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Old 05-03-2022, 01:59 PM   #1
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Using a solar power generator as shore power question....

Hi guys!
So I'm still waiting to take delivery of my 2023 25FC and so since I have nothing to do until then but dream and plan... lol I have a question I can't find an answer to. Hoping ya'll can help?
I will mostly be boondocking and do NOT want to use a gas or propane generator. I just don't. (I will carry one for emergencies)
I have not had solar added yet for a lot of reasons-the main one would be having to park in the sun just to get solar. Anyway, my plan was, instead of having TONS of lithium batteries and solar and a 3000 inverter installed-was to plug into a portable power generator with lots of solar panels. Like a hella ton Bluetti's (Just like you would plug into shore power)
Anyway the question is- By doing that, does my energy get converted TWICE? (once by the solar power generator's inverter and once again by the Airstream's 1000 inverter when it comes through the airstream?
Thanks so much in advance!
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Old 05-03-2022, 02:23 PM   #2
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They are not generators, and most of them aren't solar (solar is usually extra, and external.) I know the webpages and marketing blurbs you're reading tell you they are, but they're JUST BATTERIES with a non-upgradable inverter built in. The terms and measurements they use to describe them make them seem like they're more powerful than they actually are.

When comparing to lithium-based batteries you'd consider installing in your trailer directly, make sure the units are the same on both sides of the comparison. Buetti, e.g., talks about "watts" and "watt-hours." Battery companies talk about "amp hours" and the difference is potentially large. (Bluetti does mention their amp-hour capacity but it's a 50V so you'll need to convert, etc.)

The most likely way to connect one of these battery-inverter-combo devices would be to plug the trailer's shore-power cord into the 120v outlet of the battery box's inverter with an adapter. The "2000W" sized Bluetti claims the same sort of output as a 2200i Honda inverter generator, about 16A (but only for about an hour, based on the watt-hour rating, and no word whether that watt-hour rating is at a particular load level). Then all the 120v stuff inside would have power, though you wouldn't have enough to run the AC with just one of those. You'd want to decide whether or not to disconnect the converter-charger in the Airstream, because THAT is where you'd have a wasteful double conversion (Solar input -> Bluetti batteries -> Bluetti inverter to 120vAC -> Airstream conversion down to 12vDC (nominal). It would be somewhat more efficient to have external solar charging your trailer batteries directly.
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Old 05-03-2022, 02:48 PM   #3
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It would not be converted twice if you were using the power directly in 110V form. It would flow through the system just like 110V current to the outlets for things plugged in and systems like the microwave and A/Cs.

However, for the 12V systems (lights, furnace control, refrigerator, etc..) the 110V/12V converter would convert some of the inbound 110V power to "replenish" the usage from the 12V house batteries. For this path there will be an extra conversion from 12V to 110V by the generator's inverter and back to 12V by the trailer's converter.
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Old 05-03-2022, 04:58 PM   #4
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I agree with the earlier comment - these solar power 'generators' are not generators at all. They are just batteries in a slick package and with an on-board inverter.

Seems like a better use of the same money would be to upgrade the trailer's batteries to lithium, and then get a portable solar panel or two. On our coach we have three Zamp 180w portable panels which I use in series. I've got a 50-ft cord to connect them to the onboard solar charge controller, and because they're in series there is not as much voltage drop even though I'm only using 6ga wire.

This setup allows us to park the coach in the shade and still have the panels in the sun. We went to a week long bible camp a few years ago and stayed in the coach - parked amongst the pine trees at the edge of the parking lot and managed to find a nice sunny spot to set up the panels. Worked like a champ.

I'm setting up a similar system on our trailer, and just completed installing two Battle Born 100 Ah batteries. I'll have a few solar panels on the roof, but also have a port to connect the same portable panels if we want so parking in the shade is still possible.

Lots of options on how to set up a system like this in your trailer to give you extended dry camping options without having to park in the sun.
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Old 05-04-2022, 07:35 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jeffb831 View Post
It would not be converted twice if you were using the power directly in 110V form. It would flow through the system just like 110V current to the outlets for things plugged in and systems like the microwave and A/Cs.

However, for the 12V systems (lights, furnace control, refrigerator, etc..) the 110V/12V converter would convert some of the inbound 110V power to "replenish" the usage from the 12V house batteries. For this path there will be an extra conversion from 12V to 110V by the generator's inverter and back to 12V by the trailer's converter.
I see I see. Thank you!
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Old 05-04-2022, 07:37 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by richard5933 View Post
I agree with the earlier comment - these solar power 'generators' are not generators at all. They are just batteries in a slick package and with an on-board inverter.

Seems like a better use of the same money would be to upgrade the trailer's batteries to lithium, and then get a portable solar panel or two. On our coach we have three Zamp 180w portable panels which I use in series. I've got a 50-ft cord to connect them to the onboard solar charge controller, and because they're in series there is not as much voltage drop even though I'm only using 6ga wire.

This setup allows us to park the coach in the shade and still have the panels in the sun. We went to a week long bible camp a few years ago and stayed in the coach - parked amongst the pine trees at the edge of the parking lot and managed to find a nice sunny spot to set up the panels. Worked like a champ.

I'm setting up a similar system on our trailer, and just completed installing two Battle Born 100 Ah batteries. I'll have a few solar panels on the roof, but also have a port to connect the same portable panels if we want so parking in the shade is still possible.

Lots of options on how to set up a system like this in your trailer to give you extended dry camping options without having to park in the sun.
Ok, when you say you connect them to the onboard solar charge controller, are you talking about the connection at the front of the trailer you can connect portable solar panels to?
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Old 05-04-2022, 07:50 AM   #7
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Question

Thank you guys for your help! So yes I think that's what I would have to do-disconnect the inverter=charger in the Airstream! So it doesn't invert twice...Oh wait but then I can't plug things into the Airstream...I see. hmm.

As far as the battery/generator discussion I'm actually in the camp that they ARE generators. If not, then how does the power of the sun appear in the power bank battery once captured by the panels? It doesn't magically happen. It's converted into energy. ie generator
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Old 05-04-2022, 07:53 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by BlueVelvet View Post
Ok, when you say you connect them to the onboard solar charge controller, are you talking about the connection at the front of the trailer you can connect portable solar panels to?
I can't answer specifically to the connector/port on the front of your trailer.

A few things before I try and answer though...you may or may not already know all this, so ignore what you need...

The solar charge controller takes the power from the sun-facing side of the panel and converts it into a current & voltage which is usable by the battery bank for charging. You can't just take a panel and connect it to your batteries, there must be a charge controller between them.

Portable solar panels like the Zamp panels can be ordered either with or without a built-in solar charge controller. Whether you need the controller built into the panels or not depends on a few things, largely whether or not your trailer already has a solar charge controller installed. If a trailer doesn't already have a charge controller built in, getting portable panels with a built-in controller can make the install more seamless. But, the smaller controllers built into the panels are not as robust and full-featured as the units which get installed inside the trailer.

When I ordered my Zamp panels from AM Solar, I spec'd them out without the built-in controllers since I knew I was installing a solar charge controller inside my trailer.

Inside my trailer I installed a Victron MPPT solar charge controller. It connects directly to the panels on the roof, and there is also a port at the front of the trailer where I can plug in my portable Zamp panels.

On your trailer, you'll need to see if you have a solar charge controller already installed. If you do, then the port at the front of your trailer will simply be the input feed for your charge controller. If you don't have a solar charge controller though, that port on the front of your trailer is wired directly to the battery bank and assumes that you're using panels which have a built-in controller.

First thing needed to fully answer the question is to explore a bit on your trailer and determine if you have a solar charge controller.
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Old 05-04-2022, 09:07 AM   #9
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What do you really need?

I just outfitted our 2021 30bunk with 3BBís, (4)90 watt Zamp Obsidians, (2) 100watt obsidian portables, and an additional 1,800 watt inverter. I went this route for simplicity of install. I do carry a Genconnex Honda 2200I for emergencies. Havenít used it in 6 months. We are full time.

What I needed to achieve:
Conserve storage space: I need most of my storage for items other than inverters and batteries.
I didnít want to worry about power, ever!
I needed enough solar to replace my usage in one day.
I wanted power for microwave, nespresso, Vitamix, dyson hair dryer, etc. without pulling out the Honda.
The only thing I canít run is my A/C without the Honda. To run A/C, you need a ton of power. Consider each 100ah, 45 minutes of AC, hence the generator. I prefer propane due to cleanliness and cleaner exhaust.

Real world:
You need sun! If there are clouds or air pollution, it really hinders the performance.
Benefits of portables:
You can place as needed for peak performance.
Drawback to portables:
you do need to adjust each panel every couple hours for peak performance.
potential theft, I donít feel comfortable leaving them out overnight. This requires setting & packing up each day, including a quick wipe down, they like to get covered in dust, sand, grass clipping, leaves etc.

Best day: Carlsbad, CA I replaced 115amps by 3:30pm.
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Old 05-04-2022, 09:22 AM   #10
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HI, This is discussion of great interest to me.
I would recommend that you check out the CarGenerator and review some of Jonathan Schloo's youtube videos on this topic (generally speaking). I purchased a 1000w/2000w pure sine wave unit. I have not had the need to use it yet. I like the advantage of using my Ford Expedition TV to generate emergency power. Whether for the AS or for the house (ie fridge) during the upcoming Hurricane season on the East Coast.
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Old 05-04-2022, 10:34 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BlueVelvet View Post
Thank you guys for your help! So yes I think that's what I would have to do-disconnect the inverter=charger in the Airstream! So it doesn't invert twice...Oh wait but then I can't plug things into the Airstream...I see. hmm.

As far as the battery/generator discussion I'm actually in the camp that they ARE generators. If not, then how does the power of the sun appear in the power bank battery once captured by the panels? It doesn't magically happen. It's converted into energy. ie generator
Generator: a dynamo or similar machine for converting mechanical energy into electricity.

The things marketed as "solar generators" don't usually even have solar panels included, unless they come in an extra-cost "bundle." The solar panels convert energy generated 93M miles away via fusion within our sun into electricity... they COLLECT energy rather than generating it, but even so they're an extra-cost addition to the battery-inverter combos these marketers are calling "solar" "generators."

The power of the sun is converted into electricity by the solar panels that these "solar" "generators" generally don't come with. If there's a question about what should or shouldn't be called a generator, one might argue that the solar panels could be called a generator at a stretch, but not the battery-inverter box.

Another distinction: Unless it's been modified, an Airstream trailer wouldn't have an "inverter charger" it would have a "converter charger" and (in recent years) a separate inverter. You won't need the onboard inverter if you plug the shore-power cord into one of these portable battery-inverter systems. The converter-charger is what you have to decide if you want to power from the external battery for sake of efficiency.
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Old 05-04-2022, 12:26 PM   #12
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Iím currently boondocking in Sandpoint, ID. My Goal Zero 6000x sits behind the driverís seat and easily runs my Keureg. The inverter in the coach died a few months ago, and I still cannot get a replacement. I have a NOCO Genius 25 amp charger plugged into the AC output of the 6000x which keeps the coach batteries charged. I have 400 watts on the roof charging the coach batteries. Last week, I installed Goal Zeroís Car Charging Kit which is a DC to DC charger. I ran it off the chassis battery and am getting as much as 600 watts+ into the 6000x while the engine is running.

I donít use the fridge or freezer as I have found getting a bag of ice for a Yeti cooler every 2 or 3 days is easier than worrying about energy consumption. I donít cook in the van. I donít have a blender or a hair dryer.

The only thing I am using is lights, the pump, and a propane heater. Before I installed the DC to DC charger, I could go for about 4 days without charging, now that time is extended.
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Old 05-04-2022, 12:40 PM   #13
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I would get solar on the roof. They always are there charging including as you are going down the road.
Also lithium for the trailer. Again always available and last a long time. I have an eco flow 600 portable that I use if battery is low and also to charge bikes. Our trailer doesn’t have an inverter. With 180 watts on the roof, and 100ah lithium battery, our limitations is the back tank on our 16” sport, not electric. Including cold nights with furnace running which is a battery drain.
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Old 05-04-2022, 12:54 PM   #14
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Before I did that, I'd just get a solar suitcase and use it to charge the onboard batteries. Neither solution will power the A/C so if take that off the table then your power needs are smaller.
If you like the Bluetti, charge it when you have power, and then use the 120 cold output when you want the blender, or coffeepot.
I've thought if I was getting into solar, I'd mount some solar panels on the roof of my cap on the truck.
No worries about leaks, and you can park it in the Sun while the trailer is in the shade.
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Old 05-04-2022, 06:37 PM   #15
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Hi

All a "solar generator" actually is: a battery in a big box. You pay for the battery and you pay for the box. Far cheaper to just buy the battery and put it in the trailer. How much cheaper? Likely half to a quarter the price for a given amount of boon docking days ....

Bob
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Old 05-04-2022, 08:13 PM   #16
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Flexibility and independence are a big part of the romance, but if you want to avoid heavy, bulky, pricey, inconsistently performing disappointment, you are going to have to do your homework.
Solar generators “generate” house current with an inverter, which is why the sellers get away with not just calling them “batteries “.
Batteries run down based on the amount of electrical load and the amount of time that load is applied.
Here’s the homework part: Make a list of the power consumers you will be using, along with the daily energy consumption UNDER VARIOUS CONDITIONS.
Make a list of your energy inputs, and for solar, consider VARIOUS CONDITIONS.
Decide how flexible you want to be. I’m guessing that extended boondocking will entail use of your “emergency“ generator. Make sure it is not an ultra cheap model that will fry things.
Last suggestion: Practice boondocking in your driveway, where the impact of a miscalculation is minimal.
Happy camping!
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Old 05-04-2022, 10:19 PM   #17
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Hi

All a "solar generator" actually is: a battery in a big box. You pay for the battery and you pay for the box. Far cheaper to just buy the battery and put it in the trailer. How much cheaper? Likely half to a quarter the price for a given amount of boon docking days ....

Bob
A Goal Zero 6000x is a 500 amp hour lithium battery with a 2000 watt/3500 watt surge inverter, multiple outlets and a MPPS built into one box. This is an independent power supply from whatever you have built in. You can also move it into your house and run your fridge for 90 hours during a power outrage.

You can get this for 20% off if you find the right sale- such as REI or Moose Jaw. If you price out five 100 amp hour lithium batteries plus all necessary cables and an inverter, you will be closer than you think.

Iíve seen a number of ďall it turned out to beĒ comments. It was never advertised to be anything other than a battery in a box with an inverter built into one unit. I had a Goal Zero 3000 before I got the 6000X. I used it for about 2 1/2 years and then sold it. For what I saved in campground fees and having a silent and reliable power source in my house, I actually made money when I sold it.

Is it better than your built in system? Maybe, maybe not. It works as intended. Thereís nothing to discover. Just read the advertising and do the math.
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Old 05-04-2022, 11:12 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by BlueVelvet View Post
Thank you guys for your help! So yes I think that's what I would have to do-disconnect the inverter=charger in the Airstream! So it doesn't invert twice...Oh wait but then I can't plug things into the Airstream...I see. hmm.

As far as the battery/generator discussion I'm actually in the camp that they ARE generators. If not, then how does the power of the sun appear in the power bank battery once captured by the panels? It doesn't magically happen. It's converted into energy. ie generator
Technically it is collected and stored in the battery.
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Old 05-04-2022, 11:37 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by richard5933 View Post
I can't answer specifically to the connector/port on the front of your trailer.

A few things before I try and answer though...you may or may not already know all this, so ignore what you need...

The solar charge controller takes the power from the sun-facing side of the panel and converts it into a current & voltage which is usable by the battery bank for charging. You can't just take a panel and connect it to your batteries, there must be a charge controller between them.

Portable solar panels like the Zamp panels can be ordered either with or without a built-in solar charge controller. Whether you need the controller built into the panels or not depends on a few things, largely whether or not your trailer already has a solar charge controller installed. If a trailer doesn't already have a charge controller built in, getting portable panels with a built-in controller can make the install more seamless. But, the smaller controllers built into the panels are not as robust and full-featured as the units which get installed inside the trailer.

When I ordered my Zamp panels from AM Solar, I spec'd them out without the built-in controllers since I knew I was installing a solar charge controller inside my trailer.

Inside my trailer I installed a Victron MPPT solar charge controller. It connects directly to the panels on the roof, and there is also a port at the front of the trailer where I can plug in my portable Zamp panels.

On your trailer, you'll need to see if you have a solar charge controller already installed. If you do, then the port at the front of your trailer will simply be the input feed for your charge controller. If you don't have a solar charge controller though, that port on the front of your trailer is wired directly to the battery bank and assumes that you're using panels which have a built-in controller.

First thing needed to fully answer the question is to explore a bit on your trailer and determine if you have a solar charge controller.
Thank you! Ok, Yes, so from what the dealer has told me, I can plug solar panels directly into the front port however I did not order any solar install which tells me I do not have the victron solar controller....
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Old 05-05-2022, 04:18 PM   #20
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Thank you! Ok, Yes, so from what the dealer has told me, I can plug solar panels directly into the front port however I did not order any solar install which tells me I do not have the victron solar controller....
That's the standard setup. My trailer is like that, the SAE connector goes directly to the batteries, and I use a Zamp solar suitcase with the built-in charge controller plugged into that port when I'm boondocking. Check the wiring before you plug things into that... Mine was SUPPOSED to be wired for the Zamp (which has +/- reversed from the standard setup for that connector) but it came from the factory wired to the everything-but-Zamp standard.
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