Sunday, 15 November 2015

Solar panels

After many years keeping an eye on the development and falling price of flexible Solar Panels, I decided to take the plunge. 
I'd opted for two Baird Semi-Flexible Panels
They come in various sizes and wattages 
The main limitation on the Airstream roof is the size of the gap between the vents, so rather than one large panel I went for two 60w panels wired in parallel which fit neatly between the vents.
 Luckily I'd planned for this eventuality by wiring a dedicated circuit and taping the wire to the inside of the roof of the Flying Cloud. I'd measured & recorded where but not drilled the skin - so I was a little nervous when I did drill form the outside. Luckily I was pretty close & with some stiff bent wire I was able to hook out the cable - phew !
I went for a grey marine cable inlet which had a rubber gasket & cable sheathing...and Vulkem to make sure !
 So with the two panels wired in parallel, I would have 120w @ 12v
 Its never nice drilling into your skin but I just didn't trust mastic alone. So 4 large-headed rivets per panel & Vulkem, should keep them there in all weathers
 I was particularly impressed with the build of these panels. The solar cells are encased in plastic & bonded to a thick sheet of aluminium and the height is only 3 or 4mm. They have a small box where the cable exits the panel but even that's only 10mm. Price (through Amazon) under £70 each
Topside wired 
 Now for the inside. I'd been very impressed with the 240v Ctek Charger, so, after reading many reviews (all good) went for the Ctek D250S to manage the solar input and intelligently charge the batteries (one now, but I plan to have two). The Cteks are more expensive but they really do a good job and the various tests suggest that they'll extend the life of your battery, so will repay that extra over time.
 I'm trying to use LEDs where I can but with a lot of vintage light fittings I was very pleased to find Bedazzled, who supplies BC & ES fitting LED bulbs in 12v (most of the market is for 240v) mainly for the Canal & Narrowboat market.  They're a little more pricey but its nice not to have to cannibalise my old light fittings to fit new LEDs
So with 12v power constantly being topped-up it was time to sort more of the lights out. 
On top, I used aluminium tape for the cable runs, its simple, durable & invisible from the ground 
 Pretty neat, if I say so myself
 Next to be rewired was the original ceiling light. Unfortunately one of the casualties of the Flying Cloud's Atlantic crossing but after many years of looking, my good friend Sam Harkness of Vintage Airstreams UK, had one surplus to requirements...
...and very fine she looks too - many thanks Sam
I'm sure solar panels will get better & cheaper, year by year, but you have to take the plunge sometime & while I'm glad I waited I'm now very happy with the set-up I now have. And form ground level, you can't see any hint of them.


  1. Nice install! You've got me motivated to get this done before the next camping season.

  2. Thanks - I have to say that while most Airstream restoration jobs always take much longer than anticipated, installing these was a breeze & went completely to plan. And the charging is excellent, so I'd say get it done !