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Airstream Trailers

Airstream trailer solar power systems are unique in several ways:

  • A curved roof requires specialized mounting hardware.
  • Limited roof space requires narrow solar panels.
  • An external battery box limits the size of battery banks or requires the battery bank to be relocated.
  • Solar pre-wires are frequently factored into the design.

The step-by-step guide below takes you through the myriad options and design considerations for developing a custom Airstream solar system.

Educational Videos for Airstreams

Battery bank

1. Select a battery bank: The battery bank is the heart of the system. We recommend LifeBlue lithium batteries because of their built-in Bluetooth monitoring, high quality, and ability to expand over time. If you can relocate your battery box under a bed or bench, you won’t be limited to two batteries.

We sell LifeBlue batteries as a base kit, which includes one battery, a Victron BMV-712 battery monitor, cable, lugs, and heat shrink, plus expansion kits, which include one battery and parallel cables. For two batteries, select one base kit and one expansion kit. If you want three batteries, get one base kit and two expansion kits.

Visit our Battery Bank product page to compare LifeBlue and Victron lithium battery sizing and specs.

When you upgrade to lithium batteries, you will need to replace your existing converter (likely a WFCO brand device) with something that is lithium compatible. Scroll down to step 4 for details on this.

If your plan is to run an air conditioner, support a 3000VA inverter, or have more than two batteries you will need to move your lithium battery system inside.

Do not let your lithium batteries get below -10° F. Lithium batteries will not charge below 32° F.

 

Estimated Installation Labor Cost
200Ah LifeBlue Lithium System with BMV-712: 10 hours / $1,450

  • LiFeBlue Lithium Battery Bank with BMV-712 Monitor

    This is a complete LiFeBlue lithium RV battery base kit with a Victron BMV-712 Bluetooth battery monitor. The monitor is included to provide cumulative battery bank data, compatible with Victron VRM monitoring. LiFeBlue offers the most comprehensive Bluetooth monitoring showing status, temperature, voltage,...

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  • LiFeBlue Lithium Battery Expansion Kit

    This kit is designed to be an add-on to an existing LiFeBlue battery system. LiFeBlue offers the most comprehensive Bluetooth monitoring showing status, temperature, voltage, current, cycle life, battery health, faults and state of charge. These batteries can only be parallel connected due...

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For larger systems, Victron lithium batteries are recommended because of their extremely compact footprint. Or, if you only need one battery, a monitor is not required for single LifeBlue battery.

  • Victron Lithium Battery System with Monitor (Single Battery)

    ****Online Purchase for Local Pickup Only**** This kit is designed to work with one or two Victron lithium batteries. It does not use a Lynx Distributor to combine batteries. When adding alternator charging or DC distribution, be sure to use kits specifically recommended...

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  • Victron Lithium Battery System with Monitor (Multiple Battery)

    This kit is designed to work with 1-4 Victron lithium batteries in 12V, or 2-8 Victron lithium batteries in 24V. It uses a Lynx Distributor to combine and fuse batteries. When adding alternator charging or DC distribution, be sure to use kits specifically...

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  • Victron Lithium Expansion Kit

    ****Online Purchase for Local Pickup Only**** Add a Victron Lithium battery to an existing Victron lithium system. Do not mix battery ratings in the same system. Parallel Expansion kits are for 12V battery systems. 24V battery systems can be built from an equal...

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  • LiFeBlue LiFePO4 12V Drop-In Battery

    LiFeBlue lithium batteries have integrated controls to automatically protect against overcharging, overly discharging, and frozen charging. This integration makes installation much easier for DIY projects. LifeBlue offers the most comprehensive Bluetooth monitoring showing status, temperature, voltage, current, cycle life, battery health, Faults and...

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Alternator Charging

2. Establish Tow Vehicle Compatibility: A 7-pin tow vehicle connection won’t allow for high current alternator charging, but you can get about 18A when you use a Victron Orion DC/DC charger on the trailer side of the connector. Another advantage of this kit is that it will prevent unwanted current flow from the trailer to the tow vehicle’s starter battery. This kit is not necessary with Flooded or AGM batteries.

With most tow vehicles and Airstream travel trailers, the 7-pin connector allows alternator charging of the trailer’s battery bank. The trailer’s seven-pin connector is typically hardwired leaving the tow vehicle responsible for charging the two battery systems. Unfortunately, many vehicles don’t have any protection built-in, which leaves both battery banks tied together when the trailer is plugged in. This is a major concern for lithium house batteries as their resting voltage is much higher than a typical tow vehicle engine battery. This causes the lithium battery to slowly discharge into the tow vehicle battery and because lead-acid batteries can dissipate energy in the form of heat, this will continue to happen until the lithium battery is below 20%, which could potentially cause damage to the lithium battery. This isn’t good for the system and can be avoided by installing this kit or simply unplugging the trailer when parked for longer periods of time.

This article on high current alternator charging may be interesting:
High Current Alternator Charging and the 7-Pin Connector

Estimated Installation Labor Cost
Tow Vehicle Compatibility with an 18A Orion: 1.5 hours / $218

  • DC/DC Charging: Trailer, Truck Camper, 5th Wheel

    Enable DC/DC charging from your alternator to a secondary Lithium, AGM, or Flooded battery bank. This kit is ideal for systems with older alternators or lithium batteries with input current limits under 100A. Ideal for: Trailers/5th Wheels/Truck Campers *Please note that cables length...

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Solar Charging

3a. Design a solar charging system utilizing a factory pre-wire: If your Airstream trailer has one of the various “solar pre-wire” options, these can save a lot of time and money during an installation, but due to the thin (8ga or 10ga) cable, you will be limited to about 300W of solar panels. If this isn’t enough, skip down to section 3b. Otherwise, here are our recommendations:

A Victron SmartSolar MPPT 100/20 or 100/30 charge controller can be installed along the pre-wire. Use the 100/20 model if you don’t plan on adding portable panels. Because these solar charge controller products use Bluetooth and have no display, they do not need to be mounted in a visible location and should be installed as close to the batteries as possible.

Victron charge controllers usually sense ambient temperature to allow for temperature compensated charging of lead-acid batteries. With an Airstream external battery box, we recommend a Bluetooth temp sensor to network with the charge controller. If you have a Victron battery monitor (BMV-712 or SmartShunt) with a temp sensor or lithium batteries, you will not need this device.

If you plan on using a portable panel, the 30A charge controller gives you enough extra capacity to route any side ports to the input of the charge controller, enabling all solar charging to be controlled on one device.

Estimated Installation Labor Cost
3 x 100W on 30A Controller with Pre-wire: 9 hours / $1,305

  • Victron SmartSolar MPPT 100/20 (12/24/48V-20A)

    Victron SmartSolar MPPT 100/20 (12/24/48V-20A)

    Using the latest, fastest technology, SmartSolar charge controllers maximize energy-harvest by driving current intelligently to achieve a full charge in the shortest possible time. SmartSolar charge controllers offer easy programing of charging profiles to match all battery chemistries using the VictronConnect Bluetooth app....

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  • CCTLR-VT-MPPS-030A

    Victron SmartSolar MPPT 100/30 (30A)

    Using the latest, fastest technology, SmartSolar charge controllers maximize energy-harvest by driving current intelligently to achieve a full charge in the shortest possible time. SmartSolar charge controllers offer easy programing of charging profiles to match all battery chemistries using the VictronConnect Bluetooth app.

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  • TEMP-VTMPP-10M

    Victron Temp/Volt sensor for MPPT series

    Read the voltage and temperature of a battery via Bluetooth on a smart phone. This device can also communicate with Victron SmartSolar charge controllers to send temperature data when the charge controller cannot be installed near the battery bank. Smart Networking Instructions Victron...

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Add panel kits ending in SAE connectors if you have a Zamp three-port combiner box in your prewire.

  • NOIR 100W Solar Panel

    Custom designed by Grape Solar for mobile applications, this 100W panel is ideal for Airstreams trailers, vans, truck campers, and any application where roof space is limited. The Grape Solar NOIR 100W panel comes in several kit variants.  Select the correct kit to...

    • Wattage: 100W
    • Type: Monocrystalline
    • Operating Voltage (Vmp): 19.1V
    • Open Circuit Voltage (Voc): 23.1V
    • Operating Current (Imp): 5.23A
    • Short Circuit Current (Isc): 5.59A
    • Size: 41" x 22" x 1.38" 15.4lbs
    • Frame: Black Anodized Aluminum
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  • NOIR 110W Solar Panel

    Custom designed by Grape Solar for mobile applications, this 110W panel is ideal for Airstreams trailers, vans, truck campers, and any application where roof space is limited. The Grape Solar NOIR 110W panel comes in several kit variants.  Select the correct kit to...

    • Wattage: 110W
    • Type: Monocrystalline
    • Operating Voltage (Vmp): 21.3V
    • Open Circuit Voltage (Voc): 25.7V
    • Operating Current (Imp): 5.18A
    • Short Circuit Current (Isc): 5.60A
    • Size: 68" x 15.4" x 1.38" 17.9lbs
    • Frame: Black Anodized Aluminum
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  • Zamp Obsidian 90W L Solar Panel

    This panel has it all, a low-profile, a narrow footprint, and high output. It is ideal for van conversions, Airstreams, or anyone wanting the latest in mobile solar panel technology. Custom-engineered by Zamp Solar and made in Bend, Oregon. Narrow Footprint: Perfect for...

    • Wattage: 90W
    • Type: Monocrystalline
    • Operating Voltage (Vmp): 18.0V
    • Open Circuit Voltage (Voc): 23.8V
    • Operating Current (Imp): 5.0A
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  • Zamp Obsidian 100W Solar Panel

    This panel has it all, a low-profile, a narrow footprint, and high output. It is ideal for van conversions, Airstreams, or anyone wanting the latest in mobile solar panel technology. Custom-engineered by Zamp Solar and made in Bend, Oregon. High Performance: By using...

    • Wattage: 100W
    • Type: Monocrystalline
    • Operating Voltage (Vmp): 21.9V
    • Open Circuit Voltage (Voc): 25.62V
    • Operating Current (Imp): 4.83A
    • Short Circuit Current (Isc): 4.58A
    • Size:: 20.7" x 43.6" x 0.67" 10.78lbs
    • Frame:: Obsidian Black Anodized Aluminum
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Use Teroson sealant for the mount feet on an Airstream roof. You can also add portable panels. If you want to use a portable panel, we recommend oversizing the central charge controller so it can handle both the roof array and the portable panel.

  • TEROSON MS 5510 Sealant (legacy)

    Ideal for Airstream roofs, Teroson protects the VHB tape from the elements and is UV rated. Use it to seal around mount feet, cable management hardware, and combiner boxes attached to roofs. Do not use Teroson on TPO roofs. TEROSON® MS 5510™ WHITE...

  • Zamp Side Port Integration Kits

    These kits integrate a Zamp side port to either an existing solar charging core or directly to the battery bank. Ideal for Zamp folding panels that are