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Old 08-19-2020, 12:29 PM   #1
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Solar panel connection in addition or in place of Rooftop solar panels?

When we were purchasing our 2020 Base Camp X - I noticed both the "third port" on the roof solar hook up as well as the additional solar connector on the side of the trailer. I asked our salesperson if the lower solar connector could be used to add a third solar panel (on the ground) to increase the 160 W of solar from the two panels on the roof. He told me he checked with Airstream and that connector is used in place of the roof mounted panels. So if we only added an additional 80W panel on the ground, we would not also be benefiting from the 2 panels on the roof. I find that response strange since the roof solar connection supports 3 panel inputs.

Does anyone have any experience adding a third solar panel using the lower connector and did it "add to" or "replace" the output from the two panels on the roof?

On a similar note - has anyone successfully added a third panel to the roof?
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Old 08-19-2020, 12:54 PM   #2
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We don't have a Basecamp but in general, I would think that any leads that come down to your power center should be useable. If there is already a solar controller, that might cause some restrictions.

If you have a tongue port and a side port which should be simply wires connecting to the positive and negative sides of the battery. In theory, you could add portable panels that have their own charge controllers built in.

The roof connection will probably be just a green and yellow wire loose and near the power center. These would need some sort of charge controller to manage that power before it goes to the battery.

When I changed my battery, I abandoned my Zamp plug in on the tongue and installed new wires for my 2 portable panels which run directly to the battery +/- I am running a Samlex 135W and a GoPower 120W through this connection.

When you add your panels just look to see if they have a built in charge controller and make sure that the wires going to the battery are larger enough to support their current.

An inline fuse will probably be present in the panel near the controller.

I hope this helps.
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Old 08-19-2020, 01:36 PM   #3
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The dealer is correct. Using the Zamp portable connector in the front will bypass the roof-top solar units. This thread talks about a workaround.

https://www.airforums.com/forums/f37...ar-186022.html

I spoke with Brian at Airstream of Scottsdale service dept. and they have fixed this in the past so that both Zamp portable and roof-top panels can be used at the same time.
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Old 08-19-2020, 02:26 PM   #4
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A suitcase portable that has its own controller could plug into the lower port. Both panels would charge.
One would shut down as the amp requirement lessens.
(my experience using two suitcase panels, each with it's own controller)

Bob
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Old 08-20-2020, 08:23 AM   #5
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Great Info - just what I was looking for!

Thank you for sharing the information!
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Old 08-20-2020, 10:32 AM   #6
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We have 200w on the roof which is great as long as it's in our untreed storage yard :-) however, we boondock in BC (i.e., where there are trees!) so we can attach our 180w suitcase via the AS umbilical cord (i.e., the muti plug that connects AS to TV) with its own controller this way we can follow the sun ... work as expected.
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Old 08-20-2020, 10:41 AM   #7
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When I spoke with Zamp, they concurred with what Robert said. If the remote panel had its own controller, it would work in conjunction with rooftop panels.

peace
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Old 08-20-2020, 11:51 AM   #8
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I just ordered a Zamp 40 portable solar panel to plug into the external zamp connection next to my battery box. It has a built in controller. My main purpose is to charge my batteries while the trailer with top solar panels is under covered storage. Will see how it works.
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Old 08-20-2020, 02:55 PM   #9
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I have seen conflicting reports about using two controllers with two separate panel configurations. Some say no problem, others say one will operate, not allowing the second controller to work.
I rewired the lower Zamp port, thru the port where the battery cables enter the trailer. I then spliced the POS and neg to the appropriate wires coming from the roof. Controller works with roof panels and then the suitcase when it is plugged in. You need to be sure the amps, volts stay under the charge controller limits.
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Old 08-20-2020, 03:28 PM   #10
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we have 2 x 100W on the roof
and 1 x 140w hinged over the rear bath window
it tilts down and lays flat when we travel and swingw up when we camp
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Old 08-20-2020, 07:16 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sport 16 STL View Post
I have seen conflicting reports about using two controllers with two separate panel configurations. Some say no problem, others say one will operate, not allowing the second controller to work.
I rewired the lower Zamp port, thru the port where the battery cables enter the trailer. I then spliced the POS and neg to the appropriate wires coming from the roof. Controller works with roof panels and then the suitcase when it is plugged in. You need to be sure the amps, volts stay under the charge controller limits.
I'm getting solar installed next month and the folks at AMSolar have said they are going do something similar to what your describing so that both the rooftop panels and suitcase are routed through the controller in the trailer.
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Old 08-20-2020, 08:41 PM   #12
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I went through multiple threads on the Forums in trying to figure this out and got very conflicting information. I ended up having an email exchange and then a phone call with Zamp to make sure that the portable Zamp panel that I was considering for my new (ordered) 25fb would work in concert with the two panels on the roof. I sent him several of the posts that were particularly confusing. Evidently, a solar controller used by Airstream in the past would not handle both the rooftop unit and a portable panel plugged into the Zamp auxiliary port, although there were work arounds. That is not the case now. For a new Airstream at this point, a portable panel with a controller can be plugged into the auxiliary plug and both will contribute to the charging without an issue. For an older Airstream, it might pay to check with Airstream, Zamp, or the manufacturer of the panel you are considering.
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Old 08-21-2020, 07:28 AM   #13
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Thanks to everyone for all the work to answer this question - it seems to be a common one!

Did you happen to get the name or model of the manufacture of the "New" controller Airstream is now using to allow suitcase panels with their own controller to be added in the lower port?

Since I'm a very early model year 2020 it would help to know if I have the "new" controller.

Thanks again for all your research!
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Old 08-21-2020, 08:47 AM   #14
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I to would be interested in knowing the new controller that works using the tongue solar plug. I have a later 2020 25FB with the 180w on the roof
Thanks,
Mike
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Old 08-21-2020, 09:53 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mamorteguy View Post
I to would be interested in knowing the new controller that works using the tongue solar plug. I have a later 2020 25FB with the 180w on the roof
Thanks,
Mike
Hi Mike, In my case, the tongue Zamp connection just went straight to the battery +/- and no controller was installed by Airstream. Most portable panels have a built in controller so you can connect it directly to the battery.

If Airstream installs a controller, it may be one just able to handle the current provided by the roof panel installed so they would be limited to adding more current by adding more panels. Also, the prewire is a lighter gauge of wire so adding more load would require that the wires be upgraded appropriately.

If you look at some of the installs, there are trailers with upwards of 1,000W on the roof. This sort of install would require new heavy gauge wires from the roof to the charge controller which would be a unit able to handle that much current. Usually these large systems include some Victron components and lithium batteries.

Adding suitcase panels is easier since they could be connected with their own wiring to the batteries with alligator clips (usually supplied with the panels). This is how the tongue connector works in principle (with different connectors).

Pop the battery box cover and see if the little terminals are attached to the battery posts that run back to the Zamp tongue connector.
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Old 08-22-2020, 09:50 AM   #16
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Thank you, make total sense, I plan on putting more panels on the roof eventually and figured I’d have to upgrade a few things to do it. Thanks for the help.
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Old 08-22-2020, 07:34 PM   #17
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Zamp port- as previously stated, if you trace the wire it goes straight to the battery, with no controller. It may be different on the new model year. Any controller airstream would install will have enough capacity for a couple of roof panels and a suitcase. It would be better to run all panels thru one controller.
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Old 08-22-2020, 08:48 PM   #18
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To OP, There have been numerous posts/threads on this topic and sometimes it is hard to find them because they turn up in threads that were hijacked from something that started a little different. And I read and considered many since I just purchased a 2020 Bambi 20’ less than 3 months back and wanted to upgrade the charge controller and add an additional 90W Zamp solar panel in line with the one already installed by AS. And add a portable solar suitcase. I just installed the additonal 90 W Zamp rooftop panel today and changed out the rather rudimentary Atkinson Solar Charge Controller with a Victron SmartSolar 100/30. The 100/30 is overkill for my rooftop 180 watts but it allows flexibility for adding more solar to the roof in the future and it will not be as taxed and it will run a bit cooler. I also have the front A-Frame Zamp solar port and I confirmed it runs directly to the battery. I have read the pros and cons of redirecting the front portable wiring straight to the controller and even discussed the matter with Zamp and for now I have decided not to do that. Reasons? if you do a basic “hard wiring” straight to the controller they you have to remove the charge controller off the Zamp portable. Then, if for some odd reason you needed the portable to charge your tow vehicle battery or to lend to a friend or fellow camper it would be useless. However, you can reconfigure the portable wiring with re-route or cutoff switches and still keep the charge controller on the portable solar panel and then just turn it off you you intend to use the charge controller inside the trailer.

I will send this now before getting timed out and send more in second note.
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Old 08-22-2020, 09:19 PM   #19
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The Atkinson charge controller that AS used on the 2020 Bambi is. 40 amp controller. They probably could have just used 30 amp but not sure Atkinson makes on in 30 amps, they do in 25 amps. But it could be because the roof cap solar connection has 3 ports and maybe they were thinking with addition of 2 more panel a 40 amp would be best. But other forum folks have mentioned having 400 watts of roof solar and omly using the Victron SmartSolar 100/30 and on the brightest AZ (?) summer day the max amps feed through to the charger was 26 amps. But the average over 30 days was more like 22 amps. So if you were considering changing out a charger and given your rooftop limitations and whether or not you’d redo front end portable wiring to make it direct, you might get away with a smaller version of a Victron. On the size of a Zamp portable. I originally bought the Zamp 230W portable, falsely thinking big is better. But the suitcase weighst 50 lbs, and the large rather flat suitcase is a bit unwieldy and the handle digs into your fingers. Sent it back to Amazon and go the 180W which is smaller in area and only weighs 34 lbs. Now keep in mind the battery does not care where it gets its charging from (rooftop through inside charge controller or portable with its controller and straight to battery). Today, after I put the additonal panel on the roof and changed out to the Victron 100/30 I used the VictronConnect app on my iPad (or iPhone) to monitor since it has a Bluetooth connection. With the Victron you can set Bulk/Absoption and Float voltages. My battery was in absorption for a short while because it was still being charged on the lot with the original 90W panel (the solar always charges even with the battery disconnect switch in the trailer turned off). Then it went to Float or maintain. I think I was running the vent fans. Even though I have 180W up top and was in mostly full sun at 3:30 pm and the panel voltage was high the Victron was only “using” or passing along about 40W to keep the battery at the Float level (the battery was also being used to run the fans. I started turning on lights and then refridge and then TV and antenna boost and watched the watts being used creeping up to about 130W. Now, if I happen to only have a camping spot where my solar panels are under trees and only producing 20% then If I were running all the same DC equipment I might not be able to keep batteries as fully charged (and that is ok with the Lifeline AGM, they recommend not allowing them to go below 50% charge). But if I have the portable, which I do, and I also have the 15’ extension cord, so I have 30’, I can possibly place the portable in the sun and keep batteries more fully charging as I drain them for DC lights, fans, etc. Can I do that if the front port is wired directly to an inside charge controller? Yes, and I get the benefit of absorption and float stages. But Zamp portable charge controller has effectively the same thing, just a little less sophistocated. But you do have settings for different battery types. Sorry for long post, I can’t sleep yet.🙂
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Old 08-24-2020, 01:22 PM   #20
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Smsasf have you actually used both controllers charging at the same time? I have seen a few posts saying one controller shuts down while using two at the same time, hence the benefit of running the suitcase off the trailer controller.
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