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Old 10-03-2022, 12:15 PM   #1
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2022 20' Caravel
Orlando , Florida
Join Date: May 2021
Posts: 27
2022 Caravel 20FB with solar package and 12v fridge question

Hello everyone. I'll preface this by saying that I've searched quite a bit in the forum and was just hoping someone may be able to provide some real world usage examples/advice.


Will be boondocking for 5 days next month. I have the 90w factory solar package, and the 12v electric only refrigerator. There's a youtube video where the Airstream dealer salesperson says you can run the fridge indefinitely with the one solar panel, with the batteries dropping a bit at night and replenishing during the day.


It sounds fishy to me, even under best possible circumstances. I won't really be using many electronics outside of the refrigerator, perhaps furnace fan, and lights/shower sink etc. No television. However I believe I will likely be parked in a shady area. Would you recommend a supplemental portable solar set up? I am considering a zamp/renogy that can plug into the solar port at the front of the airstream. 100w? 200w? Look forward to your thoughts and thank you in advance for your comments.
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Old 10-03-2022, 12:47 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aarstream View Post
Hello everyone. I'll preface this by saying that I've searched quite a bit in the forum and was just hoping someone may be able to provide some real world usage examples/advice.


Will be boondocking for 5 days next month. I have the 90w factory solar package, and the 12v electric only refrigerator. There's a youtube video where the Airstream dealer salesperson says you can run the fridge indefinitely with the one solar panel, with the batteries dropping a bit at night and replenishing during the day.


It sounds fishy to me, even under best possible circumstances. I won't really be using many electronics outside of the refrigerator, perhaps furnace fan, and lights/shower sink etc. No television. However I believe I will likely be parked in a shady area. Would you recommend a supplemental portable solar set up? I am considering a zamp/renogy that can plug into the solar port at the front of the airstream. 100w? 200w? Look forward to your thoughts and thank you in advance for your comments.
.

Hello,

This may be of some help...

As an example in So Cal summer, (prior to recently adding 400 additional roof watts), we got by with only a very compact 120w flexible portable solar kit. Kit was able to power a external 45qt 12v compressor cooler and the AS factory absorption fridge on LP and all other typical water pump/shower 2x day some lights, charging cell phones and hour or two of audio/12v tv video streaming use. We do have 2 6V AGM 220ah in series which never seemed to go below 60% SOC overnight which above constant draws.

We did maximize the angle throughout the day but all seemed to charge back up (while real-time day running stuff) by 1-2pm each day before nightfall.
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Old 10-03-2022, 03:21 PM   #3
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2020 19' Caravel
Ammon , Idaho
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A 100W suitcase panel will do you nicely, especially if you anticipate being parked in shade. I recommend at least 20-40 feet of wire to ensure your portable panel can reach sun.
PS- Check the polarity of your panel before connecting it to your battery the first time, you may need an adapter to connect it properly.
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Old 10-03-2022, 03:50 PM   #4
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The salesman’s statement is not just fishy, it is dead-fishy.

What model fridge and what batteries you have (unknowns) are big variables on the question of how long you can last, but just the math on fridge power draw and potential recharge from 90w of solar will not work indefinitely. The fridge might draw about 50 Ah per day and under ideal conditions you might get 30 Ah recharge — in the shade you might only get 5-10.
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Old 10-03-2022, 04:01 PM   #5
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2022 20' Caravel
Southeastern , Pennsylvania
Join Date: Mar 2022
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It'll handle the fridge fine, but if you have the lights on, water pump on, AV system on, furnace running, or fans on, you'll tap out the batteries pretty quickly. Get a small generator as a backup.
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Old 10-03-2022, 10:20 PM   #6
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2021 22' Caravel
Bozeman , Montana
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I have a similar setup/trailer to you. No way it would last with just the 90W roof solar. My batteries would be toast in less than 30 hours running the fridge (typically a lot less). Even in full sun.



You've only go 60 usable amps in fully charged batteries. Your fridge draws about 4 amps, which will give you 15 hours. Granted, the fridge doesn't run continuously, so you'll get more time. But, you'll be pushing it to get past 24-30 hours with only the fridge running, not taking into account lights, water pump, etc.


I added a Zamp Legacy 230W portable suitcase solar panel which plugs right into the outside Zamp port. Probably more than I need, but even on moderately overcast days it keeps the batteries fully charged up in conjunction with the 90W roof panel.



Not all brands of solar panels will work with the Zamp setup so the advantage of getting a second Zamp portable panel is it's plug and play with the Airstream--it works!


As somebody observed, get a second cord to extend the reach so that you can chase the sun throughout the day.
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Old 10-03-2022, 10:23 PM   #7
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2021 22' Caravel
Bozeman , Montana
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vantair View Post
.

Kit was able to power a external 45qt 12v compressor cooler and the AS factory absorption fridge on LP and all other typical water pump/shower 2x day some lights, charging cell phones and hour or two of audio/12v tv video streaming use.

Note that the OP does not have an absorption fridge. LP is not an option. His fridge is DC only.
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Old 10-04-2022, 05:50 AM   #8
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Little falls , New York
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian R. View Post
Note that the OP does not have an absorption fridge. LP is not an option. His fridge is DC only.
Which is highly, highly disappointing. All about high $ glamping. And cost cutting of course.
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Old 10-04-2022, 06:57 AM   #9
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2020 19' Caravel
Ammon , Idaho
Join Date: Oct 2017
Posts: 218
I have a 2020 19CB with an electric consumption like you described. When the two 90W panels on my roof are shaded I put my 100W suitcase out where it can reach sunlight. Yes, with sufficient sunshine my batteries will be at 100% by mid to late afternoon. Scattered cloud cover and I am still in the mid 90's. Heavier cloud cover and I will have to pull the generator out of the truck on the second day.

This is with the two stock lead acid Interstates.

Your 90W panel alone will do a decent job,. Roof angle and parking orientation will affect that. Do yourself a favor and get a portable panel to supplement, you will be glad you did when you find yourself parked in the shade.

To keep things simple I wired the external port to my Victron charge controller in parallel with my roof mounted panels. That may be more difficult with the 20FB depending on where that equipment is located.

Again, verify polarity of your portable panel prior to first use.
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Old 10-04-2022, 07:17 AM   #10
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2022 20' Caravel
Orlando , Florida
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Posts: 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Vantair View Post
.

Hello,

This may be of some help...

As an example in So Cal summer, (prior to recently adding 400 additional roof watts), we got by with only a very compact 120w flexible portable solar kit. Kit was able to power a external 45qt 12v compressor cooler and the AS factory absorption fridge on LP and all other typical water pump/shower 2x day some lights, charging cell phones and hour or two of audio/12v tv video streaming use. We do have 2 6V AGM 220ah in series which never seemed to go below 60% SOC overnight which above constant draws.

We did maximize the angle throughout the day but all seemed to charge back up (while real-time day running stuff) by 1-2pm each day before nightfall.

Thanks so much. Seems like the cooler you have would have a similar power draw to my compressor fridge.
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Old 10-04-2022, 07:20 AM   #11
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2022 20' Caravel
Orlando , Florida
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian R. View Post
I have a similar setup/trailer to you. No way it would last with just the 90W roof solar. My batteries would be toast in less than 30 hours running the fridge (typically a lot less). Even in full sun.



You've only go 60 usable amps in fully charged batteries. Your fridge draws about 4 amps, which will give you 15 hours. Granted, the fridge doesn't run continuously, so you'll get more time. But, you'll be pushing it to get past 24-30 hours with only the fridge running, not taking into account lights, water pump, etc.


I added a Zamp Legacy 230W portable suitcase solar panel which plugs right into the outside Zamp port. Probably more than I need, but even on moderately overcast days it keeps the batteries fully charged up in conjunction with the 90W roof panel.



Not all brands of solar panels will work with the Zamp setup so the advantage of getting a second Zamp portable panel is it's plug and play with the Airstream--it works!


As somebody observed, get a second cord to extend the reach so that you can chase the sun throughout the day.

This may be the route I go. Seems like an additional 230W would keep me good to go in almost all circumstances. I appreciate the help!
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Old 10-04-2022, 07:23 AM   #12
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2022 20' Caravel
Orlando , Florida
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Quote:
Originally Posted by civeng99 View Post
Which is highly, highly disappointing. All about high $ glamping. And cost cutting of course.
h


My understanding is this option gives you a bit more space and colder temperatures, but at the large sacrifice of not having the propane fuel option. As someone who comes from tent camping (years of "boondocking" haha) I'm not quite ready to park this thing at RV parks exclusively. I love places like state parks that may not have hook ups and am hoping this solar supplementation will help me remain off the grid with this style fridge.
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Old 10-04-2022, 07:26 AM   #13
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2022 20' Caravel
Orlando , Florida
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OutdoorIdaho View Post
I have a 2020 19CB with an electric consumption like you described. When the two 90W panels on my roof are shaded I put my 100W suitcase out where it can reach sunlight. Yes, with sufficient sunshine my batteries will be at 100% by mid to late afternoon. Scattered cloud cover and I am still in the mid 90's. Heavier cloud cover and I will have to pull the generator out of the truck on the second day.

This is with the two stock lead acid Interstates.

Your 90W panel alone will do a decent job,. Roof angle and parking orientation will affect that. Do yourself a favor and get a portable panel to supplement, you will be glad you did when you find yourself parked in the shade.

To keep things simple I wired the external port to my Victron charge controller in parallel with my roof mounted panels. That may be more difficult with the 20FB depending on where that equipment is located.

Again, verify polarity of your portable panel prior to first use.

Thanks so much. There is a "plug and play" port for Zamp panels at the front of the airstream. My understanding is that as long as it's regulated with an external controller, it will just charge the batteries with no extra steps needed once it's plugged in. I don't think in this set up the interior victron panels will show the energy gain from the external panels and I have to rely on the external controller to see that, but I could be mistaken. If what you're saying is that you wired that external port to the victron controller, you are far more skilled and handy than I am haha.
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Old 10-12-2022, 03:29 PM   #14
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2018 22' Sport
Beaconsfield , Quebec
Join Date: May 2019
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OutdoorIdaho View Post
I have a 2020 19CB with an electric consumption like you described. When the two 90W panels on my roof are shaded I put my 100W suitcase out where it can reach sunlight. Yes, with sufficient sunshine my batteries will be at 100% by mid to late afternoon. Scattered cloud cover and I am still in the mid 90's. Heavier cloud cover and I will have to pull the generator out of the truck on the second day.

This is with the two stock lead acid Interstates.

Your 90W panel alone will do a decent job,. Roof angle and parking orientation will affect that. Do yourself a favor and get a portable panel to supplement, you will be glad you did when you find yourself parked in the shade.

To keep things simple I wired the external port to my Victron charge controller in parallel with my roof mounted panels. That may be more difficult with the 20FB depending on where that equipment is located.

Again, verify polarity of your portable panel prior to first use.
Can I ask how you wired the external port to the Victron Controller.
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Old 10-12-2022, 10:22 PM   #15
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2020 19' Caravel
Ammon , Idaho
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The external port is default wired directly to the battery terminals with an inline fuse on the positive line.
I previously installed the Victron BMV-712 battery monitor.
I connected the negative line from the solar port to the BMV-712 shunt. The positive line I pulled inside through the same hole that the battery cables pass through; this is under the road side dinette on the 19CB. I connected that wire to my previously installed disconnect switch where the positive from the roof also terminates.
For the negative wire I cut off the terminal ring in order to splice additional wire and feed it into the waterproof enclosure for the shunt. I then crimped on a new ring to fit the shunt terminal.
For the positive wire I cut the terminal ring and inline fuse off and added the additional wire. Once that wire was inside I crimped the terminal ring and inline fuse back on to attach to the disconnect switch.
This configuration allows for a single charge controller. I purchased the Zamp suitcase panel without a charge controller specifically for this application. It also ensures that the current produced from the suitcase panel is measured by the battery monitor for accurate state of charge.
It was a pretty simple process, requiring a hand crimper, a new ring, some butt splice connectors, wire by the foot (I think I used 10awg), and some heat for the style of connectors I used. I did put some wire loom around the exposed wire for added protection.
Additionally, I verified my roof panels and the suitcase have similar specifications to ensure they would get along in a parallel configuration.
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