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Old 05-17-2019, 06:00 PM   #1
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I thought I would post a real-time report of the factory solar and my experience with it. It has always been running in the background, but now that we are boondocking at Moab, I've started paying attention to how much power it generates and how we are dealing with it.

My Classic 30 is a 2019. They upped the solar panels to three for a total of 270 watts of power. They also increased the gauge of wire used in the installation and are using Victron equipment. Actually, a pretty nice MTTP controller is installed which I added a BlueTooth dongle to send the date to my phone or laptop.

Today it generated 980Wh of power. At one point, it was putting out 234W! Today started off cloudy or I would have probably gone over 1000W. It is only 5:45 pm and the panels are still generating power.

Last night we turned off all light. I own 2 Acorn LED lights and a Goalzero Lighthouse 250. I'll take some pictures later. They provided plenty of light all evening long. My main batteries (lifelines) started at 12.72. We did not need to run the Alde system for heat last night, only turning it on in the morning to raise the temp from 64 degrees to 70 degrees using propane and electric to run the pump. By then the panels were generating 20W and the batteries were maintained by the 1.2A charge.

By morning my batteries were at 2.64 in the Classic. What was running: Peplink modem/TP router, propane warning, Czone, water pump when needed, various blue LED button lights all over the trailer, and I don't believe anything else. The Czone has a large swich in its system that is powered. Possible the Relax awning curcuit board.

We had pretty good sun today. Bulk was 7h and 15 min. Absorption was 1h and 55m, and float is at 2h and 21m. By the way, we just hit 960Wh!
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Old 05-18-2019, 10:28 AM   #2
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Hi! In your second to last paragraph, where your batteries 12.64 in the morning? I’m guessing the 2.64 was a typo.

We are picking up a 2019 30’ Classic on Thursday, and am trying to determine if the factory setup will be good enough to dry camp 5 days at a time without using a generator.
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Old 05-19-2019, 10:06 PM   #3
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Yep, it was a typo. 12.64 was correct. We have run now almost five days on solar. A bit cloudy today, but batteries would have been charged by bright day but we traveled 150 mile and alternator charged fully.

It appears as if with two batteries you can charge with solar to full as long as you have bright light. A sunny day can easily charge by late morning. I built a 300 watt portable system and it looks like i may not need it. The factor here is that you are living day to day with 2 batteries. Four batteries would work much better and lithium batteries would really add to the system.

For me, my generator can fill in on “dark” days. I also am adding a Goalzero Yeti 1000 to avoid using the investor. I am encouraged how well this could change our camping style and saving $30-65 a night in a full hookup campground
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Old 05-19-2019, 11:44 PM   #4
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Not "investor" but generator! Tonight we are already at 12.43 V at 10.42 pm. With a full night ahead at running the Alde system, it will be interesting were it will be tomorrow morning.
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Old 05-20-2019, 06:32 AM   #5
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Thanks for posting about your experiences with the Classic 30 stock solar. I have the same unit but haven’t had a chance to put the solar to a real test yet. Looking to do that very soon though. Your posts are helpful!
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Old 05-20-2019, 06:18 PM   #6
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Today started with cloudy and rain. Over the last three nights, we've had less and less solar watts being produced. Overall this last day even though it said 12.72 in the bank, it appears that the battery has dropped faster to 12.19V by morning. I'm not anywhere near an expert on batteries, but it appears that not having the 1000 Solar Watt hours going on during the day, does not fully charge the batteries even though the Victron is reporting the 12.72V. Maybe someone can chime in here.

Today we drove over the Rockies to Denver (4 hours) and fully charged the batteries. We have full hookups at Cherry Creek State Park, so we are off the solar for now.

One observation really surprised me. In Moab, we were facing East/West. I have never before produced the kind of voltage that we got there. Even in Lake Havasu that is ALL sun did I get this kind of production. We also were not in the East/west facing position either.

Our best production was 1.29KW and 1.01 KW. I also got 276W on the Pmax from the 270 watts of panels!
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Old 05-20-2019, 07:34 PM   #7
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Great data! The panels should be generating the most while facing south, at ~40 degree angle (depending on month of year, I.e the arc of the sun). They will also be more efficient in cooler weather as long as the UVs are not blocked. Is that consistent with the observations you were describing?

How many KW do you think your producing on the less sunny days, or what do you think may be a reasonable average?
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Old 05-21-2019, 03:46 AM   #8
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We have two batteries left from our 2018 Classic that were not in trailer when salvaged as they were at home maintaining charge over the winter. Dealer has offered to install these in our 2019 Classic for around $500. Is it worth it? Seems reasonable. I assume the existing solar panels will charge more batteries, but would just take longer for all 4 batteries to be fully charged and would double the amount of amp hrs. Is that correct?
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Old 05-21-2019, 07:57 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by jmitchell View Post
Great data! The panels should be generating the most while facing south, at ~40 degree angle (depending on month of year, I.e the arc of the sun). They will also be more efficient in cooler weather as long as the UVs are not blocked. Is that consistent with the observations you were describing?

How many KW do you think your producing on the less sunny days, or what do you think may be a reasonable average?
Airstream has mounted the long panels on each side of the roof and they are angles a bit to the outside. I am assuming that the East/west orientation allows for all three panels to "see" the sun better than a North/south orientation especially when the sun is rising or setting. The skies in Moab are very clear.

On a partly cloudy day, I received 530solar watt-hours with a high of 190-panel max watts. On average 500 WA seems to be the average on partly cloudy days. This does bring the batteries up to 12.7 but does not appear to be as strong a charge as having 800-1000WH feeding the batteries on a very sunny day.

We do not use any lights in the trailer when not using shore power. Especially when we know we will be relying on the Alde system for heat at night. We have 3 lithium battery LED lights that we charge during the day with solar from the roof.

This becomes the discussion of what could be improved and will answer the next post by ajwbarnard. Adding two more batteries I believe is exactly what is needed. On sunny days my battery bank reaches float by late morning. That tells me that an entire sunny day should bring four batteries up to full or almost full. How you add the other two batteries properly to inside the trailer with proper venting in not for me to respond to, but if it can be done, I believe you will have more available power with just using the 270W panels provided from the factory. On top of that, every time you move, your truck will charge them and you still could use a generator during rainy days to charge the bank.

We have not spend a huge amount of time boondocking with our Classic, but we are doing it more and more especially with Harvest host. We are confident in the factory system and I have not had to get out my 300W portable system yet.
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Old 05-21-2019, 06:35 PM   #10
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We have two batteries left from our 2018 Classic that were not in trailer when salvaged as they were at home maintaining charge over the winter. Dealer has offered to install these in our 2019 Classic for around $500. Is it worth it? Seems reasonable. I assume the existing solar panels will charge more batteries, but would just take longer for all 4 batteries to be fully charged and would double the amount of amp hrs. Is that correct?
Hi ajwbarnard,
Bay Area Airstream in CA quoted me ~3-4 hours of labor, at 150/hr, to install two additional batteries under the front sofa (not including the cost of the batteries).

I like the idea of having all four batteries under my couch, which will place all four batteries in the same climate, and shift the weight a little closer to the axels. This will also open up the original battery box for additional outside accessible storage which may come in handy. I'm planning to disconnect the original cables but leave them routed to easily return to a factory configuration if desired. I'm hoping to do this on Thursday night (if the project goes easily), but we shall see.

I called Lifeline, since their website says that venting is still required for AGM batteries due to potential venting of hydrogen gas (that's all bad in a confined space). Their technician said that the batteries will only vent if they are over charged (charger fails and continues to charge), or another type of battery failure. He said that the batteries would smell distinctly of rotten eggs if this were to happen which I suppose would provide some warning to vent out the space before trying to light a stove or something. This makes me nervous, even though it seems like most people do not vent interior AGM installations. I'll evaluate on Thursday.

In related news- I'm planning to use 6V Lifeline GPL-6CT which weigh 90lbs each. For this reason I'm changing my Equal-I-zer load distribution hitch to the one which is designed for up to 1,400 lbs of tongue weight. I called Equal-I-zer about this and they advised that the main transfer bar holder is built heavier for this weight rating even though the bars are about the same as the 1,200 model. I also called the Airstream dealership, and their shop manager was not worried about the weight difference as long as the tow vehicle could handle it. I was still less excited about it until I noticed that the 2019 33' Classic already has 289 extra lbs on the tongue than the 30' model (which is more than the extra battery weight will be) and that model also has the primary outside storage up front also. This made me feel better about the weight distribution, especially when that weight will be slightly closer to the axle when under the couch, and with the load distribution system installed for towing. I'll still have to balance out my loading with other objects in the back compartment, but overall it should be just fine.

I'll keep you posted.
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Old 05-21-2019, 06:41 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by ajwbarnard View Post
We have two batteries left from our 2018 Classic that were not in trailer when salvaged as they were at home maintaining charge over the winter. Dealer has offered to install these in our 2019 Classic for around $500. Is it worth it? Seems reasonable. I assume the existing solar panels will charge more batteries, but would just take longer for all 4 batteries to be fully charged and would double the amount of amp hrs. Is that correct?
Also, confirmed - As you surmised, since you are using 12V batteries all will be wired in parallel, which will double the amp hours available when doubling the batteries. The rate of charge would remain the same, but there would be more "work" to do to recharge the new system if depleted by the same percentage.
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Old 05-22-2019, 05:53 AM   #12
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Wow, this is a great discussion. I was quoted about $8000 to add five panels to the roof, add a 3000w inverter, and convert to four lithium batteries which is what I had concluded would be required to boondock for a week in my 30. It appears I had a bit of an over design.

jmitchell, why the lifeline AGMs instead of lithiums?

The Alde system makes boondocking in cooler climates possible. A month from now you will need AC in Moab. I wonder how much battery juice is required to run a single AC unit with soft start in the evening to cool a trailer off.
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Old 05-22-2019, 07:13 AM   #13
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The Alde system makes boondocking in cooler climates possible. A month from now you will need AC in Moab. I wonder how much battery juice is required to run a single AC unit with soft start in the evening to cool a trailer off.
One word, GENERATOR! For a $1250 investment in a 2200 W generator and an Easy Start, You can cool your trailer very efficiently. That is what I have. Your front AC in the Classic is more suited to adding the Easystart to as it distributes the cool air better throughout the trailer than the rear AC, but you could add easy starts to both AC to have the choice of which to run. Also, when you do have shore power and only 30 Amp, you can run both AC's without a problem. This is the state of solar and AC right now and is the most practical choice.

I believe if you do run your AC on "solar", you would always be in fear of using all your power up accidentally and getting yourself into bigger issues. Throwing money at 4 lithiums and more panels to accomplish this is just impractical.
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Old 05-22-2019, 08:10 AM   #14
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Hi

Voltage is not a good way to work out the state of charge on your batteries. It will tell you that you are past 80%, but not if you are at 100%. Since you only run down to 50% that's a long ways. If it's hot out, you need to change all the magic voltages by maybe as much as a half volt to work out what's what.

======

Mounting batteries under the sofa *does* work. They need to be AGM's or Lithium's. You do not want flooded cells there. You also need to match them to what's outside. That means replacing the batteries you have with new ones ( so they all are from the same batch).

=======

How long you can go depends a *lot* on how much sun / shade you get. In one situation you might get 2KWH in a day. Over the next two weeks you might be lucky to break 500WH a day with exactly the same setup.

A hundred amp hours / 1.2 KWH is a pretty good target for a typical Classic for a day. Being above or below 1KWH matters ....

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