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Old 01-28-2015, 10:56 AM   #1
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Solar Question

Hey guys! I had a question about solar panels. Can you use a portable solar panel not mounted to the Airstream to charge the batteries? I was envisioning using a portable panel that rests on the ground and directly connect it to the battery? Do you have to have a charge controller to prevent battery overcharging? I don't really want to mount panels on my 1979 Tradewind, but would like the benefits of solar. Can you directly connect the panel to the battery?
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Old 01-28-2015, 10:59 AM   #2
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Yes, you can use portable solar panels to charge your batteries. These will usually come with a multi-stage charge controller and attach directly to the batteries. They come in wattages from approximately 30-150 watts. Some advantages to portable solar: trailer in shade, panel in sun; the panel stays with you should you change trailers.
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Old 01-28-2015, 11:39 AM   #3
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I use a Zamp solar panel. Two hinged panels have fold-out legs attached, that fold flat into it's own rugged carrying case with handle. Legs tilt panels back about 45 degrees. The charge controller is attached to the back and it comes with a long cable. Cable has a heavy duty quick disconnect on the end which couples to short cable attached to your batteries. This part stays in the battery compartment.
Neat and quick. A bunch of different wattage's are available. Mine is 200W
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Old 01-28-2015, 04:06 PM   #4
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Does this ever hurt the Airstream's 12v system while charging the connected coach battery?
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Old 01-28-2015, 05:04 PM   #5
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The solar charge controller should be a multi-stage type, ie will not overcharge the batteries.


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Old 01-29-2015, 08:14 AM   #6
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I never had a problem. The TriMetric setup indicated juice going into the batteries.
On a side note....charging was a lot quicker in clear-air states like Arizona, v: Washington, midwest, southeast
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Old 01-29-2015, 09:27 AM   #7
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Here is my 190 watts.Works grate
They do make portable ones that hook right to the battery but most are only about 100 watts.
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Old 01-29-2015, 10:38 AM   #8
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http://www.airforums.com/forums/f448...ar-124920.html
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Old 01-29-2015, 10:45 AM   #9
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Yes - we have had great luck with both Zamp and Goal Zero ... the GZ is a nicer package.
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Old 01-29-2015, 04:33 PM   #10
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I posted somewhere else about my solution which was to put 3 100watt flexible renogy panels on the cap of my truck using a short run of #10 gauge to a proper 2pole Pollak ( female)plug on the truck. Inside the trailer I properly mounted aTM2030 monitor and a TS 2030 Solar control with cutoff fuses close to the batteries. I ran #6Awg to a connector by the batteries to which I can attach 20ft of#6 welding cable which plugs into the truck so I can charge while driving and park my trailer in the shade and move the truck around in the sun. The next mod will be mounting the panels on some sort of a tilt up form so I can make better use of the low angle sun when we camp in the north.
So far on our 3 month trip it has been working perfectly.
Have to get a reprogram on the controller so I can equalize a bit easier ( automatic) but otherwise no complaints.


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Old 01-29-2015, 06:55 PM   #11
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We also have the ZAMP 200W portable and find it to be our only charging system that really works on the Airstream. Great product. We plan to install the Boondocker in the spring so that there will be 2 charging systems that really work.

But, how do others carry it? We have the case for it but have never found a way to secure it inside the trailer while traveling so it ends up in the TV.
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Old 01-30-2015, 12:04 PM   #12
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I'm looking at Zamp. The only issue I have with the 200w is the size of the panels and its about 47lbs compared to about 34lbs for the 160. I could slide the 160 folded on end and still close my tonneau top on my truck but I won't be able to do it with the 200. I would have to lay it flat. I have some recliners I have to lay flat so I could place it on top of them. I might still consider the 200w setup.

Regarding storing in a 25fb you could put it on end between the queen bed and the front windows. Stuff a towel in there to prevent movement. Guess it won't slide into the hall closet.

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Old 03-24-2015, 08:43 AM   #13
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I'm finding many Zamp dealers have backorders for the 160w and 200w systems that won't be filled until June. Apparently the west coast dock slowdowns have delayed shipments of solar panels from Asia.

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Old 03-24-2015, 10:13 AM   #14
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I just purchased a small solar panel to trickle charge my batteries. Its sitting on top of the battery box since I dont have a propane tank cover but I was able to lock it down with a pull away cord and small padlock, just to make it inconvenient for it to walk away since the trailer is in storage. I purchased the 7watt from Northerntool.com. Working well.
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Old 03-24-2015, 10:43 AM   #15
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Northern carries the BatteryMinder line of solar trickle chargers. They go up to 15 watts and have their own mini controller.

They DO actually work to keep your batteries topped, providing of course that they were fully charged initially.


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Old 03-24-2015, 12:48 PM   #16
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Do you guys think it would be possible to use a small solar trickle type charger and wire a 7 way plug to charge the tow vehicle battery when vehicle is not in use?
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Old 03-24-2015, 01:04 PM   #17
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Usually the small solar chargers for cars comes with a 12 cigerate lighter type plug.
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Old 03-24-2015, 01:16 PM   #18
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Do you guys think it would be possible to use a small solar trickle type charger and wire a 7 way plug to charge the tow vehicle battery when vehicle is not in use?
Sure...as long as the vehicle does not have a diode or isolator which prevents back-feeding the charge line from the umbilical connector.
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Old 03-24-2015, 01:18 PM   #19
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Usually the small solar chargers for cars comes with a 12 cigerate lighter type plug.
Careful though. Many of the charge ports in modern vehicles are ignition controlled and are an "open circuit" without the key on. My current truck has 4. two are hot all the time and 2 are ignition controlled.
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Old 03-24-2015, 07:32 PM   #20
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BE CAREFUL!!!!

A single solar trickle charger is not built to charge disparate, multiple battery banks. You would be far better simply buying a second unit for your TV battery.
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