My husband is an electrical engineer by training. He dreams, imagines, and implements projects that are way outside my realm of understanding, which I think makes us a pretty good pair because I understand other things he doesn’t! He installed a 200 watt solar package onto our Airstream and wrote it up as a guest blogger for my little website. Here is how he did it!
I thought I would share some pictures of the 200 Watt solar setup I just installed. As we have a 19′ flying cloud I thought space would be limited but with the way I’ve mounted the panels I think we made great use of the available roof area. It just so happened I had an older 100W solar panel in my garage and I was able to do a test fit before committing to purchase new panels.
As you can see above the space is tight but with the right mounts I would be able to install two panels, one on each side of the front of the trailer. The question was, which mounts? I didn’t find anything online which seems to suit my plan so I made some. The idea was to make a mount that sat flat on the trailer but curves with the panel flat across, slightly raised at the bottom to have the panels sit more horizontal.
This is what I came up with – this is the bottom bracket. It mounts to the curve of the trailer using VHB 4950 and has a pivot to match up with the panels. The top ones were similar but lower profile.
Note that the bracket is threaded as I didn’t think I would be able to get my fingers under the panel to put on a nut.
On the left you can see them mounted to the panel and ready to install on the trailer.
It was easy to mount these to the roof (see right). I left them attached to the panel and sat them on the roof, aligned them, marked where the brackets sat and then took them off. As noted above, they are mounted to the roof with VHB 4950 tape, which works very, very well. Once they were stuck down I covered the edges with Sikaflex to seal them, stopping water getting to the VHB tape.
I think the panel mounts turned out very well. With the wiring I used the factory installed 10 gauge wiring. There were some suggestions in the Airstream Forum that I should have used larger gauge wire. This is a 200 watt install so the wire can take the amps and can tolerate the loss. Is it perfect? Nope. Is it good enough for me? Yep.
The 2016 Flying Cloud has the solar pre-wire hidden in the bottom of the fantastic fan. I removed it and ran it into the air duct and down the trailer a little. This way I was able to meet up with the solar wires under the TV aerial. Below you can see the hole I drilled with the grommet installed.
I covered this with a solar junction box which is also stuck down with VHB tape and sealed with sikaflex.
The solar panels are setup in parallel as they are on opposite sides of the trailer, you never know where the sun will be on them. The Y is on the roof and single wires lead into the trailer where I have an inline fuse.
Under one of the front benches is where the solar pre-wires come out so this is where I installed the MPPT 20 amp charger. Here you can see it mounted without the wires setup yet.
I wired the charger directly to the battery so even if the isolator is on “store” it will still charge the batteries.
Finally, I installed a small remote meter to see what the charger is doing. This I installed under the bench/table, next to my AH meter. I didn’t want to install it using the factory Ethernet cable position which is next to the sink. I wanted my electrical monitors in the same place and sort of hidden.