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Old 09-28-2015, 08:20 AM   #1
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Cost of Upgrading to 200 W Solar?

We purchased a new 2014 1/2 Airstream Interstate in June of this year. It has the standard 50 W solar. I would like to upgrade to 200 W of solar panels. Can anyone give me an idea of the cost involved in I have this done at the Airstream dealer locally?

I did speak briefly to the service manager asking for a "ballpark" estimate. The estimate was $2200-$2300. I am not sure if this included a different controller or not. The estimate just seemed awfully high to me for two 100 W panels and four hours of labor.

Also, does anyone have a recommendation for the brand or type of solar that would be the most efficient for the AI?

The dealer did install new batteries in the 2014 AI when we purchased it in June. We just returned from a nine day trip to multiple national parks in southern Utah. Too bad that the AI refrigerator does not have a propane option. The refrigerator is a boondocking limiter in a big way.

Thanks for your help.
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Old 09-28-2015, 09:04 AM   #2
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Check out these folks for a great deal of expert advice and information.
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Old 09-28-2015, 09:25 AM   #3
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Much the same situation. PO installed a 55w panel and controller. I purchased two 100w panels from Costco on line for $150 each, bought some 2"x2" aluminum angle, some bolts, pop rivets and sealer from the hardware store to make and install brackets. Installed on the roof and connected to the existing line from the 55w panels. Installed a Blue Sky controller for about $150. Took me less than three hours to do the whole job including making the brackets.
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Old 09-28-2015, 09:39 AM   #4
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for attaching panel to the roof i highly recommend the clips AM solar uses along the the adhesive they use as it does not need make penetration into the skin.. no holes no leaks..

Lew will be here soon to make recommendation as well i suppose.

$2300 is TOO high to add panels.. it make sense to go bigger is your charge controller can handle the added amps.. not to bad to upgrade to the morning star units.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Foster View Post
Much the same situation. PO installed a 55w panel and controller. I purchased two 100w panels from Costco on line for $150 each, bought some 2"x2" aluminum angle, some bolts, pop rivets and sealer from the hardware store to make and install brackets. Installed on the roof and connected to the existing line from the 55w panels. Installed a Blue Sky controller for about $150. Took me less than three hours to do the whole job including making the brackets.
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Old 09-28-2015, 09:43 AM   #5
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In my experience, Airstream corporate and many (most?) of their dealers are basically clueless when it comes to solar power for RVs. The factory Airstream "solar package" is basically an overpriced battery trickle charger. Some dealers may have gone out of their way to learn about solar but they would be the exception. I would start by looking at A.M. Solar's web site (Welcome to AM Solar_Your RV Solar Specialists since 1987) and then contact them to see if they have a factory trained installer in your area. You can also check around with fellow RV'ers in your area who may have worked with an experienced solar installer. In general, I would shy away from Airstream dealers.

We worked with Lew Farber of Master Tech Mobile RV Systems for our solar and total electrical redo and have been way more than pleased. Lew is a regular contributor to this forum and his screen name is "LEWSTER." You can PM him and see if he can help you.
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Old 09-28-2015, 10:08 AM   #6
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Sorry there was supposed to be a link to AM Solar on my first post. Can not seem to get it to post.
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Old 09-28-2015, 11:10 AM   #7
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I recently installed 300W of new solar panels that I bought from AM Solar. I also added a magnum inverter/remote, all new wiring and a new charge controller/remote (Blue Sky Solar Boost 2512i(X)-HV along with an IPN ProRemote.). Total cost for all was ~$3400. I did the install myself with verbal support from Lewster and AM solar.

I have a 2012 AI that come with 50w of solar. There was no way that the existing charge controller or wiring could handle the 300W. That all needed replaced, along with my original inverter/charger. The entire magnum setup was about $1300 with the remote, wiring, fuses, etc. That puts the Solar at about $2100.

The price may seem a little steep, but it is a very high quality system and I am quite happy with it. Your wiring in the 2014 may be able to handle the additional wattage which saves a lot of work and some $. The 100W kits form AM solar run about $380 (I got free shipping and there was no sales tax). The kit has everything you need (wiring, mounts, etc)

More info on my change out can be found here.http://www.airforums.com/forums/f240...es-134338.html

I wish you success with whatever path you choose.
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Old 09-28-2015, 11:10 AM   #8
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<<Too bad that the AI refrigerator does not have a propane option. The refrigerator is a boondocking limiter in a big way.>>

Sorry to read you don't understand the massive downside of the absorption-type RV fridge. Irrespective of whether or not you are running on propane or 120VAC, if there is excessive ambient heat -- say temps in the 90F range, its performance is pathetic, even with aftermarket 12VDC fans working to exhaust the heat and draw outside air across the condenser.

After this past spring/summer season of miserable heat in the Pacific Northwest (and generally everywhere else in North America) where I had to throw out spoiled food more than once or twice, I have given up on absorption refrigeration (RV-type) in favor of 12VDC compressor marine-type refrigerator, which shall replace my Norcold N-300.

I have 200 watts of solar capacity and 200Ah of LiFePO4 battery with which charging can stay ahead of the battery draw in my vintage 15' airframe trailer.

On these forums I have come to understand that more than a few Interstate owners are disappointed in the performance of their Nova Kool 12VDC compressor marine-type refrigerators because they need improved aftermarket venting (Nova Kool uses the same Danfoss compressor as the other brands) but what do you expect for a $150K Class B Airstream? Sophisticated engineering?

Start figuring out some exhaust venting equipped with .2A DC exhaust fans.
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Old 09-28-2015, 11:57 AM   #9
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Freezing pipes......does anyone know if you need to blow out the water lines for below freezing temps.? Have drained the pipes with a valve under the trailer ,..hot and cold. I know anti-freeze in toilet and p- traps under sinks . If you blow out with compressed air how many lbs of does it require? what is the max air you can use,. Help please. @2015 flying cloud woodguy2
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Old 09-28-2015, 11:59 AM   #10
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Is anyone thinking about the Tesla Battery option?
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Old 09-28-2015, 12:14 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by '55 Airlight View Post
<<Too bad that the AI refrigerator does not have a propane option. The refrigerator is a boondocking limiter in a big way.>>

Sorry to read you don't understand the massive downside of the absorption-type RV fridge. Irrespective of whether or not you are running on propane or 120VAC, if there is excessive ambient heat -- say temps in the 90F range, its performance is pathetic, even with aftermarket 12VDC fans working to exhaust the heat and draw outside air across the condenser.

After this past spring/summer season of miserable heat in the Pacific Northwest (and generally everywhere else in North America) where I had to throw out spoiled food more than once or twice, I have given up on absorption refrigeration (RV-type) in favor of 12VDC compressor marine-type refrigerator, which shall replace my Norcold N-300.

I have 200 watts of solar capacity and 200Ah of LiFePO4 battery with which charging can stay ahead of the battery draw in my vintage 15' airframe trailer.

On these forums I have come to understand that more than a few Interstate owners are disappointed in the performance of their Nova Kool 12VDC compressor marine-type refrigerators because they need improved aftermarket venting (Nova Kool uses the same Danfoss compressor as the other brands) but what do you expect for a $150K Class B Airstream? Sophisticated engineering?

Start figuring out some exhaust venting equipped with .2A DC exhaust fans.
I am one of the ones having trouble with the refrigerator not cooling in hot weather. In June, the dealer "fixed" it by installing a fan behind the unit. We went on a 3 week trip in August, and had the same problem. I called airstream and they said I need to get the "latest" fix which is a resister. Presently I am waiting for the dealer (a different) one to call me for an appointment. So we shall see.
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Old 09-28-2015, 12:24 PM   #12
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Your owner's manual should have instructions how to winterize your A/S. If you don't want to use RV antifreeze, you will have to blow the system out with air at about 40 psi thru the water connection. Get an adapter from an RV store or most hardware stores. Start by opening all drains including the HW heater and fresh water tanks. Don't forget to run the pump dry and blow the faucets by opening one at a time with drain valves closed. When done I usually put a few cups of RV antifreeze in the fresh water tank and one in the HW heater in case some water remains.
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Old 09-28-2015, 12:34 PM   #13
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Is anyone thinking about the Tesla Battery option?
Its a slight tangent from OP, but the Tesla Battery Wall isn't worth the cost, weight or ability IMO. Each wall is 4'x3'x2/3' in size, weighs 220#, puts out about 6A at 120v.

Since you'll want either 2x or 3x just to run the AC systems, the limitations add up quickly. if you resign yourself that you wont run the AC and just use 12v systems, then who cares - just use solar and the house 12v battery system.
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Old 09-28-2015, 01:22 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug Odom View Post
We purchased a new 2014 1/2 Airstream Interstate in June of this year. It has the standard 50 W solar. I would like to upgrade to 200 W of solar panels. Can anyone give me an idea of the cost involved in I have this done at the Airstream dealer locally?

I did speak briefly to the service manager asking for a "ballpark" estimate. The estimate was $2200-$2300. I am not sure if this included a different controller or not. The estimate just seemed awfully high to me for two 100 W panels and four hours of labor.

Also, does anyone have a recommendation for the brand or type of solar that would be the most efficient for the AI?

The dealer did install new batteries in the 2014 AI when we purchased it in June. We just returned from a nine day trip to multiple national parks in southern Utah. Too bad that the AI refrigerator does not have a propane option. The refrigerator is a boondocking limiter in a big way.

Thanks for your help.
Our dealer is running a special for a 200W with the controller, installed for 1500.00. I don't remember the brand.

Desert Autoplex, Mesa, AZ you can look them up on the Web
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Old 09-28-2015, 01:37 PM   #15
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Inexpensive solar

Be sure not to add too much voltage when adding PV modules to your RV. You can purchase a few 50 watt panels on eBay for about $2-3 per watt and install them in parallel, not serial, to maintain a voltage of 14 to 18 volts DC. It is better to use all the same wattage panels. I swapped out my two wet cell deep cycle batteries for 4 12v deep cycle wheel chair batteries which charge more quickly and last longer when using them to power fans and LED lighting. You don't need marine cranking amps to power your RV's interior.
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Old 09-28-2015, 02:30 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Redleger View Post
Our dealer is running a special for a 200W with the controller, installed for 1500.00. I don't remember the brand.



Desert Autoplex, Mesa, AZ you can look them up on the Web

Be real careful with dealer installed systems. I'm re-working a 400 watt flex panel installation now where the dealer put 36.........yup........ COUNT 'EM......... That's 36 holes in the roof to mount the panels and screw in the P clamps for the wire runs. And that's not tho only problems.

If I had done the panel install, there would gave been NO HOLES IN THE ROOF !!!!!!!!!

On addition, due to the slope of the roof and the way the panels are mounted on the outside portion of the roof....... only 200 watts will see any solar radiance at any given time.

If you want a system done properly, find a seasoned and qualified professional or contact the folks at AM Solar for help for a DIY.


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Old 09-28-2015, 07:21 PM   #17
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For everyone that has solar in their AS:

Is it beneficial to buy the AS unit with the factory solar option or without it? Can the factory installed solar option wire be used to "upgrade" to a better system or do you have to rewire with the system of your choice?



Never mind! Post #7 of this thread is what I was looking for. Thanks Kaylorsan!
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Old 09-28-2015, 07:43 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Xicaque View Post
For everyone that has solar in their AS:

Is it beneficial to buy the AS unit with the factory solar option or without it? Can the factory installed solar option wire be used to "upgrade" to a better system or do you have to rewire with the system of your choice?

Never mind! Post #7 of this thread is what I was looking for. Thanks Kaylorsan!
Just to reiterate:

The Airstream factory-provided solar system for their trailers is a total piece of crap. The panels they use have been obsolete for several years (I can't even imagine how they can still get them,) the controller is a toy and the wiring is pathetic. Lew Farber pulled all that crap out of our 2014 trailer recently and installed a state of the art system. It wasn't inexpensive, but it does exactly what we want and it does it properly. If I had to do it again with a new Airstream trailer, I would save the nearly $3,000 that Airstream charged me for their toy solar system and applied it towards a proper A.M. Solar set up installed by Lew.

I should add that the factory solar system aside, I am basically very pleased with our 2014 Eddie Bauer.
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Old 09-30-2015, 07:28 AM   #19
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Thanks to all

Really appreciated the great information and advice from everyone. I'm hitting the AM Solar site and learning more about solar and install before I pull the trigger on an upgrade. I will definitely upgrade but not until I conquer the learning curve.
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Old 09-30-2015, 09:17 AM   #20
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Quote:
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Be sure not to add too much voltage when adding PV modules to your RV. You can purchase a few 50 watt panels on eBay for about $2-3 per watt and install them in parallel, not serial, to maintain a voltage of 14 to 18 volts DC. It is better to use all the same wattage panels. I swapped out my two wet cell deep cycle batteries for 4 12v deep cycle wheel chair batteries which charge more quickly and last longer when using them to power fans and LED lighting. You don't need marine cranking amps to power your RV's interior.
Just to add a few comments to the above:

There are many 100 watt panels available that will fit on an Airstream (20-21" wide). There is no need to use 50 watt panels, which by themselves are almost insignificant in their amperage output (2-2.5 amps Voc at most).

Matching the wattage of the panels doesn't matter as much as the output voltage....especially if you are using an MPPT controller. You can easily mix/match panel sizes for maximum coverage of your roof as long as you follow the voltage matching rule. And speaking of voltage, you want panels with a minimum of 17.5 volt output so that they provide sufficient 'headroom' to allow the solar controller to charge the batteries at a bulk/absorb voltage of 14.2-14.8VDC, depending on your battery type.

And speaking of batteries, true deep cycle, whether liquid lead acid or AGM, have proven themselves to be the best for RV applications. Avoid dual purpose deep cycle marine batteries, which also double as starting batteries.

PM me if you have an specific questions.
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