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Old 09-14-2015, 10:55 AM   #1
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The Solar Solution

I keep reading discussions on this and other forums about house battery problems. In my view the solution is solar. Airstream is behind their competitors in increasing solar panels on the roof to at least 200 watts, which is a level that solves nearly all battery maintenance issues. Of course this also means upgrading to a better solar that the one now provided by Airstream. Since I upgraded my solar to 400 watts I never worry about my batteries, even with the refrigerator running constantly. I started with 200 watts and that was adequate to keep the batteries maintained where I park my van in half day shape behind my townhouse. I increased to 400 watts as I intend to increase my battery capacity to 400 AH so I can do more without hookups.

This solution may not help those that store their Interstates indoors.

Just my 2 cents.


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Old 09-14-2015, 11:51 AM   #2
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I know you've posted them before, but can you please post some pictures of the roof showing the panels and how you've attached them, and also the solar controller and its display panel.
Thanks!
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Old 09-14-2015, 01:18 PM   #3
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Here are a couple of photos as requested.

I used Rhino-Rack roof carries connected to the Mercedes Installed roof rails that came on my 2013 Interstate. I don't think the new Interstates have these now. But there are lots of other ways to mount solar panels on the roof of this van.

The initial 200 watt setup, followed by the final 400 watt panels. Then some photos of the controller and remote panel locations.
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Old 09-14-2015, 01:54 PM   #4
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Thank you Boxster - very neat and professional. Did you remount the Maxxfan? Looks like its facing backwards.
Only 9.5 hours on the generator? That's got to be a testament to the usefulness of good solar and batteries!
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Old 09-14-2015, 01:58 PM   #5
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I really like that interior LP switch too!
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Old 09-14-2015, 02:04 PM   #6
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I have recently upgraded to 200 W wiht MMPT controller and do not see a need for more than that unless/until I increase battery capacity above the standard two group 24's (160AH). I don't want to use more than 50% on a routine basis to give good battery life. Our current (no pun intended) usage of refrigerator, water pump,, and modest use of lighting (no inverter usage to speak of) is about that 50%. And with 200 W I can recharge from 50% on a good sunny day - especially if suplemented with a bit of driving. I am not sure how/why we would use a whole lot more than that (maybe with satellite TV???) so am not in a great hurry to increase battery capacity.
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Old 09-14-2015, 03:45 PM   #7
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I really like that interior LP switch too!

Yes - that interior LP switch is really helpful. I think it is a must for Airstream to add to their design.


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Old 09-14-2015, 03:56 PM   #8
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Nice job!

The roof rack structure really isn't necessary with our rocker foot mounting system and 3M VHB tape. NO HOLES!!!!

The only problem now is the very limited availability of AM Solar's GS-100 high efficiency panels. These measure about 20 X 40 and are perfect for AI use. Unfortunately, they are no longer being made.

The smallest 100 watt hard panel is now 21 X 47.

Am Solar has a few left, so if you have any intent to go solar in the near future. I would strongly suggest that you buy your panels now so they will be available when you want them.


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Old 09-14-2015, 03:57 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UKDUDE View Post
Thank you Boxster - very neat and professional. Did you remount the Maxxfan? Looks like its facing backwards.
Only 9.5 hours on the generator? That's got to be a testament to the usefulness of good solar and batteries!

Yes - I reversed the MaxxAir Maxxfan. It was very easy - just remove four screws and flip it around. I never left the fan open when we drove anyway so reversing it was no big loss. It was required to get the panels mounted in front of the AC unit.

That photo with the generator control panel is a few years old. I now have about 27 hours on the generator and have done one oil change at 20 hours. Still need the generator for AC in the evening during our winter trips to Key West where we boondock on the Navy base. Also used the generator during dinner hours this summer in Glacier NP when we wanted to use the microwave to steam some vegetables. Having capability to run the microwave on a larger inverter is the focus of my next major upgrade that I'm working on this fall when I'm home for the nice weather here in Maryland.


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Old 09-14-2015, 04:46 PM   #10
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Nice Job Mike!

Don't they make 250w or 300w panels suitable for roof mounting? like on residential?
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Old 09-14-2015, 05:24 PM   #11
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Nice Job Mike!

Don't they make 250w or 300w panels suitable for roof mounting? like on residential?

Most panels that size are 24 VDC nominal. There are only a few solar charge controllers that will use the higher panel voltage for a 12VDC RV battery system.

In addition, we have found that in a mobile environment, anything larger than 26 x 60 (160 watts) shows excessive flexing and potential damage.

But as always, YMMV !!!


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Old 09-14-2015, 05:35 PM   #12
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OK got it Lew.

What about the flexible panels like the 100w panel on my 2015 which BTW seems to be working well and keeps my batteries charged when on the road.
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Old 09-14-2015, 07:48 PM   #13
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OK got it Lew.

What about the flexible panels like the 100w panel on my 2015 which BTW seems to be working well and keeps my batteries charged when on the road.
I have 500 watts of flex panels on m Sprinter service van. You can not bond them directly to the roof, as they exhibit distinct sag between the raised roof ribs. I have to remove them after a week and bond a sheet of .080 aluminum to the raised ribs to form a flat surface and then adhere the flex panels to the aluminum.

After all of that, I still see only 60-65% of the charging capacity from the flex panels as I did from the solid panels. They work.....just not quite as well.

I know that Grape Solar no longer makes them and Renogy had a huge recall on theirs. That leaves Go power, who charges an outrageous price of around $600 for a single 100 watt panel. You can almost get 3 Renogy flex panels for that!
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Old 09-15-2015, 10:26 AM   #14
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I bought all four of my 100 watt panels from AM Solar along with the controller and all wiring, lugs and labels.


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Old 09-18-2015, 01:31 PM   #15
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Mike, what was involved in relocating the Omni-directional TV Antenna to the AC Shroud? Did it just screw to the shroud with existing holes or did you have to fab some sort of bracket? I want to add a 100W panel to my 14 AI and behind the AC would be an excellent spot with only the antenna to deal with.
Thanks in advance,
Bill

Quote:
Originally Posted by Boxster1971 View Post
I keep reading discussions on this and other forums about house battery problems. In my view the solution is solar. Airstream is behind their competitors in increasing solar panels on the roof to at least 200 watts, which is a level that solves nearly all battery maintenance issues. Of course this also means upgrading to a better solar that the one now provided by Airstream. Since I upgraded my solar to 400 watts I never worry about my batteries, even with the refrigerator running constantly. I started with 200 watts and that was adequate to keep the batteries maintained where I park my van in half day shape behind my townhouse. I increased to 400 watts as I intend to increase my battery capacity to 400 AH so I can do more without hookups.

This solution may not help those that store their Interstates indoors.

Just my 2 cents.


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Old 09-18-2015, 06:23 PM   #16
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I located one of those on the A/C shroud almost 2 years ago. I would not do it again, as the effort required vs. installing a new Jack digital directional antenna ales it a moot point.

Much better reception with the Jack along with full digital and an integrated signal amplifier.


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Old 09-18-2015, 09:41 PM   #17
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I got the idea to mount the antenna on the AC cover from lewster. I'm not sure I'd do it again. I mounted mine slightly different then lewster. I attached it directly to the AC cover, not using the the tripod support. The main problem I've had is the top of the AC shroud is rather flexible and I've had to add some additional spacer to keep the antenna from flopping in the wind while driving.

Since I have four 100 watt panels, two forward and two aft, there wasn't much roof space left to mount any antenna except on top of the AC cover.


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Old 09-19-2015, 02:15 PM   #18
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All I want to accomplish with my AI is to be able to leave the Novacool frige on during the day when we're away from the rv during trips without running the batteries down. (I have meds that need to stay cool) Seems like a good 100w panel would accomplish that providing the wiring and charge controller are all copacetic. I have ordered a GS-100 panel from AM Solar which I was going to place where the omni-directional tv antenna is but if the experts can verify that a single 100w panel will accomplish what I am looking for I will simply replace the factory 50w panel with the new 100w panel.
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Old 09-19-2015, 02:20 PM   #19
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The Solar Solution

If you are intending to use the stock charge controller........ I'm afraid not.

For a minimal cost increase, I would use 200 watts and upgrade your solar charge controller as well to a Morningstar or Blue Sky PWM unit.

This will guarantee you enough 3-stage solar charging amps to overcome your fridge draw AND the parasitic DC loads in your AI. Your existing controller is a single stage unit which is definitely not optimal for proper battery charging.


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Old 09-19-2015, 02:36 PM   #20
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Which Morningstar or Bluesky controller would you recommed Lew?


Quote:
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If you are intending to use the stock charge controller........ I'm afraid not.

For a minimal cost increase, I would use 200 watts and upgrade your solar charge controller as well to a Morningstar or Blue Sky PWM unit.

This will guarantee you enough 3-stage solar charging amps to overcome your fridge draw AND the parasitic DC loads in your AI. Your existing controller is a single stage unit which is definitely not optimal for proper battery charging.


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RVIA/RVDA Nationally Certified Master Tech
Master Tech Energy Systems, Inc.
AM Solar Certified Installation Center
Lifeline Batteries**Magnum Inverters
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