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Old 08-11-2018, 07:23 PM   #1
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Winter Living and Solar Panels

Is there anyone on the forum that lives in their AS in the winter in cold weather, that has the factory installed solar panels? Since the furnace is a battery hog, was wondering if the solar panels provide enough recharge and stored energy during the day to allow operation of the furnace at night without draining the battery, or is generator power also necessary?

Steve
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Old 08-13-2018, 10:07 AM   #2
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Personal Experience Only- Not a paper calculation

Steve... you have the courage of a Pioneer! They had fire places and a few cords of lumber to burn.

The Batteries will not last long enough to maintain heat in a 23 foot Airstream in the Rocky Mountains during 24 hours. Probably less than 8 hours. The guys with the calculators and electrical knowledge can confirm this. They may get it down to the minute everything shuts down.

We spent nearly three weeks camped at Elevation in Utah and Wyoming several weeks ago. Lows in the upper 30's were common. Used NO furnace. Just piled on the sleeping bags from our tent camping days. Days in the low 70's and low 80's.

Our 100watt Solar Pauper Power maintained the battery for other interior uses, but not the furnace. A series of overcast days will dampen your Solar expectations to a minimum.

The Airstream does better in the 50 degree to 80 degree range. Any colder or warmer you will be uncomfortable. We camped at Lake Mead National Recreation Area in 115 degree days and upper 90's evenings... and found this experience, not to our physical comfort standards. A RV Park with hookups was a pleasant change, yet the AC would run continuously.

Heat is easier to handle than cold. Frost on the inside windows is a sign you need more... air circulation within the trailer. More air circulation in the trailer then means... it is colder.

After sunrise the inside of your trailer will be colder than the outside air temperature.

Although not Full Timing, we have had a good sampling of what we do not recommend to any Airstream owner. Maybe an Oliver Trailer can handle it, but as of today, no one wants to go camping with us with an Oliver II and compare our discomforts.

Travel with the Seasons is my advice. Carry a propane canister heater like a Little Buddie to heat the interior.

American Indians in the Plains moved with the seasons. They managed to do it for thousands of years. If you do not take their experience seriously... maybe one season in your new Airstream will be an experience to post further comments.

'Frost on the Pumpkins' can be the title of the new Thread.
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Old 08-13-2018, 10:15 AM   #3
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Although I have not spent extended time in the winter in my trailer, I have done several days at 10,000 ft. where the temp was in the low 20's at night. I have 180 watt factory solar and 2 6v trojan batteries. I disagree with the above assessment. My furnace lasted through the night, but you would need sunny skies to be able to get any more from it. My solution has been a Mr. Buddy heater to supplement which uses no electricity. And then a generator for last resort, which I have never used in that situation. Remember that the water tanks require the heat from the furnace to keep from freezing so you can't depend on the Mr. Buddy for a any length of time without added insulation and trailer skirting.
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Old 08-13-2018, 10:18 AM   #4
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Couple of additional thoughts. Reflectix for the windows to hold the heat in, and keep the fan vents open a little for moisture release.
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Old 08-13-2018, 10:33 AM   #5
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[QUOTE=mfrez;2142227]Although I have not spent extended time in the winter in my trailer, I have done several days at 10,000 ft. where the temp was in the low 20's at night.
*****

Been there, done that too. Been down to 18 degrees in August. Used the same old technique of sleeping bags.

Leadville, Colorado... 10,000 feet. Full hookups for 9 months. The other 3 months of Winter +/-... probably closed due to Snow Depth. Try it. I have not as I am not brave enough.

August in Wyoming: Water lines froze up. Dog's water bowl outside froze to the bottom. This was at 7200 feet north of DuBois, Wyoming. You are going to need a lot more than batteries. This Summer in Idaho over 10,000 feet snow drifts forced us to turn around... actually back up to be able to turn around. Low 30's evening and low 70's that afternoon. No furnace, but pleasant for a temporary campsite.

I have done Stupid before. Once was enough. Sometimes you cannot avoid a severe drop in temperature in the Rocky Mountains at Elevations... otherwise there would be Airstreams bumper to bumper camped out at Keystone and Aspen for skiers.

Experience is learned the hard way by doing it often. The 2016 Wyoming Adventure was an example of what elevation can do to you and the day to day climate experience.

Try it once. Maybe twice. When you thaw out to describe the 'wonderful experience' I will gladly send you a Post Card from Tucson, Arizona in February.
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Old 10-16-2018, 10:31 PM   #6
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solar needs TONS of light for anything near max output
a few clouds come in , and output can dramatically drop even to zero

the efficiency drops as the temperature drops
sunny days in winter tend to only occur when its VERY cold out side ie < -20C
at those low temps, you well get less than max outpot as the panels are cold
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Old Yesterday, 06:43 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stevejones View Post
Is there anyone on the forum that lives in their AS in the winter in cold weather, that has the factory installed solar panels? Since the furnace is a battery hog, was wondering if the solar panels provide enough recharge and stored energy during the day to allow operation of the furnace at night without draining the battery, or is generator power also necessary?

Steve
If the solar panels are not enough you can hook up heavy gauge booster cables to your tow vehicle and put in lots of amps to your house battery. I have a system set up with permanently installed winch cables with Anderson Connectors for quick connect. The TV has remote start so I can add amps without having to go outside on a cold night.
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Old Yesterday, 10:33 AM   #8
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We are currently on day 3 of 7 straight days without sun and temps staying between 40 & 50 degrees F. If I was in a situation where I could not connect to shore power, I would consider investing in a second pair of batteries and a plug in charger so I could rotate them by finding a place to charge the extra set of batteries during the day.
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Old Yesterday, 11:08 AM   #9
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I ran my solar in Hope Az, Jan to April, to see what it will do. One of the Lewsters systems 600 watts solar panels, 400 amp/hrs lithium batteries, 2k watt inverter. Three days of cloud cover, will pull the power down to borderline. I had the water heater, fridge, on propane, furnace was the heat source and a mattress heating pad. Heated water before my shower, off the rest of the time. 7 gallons of propane every three weeks. Temps dropped to the high thirties/low forties over nite. Thermostat set @ 58.
Twice I hit shore power (ten minutes) in the morning to nuke my eggs, low battery, before the sun got busy.
I was running my place as if I was on shore power otherwise, I'm up 'till midnite
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Old Yesterday, 05:31 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stevejones View Post
Is there anyone on the forum that lives in their AS in the winter in cold weather, that has the factory installed solar panels? Since the furnace is a battery hog, was wondering if the solar panels provide enough recharge and stored energy during the day to allow operation of the furnace at night without draining the battery, or is generator power also necessary?

Steve
Hi

Well, it would help if we knew what Airstream you happen to have. Putting that data into your profile (hint ... hint) would keep people from nagging about this stuff

Some trailers are set up with furnaces that run an amp or two others are set up with furnaces that seem to pull 8 amps pretty much forever. Which one you have matters a lot. For fun, let's guess 8 amps.

Assuming you are trying to make a go of it in the trailer, you also likely will have the fridge running. They all pretty much pull a bit over an amp for the control board.

An amp for 24 hours is ... errr ... 24 amp hours.

8 amps for 12 hours is 96 amp hours.

Simply having some trailers turned on is another amp so another 24 amp hours.

Net, you will dump (with those assumptions) about 144 amp hours a day. Maybe a bit more, maybe a bit less.

One thing in the winter - the days get short. You are not going to get as many hours of full sun as you do in June. The angle of the sun is also a bit lower and that hurts as well. The factory solar (again - which one?) will likely deliver 10A in full sun. If you get 8 equivalent hours of "full sun" that is doing quite well in the winter.

Net result - you are using 144 and taking in 80 on a good day. If the clouds roll in for a week, you may average 30 or 40 a day. Bottom line - you need some other source of power.

You also need to work out the water, sewage, moisture, and propane supply issues ....

Bob
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