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Old 03-01-2019, 05:21 AM   #1
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1963 24' Tradewind
Berkeley , California
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A strange turn of events has me ready to go solar—need advice.

Where to begin?

Ok, here is background, skip this and scroll to the end if you just want to get straight to my actual question:

I bought my 1965 Airstream Tradewind in June 2015, lived in it boondocking for six months, learned some hard lessons, and committed to actually beginning the restoration and ripping it up in April 2016. Then I found a shitty 189 sq.ft. in-law rental unit in the backyard of a single family home in August 2016, and I definitely was aware that with some modifications the backyard could house my Airstream project, which I’d moved into a construction lot, but I didn’t have any serious hopes because the family in the front house would probably not agree to it.

Then in May 2017 I joined the Millwrights union and learned how to build ****, so I built a new fence gate that would let my Airstream into the backyard, but I still didn’t have much hope of actually moving it. Then the family in the front house vacated and I moved my Airstream back here in Dec 2017 before the landlord secured new tenants!

There have been a lot of hold-ups and problems...in November the landlord got foreclosed on and now there is a different and aggressive landlord, and that’s actually been the least of my problems back here...but I finally started working on the Airstream this year and have the inside aluminum skin panels removed...hoping to do a shell-off to stroke my ego and I have at this point actually participated in a shell-off restoration before on a 1964 Tradewind, but never led my own.

MY ACTUAL QUESTION:

The new landlord is being aggressive about my ownership of the utility bills, and I could save myself a lot of headache if I just made my tiny (189 sq.ft.) house solar. Since my goal is to eventually do this in my Airstream and move into it and be a full timer, it just makes complete sense to buy a solar system for my tiny house (keep in mind, it’s a rental) *now*, one that could easily be detached and added to my Airstream when the time comes. The experience in electrical wiring and calculating my energy consumption would be invaluable to me. So, what I’m asking for is some help deciding what solar system to buy given these circumstances. I am basically ready to spend the money now.
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Old 03-01-2019, 05:30 AM   #2
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This might seem like an odd way of explaining myself but I have both an Airstream and a nuCamp trailer. The nuCamp has Alde heat and flexible solar panels with Victron controllers. That thing stays warm in teens temperatures using nothing more than a 190 watt solar setup on AGM 6V batteries and nominal propane. When not using the propane for heat, the BGM-712 battery monitor, which you will need, never gets below 90 pct. This being accomplished in the northeast in the dead of winter. This is largely because all the appliances are natively 12v from TV to refrigerator. No 120v conversion losses and the new ARB and Dometic 2way fringes operate well and draw nominal amps. Since you are redoing your inside you have the opportunity to install Alde convectors, solar power and 12v refigerator while putting a decent sized solar system in play. Absent doing that, relying on the power hungry and highly inefficient ducted furnace and 3way refig is going to be a challenge supporting yourself on solar. Besides, once you have Alde you’ll wonder why anyone sells a trailer without it.
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Old 03-01-2019, 05:40 AM   #3
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Anything you add to the tiny house may be considered 'leasehold improvements' and the landlord may insist you leave them when you want to leave.
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Old 03-01-2019, 05:45 AM   #4
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Yes, I understand. However, the wiring to my shack looks to be a simplistic, slapdash job by the last landlord’s handyman, and I think going solar in here might simply be a matter of unplugging and plugging into my own panels. So when I vacate I could rewire back to the grid. Furthermore, the landlord isn’t allowed back here without advanced notice, there’s a big fence I built preventing him from entering easily, and the panels would be out of sight on my roof. He need not even be informed I’ve let go of the PG&E account.
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Old 03-01-2019, 05:45 AM   #5
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I feel that you are confusing two problems and trying to find a common solution.

The trailer is your long term goal. Do what it right to get that done properly.

A sticks and bricks residence is subject to many codes (especially in California). Even if the landlord "agreed" to your idea, it is highly unlikely that an ideal solar system for a portable trailer with 12v appliances is at all similar in scope, application, size, design, or cost to what local codes and utilities would sign off on as acceptable.

Suck it up and pay your bills and cross that problem off your list.
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Old 03-01-2019, 05:48 AM   #6
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Also, utility companies and taxing authority WILL use arial surveillance satellite photos of properties. (want to make sure you don't add a pool and not pay tax, or do construction without a permit). You can't hide these things anymore
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Old 03-01-2019, 07:25 AM   #7
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A strange turn of events has me ready to go solar—need advice.

I would do just what airstreamCSH has done to take care of heat, hot water and refrigeration. For other electrical needs I would get a 2,000 watt inverter (I have a Samlex and like it) and probably 4 golf cart batteries from Sam’s/Wal-Mart. Get a battery monitor, four-100 watt solar panels and a Victron MPPT 150/50 solar controller. I would put the panels on the ground so they can be adjusted for maximum efficiency. Total equipment cost for the solar, monitor, batteries and inverter will be less than $2,000.

You may want to look at these threads: “Touringdan’s simple portable 200 watt solar system” and “Battleborn golfcart battery & 2,000 watt inverter installation”. Also Dometic portable fridge review.

Here are photos of my Airstream “power plant” and portable panels. My Airstream is off the grid.

DanClick image for larger version

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Old 03-01-2019, 08:19 AM   #8
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I’d have a look at the inergy solar generator. It’s portable, and thus could be used to power your house or trailer.

https://youtu.be/qPlsvVHR0lM
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Old 03-01-2019, 09:04 AM   #9
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Don't understand the utility issue between you and the landlord but on a 187 sf house the cost of utilities should be very low, even in PG&E territory. I suggest keeping the utility problem with your landlord separate from your airstream. Solar isn't cheap.

In fact if the landlord is open to solar, he should be the one paying for it on the tiny house.
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Old 03-01-2019, 09:37 AM   #10
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1966 24' Tradewind
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A strange turn of events has me ready to go solar—need advice.

Kanusport

Thanks for showing me this. I just watched the video. Very impressive. Hard to believe that they pack a 90 AH lithium battery, a battery monitor and a 1,500 watt inverter in such a small 20# package for about $1,500. I paid $1,050 for each 100 AH lithium battery and it weighs 26#. The only question is the warranty (the BB warranty is 10 years) and the reliability.

I don’t like the name. It isn’t a solar generator; it is a battery generator, but that is probably just marketing.

I would recommend the OP consider getting this along with some solar panels and additional golf cart batteries as needed.

Dan
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Old 03-01-2019, 09:41 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kscherzi View Post
Don't understand the utility issue between you and the landlord but on a 187 sf house the cost of utilities should be very low, even in PG&E territory. I suggest keeping the utility problem with your landlord separate from your airstream. Solar isn't cheap.

In fact if the landlord is open to solar, he should be the one paying for it on the tiny house.
Making mods, especially electrical and non permitted would probably increase your landlord problems and provide a strong legal basis for eviction.
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Old 03-01-2019, 09:46 AM   #12
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Here is a thought. Install the solar on the airstream. Then, use the airstream system like a portable solar system for the house; panels, batteries, and the like. The only “improvement” to the house would be the feed connection, panel work, and switching. Much like a backup generator to the house. You could even use a generator as needed to give you some power for the house, airstream and rebuild project. Keep the cost into the house at a minimum.
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