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Old 05-11-2023, 10:18 AM   #1
1 Rivet Member
 
2003 30' Classic S/O
Denver , Colorado
Join Date: May 2023
Posts: 9
Merlin vs Zamp vs ? solar panel set-up

I am looking for advice on a new solar panel set-up for my "new" 2003 Airstream Classic.

I had 2x100w panels on my old trailer plus two 12v AGM batteries and found that it was't enough to keep me working from the road full-time. I'm not so concerned with running A/C (although that's nice if I'm in Moab) but rather more concerned with being able to plug in and work from my laptop plus have my Starlink satellite, my cell booster and Wifi hotspot all plugged in & powered up (along with lights, fridge, and the tv on with a movie once every 6 months!).

I also bring along a portable Honda 2200w generator but I try not to run that due to the noise and disturbing others, especially if it's a campground that is peaceful and quiet. I don't want to be "that guy". I'll use the generator more so when boondocking, which is my preference over campgrounds anyway.

I had Renogy panels previously, and although they seemed to work great and their customer support is great, I always ran out of laptop time. Could that have been the 2 batteries that are my rate limiting factor? I am thinking with the new set-up to go with 4 AGM 12v batteries. My RV electrician says to stay away from lithium batteries due to living in a cold winter climate where they are not going to work. Another question would be how many AGM batterie per 100w of solar panel? I am considering around 360w for the new panel set-up.

I'm currently looking at Zamp panels (I'm told this is what Airstream used from the factory) and also Merlin panels (what Airstream is going to start using from the factory). The longer slender panels of either of these brands are perfect for getting multiple panels up on my roof versus the wide Renogy panels which I only have one spot for one panel, which is not going to be sufficient.

Any thoughts or user experience on Zamp panels versus the flexible and supposedly more durable Merlin panels? Are they worth the extra cost? (even though Renogy's wider but cheaper panels won't fit my needs) and I'm not at all interested in portable set-ups. I want to park and plug in as this will be my forever Airstream home, a dream finally realized. Can't wait to get out on my first adventure!

Thank you for any recommendations, much appreciated.
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Old 05-11-2023, 11:48 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BuckStream View Post
I am looking for advice on a new solar panel set-up for my "new" 2003 Airstream Classic.

I had 2x100w panels on my old trailer plus two 12v AGM batteries and found that it was't enough to keep me working from the road full-time. I'm not so concerned with running A/C (although that's nice if I'm in Moab) but rather more concerned with being able to plug in and work from my laptop plus have my Starlink satellite, my cell booster and Wifi hotspot all plugged in & powered up (along with lights, fridge, and the tv on with a movie once every 6 months!).

I also bring along a portable Honda 2200w generator but I try not to run that due to the noise and disturbing others, especially if it's a campground that is peaceful and quiet. I don't want to be "that guy". I'll use the generator more so when boondocking, which is my preference over campgrounds anyway.

I had Renogy panels previously, and although they seemed to work great and their customer support is great, I always ran out of laptop time. Could that have been the 2 batteries that are my rate limiting factor? I am thinking with the new set-up to go with 4 AGM 12v batteries. My RV electrician says to stay away from lithium batteries due to living in a cold winter climate where they are not going to work. Another question would be how many AGM batterie per 100w of solar panel? I am considering around 360w for the new panel set-up.

I'm currently looking at Zamp panels (I'm told this is what Airstream used from the factory) and also Merlin panels (what Airstream is going to start using from the factory). The longer slender panels of either of these brands are perfect for getting multiple panels up on my roof versus the wide Renogy panels which I only have one spot for one panel, which is not going to be sufficient.

Any thoughts or user experience on Zamp panels versus the flexible and supposedly more durable Merlin panels? Are they worth the extra cost? (even though Renogy's wider but cheaper panels won't fit my needs) and I'm not at all interested in portable set-ups. I want to park and plug in as this will be my forever Airstream home, a dream finally realized. Can't wait to get out on my first adventure!

Thank you for any recommendations, much appreciated.
Your RV 'electrician' is full of hot air

Our 2 BB lithium batteries have been in 'Cloudsplitter' for 5 'Buffalo' winters and are still working just fine. BB uses a quality BMS with low & high temp shutdown.

We have 2 180w Zamp portables charging thru the 7 pin umbilical, 60w Boondocker Lithium converter/charger, Victron 712 monitor and shunt.
A very KISS system below $3.5k.

Also use a Honda dual/fuel 2000i.

Bob
🇺🇸
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Old 05-11-2023, 12:01 PM   #3
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2016 16' Sport
Miami , Florida
Join Date: Aug 2016
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Get 2 or 3 heated BattleBorns. 3 BattleBorns will weigh less than two AGMs and give you about 200 more usable amps. Additionally get a new “RV electrician “.
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Old 05-11-2023, 12:12 PM   #4
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2013 31' Classic
billings , Montana
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BuckStream View Post
I am looking for advice on a new solar panel set-up for my "new" 2003 Airstream Classic.

I had 2x100w panels on my old trailer plus two 12v AGM batteries and found that it was't enough to keep me working from the road full-time. I'm not so concerned with running A/C (although that's nice if I'm in Moab) but rather more concerned with being able to plug in and work from my laptop plus have my Starlink satellite, my cell booster and Wifi hotspot all plugged in & powered up (along with lights, fridge, and the tv on with a movie once every 6 months!).

I also bring along a portable Honda 2200w generator but I try not to run that due to the noise and disturbing others, especially if it's a campground that is peaceful and quiet. I don't want to be "that guy". I'll use the generator more so when boondocking, which is my preference over campgrounds anyway.

I had Renogy panels previously, and although they seemed to work great and their customer support is great, I always ran out of laptop time. Could that have been the 2 batteries that are my rate limiting factor? I am thinking with the new set-up to go with 4 AGM 12v batteries. My RV electrician says to stay away from lithium batteries due to living in a cold winter climate where they are not going to work. Another question would be how many AGM batterie per 100w of solar panel? I am considering around 360w for the new panel set-up.

I'm currently looking at Zamp panels (I'm told this is what Airstream used from the factory) and also Merlin panels (what Airstream is going to start using from the factory). The longer slender panels of either of these brands are perfect for getting multiple panels up on my roof versus the wide Renogy panels which I only have one spot for one panel, which is not going to be sufficient.

Any thoughts or user experience on Zamp panels versus the flexible and supposedly more durable Merlin panels? Are they worth the extra cost? (even though Renogy's wider but cheaper panels won't fit my needs) and I'm not at all interested in portable set-ups. I want to park and plug in as this will be my forever Airstream home, a dream finally realized. Can't wait to get out on my first adventure!

Thank you for any recommendations, much appreciated.
We have 2 zamp 90 watt. 8 days in NevadaÖno hook ups 34 at nite furnace use all nite batteries are full by 11am 2 group 27 wet cell and 13 31í classic I did add 2 more this winter..
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Old 05-18-2023, 10:44 AM   #5
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2003 30' Classic S/O
Denver , Colorado
Join Date: May 2023
Posts: 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shiny16 View Post
Get 2 or 3 heated BattleBorns. 3 BattleBorns will weigh less than two AGMs and give you about 200 more usable amps. Additionally get a new ďRV electrician ď.
Shiny16,

Thanks for the advice. Is there a set ratio of how many batteries per X watts of solar panel?

I'm looking at 360-400w of solar, would you suggest 3 or 4 batteries?

Thanks again!
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Old 05-18-2023, 10:50 AM   #6
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2003 30' Classic S/O
Denver , Colorado
Join Date: May 2023
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Bob, thank you for your response.

So no issue with cold winters, the BB batteries shut down? Or at least power down to minimum trickle type voltage so that smoke detectors still work?

For 400w or so of solar, would you recommend 3 or 4 batteries?

Also, I'm starting to think about Renogy panels since the Ramp are like 5-6x the cost, any nay sayers to say "definitely go with Zamp!"?

Thanks!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shiny16 View Post
Get 2 or 3 heated BattleBorns. 3 BattleBorns will weigh less than two AGMs and give you about 200 more usable amps. Additionally get a new ďRV electrician ď.
Quote:
Originally Posted by ROBERT CROSS View Post
Your RV 'electrician' is full of hot air

Our 2 BB lithium batteries have been in 'Cloudsplitter' for 5 'Buffalo' winters and are still working just fine. BB uses a quality BMS with low & high temp shutdown.

We have 2 180w Zamp portables charging thru the 7 pin umbilical, 60w Boondocker Lithium converter/charger, Victron 712 monitor and shunt.
A very KISS system below $3.5k.

Also use a Honda dual/fuel 2000i.

Bob
🇺🇸
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Old 05-18-2023, 10:55 AM   #7
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2003 30' Classic S/O
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tjdonahoe View Post
We have 2 zamp 90 watt. 8 days in NevadaÖno hook ups 34 at nite furnace use all nite batteries are full by 11am 2 group 27 wet cell and 13 31í classic I did add 2 more this winter..
Thanks TJ.

Any thoughts on why you went with Zamp vs a more inexpensive brand? Their 90w will fit better than other brands but at 5-6x the cost, I'm having trouble wrapping my head around that their panels are THAT much better than Renogy's which I had previously. And I found a more narrow Renogy 100w panel that is 20 inches wide versus their customary 26 inches, which won't fit.

Thanks again!
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Old 05-18-2023, 12:40 PM   #8
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2022 25' Globetrotter
North AL , Alabama
Join Date: Apr 2019
Posts: 422
Check out the Newpowa panels as well. GMFL loaded up a 30 ft. Globetrotter with them and he knows a thing or two about solar:

https://www.airforums.com/forums/f44...ml#post2655299

Their 100w panels are pretty svelte at 38.58" x 20.87"

Specs here:

https://www.newpowa.com/100w-monocry...v-solar-panel/
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Old 05-18-2023, 01:04 PM   #9
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2016 16' Sport
Miami , Florida
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BuckStream View Post
Thanks TJ.

Any thoughts on why you went with Zamp vs a more inexpensive brand? Their 90w will fit better than other brands but at 5-6x the cost, I'm having trouble wrapping my head around that their panels are THAT much better than Renogy's which I had previously. And I found a more narrow Renogy 100w panel that is 20 inches wide versus their customary 26 inches, which won't fit.

Thanks again!
I would shoot for 100 watts per battery. Many on here have Zamp or now Merlin simply because that is what came from Airstream. If I was starting from scratch I would look closely at Renogy.
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Old 05-21-2023, 07:22 PM   #10
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2003 30' Classic S/O
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Wow, that is a sweet set-up!

How many batteries do you have? Can I ask why you have so many panels? Is that for multiple days of boon docking and large draws from an A/C and other stuff?

Thank you for posting!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tyler2you View Post
Check out the Newpowa panels as well. GMFL loaded up a 30 ft. Globetrotter with them and he knows a thing or two about solar:

https://www.airforums.com/forums/f44...ml#post2655299

Their 100w panels are pretty svelte at 38.58" x 20.87"

Specs here:

https://www.newpowa.com/100w-monocry...v-solar-panel/
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Old 05-21-2023, 07:50 PM   #11
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2003 30' Classic S/O
Denver , Colorado
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shiny16 View Post
I would shoot for 100 watts per battery. Many on here have Zamp or now Merlin simply because that is what came from Airstream. If I was starting from scratch I would look closely at Renogy.
Thanks, that helps! I'm thinking I may stick with Renogy, which I had on my previous trailer. They worked fine, I just needed more batteries. But with Zamp so much more expensive, I can't justify the cost, I fail to see how their watts are better than Renogy's watts. Maybe they use a different sun or something...!
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Old 05-21-2023, 08:00 PM   #12
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2019 30' Classic
Belen , New Mexico
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tyler2you View Post
Check out the Newpowa panels as well. GMFL loaded up a 30 ft. Globetrotter with them and he knows a thing or two about solar:



https://www.airforums.com/forums/f44...ml#post2655299



Their 100w panels are pretty svelte at 38.58" x 20.87"



Specs here:



https://www.newpowa.com/100w-monocry...v-solar-panel/


So where are the vents for the galley and the bathroom in this setup?
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Old 05-22-2023, 04:47 AM   #13
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North AL , Alabama
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BuckStream View Post
Wow, that is a sweet set-up!

How many batteries do you have? Can I ask why you have so many panels? Is that for multiple days of boon docking and large draws from an A/C and other stuff?

Thank you for posting!
This isn't my set-up unfortunately. It belongs to Ronnie Dennis who runs Airstream Nuts and Bolts in Dadeville, AL (GMFL on the forum).

He posted it to the Solar Show and Tell Thread here:

https://www.airforums.com/forums/f44...ml#post2609638
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Old 05-22-2023, 05:05 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Ephraim View Post
So where are the vents for the galley and the bathroom in this setup?
Must be under the panels. Maybe using one of these:
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Old 05-24-2023, 09:55 AM   #15
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2021 19' Bambi
Westlake , OH
Join Date: Nov 2020
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Solar

Did my own setup
- 3 x 100 watt Renogy slim
- victron BMV shunt monitor
- Renogy solar controller
- 2 x 12 volt 100 amp lithium batteries (SOK brand)

Did everything myself total cost approx $2500

My rule of thumb for solar wattage is
( battery amps total ) x 2 = solar panel wattage total
So 200 amp total battery needs at least 400 watt solar total
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Old 05-24-2023, 12:59 PM   #16
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2019 30' Flying Cloud
Teaticket , Massachusetts
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Solar set up

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tyler2you View Post
Must be under the panels. Maybe using one of these:
Maybe they are, but what about actually? Iíll be adding two panels but that would block plumbing
Vents and and shower/ bathroom vents so Iím looking for ideas too.
GMFL, you out there?

Thanks all!
Bob
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Old 05-24-2023, 02:18 PM   #17
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2007 25' International CCD FB
2006 23' Safari SE
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BuckStream View Post
Shiny16,

Thanks for the advice. Is there a set ratio of how many batteries per X watts of solar panel?

I'm looking at 360-400w of solar, would you suggest 3 or 4 batteries?

Thanks again!
I’ve read that your solar panel wattage should be close to your battery ah capacity. My 2018 FC came with 160 watts of Zamp solar panels and I have two 75 ah Battle Born lithium batteries. I have never had a problem keeping my 150 ah battery bank charged. So the ratio is 1:1 and if you have 400 ah of battery power then you should have 400 watts of solar panels.
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Old 05-24-2023, 03:22 PM   #18
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Belen , New Mexico
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sophiehaus View Post
Iíve read that your solar panel wattage should be close to your battery ah capacity. My 2018 FC came with 160 watts of Zamp solar panels and I have two 75 ah Battle Born lithium batteries. I have never had a problem keeping my 150 ah battery bank charged. So the ratio is 1:1 and if you have 400 ah of battery power then you should have 400 watts of solar panels.


Honestly, that sounds like something someone made up because they didnít want to take the time to do any calculations.

You need enough battery to get you at least 24 hours on battery. You need enough solar panel to charge that 24 hour usage back on an ďaverageĒ day. If you use a ďpeakĒ producing day on the panel calculations you will forever be in a hole. The only way to have too much solar is to have enough to charge your batts at higher than acceptable current levels. Thatís not likely to happen given the real estate we have to work with.

Bottom line is that you must know what your average 24 hour energy usage is and then size both battery AND solar to provide and recharge that energy within the 24 hour period. Design in a bit of margin for those below average sun days or above average usage days and you are good to go.

If you canít store/produce enough to make that 24 hour period, you will need to look for other sources of generation and/or cut down on usage.
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Old 05-25-2023, 07:57 AM   #19
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Old 05-25-2023, 07:59 AM   #20
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2019 27' Globetrotter
2023 30' Classic
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AnotherBob View Post
Maybe they are, but what about actually? Iíll be adding two panels but that would block plumbing
Vents and and shower/ bathroom vents so Iím looking for ideas too.
GMFL, you out there?

Thanks all!
Bob

He makes his own brackets for the solar panels in his shop. You canít tell from the picture, but the two panels that are over the vents are raised by brackets.

Dave S
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