This is the first solar power system we have installed in a horse trailer. This client is an avid outdoor enthusiast who spends a lot of his time on horseback riding trails throughout the United States. His website is devoted to providing accurate, detailed information about the trails he rides, so that other riders know what to expect when tackling a new trail. He came to us to have solar power installed so that he could charge the equipment he uses to document his journeys without draining his batteries. The solar power system we installed will allow him to record and share his adventures without having to worry about his batteries dying at an inopportune moment. Check out his website at www.trailmeister.com
These clients like to travel around the country with the goal of avoiding hot weather. They are headed for Alaska for the next several months, and on their way, they stopped by to have solar power installed to offset some of their electrical usage. We installed 400W of solar power on their roof, and the majority of their system control components were installed under their bed. This Airstream came with a Zamp portable solar panel plug, which they wanted to be integrated into the solar system we installed. We set up this system with expansion in mind, so if they find that 400W isn’t enough to offset their light DC loads, they have the option of using a portable panel, and/or they could choose to install up to another 200W on their roof.
This is another client of ours that made the decision to move out of their traditional home and live the RV lifestyle full-time. This client actually had their brand-new Escape trailer delivered to our facility by the manufacturer. They are planning on working full-time out of their trailer while traveling around the country. The 360W solar power system we installed will help keep their batteries charged, and allow them to run some light DC loads while they journey throughout the country.
This client wanted to install a small amount of solar power now with the potential for adding more in the future. We fully wired their trailer, installed a 40A Blue Sky charge controller, our AM Solar Roof Combiner Box, and 360 Watts of solar power. When ready to expand, all they will need to do is mount more solar panels to the roof, and wire them into the Combiner Box. That’s a job they should easily be able to do themselves as a DIY project now that the hard work is out of the way.
On Airstreams, due to their rounded roofs, we often use different sized feet to attach the solar panels to the roof. Some clients like to have the panels conform to the curvature of their roof, others prefer a more level appearance. We are happy to install them either way, or even come up with custom mount sets when necessary. This client asked us to use taller feet on the outside, and shorter feet on the inside, resulting in a flatter look. At the end of the day it’s only about personal preference as the performance difference is generally negligible.
This is the most solar power we have ever installed on an Airstream. Our client will be able to run their residential refrigerator and even an air conditioner for a few hours at a time. This is the gold standard for an Airstream power system upgrade and the artistry and technical know-how demonstrated on this job are why AM Solar is typically booked out four months in advance.
These clients were already very familiar with off-grid living before they came to us. They own property that is completely off-grid, and they live there self-sufficiently. In order to take their off-grid lifestyle mobile, they came to us to have a small mobile power system installed on their Wildwood trailer. We installed 320W of solar power, a 220Ah battery bank and a 250W inverter, which is just enough DC and AC power to provide energy to meet their minimalistic needs.
AM Solar installs a wide range of power equipment on RVs which gives us the flexibility to customize our systems to match a wide variety of customer preferences. For example, this customer was familiar with the Bogart Engineering PWM charge controller interface and wanted it on his Airstream. We were able to accommodate, and set him up with 400W of solar on an SC-2030 charge controller.
The narrow dimensions of our SP100 solar panels make them ideal for the curved roofs of Airstreams. Our adjustable mounting feet allow clients choose if they want the panels mounted level or following the contours of the roof. We replaced the Airstream factory charger with a Progressive Dynamics PD9260 for more gentle treatment of the batteries, which increases their lifespan. At 600W, this is one of the largest solar arrays we have installed on an Airstream.
When our installation schedule permits, we occasionally take on small solar trouble shooting projects. This client came to us with an old solar charging system that wasn’t working properly (Not one of our jobs) and asked us what we could do to make it work. We remounted the solar panel, changed out his cabling and connected his charge controller. A system this size will maintain his batteries when the trailer isn’t in use.
This rig came to us with a factory solar pre-wire that was completely inadequate for the client’s power requirements. We replaced the pre-wire with a much thicker set of 4ga cables and we replaced the factory PWM charge controller with a 40A MPPT controller. Now the rig has 480W of solar, a new 300Ah battery bank and an advanced three stage charger.
This Airsteam owner had one of our Essential Lithium battery banks installed with a battery monitor, 2000W inverter and 500W of roof mounted solar panels. Because lithium batteries are damaged when charged at temperatures below freezing, we included one of our cold charge automatic disconnect kits. Along with the roof mounted solar, we included a 120W Zamp folding panel on its own Victron MPPT charge controller.
This client came to us with an existing 400W solar charging system using flexible panels (which we discourage due to reliability issues) and an additional 120W folding panel. We replaced the original roof wiring because one of the four panels had stopped functioning, added two SP100 solar panels and upgraded the charge controller. We also replaced the PWM charge controller on the folding panel and added a Victron MPPT charge controller with Bluetooth monitoring. Next, we added a 600Ah Signature lithium battery bank and a 3000W inverter, which all fit tightly under the bed. This is one of our most elaborate installs.
A client brought in his 2015 Airstream with the following request of AM Solar:
Design an off-the-grid power system (for dry camping and boon-docking) that “runs itself” and requires as little maintenance and oversight as possible both when the trailer is being used and when it is stored.
- Trailer is used for six weeks in the summer, often in shaded campgrounds, 95% of the time without electrical hookups. Stays range from 3-5 nights before moving to next location. Trailer is also used during the other three seasons typically for three-night stays.
- Client has monitored his power usage in the trailer for the last year and a half and concluded that 40-50amp hours is the typical 24 hour energy usage.
- Client doesn’t want to have to bring the batteries to a full charge after each use. Due to not utilizing campgrounds with electrical hook-ups, staying in shaded areas, and often driving short distances between destinations, there is often not enough time to fully recharge batteries via solar and vehicle alternator, especially in the off-season.
- When sun is available, the client wants to utilize every watt possible from their panels to recharge the batteries as they often only travel 2-4 hours before stopping at their next destination.
- Client wants an option to add additional battery capacity and/or solar panels if desired for future energy needs.
To accomplish the above client goals we spec’d one of our Lithium Battery Systems, solar panels, solar charger, and battery charger.
- Because the customer has light AC loads, we chose a 200Ah Essential Lithium Battery system. This will comfortably give them the five nights of camping desired with almost no solar panel input if they are camping under trees in the winter. If the client desires greater battery capacity in the future, this system can be expanded easily with an additional 200Ah bringing the total to 400Ah. Additionally, unlike lead-acid battery based systems, the lithium battery does not need to be recharged to 100% after each use.
- Due to the potential for tree cover, we chose 400W of solar panels to give the client ample solar charging capacity.
- We chose a 50A charger to maximize all available power (solar and vehicle alternator) to recharge the batteries as quickly as possible.
- We chose a three-stage battery charger so that the client can leave the trailer plugged in when stored without having to be concerned about the batteries being charged correctly.
Because the BMS on the Essential system acts on the negative side of the batteries (ground control), the negative (or chassis) from the tow vehicle with the alternator is at a slightly different voltage than the negative output of the lithium system. This creates a design challenge since shorting the negative output of the lithium system to the tow vehicle chassis would damage the BMS.
In a van conversion or coach, the issue of having two different negatives is easily resolved by routing the output of the lithium battery through the Orion 12/12 DC converter. The negative output of the Orion converter can then be tied to the chassis and all positives for the DC loads get re-routed to the positive output of the Orion. If the total DC load is more than 30A, multiple Orion converters can be connected in parallel. Inverters, or anything else that can have their negative isolated from the chassis will just connect directly to the output of the lithium battery system without going through the Orion converter.
In trailers, the issue of having two different negatives is solved differently. In this situation, the Orion converter goes on the input side of the lithium system, thus isolating the trailer from the tow vehicle’s chassis. When this is done, the Orion converter has to be modified so it’s output voltage is 14.2V instead of the factory 12.0V. This is accomplished by carefully tuning a potentiometer inside the converter that is accessible when the cooling fan is removed. This design will limit alternator charging current to 30A, but it will protect the BMS from having it’s input and output short circuited.
This trailer came to us with an existing solar charging system and a conventional inverter. We rewired the AC circuitry to enable load sharing with a Victron 3000VA hybrid inverter. In other words, this system can now draw from shore power and the battery bank at the same time. We also upgraded the lead-acid battery bank to a 400Ah Signature Lithium system with Color Control Monitor showing complete system status. The result is a very powerful yet compact system.
We installed a 300W solar panel system with an MPPT charge controller and a 300Ah AMS Generation 1 Lithium Battery System. In order to install the battery bank and access the existing inverter we had to very carefully remove the bed and then put it back once everything was connected.