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Old 10-13-2002, 08:45 AM   #1
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Solar Installation

Hi, I'm new to the forum, and would like to say right up front how impressed I am with the quality and quantity of first-rate info here!

I have a 2002 Safari 19-footer, and would like to better outfit her for long-term dry camping. Has anyone with a similar unit installed solar power? In snooping around access panels and such, I find several 10-ga. wires marked "SP" which I assume is pre-wiring for solar. How complicated is the install, and does anyone know if Airstream does it at the factory?

I also want to upgrade my black tank, which is unfortunately only 8 gallons. I have heard of a (19-gallon?) retrofit, and wonder if anyone has had it done?

Thanks in advance for any help and/or other suggestions in outfitting for long-term boondocking.
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Old 10-13-2002, 08:57 AM   #2
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Congratulations on your new Airstream and welcome to the Forums. You will find many helpful people here ready to help you get things going.

Does your manual say anything about the wiring? Did you get the repair manuals with your purchase? These will have a electrical schematic in it.

Instead of getting into enlarging your waste tank, you might consider an external ToteTank. Pretty inexpensive and no installation needed. You can leave it at home when not needed.

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Old 10-13-2002, 10:31 AM   #3
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Welcome. Sounds like you have a 19' Bambi (8' wide, single axle) rather than a Safari (8.5' wide, dual axles). AFAIK, the smallest Safari made in '02 was the 23' and had a lot more tank capacity than that.

In '02, the 19' Bambi came with an 8 gal black water tank before unit 514492, and an 18 gal tank after this unit. You might contact Airstream to see if it's possible to upgrade yours... maybe not due to the frame, but then again perhaps so... I'm certainly not an expert on Airstreams... I expect it'll be a lot more expensive than carrying a tote tank.

Depends on what you mean by dry-camping. If you're talkin' campgrounds with no sewer hookups with a central dump station, a tote tank will work.

You'll normally generate a lot more grey water than black water, and will need a tote tank to empty it before you need to empty the 8 gal black water tank. If you get a 10 gal tote tank to empty the black water tank, you'll probably have to make two trips for the grey water after that, which will help rinse the black water out of it.

But if you're talkin' out in the boonies with no dump station, where you can drain the grey water on the ground, the tank upgrade may be better. It would be no picnic to lift a 10 gal tote tank full of black water up into the bed of a truck, especially if it's 4WD. Keep in mind you'll usually have to go through several tanks of fresh water to generate one 8 gal tank of black water.

With regard to solar, check the size of the battery Airstream provided, and get the specs here:

http://www.ibsa.com/www_2001/content...uct_marine.asp

If you want decent life from the battery, you don't want to discharge it below 50% of its capacity. The lower the amperage draw, the longer it will last (i.e. the more amp-hours it has). If it's an Interstate SRM-24, you can get about 8 hours at 5 amps (40 AH) without dropping below 50%. You'll need about 10% more than that in charge, 44AH, to replace that much. And you don't want to charge the battery at much more than 10% of it's 80AH rating.

A 120 Watt (17 volt open circuit X 7 amp short circuit) Kyocera panel will generate an average of about 5 amps (70% of peak rating) over a 5 hour (summer day) period (with a real peak of 6+ amps), or 25AH... not enough to replace 50% discharge, so you'll want to hold usage down to discharge an SRM-24 battery to no lower than 2/3 charge if you want to be able to fully recharge it with this panel the next day (assuming a sunny day).

Your Airstream manual should tell you where the panel hookup is.

Hope this helps,
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Old 10-13-2002, 12:17 PM   #4
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Hi, and thanks for the replies. The actual designation of my Airstream is somewhat confused. The purchase agreement lists it as a 2002 model year Safari. The actual date of manufacture on the VIN plate is 6/18/01. The manual is for "2002 Safari/Bambi Trailers" and covers from 16-foot Bambi to 27-foot Safari. Scematics for the 19-footer refer to it as a Bambi, but as you can see from the photo, it carries the Safari markings. Also sports a 70th Anniversary emblem (see my avatar) "1931-1991".

In any event, I found on the appropriate electrical scematic the 10-ga. wires marked as "SOLAR PNL. PREWIRE". My actual question is: does anybody have any experience in adding a solar system to a pre-wired unit? Is it something a moderately competent person should attempt? If it isn't, who should I contract to do the install? Do solar power "Kits" take into account the pre-wiring? I realize these questions may seem basic, but solar electric might as well be nuclear fusion for all I know about it.

BTW, my battery is an SRM-27, if that helps.
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Old 10-13-2002, 12:21 PM   #5
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wrong!

OOPs, my Safari's emblem reads 1931-2001, not 1931-1991.
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Old 10-13-2002, 12:24 PM   #6
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and yes, that is a dent!
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Old 10-13-2002, 02:28 PM   #7
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Safari vs Bambi

They had a 19-footer marked Safari on the lot when I bought my International. When I asked about it, they said that it was an Airstream foul-up and Airstream was sending them Bambi markings to replace the Safari markings. Apparently, A/S had a change of heart as to what to call it halfway through the model year.
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Old 10-13-2002, 07:01 PM   #8
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The 2001 model year was the 70th Anniversary, and new year trailers come out in Aug-Sep, like cars, so with that manufacture date, and the anniversary emblem, I'd say it's an unusual 2001... especially with the Safari emblems (that's definitely a Bambi). I'd call Airstream with the serial number and ask what model and year they have it listed as. It's pretty unique for sure... consider it a collectible!

An SRM-27 is a little larger (17hrs X 5A=85AH) than a 24, and should theoretically give you 8.5 hours at 5 amps to discharge to 50% (the lowest you ever want to take a battery) or 4.25 hours at 5 amps to discharge down to 75% (about the lowest you want to go for maximum battery life).

To charge it up fully from 75% charge in 5 hours would require an average charge about 10% more than 4.25 A... about 4.7 A, divided by .7 for 6.7 A peak, times 17 volts = 115 watts of panels and one 120W panel should cover this. To charge it up fully from 50% in 5 hours would take two 120W panels. Even if you just go with one 120W panel, I'd get a 16A or larger controller in case you want to add another panel. I'd also get tilt mounts... gives you more flexibilty parking.

I'll leave the details to someone who's actually installed one or can recommend a place to do it.

Best wishes!
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Old 10-14-2002, 08:28 AM   #9
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EXACT WORDS

THOSE WERE MY EXACT WORDS..IT'S VERY UNQUIE~!! Almost like a stamp printed upside down~!!
KEWL~!
From what I was lead to believe, you should be able to just plug it in...Your unit is already wired for the solar panel.
I would say this abt the solar panel..Look for one that has the round solar chips..They work better and, should last longer as well.~!! I have seen several websites that you might want to check out.

http://www.bigfrogmountain.com/

The last is one of the best sites around..

http://www.rvsolarelectric.com/
Good luck to you~~
ciao
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Old 10-14-2002, 09:25 AM   #10
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cactushead, I installed a 120 watt solar panel on my 2001 25' Safari. It is a realitively easy task since Airstream had the insight to pre-wire for solar. Your service manual should indicate where your wires are located. There should be a red and black wire from the 12-volt panel and a yellow and green wire from the solar panel (mine was actually located in the refer access door). The location where these 4 wires converge is where you should install the charge controller. I'm not sure how much real estate you have on top of your Bambi so you should measure first and then check out the web sites for dimensions of various size panels. I replaced the group27 battery with two 6-volt golf cart batteries. I live in southern California so there is usually enough sun to recharge them. I considered installing a tilt up frame but decided against because I didn't want to carry a ladder.
Hope this helps. If you need more details let me know.
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Old 10-14-2002, 09:30 AM   #11
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Call Rod Walters at A/S customer service or e-mail Airstream service and they will send you the instructions to wire up your solar panel to the pre-wire that is installed. Its very easy and does take into account the kits that are our there.

Also check out www.shellsolar.com

Shell bought out the Siemens Solar division and have a very well, but pricey, solar kit in various sizes.

Basically, mount the solar panel to the roof, run the wires down the refer vent to the pre- wires in the outside refer compartment and hook up the charge controller to the pre-wires that are generally behind the tank moonitor panel.

Jace
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Old 10-14-2002, 09:32 AM   #12
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Jerry,
Just put in the Trojans and Blue Sea box. Thanks for the help, fits perfectly!
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Old 10-14-2002, 09:50 AM   #13
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Jace, your welcome. Glad it worked out.
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Old 10-14-2002, 06:15 PM   #14
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Thanks!

Thanks very much for the replys! I will definitely email Rod at Airstream for the instructions regarding the prewire. I have just rec'd the catalog for RV Solar Electric and will most likely be purchasing a kit from them.

Will let you all know how it turns out, thanks again!
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Old 10-17-2002, 07:01 AM   #15
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Trojans and Blue Sea

Jerry and Jace:

Sure would be helpful if you could e-mail me photos of the Blue Sea box installation. I bought the box but find that the protrusions on the sides of the lid that allow for wire entry make the fit between propane tank cover and front wall of the trailer a bit too tight. Lowering the battery tray would interfere with the spare tire lowering handle under the A-frame. Any suggestions?

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Old 10-17-2002, 08:19 AM   #16
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Lew, I don't have a spare tire so I lowered the battery tray below the frame.
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Old 10-17-2002, 09:34 AM   #17
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Battery tray

Thanks, Jerry:

I will probably reinforce and enlarge the existing tray, then shave off the protruding sides of the long side of the Blue Sea box top since I will not be routing the wires through the sides anyway...the wires will feed through the short side of the top.
I think I can cover the rectangular openings I create in the box top by riveting or bolting in some flat plastic pieces.

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Old 10-20-2002, 09:24 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally posted by cactushead
Hi, and thanks for the replies. The actual designation of my Airstream is somewhat confused. The purchase agreement lists it as a 2002 model year Safari. The actual date of manufacture on the VIN plate is 6/18/01.
You probably have a very early 2002 unit. My Safari was built in April 2001 ( I special ordered) and was told it was one of the last 2001's to roll down the line. From your picture it looks like you have the thin black stripe that is indicative of the 2002's. 2001's had a blue stripe. Interesting also that you have the 70th anniversary emblem. The color of that was blue.

I haven't been able to find the solar wires on mine yet. According to my manual, they are supposed to be located inside the armrest of the sofa. Next time I'm up at the dealer I'll try to track this down.

Regards,

Jack
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Old 10-21-2002, 04:00 PM   #19
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Lew,
Mine fit without any mods other than new, shorter set screws for the spring bar brackets. I assume that your '01 27' and my '99 25C are different from what you have said. I don't have the spare tire either. The tolerance is very close however.
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Old 10-21-2002, 05:56 PM   #20
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Battery Box Solution

Jace and Jerry:

With the spare tire assembly installed, I find I can't weld in a larger, lower battery tray without interfering with the spare tire lowering handle. And without lowering the tray on my trailer, the fit of the new box is about 1-inch too tight at the top of the new battery box, tank cover to trailer front wall, mainly because of the provision Blue Sea made to have cables entering from either long side of the box. I have already replaced the snap-up bolts with Grade 8 shorter bolts. My solution on fitting in the new box is to build a triangluar shaped flat steel tray to fit atop the welded-in single battery tray, using 1/8-inch steel plate, and cutting out areas for cable feed and spare tire handle, and drilling holes strategically for mounting and reinforcing. At the three points of the triangle, I will install 5-inch long 1/2-inch threaded rods using nuts and washers and with 3/16-inch steel brackets attached to the top ends of the rods that hook over the top of the trailer's A-frame just behind the snap-ups and over the back edge of the propane tank platform in the front. This arrangement will take most of the extra battery weight off the smaller, welded-in battery tray and spread it evenly across the entire A-frame. The new triangular tray will be bolted to the old battery tray using four 7/16 inch bolts and 1-inch spacers, and the Blue Sea box can then be bolted atop the new tray. No welding required. Then, to make the Blue Sea box top fit just right within the limited space, I shaved off the portruding edges which allow for long-side cable entry, since I won't be routing the cables that way anyhow. I prototyped everything using 3/16-inch thick plywood and 1/2-inch dowels and everything fits very well. The plywood model with cutouts and holes in all the right positions will be the template for fabricating the new steel battery tray.

Lew
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