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Old 10-24-2013, 08:38 PM   #1
MeandMB
 
2014 Interstate Ext. Coach
Selbyville , Delaware
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Solar Panel Upgrades

Picking up our new 2014 Extended Cab on 10/30 and already can't catch any sleep. Having Colonial upgrade my solar panels to 180 watts and was wondering if anyone out there has had Airstream upgrade their panels? Not having the upgrade done until 12/02. Was wondering if anyone had any good advise for installation?

Thanks in advance
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Old 10-25-2013, 10:08 PM   #2
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Will you be using the same controller installed by Airstream? Mine was an Atkinson Electronics PVCM40D, a single stage charger controller.

A better choice would be a three-stage controller.
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Old 10-26-2013, 06:36 AM   #3
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Not sure what stage installer they will use and is it to my benefit to ask for a three stage installer? Can you briefly described the difference. Thanks for taking the time.

Joe
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Old 10-26-2013, 07:13 AM   #4
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Hey Joe,

Learning about these things myself but simply put the Atkinson controller is a dumb unit. It's designed to charge and show you what it's doing. It will never charge your battery to a true 100% state but tell you it has. That is irksome to me. The Atkinson unit will just charge one way to a specific voltage threshold then stop with no further way to be able to charge, maintain or condition the batteries to ensure maximum longevity. A three stage controller/charger will. The lifeline batteries in our interstates are expensive so why not maximize ah capacity while charging them right to maximize their life?

Personally I will be upgrading my charge controller in a few weeks with a Blue Sky Energy 2512iX-HV bought from AM solar and use the stock PV panel for a bit before upgrading.

http://www.blueskyenergyinc.com/prod...i-hv-2512ix-hv


http://www.amsolar.com/home/amr/page...x-hv_mppt.html



Folks feel free to correct me if I'm wrong in my simplified assessment.
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Old 10-26-2013, 07:56 AM   #5
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MeandMB,
This is the controller I use, absolutely bulletproof and capable of 30 amps. Everything needed is included, really good instructions and explanations of operation, and 5 charging automatic stages + equalise have kept my batteries in top notch condition for 3 years.
Rogue Power Technologies - MPPT Charge Controllers and Renewable Energy Electronics
Made in USA, in a factory powered by solar.
No connection, just a very satisfied customer.
Tom Jensen
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Old 10-26-2013, 08:05 AM   #6
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If I may..............

Several comments about dealer installed solar charging systems gleaned from my observations of same when I have been asked to upgrade these systems:

• Most use inferior wire sized that cause too much voltage drop in the system. 8AWG is the minimum for 200 watts or less, 6AWG up to 400 watts, 4AWG up to 700 watts and 2AWG up to 1200 watts. This is for less than 2% voltage drop in the system.

• A quality 3-stage solar charge controller with full temperature compensation like the Blue Sky 2512iX is a great choice. You can also add the iPN remote with 500 amp shunt to give you a full-function battery monitor that will provide you with real-time analysis of your battery usage and charging.

• Be certain to specify that the charge leads coming from the solar charge controller be wired directly to the batteries. Airstream typically runs their anemic 10AWG yellow and green solar pre-wire only to the bus bars that then connect to the batteries. Less connections mean less voltage drop, and 10AWG should only be used for connecting solar panels to a combiner box on the roof, or for connecting a single 100 watt panel to a controller for runs of less than 15' total, including the controller to battery run.

PM me for any other specific questions.......
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Old 10-26-2013, 10:32 AM   #7
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Thanks to all. Finding all this technical info a bit overwhelming. Will take copious notes from all the info obtained and tell AS to install the system to my specs.

Joe
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Old 10-26-2013, 11:36 AM   #8
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Thanks to all. Finding all this technical info a bit overwhelming. Will take copious notes from all the info obtained and tell AS to install the system to my specs.

Joe
Or, you could find a professional (like lewster) to do it! I think that would be my inclination. FWIW.
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Old 10-26-2013, 06:37 PM   #9
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Airstream yellow and green solar pre-wire

Quote:
Originally Posted by lewster View Post
If I may..............

Be certain to specify that the charge leads coming from the solar charge controller be wired directly to the batteries. Airstream typically runs their anemic 10AWG yellow and green solar pre-wire only to the bus bars that then connect to the batteries. Less connections mean less voltage drop, an10AWG should only be used for connecting solar panels to a combiner box on the roof, or for connecting a single 100 watt panel to a controller for runs of less than 15' total, including the controller to battery run.

PM me for any other specific questions.......
Right on Lew!

It was even worse than that on my Interstate. The factory installed 50 Watt panel on my rig had 12AWG yellow and green solar wire to Atkinson Controller. The potted wires on the controller are also 12AWG on the positive side, but only 16AWG for the negative side. I'd say the factory wiring is only good for the 50 watt panel they install.

BTW - I'm very pleased with my upgrade to a Blue Sky 2512i(X)-HV from AM Solar as you recommended. With two 100 watt panels I get to full float charge everyday when leaving the van in driveway on shaded side of my townhouse. It's only getting direct sunlight for about 3 hours a day. With the factory solar my batteries were flat in three days in same conditions. I'm looking forward to my next trip to Florida in November when I'll give this new solar upgrade a real test.
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Old 10-26-2013, 07:58 PM   #10
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Right on Lew!

It was even worse than that on my Interstate. The factory installed 50 Watt panel on my rig had 12AWG yellow and green solar wire to Atkinson Controller. The potted wires on the controller are also 12AWG on the positive side, but only 16AWG for the negative side. I'd say the factory wiring is only good for the 50 watt panel they install.

BTW - I'm very pleased with my upgrade to a Blue Sky 2512i(X)-HV from AM Solar as you recommended. With two 100 watt panels I get to full float charge everyday when leaving the van in driveway on shaded side of my townhouse. It's only getting direct sunlight for about 3 hours a day. With the factory solar my batteries were flat in three days in same conditions. I'm looking forward to my next trip to Florida in November when I'll give this new solar upgrade a real test.
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Old 10-29-2013, 06:05 PM   #11
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In prep for a solar charge controller upgrade I built this distribution box. It houses the charge controller, a 30a breaker for battery positive and a 3 pole 150A/600v toggle disconnect to disconnect the panels from the circuit.

While I will reuse the Airstream spec'd 10AWG PV panel cables and route them into the box, everything inside and going out will be 6 AWG. When I do upgrade the PV panels, the wiring will be upgraded to 6AWG.

My interstate has the trip-lite inverter so the back wall of the "electrical utility box" under the sofa is available to flush mount this assembly to.

Granted some of the components are overkill, especially the toggle disconnect, this assembly is put together from items the company I work for sells into the industrial automation and control market.
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Old 10-29-2013, 06:20 PM   #12
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Mario care to share the component list of the box, cover?
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Old 10-29-2013, 07:04 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tiato View Post
In prep for a solar charge controller upgrade I built this distribution box.
Hello Tiato,
I'm really looking forward to seeing your installation. I too have a 2013 ext lounge model with the Tripp-lite inverter so I was wondering where we would mount the controller... especially one that's in a nice case. Also, any chance of mass producing your box?
David
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Old 10-29-2013, 08:29 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ghaynes755 View Post
Mario care to share the component list of the box, cover?
Ghaynes, see below.

Quote:
Originally Posted by David M View Post
Hello Tiato,
I'm really looking forward to seeing your installation. I too have a 2013 ext lounge model with the Tripp-lite inverter so I was wondering where we would mount the controller... especially one that's in a nice case. Also, any chance of mass producing your box?
David
David,

I also look forward to installing this. At this stage its definately prototype handcrafted stuff. Took about an hour to get it to the point shown in the images. Used commonly available hand tools too: Hammer and screwdriver to knock out holes, drill for hinge and controller mounting holes. Hex key for mounting hinges. Dremel to cut the top cover so the controller can be flush mounted. There will probably no doubt that some things may change as I put this thing in the interstate.

I can most certainly have this box produced provided quantities are sufficient (but would need to arrive at a final spec. first). I can also create a BOM with component sources or make this box available as a kit that you assemble yourself.

A few words regarding the components:

European to the core with UL listings.

The box and hinges are made in Germany. Box is polystyrene but is also available in polycarbonate either with smoked or grey covers. It has an IP66/Nema 4x rating.

The 30A MCB is also German made.

The toggle disconnect is made in Finland.

The mounting rail is Italian made but bears my companies logo.

Cord grips are German as well.


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Old 10-30-2013, 06:24 AM   #15
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Tiato, looks like great work! As you work out the details on your final install, if you can make a small run or even just build a few for forum members by hand I would be very interested. I'm just in the planning stags of a solar upgrade, I will start accumulating parts soon.
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Old 03-08-2014, 07:38 PM   #16
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Solar upgrade with Lewster...I traveled down to Marco Island to see Lewster before he does his annual migration to Oregon. From the picture, you might think we started drinking while doing the upgrade. He has been at it for two days. Lewster assures me that it will all come together tomorrow. The overall specs for the system is 300 watts of solar power and over 400 A/h of battery storage. Thought some of you might enjoy seeing the disaster in the back of my AI. Click image for larger version

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Old 03-08-2014, 08:23 PM   #17
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Solar upgrade with Lewster...I traveled down to Marco Island to see Lewster before he does his annual migration to Oregon. From the picture, you might think we started drinking while doing the upgrade. He has been at it for two days. Lewster assures me that it will all come together tomorrow. The overall specs for the system is 300 watts of solar power and over 400 A/h of battery storage. Thought some of you might enjoy seeing the disaster in the back of my AI.
Lewster's mess still looks all organized and neat.
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Old 03-08-2014, 09:53 PM   #18
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It's actually a lot better than it looks!

It will all come together tomorrow when miles and miles (actually close to 100 feet) of 2/0 cable, 10/3 AC marine cable, 6/2 solar wire, communication cables and battery temperature sensors all get placed and connected where they have to be.

As of today, the roof is done with 3 GS-100 panels bonded and sealed to the roof (NO HOLES!) and wired into the combiner box (bonded to the roof (NO HOLES!) and one roof access hole for the solar 6/2 cable drilled, covered and filled with SikFlex 221 sealant.

The new Magnum ME-RC remote and the Blue Sky IPN remote have been cut into the main control panel, and all of that wiring had been connected and pulled thru and behind the upper cabinets and brought to the rear floor.

Tomorrow gets the 4 new Lifeline GPL-4CT batteries, new Magnum MS-2012 inverter/charger, new auxiliary 120VAC main breaker box and solar controller connections. The existing 120VAC breaker box will now be operated from the inverter, with the exception of the roof A/C. Then clean, wire loom, wire tie and route all cables.

Stay tuned for the end results!
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Old 03-09-2014, 10:49 AM   #19
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I hope we see more pictures of this great upgrade.
Thanks
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Old 03-10-2014, 12:13 AM   #20
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Looks like a great great upgrade. Looking forward to more info and photos.
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