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Old 11-14-2011, 09:10 AM   #41
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I love my solar panels, it allowed camping where not many can go or want to go. If I use it once a year it is worth it...
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Old 11-14-2011, 10:32 AM   #42
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We installed a 200W system on the Tin Pickle last year; I've really liked having the batteries charged every day as I need power for my CPAP machine at night. I've replaced almost all the incandescent interior lighting with either LED mr16 task lighting or indirect LED strip lighting; this is a huge win in terms of power consumption.

We don't own a generator; the only place I camp regularly where I would need one is Burning Man since air conditioning would be handy there. My inclination there is to hookup with a camp that has a 24/7 diesel rig, though.

Boondocking with solar is quite nice indeed. I go for a hike or read a book, and the batteries get charged. No gasoline, no noise, no problems.

- Bart
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Old 11-15-2011, 12:39 AM   #43
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I got the dealer to install a 50W panel on our 2011 23FB when we got it. I just wanted to be able to drive away with a panel so I didn't need to worry about keeping the batteries topped off. I was convinced that adding more panel was going to be one of the first things on my list. But with the caveat that we've camped out west where trees are not a major issue so far I haven't felt the need for more wattage up there.

We have LED lights and I replaced the ones over the table with dimmer ones (warmer light and less wattage) and we're diligent about turning unneeded ones off. We also run the furnace as little as possible given how noisy it is. In the end even when we had lots of fog by the coast the batteries were nicely charged back up by the evening.

I'm sure I will eventually add another panel, but it has turned out to be much less necessary that I initially thought. Also, I don't quite understand what all the posts about A/C are about. Running a std A/C off an inverter off batteries seems insane. Technically possible, I know...

Oh, I do have a 2kw generator. I bought it because I thought 50W was going to be too little and I was hoping the A/C might start on it. I've used the gen 3 times so far: once to try the A/C (fail), once to recharge the SUV batteries (ouch), and once to run the microwave before we threw it out. A this point it's a 60lb insurance that I still carry around...
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Old 01-02-2012, 08:35 PM   #44
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Originally Posted by barts View Post
We installed a 200W system on the Tin Pickle last year; I've really liked having the batteries charged every day as I need power for my CPAP machine at night. I've replaced almost all the incandescent interior lighting with either LED mr16 task lighting or indirect LED strip lighting; this is a huge win in terms of power consumption.


- Bart
Hey Barts, it would be great to get info on the LED lamps and strips you are using.

thanks

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Old 01-02-2012, 09:56 PM   #45
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If you plan on boondocking for any extended period, you will prefer some for of renewable energy, such as solar panels.

When I had a LY motorhome, I had a single 123-watt panel and 2 large 6-volt wet cells. It was barely sufficient (I use a CPAP machine at night and I need to have enough power to run it). As well, the on-board 6500-watt generator ran on liquid propane, and it didn't take long to go through an 80-lb tank. If you are drycamping, propane is critical for refrigeration.

I now have a 32-foot Excella that came with 3 75-watt solar panels, 4 AGM batteries and a 1400 VA Xantrex inverter. That, and having replaced all incandescent lighting with LED lighting, makes boondocking a piece of cake. Yes, I have a generator - however, I use it sparingly.

Last winter, I camped without hookups for 5 straight weeks. I'll be heading off next week for another month or so of dry camping (Quartzsite, here I come!).

There is also a small wind turbine generator available for around $600 that will produce 400 watts of power. The kit includes everything you need except the pole to mount it on. I looked into getting one of those, but I'll wait a while longer. It does have the advantage that, if there is some breeze it will charge at night when solar panels don't.
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Old 01-03-2012, 02:52 AM   #46
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Originally Posted by Globie64 View Post
Hey Barts, it would be great to get info on the LED lamps and strips you are using.
Warm white strips - 16' on sale now for $24.
www.LEDwholesalers.com - 16.4 ft / 5M Flexible LED Lighting Strip 300 SMD3528 with 3M Tape

MR16 bulbs
www.LEDwholesalers.com - MR16 240 Lumen 15 SMD LED Wide Angle Flood Light

also get the holders and sockets to go with 'em... they're hard to find locally, and these guys are cheaper.

- Bart
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Old 01-03-2012, 05:39 AM   #47
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Bart, have you had issues with some of the lights going out on your flexible lighting strips?

A friend of mine installed about 24 feet of cuttable/linkable strips (brand and source unknown). About 1 out of 20 of his lights don't work ... but if you push your finger against the non-working lights they start working again for several hours. All in all, the LED strip is really nice though. It puts out some serious light!

If it is helpful to anyone, some time ago I replaced the bulbs in the factory fixtures of our 2004 28' CCD with the following directly from Airstream ...
1 x LED Replacement - 1156 40x50 Pad Warm White (15751W-07)
35 x LED Replacement - Halogen Puck Style Warm White (15751W-09)
5 x LED Replacement - 1156 Socket 13 LED Warm White (15751W-12)
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Old 01-03-2012, 05:52 AM   #48
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Bart, I look forward to reading your blog as you chronicle the last two years!

Tin Pickle Adventures
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Old 01-04-2012, 03:05 AM   #49
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Bart, have you had issues with some of the lights going out on your flexible lighting strips?

A friend of mine installed about 24 feet of cuttable/linkable strips (brand and source unknown). About 1 out of 20 of his lights don't work ... but if you push your finger against the non-working lights they start working again for several hours. All in all, the LED strip is really nice though. It puts out some serious light!
No problems so far... all of the LED works just fine, but I've only had 'em in a year or so. They're pretty well protected from incidental damage.

I'm also working a design for the light to replace the ceiling lights in our '72... we have the indirect lighting above the overhead storage, but the front of the trailer needs more light. Perhaps more birch plywood, with designs laser cut into the center... definitely more LED strip lighting, though.

- Bart


- Bart
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Old 01-04-2012, 08:25 AM   #50
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The strips seem efficient, tight and produce a lot of light. Send us some pics once you create a solution for the front of your AS.
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Old 01-09-2012, 08:58 PM   #51
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I've used LED strips, tape, on a couple of projects, and find that the tape can be variable in quality. NORA makes some, and I had some issues with connections and quality. I've used WAC pucks, they're quite well made. The tape is sensitive to polarity, and you can fry it if you put it together backwards. I want to use it in our trailer for indirect lighting over the cabinets, and do away with the ceiling fixtures.
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Old 10-12-2012, 11:43 PM   #52
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I had the dealer install Zamp Solar panels and a charge controller when I bought my FC 25. They keep the batteries topped off with no effort and provide me with solid peace of mind knowing I will have power when I want it. Next is an inverter of 1800-2000w capacity, then 2 6v batteries for 490 amp hours of happiness. Finally, a 2000w generator will fill the bill to provide enough juice to feed the A/C. I'm very pleased with the solar panels - a great 1st step in building a system the factory should have engineered and provided in the first place.
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Old 10-13-2012, 04:45 AM   #53
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I had the dealer install Zamp Solar panels and a charge controller when I bought my FC 25. They keep the batteries topped off with no effort and provide me with solid peace of mind knowing I will have power when I want it. Next is an inverter of 1800-2000w capacity, then 2 6v batteries for 490 amp hours of happiness. Finally, a 2000w generator will fill the bill to provide enough juice to feed the A/C. I'm very pleased with the solar panels - a great 1st step in building a system the factory should have engineered and provided in the first place.
it sounds like those two 6v batteries will give you 490 watts at 6v which is half that at 12v.

a 2000w generator is not large enough to runnthe start up power required for the a/c.

you might was to did into the solar posts here and recheck your specs. so you're not short of your needs.
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Old 10-13-2012, 06:42 AM   #54
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, then 2 6v batteries for 490 amp hours of happiness. .
Keep in mind that for batteries in series, voltage adds but current stays the same. So two 245 A-hr, 6v batteries in series give you 245 A-hr at 12 volts.
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Old 10-14-2012, 06:30 AM   #55
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I don't know why people feel that Airstream should be designing solar systems on stock trailers. I have 4 panels totaling 445watts and a possible 26amps per hour in optimum conditions, all installed by the Factory.

Airstream does include the pre wire on all trailers and offers products to install, but the market of campers who need or can justify the expense of Solar panels is very limited.

So in regard to the comment made the other day that Airstream should have designed the Solar system, I just don't think that's a valid point
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Old 10-14-2012, 01:17 PM   #56
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I had the dealer install Zamp Solar panels and a charge controller when I bought my FC 25. They keep the batteries topped off with no effort and provide me with solid peace of mind knowing I will have power when I want it. Next is an inverter of 1800-2000w capacity, then 2 6v batteries for 490 amp hours of happiness. Finally, a 2000w generator will fill the bill to provide enough juice to feed the A/C. I'm very pleased with the solar panels - a great 1st step in building a system the factory should have engineered and provided in the first place.
Hello,
You might want to check the power requirements on your a/c. The 2012 were suppose to be standard with 15000 btu a/c unit. I think the Yamaha with 2500 watts might be a better choice
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Old 10-14-2012, 11:28 PM   #57
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Hello,
You might want to check the power requirements on your a/c. The 2012 were suppose to be standard with 15000 btu a/c unit. I think the Yamaha with 2500 watts might be a better choice
Pete
Hey Pete,

You're correct on the 15k A/C being standard on 2012s, but it was for the 27', not the 25'. I've not camped in the south during the summer yet, but have heard horror stories of baked humans on anything less than a 15k. We'll see.

My thought is to figure out a way to combine the power from an inverter with the power of a generator to keep the A/C fired. I really like the idea of living off batteries and using a generator only to supplement the AC needs rather than be the primary source.

Solar to power the batteries; an inverter to supply primary AC; a generator to provide support for the inverter; a cord when all else fails... that's my plan.
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Old 10-15-2012, 09:54 AM   #58
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Just be aware that if you want to run the AC off of your batteries, you will need a LOT of batteries, heavy gauge cabling and a large inverter. 2400 watts to run your AC is 200 amps of 12 volt power - you will need a significant battery bank to run this amount of current for any real length of time.

An alternative strategy is to design your solar system and inverter to run everything but the AC, and to only pull out the generator when you need the AC. This is how most people do it. A few hardy souls build out a battery bank and inverter designed to run the AC - but this means a very large and heavy battery bank - there are a few threads here on guys that have done this. I recall seeing a picture of a battery tray with something like 10 huge AGM batteries - which will set you back quite a few dollars.

It may not be as easy as you think to deploy your hybrid strategy - to combine the output of a smaller inverter with the output of a smaller generator - you'll need to purchase a special inverter (usually called a grid-tied inverter) that explicitly supports this capability and I wouldn't expect this to be inexpensive. An inverter designed to do this needs to have electronics that sense the frequency, phase and voltage of the power coming out of the generator or shore power and exactly match it with the power it is generating from your battery bank. This is how home and commercial grid-connected inverters work - but they start out at over $1000.

If the phase and frequencies aren't perfectly matched, the power from the two systems will actually cancel each other out - that's unfortunately how alternating current works.

This is also why most systems instead use a more simple transfer switch to force your alternating current systems to be running on either grid/generator power or inverter power but never both at the same time.
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Old 10-15-2012, 11:46 PM   #59
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Dan - Thanks for the education. I had envisioned a 2000w inverter running off 2 or possibly 4 6v golf cart batteries to supply the AC. Then when things got hot, I would start the eu2000i, switch the A/C on (still with the inverter providing AC), and be in total comfort. Of course, I expected my Airstream to be built like a similarly-priced Mercedes, so as you can see I'm a bit delusional.

From what I gather from your comment, the power from the gen-set doesn't 'blend' with the inverter power to make up a surplus of AC. I guess I saw the two Honda eu2000s as being hooked together, so why not hook a Honda to an inverter? Your explanation helps me better understand it's not all that easy.

Maybe it's time for Plan B.
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Old 10-21-2012, 02:14 PM   #60
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Yes, lots of opinions on this topic. I had two largish panels installed on the roof of my 23' coach (they're either 135 watt or 150, can't remember), and three Lifeline 100 amp hour 12v batteries, together wth a good MPPT charge controller/monitor. After a few trial runs, I found I could run everything I NEED in my coach virtually forever, with no shore power or generator. So I just quit carrying my generator around. I manage to power everything on 12 volt: pump, furnace and stove and bathroom vent fans, lights (now all LED), stereo, computer, printer, television, Fantastic Vent and Fantastic Fan, chargers for various phones, iPad, etc. If I get several cloudy / rainy days in a row, I actually pay attention to power usage and battery state of charge, otherwise not. In typical summer sunny weather, my batteries are at 100% state of charge by 9 or 10 in the morning. I find that during spring through fall, I seldom use more than 20-35 amp hours in an evening. Use more and it will take longer to top off your battery bank every day.

BUT - the panels won't run air conditioning, electric coffee pots, hair dryers, microwave, etc. And they do poorly in any sort of shadow situation ... even the shadow of a power line or a tree limb will significantly cut their output.

So: my take is that if you're in moderate climates and can park where you get a few hours of full, direct sun (preferably in the morning with shade in the afternoon so the coach doesn't get too warm for comfort), you'll love solar. It's silent and works without conscious effort from you. If you NEED large current draw electrical appliances or air conditioning, you'll want the generator and will need to spend a lot of time as an acolyte, hauling cables, bringing it fuel, keeping rain off it, etc.

Oh, and one other thing: unless you're boondocking, if you use a gennie, you'll get a lot of hard looks from more quiet folks, even if you use a quiet one. My smallish Yamaha is real quiet, but it still annoyed some folks. And some campgrounds ban gennies some of the time or all of the time. No such worry if boondocking, but then again, I go boondocking most of the time, and I'm trying to ESCAPE from noise. YMMV.

Finally, generators are definitely a less expensive alternative, at least in terms of cash outlay. If you look at things like total carbon footprint, the debate gets more interesting and very complicated, but that's a topic for another day.
Going fulltime in May 2013 and outfitting a 1999 28' Excella. Worried about roof installation of Solar. Really want to boondock a lot and like the solar option. So no roof leaks with solar installation..I hope!
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