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Old 10-05-2015, 02:56 PM   #1
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1967 26' Overlander
Quite , Washington
Join Date: Oct 2015
Posts: 5
Cool Electrical system upgrade?

Hi all,

New to this--to this forum and to airstreams too. Your patience and help is greatly appreciated! I just bought a 67 overlander I am planning on using as my primary residence, it's in great shape and I am now trying to learn the various systems in order to figure out how to customize to my needs.

As far as the electrical system is concerned, there is no battery, univolt system, or voltage panel in the compartment where they once were. I am trying to figure out what to do with the electrical and in order for that I need to understand a few things. If you could either affirm or correct me where needed I would be greatly appreciative!

The univolt system, as I understand it, is a converter that turns 120V grid power into 12V that will charge a battery that will then run most of the 12V system, thus, if I don't have that, plugging in the 120 won't do much besides run the Air conditioner and a few other things? Will it also cause problems or do I need to worry about stray voltage? I would like to be able to plug into the grid, though i am also and probably more interested in setting up an off grid solar setup (I will be parked not traveling, and likely far from grid power). Solar seems to make sense, as the system is already (mostly) wired for 12V and I could thus theoretically get away without an inverter, at least for the time being? My electricity needs are fairly minimal... a basic system of a couple of panels, a couple batteries, a charge controller should then provide for most of my needs. I am used to living off the grid and rather find alternatives that adapt to less electricity than the other way around. Is there anything essential I will absolutely need 120V for?

These are ideas and questions both. I am interested to hear how other people have adapted or upgraded old electical systems in their airstreams, particularly as regards off-grid capabilities. I just wanted to get this ball rolling, I am sure I will have many more questions as I gain information. Thanks to all who take the time to read!
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Old 10-05-2015, 08:36 PM   #2
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1986 34' Limited
1966 24' Tradewind
Conifer , Colorado
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 3,122
Hello Add Man from Washington state! Welcome to Air Forums. I have a 66 Trade Wind which is 2 feet shorter than your 67 Overlander, but essentially built the same way. Our trailers are well known for the rare and leaky Corning curved glass windows and phillips operators. Airstream abandoned this design in 1969. Maybe your trailer is the fancy International trim level? Post a picture of it someday.

Building your Airstream for full time away from shore power will be a challenge, especially in the beautiful but cloudy northwest. You have a good understanding of Airstream electrical systems. Most everything in our trailers runs on 12v. That energy comes from old fashioned batteries. Running the furnace all night on a 12v battery will drain it down quickly. Same with a roof vent fan.

Aluminum Airstreams are not the best insulated structures. The aluminum is a great thermal conductor. Hot in the summer, cold in the winter. New Airstreams have a white heat reflecting paint on the roofs which helps. I think you folks had a horribly hot summer. I hope the weather has improved.

120v runs an AC if your trailer has one. Otherwise it powers outlets for other appliances you might want, e.g. electric heater, microwave, etc. Our vintage Airstreams didn't come with many 120 volt amenities.

You must have access to good drinking water and sewer connections way off the grid. And access to adequate propane supplies. Full timing in an Airstream is work. Fun work, but work nonetheless. Our trailers have poor black water tanks and did not come with a gray water tank. The plumbing systems needs upgraded to park our trailers anywhere but on our own land.

There are many threads here on folks who rig maybe 100 watts of sunny day solar power to charge a battery bank. Sometimes those battery banks are 6 volt batteries in series to produce 12v and have longer life. And you can certainly convert your lighting to LED and save a bunch of 12v amps.

Here is the electrical diagram from my 66 Trade Wind owner's manual that may get you started.

David
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Old 10-08-2015, 01:14 PM   #3
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1967 26' Overlander
Quite , Washington
Join Date: Oct 2015
Posts: 5
Hey, thank you for your thoughts David! I do have the fancy international trim, according to the sign on the side, though I am still trying to figure out what all that means. I did put a picture in my profile, the bringing it home successfully shot (imported from Canada!), though I haven't figured out how to display it. I am interested in customizing some things though it is in such remarkably good original shape I am a bit leery of changing too much around.

As for full timing and off the grid, well, off the grid anything is work, a task I am up for. Keeping things simple is the goal. iI do have a good place to park, with access to good water. As for electrical, I am in the process. This was helpful information, especially to know I am on the right track. Maybe I will repost once I have some progress to report there.
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Old 10-08-2015, 08:00 PM   #4
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1986 34' Limited
1966 24' Tradewind
Conifer , Colorado
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 3,122
The international trim level usually means the wood in the cabinets is a significant upgrade, maybe hickory. And you will find more amenities like a TV antenna and the like. Somewhere I saw a list of the features of the international trim level. My trailer is a standard model, the International is more special.

You are wise to keep it as original as possible if it is in pretty good condition. You might want a better mattress, you will want a better furnace and water heater, and you will have some repairs to do. A fully refurbished trailer is not worth as much as an original. My trailer is kinda original, but all of the major systems have been replaced: Axles, brakes, shocks, furnace, water heater, fridge, stove top, water pump, plumbing, waste water tanks, converter, fuse panel, circuit breaker box, bathroom, floor covering, exterior lights, and more. But it ain't original anymore. It has a vintage feel for sure, but not original. However it is much easier to travel with. Some folks use their restored or original trailers as show pieces at rallies and the like. My trailer is good for weekend adventures.

Keep us posted on your progress.

David
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