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Old 06-06-2020, 08:49 PM   #1
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What solar set up to start with for complete airstream newbies

My wife and I are thinking of buying a globetrotter 27 front bedroom and we have never had an airstream before or any RV. We think that we are interested in national park campgrounds, national forests and other dry camping/boondocking destinations primarily. We will not be full timers. So we definitely want the ability to go off the grid easily.

There are so many other issues to master that I donít have the mental energy to try to sort through all of the complexities of the discussions in the solar thread. My only question for now is whether just for getting started we can start with the factory solar, which I think is something like 180 watts, Or whether we really need to do something more sophisticated from the very beginning.

One of the dealers we have been talking to recommended a 400 W Zamp system (I donít know the details of this except for the name).

Money is not really an issue luckily.

So my question is whether to start just with the 180 W solar to begin with, or to do the 400 watt zamp system, or to try to do some other more sophisticated custom thing right from the beginning.

Any other recommendations you have for us in terms of a boondocking set up right from the beginning, as opposed to something we can add later, would be helpful.

Thanks in advance.
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Old 06-07-2020, 05:52 PM   #2
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I have a 27’ Globetrotter with 600W of solar and primarily camp at non-electric campsites in national Park, National Forest and City/County campgrounds. I have and would recommend 600W of solar since it will fit on your roof. Even with 600W of solar, you cannot run the refrigerator on DC for 24 hours a day. I can run it for 12 to 16 hours, but not much at night. The refrigerator is too inefficient to run continuously on solar power. If you just always use the refrigerator on propane when not on shore power, you could probably get by on 400W of solar. But there’s not much cost difference in moving up to 600W.

I also have a propane fueled generator so I don’t need to carry gasoline. I have a Champion 3400W DualFuel. You could get a Honda EU2200 with a propane conversion which is also a good option. It just depends on whether you want a 30A RV plug that can run your Airstream like it’s on shore power with a 3000W plus generator. Make sure it’s a quiet inverter type generator.

You definitely need better batteries than stock. If money is no object I recommend 400AH of Lithium and a Victron MultiPlus with the Honda 2200 for the ultimate boondocking setup. That setup will be in the $15,000 range. I just have a pair of 6V golf cart batteries with 180AH of usable power. I self-installed my 600W of solar on the factory prewire with golf cart batteries and a Victron 100/50 solar controller for less than $2,000 and can live continuously without needing shore power. Occasionally I need to run the generator for battery charging, microwave use or Air Conditioning use. With the $15,000 setup, you can run the microwave without the generator.

You are going to enjoy your 27’ Globetrotter. Have fun!
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Old 06-07-2020, 06:07 PM   #3
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Air Miles provided great advice. i can't improve on it. I have 400W and upgraded AGM's. It's not enough to dry camp for more than a day or two without the generators..... But my wife does not like roughing it so we end up with full hook ups most of the time.
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Old 06-17-2020, 10:20 AM   #4
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Not much to add except be really honest with yourselves about what appliances you intend to run. AC all the time? common microwave, hairdryer etc. usage? These higher amp 120v units are the real challenging parts because the 12v items don't use near as much power and it doesn't have to be converted from DC like the AC items do.

Geography and weather will make a impact as well and could double your needed array size depending on expected needs. If you check the Solar Show and Tell thread you can see the various outputs of peoples systems and their locations while doing so.
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Old 06-19-2020, 03:57 PM   #5
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Not much more to add.
But if you are serious about solar power, go with a dedicated seller/installer,(if you are not a DIY'r), much more cost effective systems are available in the aftermarket. Anyone not specializing in solar sales & install can leave a lot on the table, including an AS dealer.

Disclaimer...we use 360w of Zamp portable, in a very simple DIY, very happy with it.

Bob
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Old 06-19-2020, 04:39 PM   #6
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The factory solar is way overpriced for what you get but it is easy...you just pay money and it's there. If you get serious about it then a system like Airmiles and I have is the ultimate way to go. The parts for mine, (500ah Lithium and 500w of solar on the roof and 100w on the ground) cost $10,000 and then I did the install myself. That install is not trivial, though, so if you don't feel comfortable with that I would guess you'd be looking at 60 hours or so for someone to install it for you.

Once you have a system like this then every outlet in the trailer is powered, you can run the microwave, hair dryer, induction cooktops, coffee makers, TVs (though not at the same time!). I can even run my AC for a few hours on battery.

Another easy way to get solar is to use a ground based suitcase system. Zamp is more expensive but your trailer comes with those plugs built in. Renogy is another popular brand but you'll need to clamp it onto the battery directly or adapt the Zamp connector. 200w of solar on the ground is worth about 400w on the roof because you can aim it at the sun and avoid shadows. That will keep your batteries charged pretty well so long as you don't go crazy using the inverter. You can then see if upgrading is worth it to you. You'll likely be glad you have a solar suitcase even if you add rooftop solar so you can avoid shade and such.

You'll likely want to at least upgrade your batteries to AGM rather than stock if you don't get the factory solar package. That will give you more battery capacity. Going straight to Lithium gets pretty complex and many dealers don't know how to do it properly. I'd be cautious with letting a typical dealer do Lithium. There are folks that specialize in doing high end RV power systems.

Many people who get into this also carry a little 2000w generator for those times when the shade is intense, or before a Multiplus/Battery upgrade, AC use is required, or they want to run the microwave.
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Old 06-20-2020, 07:24 AM   #7
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I did my own 200 watt system for right at $750, which includes panels, controller, monitor, wire, connectors, hardware, adhesives, and sealant. It does not include the Sam’s Club 6v golf cart batteries. I don’t consider battery upgrades to be part of the solar setup. Solar will work on the stock Interstate batteries too.
I’ve since added another 200W because the panels were on sale. At this point I have 400W of solar power for under $1000.
It doesn’t have to break the bank.
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