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Old 02-25-2016, 12:43 PM   #1
1 Rivet Member
2004 22' Interstate
East Bay , California
Join Date: Dec 2015
Posts: 5
Back from the dead and going solar?

Thank you so much to everyone who responded to my thread about my coach battery not charging from my alternator. You gave me excellent insights that have me thinkin'....

Flash forward to this morning, when I received some good news: overnight, looks like my new Norco Genius was able to revive my completely discharged Deka Gold coach battery, which wasn’t otherwise charging for me. It was only two months old but I’d previously given up on it because I’d discharged it a few too many times and had a tech tell me it was never coming back from the dead. In the interim I invested in a new Duralast Platinum AGM coach battery, so now I’m wondering what to do with the 50lbs of lead sitting on my kitchen floor. I can take it over to Autozone for recycling and a $18 refund, but that seems like a waste. This has me pondering whether or not I could try daisy chaining them together...but since these aren’t quite the same battery technology, I’m wondering if this is even possible and if so whether it's a good idea. BTW, I’m not sure what kind of starter battery I have…would have to go look.

If it is possible to connect a flooded lead-acid maintenance free battery with an AGM of roughly the same specs? And is all that would be needed is some 10awg wire + loop connectors, or do I need something fancier than that? Also, want to add a battery monitor into the mix…does it matter where I place the battery monitor (between batteries, or hanging off one or the other)?

One other thing I want to run by you folks…thanks to several on this list, I’ve decided to add some solar to my system sooner rather than later. I’m not looking to go totally solar, but just add a panel to keep my coach battery happy since the alternator doesn’t seem to be topping it off on short to medium trips between plug-ins. This is totally something I should outsource to a professional and normally wouldn’t even fantasize about DIY but dammit I go on amazon to look around and it just starts sounding so doable!

So here’s my plot: since I have a 2004, I’ve got that pesky no-good tv antenna + crank hanging out for no good reason. I was thinking why not pull that guy out, place a 100W flexible panel on the roof, and run the extension cable down through the opening (caulked up nice and good once in place), then down to a solar controller under the passenger lounge (have plenty o spare space under there) and then into my new AGM battery. I’d also want to hook up a battery monitor to that AGM as part of the process...I got a Bluetooth 12V battery monitor off amazon that has an iphone app. No reviews for it yet so it’s a risk, but it was only $25 so I just went for it.

So here’s my question: could someone look at the attached diagram and tell me if I’m totally insane and deluded for even entertaining such thoughts, or if I’m about to attempt something that will either blow out my electrical system or do bodily harm to self and/or assistant? I haven’t ordered any parts yet…only the battery monitor…but I included the components I’m considering. Would love to get some thoughts from some of you with solar experience in particular.

BTW on the solar, I like the idea of going with a flexible HQST panel that I can stick to the roof rather than deal with mounting it on my roof rack…I need to get up with a measuring tape verify that I’ll be able to do that, but if not I’d plan to go with another Renology 100 Watt panel.

Thank you in advance for any advice you can give.

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Old 02-25-2016, 05:24 PM   #2
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2007 Interstate
League City , Texas
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Originally Posted by naner View Post
... I have a 2004, I’ve got that pesky no-good tv antenna + crank hanging out for no good reason. I was thinking why not pull that guy out,...

Ancillary comment:

I couldn'ta said it better myself about the ol' battle-ax bat-wing antenna - it is as useless as mammary glands on a bull. But we replaced our OEM Sony analog TV with a Jensen 19 inch 12 volt DC "LED" digital television which is fed by a King Digital OTA antenna head, which fits on the existing antenna crank that Airstream installed (total cost about $365). The result was a thing of beauty that I wouldn't want to live without. I really enjoy waking up in a new place and flipping on the local news and weather at 6 a.m. while I drink my tea. It gives me a "centering" feeling, like I'm now keyed into what's happening in the geographic location where I am for that day. Best of all, I don't have to pay for a satellite subscription.

So aside from whether your proposed solar design would be feasible, are you sure you'd want to lose future TV capability on account of it? Don't judge that book by its bat-wing.
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Old 02-25-2016, 09:36 PM   #3
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2006 22' Interstate
Sebastopol , California
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 210
Not a good idea to use two different type batteries. AGM's usually have different charge values then wet cells and you will be asking for trouble. If you only have room for one 100w panel you can get by fine with a 10 volt controller instead of the 30 volt one shown in your diagram. Interblogs set up on their T1N with the tubular roof rack is pretty fabulous but I don't have the welding skills or tools to fabricate the brackets. I'm going to continue with the Renology 100w solar suitcase for the time being. I should add, I store my AI at home and keep both my coach and chassis batteries (one each) connected to individual multi stage CTEK chargers. We usually travel daily and end the day with a full charge. I break out the solar suitcase when we are boondocking and not moving for more than a day. The most effective battery monitors require a shunt on the negative side and then to ground. It certainly can be done with simple DYI skills.
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Old 02-25-2016, 11:45 PM   #4
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2006 22' Interstate
League City , Texas
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I like the AM Solar combiner box that lets you run the wires down the refrigerator vent. For only one panel you probably don't actually need the box and could probably get away with some conduit fittings instead.
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Old 02-26-2016, 02:49 AM   #5
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1984 27' Airstream 270
Scotia , New York
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I dont know what type of roof vent your 2004 has, in my 84 I ran my wires through the side wall of the vent.
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Old 02-26-2016, 12:24 PM   #6
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2004 22' Interstate
East Bay , California
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Posts: 5
Thanks everyone!

@InterBlog—you have a really good point about the antenna...and OMG your solar setup is SO sweet...but so outta my league. Well, a girl can dream….

@Septown—thank you for the reality check. My gut says you’re right on daisy chaining an AGM to lead acid battery. I’m still confused by battery technology (my high school physics is super rusty, and there are some fab battery posts on this forum but they make my eyes glaze over). They told me when I bought the AGM battery that it’s “gel”…and yet from what I've gathered it’s not a “true gel”. Frankly, I just wanna keep the $200 bugger happy. And get the 50lbs of lead and acid off my kitchen floor. Maybe today's project will be moving it to the garage

@LB 3: Looking at the AM Solar site and here’s the funny thing….I actually HAVE wires under my fridge (in the cabinet under there) that are labeled “solar” but I’ve not been able to figure out where they go or where they are coming from…but you’ve convinced me that it’s probably worth 1) getting up on the roof to take a closer look, and 2) taking my rig to someone who might be able to figure it out. Now if I can just figure out how to find such a person in my area…this is my biggest dilemma.
PS Thank you for turning me on to the AM Solar website!!! It’s got a great Education section! for anyone else who is solar-curious!

@WayneG: thank you for the pointer to your EPIC blog posts on airstream projects…WOW WOW WOW!…. love what you did with the dashboard. And WOW your b-van is ***SO ADORABLE***
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Old 02-26-2016, 07:27 PM   #7
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2006 22' Interstate
League City , Texas
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I found those wires labeled solar as well but didn't know where they went so I didn't use them. The manual says the interstate is pre-wired for solar but that probably meant something different a dozen years ago than it does today.
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Old 02-27-2016, 05:29 AM   #8
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Raymond , Iowa
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I replaced my 50W with two 100W. One of the 100W went where the 50 was, the other was behind the A/C (where the Winegard was). I ran the MC4 solar cables through the conduit fitting used for the original 50W wiring. Took some (OK, a lot) of wiggling with me pushing from the roof and helper pulling from inside (would try silicon spray next time) but it cn be done.
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