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Old 07-13-2020, 08:29 PM   #1
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2021 16' Caravel
Kirkland , Washington
Join Date: May 2020
Posts: 40
Question Caravel 16 2021 and steps to add solar

Hi,
We recently ordered a 2021 Caravel 16 without solar option - didn't order solar as I plan to upgrade to Lithium battery so I don't want to waste money on the AGM batteries.
As we are completely newbies of RV camping, I want to try things out and figure out what kind of camping we like the most before we invest in something expensive. I live in PNW and we plan to do a lot of 2-3 day trips in the state parks, which may or may not have electrical hookup.
Also since 2020 models, Airstream switched to all-electrical fridge on Bambis and Caravels. The Nova-Kool 3.1cu fridge draws 2.2A. I have heard many people(include the dealer) saying they drains battery fast, so that adds urgency to add solar - so I can have food in fridge for 2-3 days.
I plan to stick with what comes with the new trailer for the rest of year if possible. Here are the plan towards a rooftop panel, and questions:

1. from Sept to end of the season, I want to stick with standard lead-acid battery if possible, and buy a Renogy 100W suitcase panel to make the battery last longer, question here is I saw some post in this forum says the charge controller needs to be in mptt model, and the charger controller comes with the $249 Renogy panel is not, is that necessary? if it's connected directly to battery, why can't I use it with the zamp port next to battery?

2. Replace the lead acid battery with BB Lithium 100Ah. I'd also move the battery to under the dinette couch, next to fresh water tank. I could do this sooner this year, but I'd rather be camping than working on this project in the limited weekends left in the season. a compromise is to buy the battery but put it in the battery tray behind the propane cover. but I'd have to figure out a way to secure it so it won't disappear after I take a hike.

3. Hopefully after this year we will figure out what camping style we like and install rooftop 90/100w panel. I will buy charge controller, battery monitor, mounting bracket, etc (I plan to go all zamp) For the same reason, I want to tackle this next year, before season starts.

I also hope that the suitcase panel would still be useful even I have the rooftop ones. so there won't be anything thrown away and wasted, except the dealer provided lead-acid battary.

With all these installed, 100w rooftop + 100w suitcase, 100ah BB lithium battery, I am hoping that with conservative electric usage (no tv, minimal lights, water pump) we can keep food in fridge cooled for 2-3 days.

Please let me know if this is a sound plan or not, and suggestions are much appreciated, thanks!
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Old 07-14-2020, 06:42 AM   #2
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2019 22' Sport
Carlsbad , California
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You are thinking along the right lines. Getting a solar suitcase is a great first step that won’t be wasted. I’d really look at something larger than 100w though. When you do mount a panel up top, maximize the available space. 2 Zamp 90w long panels (narrow and long) may fit better, or a single 170w panel. Since you are in the NW, you will likely not get complete sun exposure in many sites, so get more than you think you may need.

I have a 22’ Sport, and use a 140w portable Zamp suitcase, and a 170w panel up top. There is room for me to add two of the 90w panels if I feel the need to expand later.

Good luck!
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Old 07-14-2020, 06:53 AM   #3
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2016 16' Sport
Miami , Florida
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Two long 90 Zamps will not fit. One 90 and two 45s fit perfectly. This is what I have on my Caravel 16 along with 2 AGM batteries. 2 to 3 days is no problem as long as there is some sun and your not parked in the shade. The only fail safe is a generator. If your not interested in running the AC a small Honda EU1000 is only about 30 pounds (not much heavier than a 90 watt solar suitcase) and very quiet. That would be my first investment. I would look at adding all the solar and lithium as improvements to minimize generator use.
There is a wealth of knowledge on this forum when it comes to solar and many on here have some awesome systems. Most of them are on larger units then the 16. The 16 just doesn’t have the real estate on the roof for much more then 200 watts not the space for a large battery bank.
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Old 07-14-2020, 07:12 AM   #4
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2016 16' Sport
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Figure about 32 amps per day for the fridge.
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Old 07-14-2020, 07:29 AM   #5
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2021 16' Caravel
Kirkland , Washington
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shiny16 View Post
Two long 90 Zamps will not fit. One 90 and two 45s fit perfectly. This is what I have on my Caravel 16 along with 2 AGM batteries. 2 to 3 days is no problem as long as there is some sun and your not parked in the shade. The only fail safe is a generator. If your not interested in running the AC a small Honda EU1000 is only about 30 pounds (not much heavier than a 90 watt solar suitcase) and very quiet. That would be my first investment. I would look at adding all the solar and lithium as improvements to minimize generator use.
There is a wealth of knowledge on this forum when it comes to solar and many on here have some awesome systems. Most of them are on larger units then the 16. The 16 just doesn’t have the real estate on the roof for much more then 200 watts not the space for a large battery bank.
Thanks, I came across an post you made with photo of you 16, but I was not able to find the 45w panels, portable or not. Could you share a link?
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Old 07-14-2020, 08:52 AM   #6
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2021 16' Caravel
Kirkland , Washington
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Never mind, I found the 45w zamp panels, wow they are expensive.
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Old 07-14-2020, 06:38 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hovr View Post
Never mind, I found the 45w zamp panels, wow they are expensive.
Yes they are but your choice for two 90s involves relocating things on your roof. Of course there are other brands.
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Old 07-29-2020, 06:16 PM   #8
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Newbie question - Is there any sort of advantage to running rooftop solar wired directly into the unit vs a suitcase panel? Looking at this exact scenario the OP has posed - we’re looking at a “solar ready” Bambi 16.

If I understand this correctly, you could get a 140watt or more suitcase from Zamp with a controller built in and simply plug and play into the port up front with no other work needed?

Vs a roof install where other changes have to be permanently made (controller, etc).
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Old 07-31-2020, 06:55 AM   #9
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Apollo Beach , Florida
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I can answer the MPPT question. An MPPT solar controller is not needed on a suitcase solar panel. The only time that an MPPT solar controller is necessary is when the voltage of the panels is much greater than the voltage of the battery. In that case, an MPPT controller takes the excess voltage and converts it to additional Amps. Basically, MPPT controllers are preferred when panel voltage is greater than 20V. If panels are connected in series, an MPPT controller is basically required. If panels are connected in parallel, an MPPT controller will not have a great amount of advantage. Don't worry that a portable panel does not have an MPPT controller. A PWM controller is needed. The portable panel can be connected to the Zamp port on the battery box. Just make sure the polarity of the panel matches the Zamp port polarity. If not, just switch the Zamp port wires on the battery posts.
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Old 08-04-2020, 01:56 PM   #10
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Thank you AirMiles!

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