Starting the solar install

I have been wanting to put on solar for quite a while. The tax incentive was expiring at the end of 2016 so I had to get on it. I started getting parts in July which took a bit of research. I will put my parts list at the end.

Unfortunately, we have had another project to work on. Prior to leaving on our full-timing, we had to redo our house shower. Partially to let our son have a nice workable shower and also to have it ready for resale when that comes to happen. We have finally got the shower done:

This means I can now devote more time to the solar! Yes! The first thing was to figure out what to do with the batteries. We currently have two 12v AGMs in our battery boxes. In our vintage of Airstream (2012), the boxes are on either side of our propane tanks and are actually inside the trailer with doors to get them in and out. Newer Airstreams have the batteries outside in a box directly behind the propane tanks.

I researched how to create a box for our batteries in our little (storage) box that is behind the propane tanks. It couldn’t be done. I was resigned to have only two batteries in their original locations. However, there is another wrinkle. We have thought about replacing our front couch with recliners. This would not be possible with the battery boxes sticking into the habitable area.

In all the research of other peoples’ Airstream solar installs, I came across AStreaminLife. Steve and Courtney have a Classic like we do with the same couch. They had AMSolar do their solar install and were able to put 4 Lifeline AGM GPL-4CT batteries under their couch and still use the couch as it is. Here is a Youtube video about it. That was the plan.

Here is the battery bank as I will put them in the trailer under the couch. I have them on a board to help distribute the weight and a strap to help them not move around too much.

These are 6V batteries and each has 220 amp hours but the way this works is that I will connect two batteries in series giving 12v (you add voltages in series) and 220ah then I will connect those two 12v serial connections in parallel giving 12v and 440ah (you add amp hours in parallel). This is double our old setup and should be.

Here are two pictures. One shows a single battery putting out 6.49v and two in series putting out 13v.

Now I have to clean up the area where the batteries will go. Airstream was not real neat and clean in their wiring. They figured out of sight, out of mind. Here is what I started with:

The two black boxes are where the old batteries were with a door on the outside. Those need to be removed. The silver item is the inverter and it will have to be reconfigured somewhere else. Additionally, I will clean up the wiring and put it on the front wall to get it all off the floor. There is also a subwoofer to put in somewhere but that should be easy.

Here is a view of the old battery boxes from the outside and inside after my modifications:

I covered the inside with aluminum and will insulate between the inside skin and outside door. I will update once I have the wiring done and the batteries in.

Parts list:

  • Blue Sky Energy SB3024IL MPPT Charge Controller
    Refrigerator Vent C-Box
    Cable 2Ga 10 feet
    High Current On/Off Switch (shipping 12.00)
    50′ Solar Panel Extension Wires with MC4 connectors
    Grape Solar GS-ZB-Fab1 Feet Z-mount (Qty 3)
    Renogy MC4 tool
    Renogy MC4 Male/Female connectors (5 pair)
    Solar Panels GS-S-160-Fab8
    1/4″ Copper Lugs
    Bussmann CB185-40 Circuit Breaker
    Blue Sky Energy IPNPRO Pro Remote
    2 Ga 600 amp cables
    35mm Rocker Foot Mount Set
    Lifeline GPL 4CT Battery (Qty 4)

Launch delay…

Years ago when I was still working (that still sounds weird) we had two employees, in a different department, that always complained about things going on in the office. When they retired we thought they would be happy then. Nope. They came back to work with the office on a contract basis! We could never figure out, other than monetary reasons, why someone that hated their work so much would do such a thing.

When people knew about my retirement, about 3 years ago, they would ask if I was going to come back and contract with the office also (which new CalPERS rules don’t allow now)? My joke in return was, “The day of retirement, I will have the trailer hooked up and we will be taking off!”

Well, that didn’t work out, yet. Since there was so much for us to do to get the trailer and truck ready and so much to get rid of at home we shot for the end of January.

This got further delayed due to:

  • Me falling off the ladder and being limited in my activities
  • Ripping out the master shower at home and building a new one from scratch (never having done this before)
  • Waiting for the Snugtop shell for my truck

It turns out that I had 3 fractured ribs not just two and my tailbone is broken/displaced. There is still pain at certain times but nothing like right after I fell!

As mentioned in a previous post, we will not be returning to California to live but we still have our house. Our son, Aaron, will be renting the house from us until he decides he can buy it. If he doesn’t buy it then we will sell it. Either way, the house will be sold so we are looking at it from a resale aspect. Hence the shower redo. Here are two current pictures:

Since I got a new model year truck I have been having to wait for my shell. I ordered it in October! Every time I call for a status it is two more weeks. Sigh.

During the month of January, I was hoping for the end of February. As I write this on the last day of February it is obvious we are going to be delayed again. I have pushed the date back to the end of March.

Maybe… (Don’t hold your breath)