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)

End of the Year Trifecta!

Thanksgiving

We celebrated at home this year and it was very enjoyable. A couple days after Thanksgiving we decided to put the rest of our rain gutters back on the house. We took them all down when we had the house painted. We were working in the front of the house (me, Roxie and our son Aaron). I went to the back yard to get up on the roof to get some leaves off the roof. I setup the ladder and started up to the roof. When I reached the top rung the ladder slipped out from under me. Down I came, hard!

Roxie heard a crash and me moaning and rushed to the back yard. I was on top of the ladder and writhing in pain. I was checking arms and legs for any major injuries and wanted to stand up. She didn’t want me to but I was able to. We knew the next stop was the ER.

After about 3 hours in the ER I was found to have 2 displaced broken ribs (not fracture but completely broken), a very sore tailbone, two gashes in my elbow (even though I had a coat on) requiring 10 stitches. The rib pain was manageable but I developed a cough shortly after which was pretty painful.

Here is the ladder that I landed on:

A couple of days later I realized that we had a surveillance camera right where it happened. Here is the video:

Youtube

Christmas

This is the first Christmas with Atlas. We knew we wanted to celebrate with him, Hannah and Lukas. However, we are not the only set of Grandparents. He has Lukas’ side that lives in Auburn. Luckily we were able to spend Christmas with the Prassinos family.

This turned out as an opportunity to tow the trailer on the truck’s maiden tow. It did very well and I had a heck of a spot to get the trailer in there. It was down their driveway and a hard 90┬░ into their spot. It was pouring rain and there were people watch so it was a double hex. I was able to get it on the third try and just chewed up a small portion of their ‘lawn’.

It was really cold and we had both of Aaron’s dogs in the trailer but we did just fine. There were 10 people and 7 dogs to make a grand old time! We were able to spend Christmas with both of our kids and both of our grandkids. Win!

Retirement

I started working at the Tulare County Office of Education on August 26, 1985, as a Programmer Analyst programming on the HP3000 minicomputer in COBOL. 4 positions and 31 years later, it was time to retire. I was planning on going a year earlier at 55 but we were in the throes of building a new building and were given a 4.5% COLA. That was enough to push it back. It worked out well. It gave me a chance to prepare for the afterlife a bit more.

It was a bit surreal to retire at 56 but you never know how much time you have. It also felt like the right time to do it.

As I write this entry it has been over 1 month of retirement and I don’t regret it at all. I have achieved a milestone of sorts, I don’t really remember what day of the week it is now.

Retirement allows us now to move off to our travel plans, but we have to finish our shower in the house first. <sigh>