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Old 11-21-2015, 07:14 AM   #1
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Best bang for your buck

I have not taken delivery of my new AS yet but I am thinking of ways to be self sufficient when it comes to electricity. I will be buying a generator first and I am considering a solar system in the long term but is there anything else I could do in the mean time. Would a 4 stage converter/ charger , different inverter or different batteries make sense. Whatever I do now I do not want to do over again when I decide to install solar panel.
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Old 11-21-2015, 08:05 AM   #2
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Just my perception of the common consensus

It seems like people feel that a generator is the best bang for the buck over solar, and a lot easier than installing solar. Of course the generator would be more handy on rainy cloudy days.

The problem I hear about from some that have solar is that they didn't add enough batteries. They say that around midday the batteries get to full charge while the sun is still beating down. I would suggest a bank of AGM batts that don't need to be vented.

As for me, I think I would want a portable solar system, so that I could park in the shade. If your staying out for long periods, you have time for a little extra set up time. Also a portable system could be aimed at the sun better than installed solar panels. Also….I cringed at the thought of making holes in my roof.

As far as doing it right the first time. I would suggest getting an MPPT controller that allowed for expansion, such as an additional solar panel, additional battery, or wind turbine.

BUT….I admit that the installed systems are way cool and less set up.

The longest I stay out is 2 weeks, at an annual event. We share a Honda 3000. I hate picking it up, carrying the gas, and the noise. To me the ultimate would be a Honda 2000, 200 watts of solar, a wind turbine and 4 AGM batts. Which is what I will do when I win the lottery.ha ha
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Old 11-21-2015, 08:11 AM   #3
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Excellent advice. He knows from experience.
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Old 11-21-2015, 08:19 AM   #4
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Since the OP is considering upgrades, one might consider a Magnum MSH 3012 converter/charger as a replacement for the "battery baker special" usually installed by Airstream. It is fully programable and will handle all types of batteries.
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Old 11-21-2015, 09:46 AM   #5
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Yeah honestly , some of my experience is thru osmosis.

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Originally Posted by avionstream View Post
Excellent advice. He knows from experience.
I've run with a camping club, some 200 strong, for 15 years, about 10 outings a year. We've tried it all, seen a lot of " interesting " experiments, a lot of failures, and a lot of success.

My mother once said " You don't have to be smart, but it's good to know who is smart "
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Old 11-21-2015, 09:56 AM   #6
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You will get lots of suggestions. My two cents is to wait and see how you use your camper and decide what you need. You have mentioned the areas of upgrading for self sufficiency. How much you want to upgrade will determine the answer to your question.

I went basic on solar- a system quite capable of charging two systems batteries. Went with Renogy Systems. I bought a solar controller that would allow a second battery bank in the future but that is doubtful. My needs are met with a two battery system and the recharge rate is acceptable. Your needs may be different. Same with a generator. I wanted something mainly to operate the AC, not power every possible need. Bang for buck generator is better than solar. Get an LP conversion generator.So far it has been great. I did upgrade my tow vehicle. I don't get better mpg- same, but it I have over twice the torque. Upgrading the converter is important depending on what they are putting in now. Mine had one that I simply used the upgrade kit from the company. It has an override that I can switch the stage to what I want as well- of course what you will need depends on how you will be camping
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Old 11-21-2015, 10:18 AM   #7
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We can't use solar efficiently....has something to do with where we camp.




You might consider this....

Ck your converter specs, you may already have a 3 stage, some of the AS's have them. If not definitely up-grade.
.....I would recommend the largest,(grp27), Lifeline AGM's that will fit.



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Old 11-21-2015, 10:35 AM   #8
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Quote:
The problem I hear about from some that have solar is that they didn't add enough batteries. They say that around midday the batteries get to full charge while the sun is still beating down. I would suggest a bank of AGM batts that don't need to be vented.

As for me, I think I would want a portable solar system, so that I could park in the shade. If your staying out for long periods, you have time for a little extra set up time. Also a portable system could be aimed at the sun better than installed solar panels. Also….I cringed at the thought of making holes in my roof.
True. The formula for solar is tricky. The efficiency loss is great regardless of controller type and it is just plain expensive. Basically mine is 300 watts to charge the equivalent of one battery that gives me up to 1000 +- watt hours of use AFTER subtracting for charge loss and inverter loss. That takes a day to charge back or 5 hours. My usage chart was around 750 watt hours liberal use (at most). My actual usage comes in around half that amount so I COULD go maybe two days or so on one charge per se. They told me that they figure for 2-2-5 days on a system.

As far as portable, that is what many write-ups say. Park under the trees and your two grand roof system is all but useless. The suitcases are popular for at least some charge.
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Old 11-21-2015, 11:37 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mandolindave View Post
It seems like people feel that a generator is the best bang for the buck over solar, and a lot easier than installing solar. Of course the generator would be more handy on rainy cloudy days.

The problem I hear about from some that have solar is that they didn't add enough batteries. They say that around midday the batteries get to full charge while the sun is still beating down. I would suggest a bank of AGM batts that don't need to be vented.

As for me, I think I would want a portable solar system, so that I could park in the shade. If your staying out for long periods, you have time for a little extra set up time. Also a portable system could be aimed at the sun better than installed solar panels. Also….I cringed at the thought of making holes in my roof.

As far as doing it right the first time. I would suggest getting an MPPT controller that allowed for expansion, such as an additional solar panel, additional battery, or wind turbine.

BUT….I admit that the installed systems are way cool and less set up.

The longest I stay out is 2 weeks, at an annual event. We share a Honda 3000. I hate picking it up, carrying the gas, and the noise. To me the ultimate would be a Honda 2000, 200 watts of solar, a wind turbine and 4 AGM batts. Which is what I will do when I win the lottery.ha ha
Yup. This is my current situation, bad battery bank and too small. We have 405 watts on the roof. I think what I like about the solar is just the ease. No setting it up and no listening to it hum. I like the fact that it just starts working when the sun comes up.

We do have a Honda eu2000i generator. New they cost about 1/2 of the total cost I spent on solar. If you kept track of gas, I think that could cost just about as much as solar after a year of use. If you were full timing and using it regularly. A weekend camper might not see that for a long time.

Another thing, the generator has to be maintained (obviously). I just recently had to change the spark plug and oil in mine. So there is that cost, but it's still relatively minimal.

I would certainly suggest replacing the converter. Solar can be an expensive endeavour, but doesn't have to be. And should be determined based on your use.

I'm working on installing a lithium battery bank next week in Yuma of about 400 amp hours. It's pricey but there are additional benefits.

I guess it boils down to how you want to use your Airstream, camping style, what your preferences are. No right or wrong answers really.
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Old 11-21-2015, 12:10 PM   #10
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Batteries seem to be the weak link in many arenas

Not just the number of batts, but in the past, the performance was not up to par with a lot of the other components. Even NASA had some complaints about the performance of batteries.

The lithium batts sound like a leap forward. Just as far as my trailer is concerned….I had an easy time finding places to mount and hide my AGMs. The lithium unit that I saw in a photo of appeared to be a little harder to mount and hide. Although it looked so cool that you might not need to hide it.

As I recall there were some other issues I read about. ( are they 24 volts ?)

Hope to see some photos of them installed.
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Old 11-21-2015, 12:14 PM   #11
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Just did some looking about

AM Solar has lithium batts that look like and are sized like a conventional car batt.

The one I spoke of was a very nice looking wall mount unit
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Old 11-21-2015, 12:52 PM   #12
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We have the factory-installed solar with two Group 24 AGM batteries. It actually works very well most of the time, the weak link is the battery storage capacity. As mentioned, in good sun fully charged by noon, so we don't need more solar capacity as much as we need more battery capacity.

I like the idea of Lithium batteries but it also requires an expensive charging system and then "might-as-well" have better solar panels and so forth. Our next upgrade will probably be two Group 27 AGM batteries and continue with good power management practices. We have to look at cost vs actual benefit, rather than "which one is best" in all things Airstream and tow vehicles.
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Old 11-21-2015, 01:07 PM   #13
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Best bang for your buck:

1. Add solar, Renology panels are good value.

2 DIY and use the existing pre-wiring.

3 Get a battery monitor or make sure to include this option with your solar controller. It's important to know your consumption and battery state.

4 Don't upgrade your batteries until you understand your energy needs.

5 Don't bother upgrading your converter even if it's only a single stage battery charger since you'll be disconnecting the charger from the batteries when connected to shore power or when in long term storage anyway.
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Old 11-21-2015, 01:22 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mandolindave View Post

As I recall there were some other issues I read about. ( are they 24 volts ?)

AM Solar has lithium batts that look like and are sized like a conventional car batt.
They're not 24V, some come in that. And most of the issues have been resolved in newer generation chemistries.

AMSolar's batteries are actually 3.2v cell's that they sandwich together to make 12.8v. The 4 cell's end up being the size of a regular group 24 battery. So their 400aH kit is rather big in size, even though you can arrange the cells however you want.

Other companies sell 200aH and even 300aH cells that are already at 12v like Elite Power Solutions.

Lots of options.

Quote:
Originally Posted by alano View Post
Best bang for your buck:

1. Add solar, Renology panels are good value.

2 DIY and use the existing pre-wiring.

3 Get a battery monitor or make sure to include this option with your solar controller. It's important to know your consumption and battery state.

4 Don't upgrade your batteries until you understand your energy needs.

5 Don't bother upgrading your converter even if it's only a single stage battery charger since you'll be disconnecting the charger from the batteries when connected to shore power or when in long term storage anyway.
This is a good suggestion. I have a friend camping here in Mojave with me and he has 300 amps of Renology on the roof and a 100-watt suitcase portable from them.

So our setups are similar, and I'm only really seeing a few more amps than him. We've been comparing. I seem to have better efficiency in low light, but he does just the same during the afternoon.

Honestly, it has made me rethink that. I'd recommend that route too as best bang for buck.

I like to play around with stuff, but I do like to do so reasonably.
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Old 11-21-2015, 01:26 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alano View Post

5 Don't bother upgrading your converter even if it's only a single stage battery charger since you'll be disconnecting the charger from the batteries when connected to shore power or when in long term storage anyway.
This is how we do it, still have original converter/charger which works great as a converter, charger we don't need.

Isolate it from the batteries with the Battery Disconnect in STORE mode whenever on external power. Let the solar system charge the batteries. Don' t forget to switch back to USE mode when unhooking for travel or the fridge controls will not operate in STORE mode.
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Old 11-21-2015, 01:44 PM   #16
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Power Options

We choose the Airstream solar package and the 1000W inverter. We also have a EU2000i for the microwave and other emergencies. We like to dry camp and the solar keeps the batteries up easily even after we use the inverter for 3 to 4 hours and run the batteries to approx 40 percent. I do wish Airstream had sized the inverter to work the microwave but we have learned to work around it most of the time. The Airstream solar works great and is integrated well with the other systems. The batteries were upgraded as part of the solar package but they are still group 24 units. I have looked at upsizing them to group 27 batteries but it would not do lots without a new inverter. Lots of work and still does not include the wiring mods for the microwave. Good luck with your choices and enjoy your new Airstream we sure do.
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Old 11-21-2015, 04:31 PM   #17
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Does an lp conversion generator give you the option to run it on lp or gas or only on lp
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Old 11-21-2015, 04:52 PM   #18
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Where is lewster in all this? If I were to order another Airstream it would be without solar. I would install a Signature 40/MPPT/4 solar controller, a Magnum MSH-3102M 3000 watt hybrid inverter/charger with Magnum ME-RC remote monitor, an AM Solar lithium battery pack and SF-100 solar panel kits. All sized to your needs and/or pocket book. Sure it is expensive, but then you have the basics for a premium system that should last for the life of the trailer. With this inverter/charger you can use it with a small jenny to run the A/C(s). Lewster hooks all this up directly to your AC panel so all AC items are powered. I believe the factory solar, inverter, and AGM batteries are around a $3000 option. So you are getting cheaper overall as you go along. AM Solar says the only thing that causes the lithiums to go down is a bad cell. replaceable for, IRC, $175. Otherwise they have indefinite life. Now your costs are really evening out in long run. I recently spent time at the Airstream Service Center having them run AC 50 anp wires from the lower left rear to the front of the trailer through the main frame rail for the jenny. Kevin, their foreman, said there are some holes already drilled in the frame you can use. But a hole saw also did the trick when necessary for additional access we needed. It would be real simple to drill holes for the 4-0 welding cable lewster recommends to go from the refer compartment in either direction to the front rear of the trailer to access those areas for component installation. I also took out all the OEM battery boxes and sealed everything up to make it moisture proof for the lithiums. Lewster says the battery management systems (BMS) are touchy about moisture. If you are interested in all this I would contact lewster. Just p.m. him or email at [lew@gorge.net]
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Old 11-21-2015, 05:08 PM   #19
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Yes. US Carburetor kits do. They are try-fuel LP, NG, and gasoline.
Go to their website.
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Old 11-22-2015, 03:19 AM   #20
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We have two AM Solar lithium iron phosphate battery installations.

The 300 amp-hour unit in the 23D is sized 11.25" x 14.5" at 84 pounds. That is less weight than the two stock lead acid batteries that were removed. It was installed just in front of the street side wheel well under the sofa. All the solar system "equipment" is installed under the sofa and street side dinette seat without modifying the furniture. The Magnum MSH 3012 is just in front of the furnace. Five 100 watt solar panels are mounted on the roof.

The 600 amp-hour unit is 11.25" x 29" at 168 pounds installed under the sofa of the Classic. It replaced four Lifeline act 300 amp-hour 6Vdc batteries at 92 pounds each and a custom stainless steel battery box that housed them on the 'A' frame in front of the trailer. The Magnum MS 2812 is positioned where the original battery charger was located under the sofa. Eight 100 watt solar panels are mounted on the roof.

When I picked these batteries up (two different trips), the battiers were bundled in manageable segments that weighed about 42 pounds each. Copper jumpers were used to connect each module to produce the 12Vdc when the parts were mounted in the trailer.

The link below to the AM Solar lithium iron phosphate battery page shows various configurations that can be assembled for the three larger battery sizes to fit a space situation.

AM Solar's Products for RV Solar Battery Charging Systems Lithium Batteries
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