up the inside so much. I also carried a Yamaha 2400is generator and chained both together and then attached to the trailer frame. Hassle free it was not. When I got our Safari 27 FB SE LS I got the solar panels and had them installed by the dealer and it was worth all that I spent. Even my wife wanted the factory panels and setup and she hates to spend money on one of my toys!
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Old 01-29-2007, 08:46 PM   #14
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I use an 85 watt panel that I built a light aluminum frame for. Can park in the shade and have my panel in the sun it has worked great.

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