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Solar Power... Portable Panels when needed

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We found inexpensive Costco $99 100 watt panels an easy upgrade to Solar Power when Boondocking.  When purchasing our last Airstream, a cousin to the Oliver, we had two 80watt panels installed on the roof and a pair a AGM Interstate batteries that have worked perfectly since 2016. Five years is nothing. We had factory Solar on a 2006 and the AGM Batteries were fine when we sold it in 2014.

The Solar Panel sold at Costco cost $99 and come with the Controller and Wiring directly to my AGM Batteries.  I wire the + on one battery positive terminal and the - on the negative battery terminal.  I am not an Electrician, but it works and made sense to run the wiring among both batteries.  It worked in 2019 and still working when the portable panel is brought out, plugged into the, already set up connection from Airstream with connecting plug on the external Battery Box.  The controller is wired within the battery compartment.  I put the controller into a plastic bag, and seal it from water, dust and vibration against the batteries.

We did this in our 2014 Airstream that had NO Solar.  It was expensive to add by the Dealer. For $99, wired up the 100 Watt panel and... never had any 12 volt problems and kept fully charged with plugging in the Solar Panel once parked.  The panel I would move with the Sun when sitting around the trailer. When hiking... set it with some idea of the direction of the Sun.  (Yes... we are not City Slickers lost without Common Sense.)

Two Panels.... 200 watts for $200.  The Costco Panels are heavy duty standard panels... and the included Controller makes it all... WORK.  I show some examples of how a Milk Crate with some rocks in it works.  You can also make a portable stand.  I use the milk crates to store a five gallon water jug in the back of the tow vehicle.

The Solar Panel has a + and a -.  You have to keep that in mind when wiring onto the Controller.  It has a Green Light diode glowing for fully charged and a Yellow when charging.

The wires seem thin, but obviously work from the Controller to each battery terminal.  I can have the trailer in the RV Garage and have a long cord for the Solar Panel, lean it into the Sun... and Presto... charging.  Also charging using the electrical outlet.  Write your name in Magic Marker on ALL SIDES and the BACK of the panel. The panel is of no value, without the Controller for a Thief.  We often park Off the Grid and hike from the campsite.  The tow vehicle is attached... only for convenience. This works.

Your inside monitoring system will show the charge and the Controller will be glowing yellow when the batteries need... some.... Zap.

This is not for those using AC, Television and 110 volt appliances. Boondocking.  We have not used our AC's.  Our televisions. Works great for 12v radio.

Spend $100 or $1200 for a roof panel setup... and if you double your panels... $200 for saving $1000 and more?  I may be old... but even anyone older than 14 years old can figure this one out.  I used an orange extension cord the first time for the older Airstream.  Used the Male and Female plug for wiring and fifteen feet of orange cord attached to the panel.  It worked.  Someone may have more to add.  I am not complaining.  It is my hard saved money... and you may feel the same.

Cousin Airstream may be different... but we all share a common thread.  Using our trailers to the best of our ability.






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We will be doing the same. No roof mounted solar panels for us. My TV has 2 100watt panels that can be switched to provide power to the trailer. Depending on our location  we can add 100 to 300 watts of solar via the input plug on the side off the trailer. A good DC to DC set up and I never worry.

Happy travels,



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There have been a few threads on this.  I have a 140 watt portable Zamp “suitcase” solar setup for our Ollie as well.  We didn’t get the factory solar option, and our Ollie doesn’t have the optional Zamp port on the side of the trailer.  We don’t boondock much, just quick stops off grid on our way to full hookup campsite destinations.  After getting some input from other Ollie owners here and the Facebook page that had done this as well, I made up an adapter plug to connect the solar panel to the 7 pin trailer harness connector.  Two of the connnections on the 7 pin connector are the 12v positive directly to the battery, and the negative ground connection.  The solar panel has a charge controller and stand built in.  It’s worked very well for our occasional off grid stops, enough juice for using the 12v Oliver accessories like the interior lights, water pump, and exhaust fans. And I’ve used the panel once in a while with the Ollie stored as well.  







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Please, never never install an electrical device like a solar controller in the same compartment as a lead acid or AGM battery bank!


Especially one loose and on top of the other connections!!!!! A plastic bag around it will NOT stop a wire from coming loose and sparking! These batteries can vent hydrogen gas and this installation is a recipe for an explosion or a fire. The bag will also prevent the unit from cooling properly. It is an incredibly bad design. When your trailer is destroyed the insurance company will likely deny payment. I don’t know which is worse, this, or the inverter in the engine bay of this truck:



John Davies

Spokane WA


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SOLD 07/23 "Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: 

Tow Vehicle: 2013 Land Cruiser 200, 32” LT tires, airbags, Safari snorkel, Maggiolina Grand Tour 360 Carbon RTT.

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