On the road . . . with airmiles – page 4 – airstream forums electricity facts for 4th graders

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We’ve been on the road for the past two weeks. We started this trip running from hurricane Irma. First night was in Tallahassee at a personal campground on a farmette. The farmette owner invited us there from a Tallahassee I-10 wayside free of charge with electricity. He had a beautiful five hookup personal campground. We then decided to move farther inland to Dothan Alabama. Again we were offered a free full hookup site at the Peanut Festival Grounds. Again we had to move further away and went to Paul B Johnson State Park in Mississippi for two nights. We then went back to Valdosta GA for one night to return grandkids to their mom and headed north. We went to a family reunion at our previously posted favorite boondocking site at my sister’s in Wisconsin. We are now camping at Flandrau State Park in New Ulm MN. Our plan is to return to Florida via the UP and Lower Michigan. Go to the Airstream factory in Ohio and then take the Blue Ridge Parkway back towards Florida. I’ve updated my nights and miles through Flandrau State Park.

Today I got my Airstream back from Tampa RV after bringing it to them with my first long list of warranty fixes. I am ecstatic to report that the service department completely exceeded my expectations! I was blown away by the positive service experience and follow up communications. They didn’t quit working on my problems until they were fixed.

I brought my Airstream to Tampa RV on Thursday with a list of problems including a ceiling leak, shorted out overhead lights, banging water pump that wouldn’t hold pressure, leaking refrigerator, and several smaller items. They called me Thursday and said the items were fixed, but they wanted to keep it overnight to verify the refrigerator was fixed after it got really cold. Wow! didn’t expect that. On Friday, they found that more work was needed on some of the fixes. Again they worked on it on Friday and called to see if I wanted it for the weekend or if it was OK to leave it there until Monday to again insure everything was fixed. Today (Monday) I went to pick it up. They had the unit plugged in and demonstrated that everything on my list was fixed to my satisfaction. I was blown away by the great service!

We are gearing up for our 2018 summer travels. The plan is to go out west and then up north again. We plan to travel all the way to Seattle this summer. We’re not sure if the route is via California or a more direct route at this point. We will decide the exact route as we go and then will work or way east to visit family in Minnesota and Wisconsin. But before we begin this adventure, Miles is in need of a battery system overhaul.

Even though we tried to maintain our original batteries, they have bit the dust after only 10 months. Miles never sat for more than 30 days without being plugged in for multiple days and the batteries were less than 1 month old when we purchased Miles. Miles was used nearly 100 out of his first 300 days. Sitting around with dying batteries was not the cause of the problem. We believe the cause was due to having low-amp-hour batteries with a low-cost power converter. At first, we considered adding a full solar package with 300AH AGM batteries under the bed before our summer travels. But then we decided to take the improvement in stages.

The first stage was to put flooded 6V golf cart batteries in the original battery box with a blade battery disconnect. We like the idea of having easily replaceable batteries that only cost a couple of hundred dollars while on the road. If we have a battery problem, we can just stop in the next town and replace the batteries, like we do with the 20# propane tanks we have on Miles.

But even with the taller battery box on the 2017, we had to do a modification with 1" square aluminum tubing to fit the blade battery switch above the Duracell EGC2 230 amp hour batteries. These Duracell batteries are actually good-quality Deka East Penn batteries with a history of good performance. Attached is a photo of the battery box modification with the batteries and blade shut-off switch. The square tubing is riveted from underneath. Now there is about 3/4" of clearance over the battery switch. Notice the Deka East Penn label on the batteries and improved wiring layout allowing for easier battery maintenance. The new batteries will provide many more usable amp hours than our original batteries.

The next stage was to improve the charging system with a Progressive Dynamics 4655VL Multi-stage Converter. This converter was designed as a plug-and-play for our existing converter. It took less than an hour to make the change and fits nicely underneath the original cover. No fabrication needed for this upgrade!

The final stage will happen when we are traveling out west. We will have AM Solar install a SunRunner Victron 30MPPT/6 Core with four SP-100 panels and a Victron BMV-712 Battery Monitor. This install will take only two days and require a one night stay in a motel. Then we will give our new solar system a good workout on the return trip.

There was a slight change in plans for our summer travels. Our plan included a two-day stop at AM Solar in Oregon to have a 400 Watt Victron SmartSolar 100/30 MPPT solar system installed. In the process of selecting and planning to have AM Solar install the system, we decided to attempt to self-install it with the option of having AM Solar finish the installation later this summer if it did not go according to plan. We are happy to report the self-install, using the factory pre-wire, was a complete success and therefore we will only be stopping in at AM Solar to say "HI" as we pass by.

Here is one of my wife’s photo collages documenting the installation process. The installation only took about 16 hours spread over a few days. The job was completed without even going up on the roof by using the scaffolding shown in the pictures. The output of this system using the factory pre-wire was impressive with over 350 Watts of solar collection and 23.9 Amps of battery charging from the four 100W panels lying flat as shown in the pictures. A series-parallel design was chosen to minimize voltage drop, allowing for use of the 10 gauge Airstream factory pre-wire. We are ecstatic about these results and look forward to using our solar system throughout our summer travels.