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Old 07-29-2019, 03:08 PM   #1
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1972 27' Overlander
Howe , Indiana
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Seeking Solar Installation Help in Indiana

Hi,

I am a newbie to the forum and just purchased my first AS, a 1972 27' Overlander that has been gutted and partially rebuilt inside. My plan is to complete this airstream for full-time, off-grid living for one (and possibly a dog).

The previous owner informed me that the only thing he did as far as electrical while rebuilding the inside of the AS was update the charging system and fuse panel. Those units are new.

I know basically nothing about electrical setups, systems...anything. I have a dad who is very knowledgable but has no experience with solar setups and is currently swamped with a house renovation project, so I hate to ask him to drop everything and help me figure all this stuff out.

I've been hearing (reading) a lot about a gentleman named Lewster who lives in FL and come highly recommended by pretty much everyone for professional solar installation.

My question is, has anyone here found someone to install their solar for them that they would highly recommend? I would love to do it myself and same some $$$ (also the pride of having done it myself), but I know my current limits, I want the job done right, and I am willing to pay for it.

Any and all recommendations are appreciated:-)

Thanks!! And thanks for the warm welcome to the forum!!

Sarah
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Old 07-29-2019, 04:11 PM   #2
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Hi

Welcome !!!

AM Solar is the main outfit people seem to like. They are in Springfield OR. Because that's a drive for a lot of people Lew does work when he "vacations" in Florida. Neither location is exactly close to Indiana.

The bigger issue is that solar is not quite the rage in the Great Lakes area that it is in some other parts of the country. A quick look at a "solar yield" map shows why (big blob over the region). That plus the tree cover make it less appealing up here. (I'm sitting under yet another thunderstorm in Michigan at the moment ....).

Typical "installed cost" on a solar + stuff system can easily run above $10K. Battery upgrades pretty much have to be part of the process and that adds to the cost. Assuming the vehicle is road worthy, a trip may not add significantly to the cost.

Backing off a bit.

Where do you plan to live full time in your aluminum Twinkie? I've spent a lot of winters in Indiana. It gets cold there. Airstreams are *not* a happy (or cheap) place to live full time when it's "northern Indiana" sort of winter cold ....

Bob
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Old 07-29-2019, 06:16 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by uncle_bob View Post
Hi

Where do you plan to live full time in your aluminum Twinkie? I've spent a lot of winters in Indiana. It gets cold there. Airstreams are *not* a happy (or cheap) place to live full-time when it's "northern Indiana" sort of winter cold ....

Bob
Hi Bob! I actually plan to live full-time in the PNW - Idaho specifically, just outside of Spokane, WA. I don't think solar is very popular out there, either, because of all the cloud cover most of the year, but the place I intend to stay long-term is completely undeveloped. No hookups whatsoever, but it's a free, quiet place for me to live and work so I'm gonna take it.

Incidentally, I don't need a TON of power. Everything will be 12V, if all goes according to plan, and I won't have anything like a microwave or a vitamix. I have a Dometic AC but I don't plan to use it unless the heat becomes unbearable. I work off of a MacBook Pro and won't have/need a TV or anything.

I plan to install a tiny wood stove for the cold:-)

Sarah
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Old 07-29-2019, 07:19 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by rogerssj23 View Post
Hi Bob! I actually plan to live full-time in the PNW - Idaho specifically, just outside of Spokane, WA. I don't think solar is very popular out there, either, because of all the cloud cover most of the year, but the place I intend to stay long-term is completely undeveloped. No hookups whatsoever, but it's a free, quiet place for me to live and work so I'm gonna take it.

Incidentally, I don't need a TON of power. Everything will be 12V, if all goes according to plan, and I won't have anything like a microwave or a vitamix. I have a Dometic AC but I don't plan to use it unless the heat becomes unbearable. I work off of a MacBook Pro and won't have/need a TV or anything.

I plan to install a tiny wood stove for the cold:-)

Sarah
As you say you are headed to the PNW, like Bob said, AM Solar is in Springfield, Oregon. That may not be that far out of the way for a professional consultation and install. That might give you an idea what it cost and perhaps that will give you the incentive to buy the components and do it your self. With a little help from your friends (wink).

FYI there are some threads on wood stoves here also, like this one
http://www.airforums.com/forums/f426...am-163117.html

-Dennis
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Old 07-29-2019, 07:24 PM   #5
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As you say you are headed to the PNW, like Bob said, AM Solar is in Springfield, Oregon. That may not be that far out of the way for a professional consultation and install.
FYI there are some threads on wood stoves here also, like this one
http://www.airforums.com/forums/f426...am-163117.html

-Dennis
Hi Dennis,

While youíre not wrong there, Iíd really like to get it done sooner rather than later. Iím currently in IN with my AS and would like to have it completely ready to live off-grid before I make the trek out west. But if this doesnít happen and I end up waiting until I get there, that certainly wouldnít be the end of the world. Are there pros and cons to waiting until everything else is built in before getting the solar installed?
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Old 07-29-2019, 07:46 PM   #6
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You know, if you are going to be in one place and not moving around. You might think about portable panels instead of roof mounted panels, unless security is an issue.
I think portable panels give you more flexibility when you are boon-docking for long periods of time. You can park under cover and put your panels out in the sun. You can aim/adjust for the Latitude you are in and the season for maximum solar efficiency. Easy to clean the panels. Plus you don't have those unsightly, un-aerodynamic panels on you roof ETC.

It is never too early to start planning for solar. It's really not that hard.
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Old 07-30-2019, 05:36 AM   #7
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Hi

Ummm .... errr .... I've spent time in Spokane and east into Idaho. It's not quite the same climate as Seattle. I would not want to spend the winter in an AS there. Your heating (propane) costs will be more than what you would spend on a local rental. There's pretty much zip for insulation in an AS.

Bob
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Old 07-30-2019, 03:55 PM   #8
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Portland , Oregon
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rogerssj23 View Post
Hi,

I am a newbie to the forum and just purchased my first AS, a 1972 27' Overlander that has been gutted and partially rebuilt inside. My plan is to complete this airstream for full-time, off-grid living for one (and possibly a dog).

The previous owner informed me that the only thing he did as far as electrical while rebuilding the inside of the AS was update the charging system and fuse panel. Those units are new.

I know basically nothing about electrical setups, systems...anything. I have a dad who is very knowledgable but has no experience with solar setups and is currently swamped with a house renovation project, so I hate to ask him to drop everything and help me figure all this stuff out.

I've been hearing (reading) a lot about a gentleman named Lewster who lives in FL and come highly recommended by pretty much everyone for professional solar installation.

My question is, has anyone here found someone to install their solar for them that they would highly recommend? I would love to do it myself and same some $$$ (also the pride of having done it myself), but I know my current limits, I want the job done right, and I am willing to pay for it.

Any and all recommendations are appreciated:-)

Thanks!! And thanks for the warm welcome to the forum!!

Sarah
We have a Lewster-installed system on our Flying Could. Best investment we ever made for our trailer. You can get a cheaper and possibly faster install elsewhere, but not a better one IMO. Lew’s experience, knowledge and use of only the best components make him exceptional. Same for AM Solar in Springfield, OR, who Lew represents. If you’re going to full time in your Airstream, it’s worth getting top quality.

We store our trailer outdoors in “rainy” Oregon, and have never had a problem keeping our batteries solar-charged, even in winter. (Having Lithium or AGM batteries helps.)

As someone alluded to previously, the PNW west of the Cascades has fairly mild winters. East of Spokane.... brrr. ☃️
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Old 07-30-2019, 06:38 PM   #9
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You may also want to check out this web site for your own (solar) edification. I have found this guy to be pretty informative and down to earth.
https://www.mobile-solarpower.com/

-Dennis
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Old 07-30-2019, 07:13 PM   #10
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if you want to do solar, i recommend victron products . the integrate and work well together.
here is my schematic

plus you get free access from the inet and connect to phone with Bluetooth also
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Old 07-31-2019, 10:39 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Climber View Post
We have a Lewster-installed system on our Flying Could. Best investment we ever made for our trailer. You can get a cheaper and possibly faster install elsewhere, but not a better one IMO. Lewís experience, knowledge and use of only the best components make him exceptional. Same for AM Solar in Springfield, OR, who Lew represents. If youíre going to full time in your Airstream, itís worth getting top quality.

We store our trailer outdoors in ďrainyĒ Oregon, and have never had a problem keeping our batteries solar-charged, even in winter. (Having Lithium or AGM batteries helps.)

As someone alluded to previously, the PNW west of the Cascades has fairly mild winters. East of Spokane.... brrr. ☃️
Well, itís not the cost of the installation so much as it is the distance Iíd have to haul my AS. Iím definitely willing to pay for a job well done.
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Old 08-02-2019, 06:43 AM   #12
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Hi

The main "cost" of hauling a rig here or there is time. Yes, there is fuel, but compared to the cost of whatever you are headed out to do .... not a lot of cash there. Indeed Oregon is a bit further than Florida.

Having somebody "come over" to do the work .... not so much. You are going to haul the vehicle somewhere and this is going to take a while. How long does depend a bit on how much you do.

If you are having a pro do it, redo the entire 12V system on the trailer. Study up on batteries and all the other stuff. Talk to the guy and get his inputs. Get a full modern system for all your trouble. With a full up system, everything is working when you pull out of his lot. With some sort of partial, who knows what happens next ....

Bob
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Old 08-02-2019, 01:16 PM   #13
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Howe , Indiana
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Hi

The main "cost" of hauling a rig here or there is time. Yes, there is fuel, but compared to the cost of whatever you are headed out to do .... not a lot of cash there. Indeed Oregon is a bit further than Florida.

Having somebody "come over" to do the work .... not so much. You are going to haul the vehicle somewhere and this is going to take a while. How long does depend a bit on how much you do.

If you are having a pro do it, redo the entire 12V system on the trailer. Study up on batteries and all the other stuff. Talk to the guy and get his inputs. Get a full modern system for all your trouble. With a full up system, everything is working when you pull out of his lot. With some sort of partial, who knows what happens next ....

Bob
Bob,

I understand I will need to haul it to a professional. I certainly donít expect someone to come to my house or anything. I was just hoping to find someone closer than FL or OR, like maybe Chicago or Indianapolis area, or even as far as Nashville if necessary.
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Old 08-02-2019, 07:33 PM   #14
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The batteries you install will make a big difference regardless of your solar decision. You might want to consider lithiums. We have the less expensive AGMs that work well for us, but with the costs of lithium coming down weíll probably switch over before too long.
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Old 08-03-2019, 08:31 AM   #15
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Hi

Why do batteries matter?

Solar is a Wonderfull thing when the sun is out. When it's all cloudy or there is a foot of snow on top of the panels .... not quite so much. For long term use, the batteries probably should be sized to give you a couple of days of operation (possibly at reduced power consumption) with minimal solar input. Indeed a generator also can fill a "gap".

Since this gets to "days" and batteries are rated in amp hours, you need some sort of conversion. 60 amp hours a day is pretty frugal for most people. 120 amp hours a day with a furnace running is not unheard of. Anything under 30 AH a day means you are not running the fridge.

With lead acid, you typically target the 50% point as the "stop using" threshold. With normal lithium's you get to use 100% of the labeled capacity. All batteries drop capacity when it's cold. Lithium's outdoors in sub freezing weather are not a good idea. Lithiums *should* last a very long time. In about 20 years, we'll have a better idea of just how long.

Coming back to solar, if you now have decided on "I need XXX amp hours of battery" that also gives you a target for your solar setup. If the batteries discharge for two days, it would be nice to get them "back full" in one day. That's a pretty conservative design goal and people do indeed go with a bit less solar than that.

There are a whole lot of ways to work out how much solar will deliver in a day. Since it's dependent on many factors, they all are just a guess. Some days will always be better than other days. If you site is under a whole bunch of trees ... that has an effect, even on a good day

Lots to work out. Since it's all tied up together, probably best to think it through before you start spending money.

Bob
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