Waiting for the Sun

February 18th, 2011

Our solar panel

Our solar panel… installed

After three years on the road and using a generator, we’ve finally managed to get a solar panel on the roof. The problem with getting the ‘best’ price on solar panels is that we never managed to be in the right place at the right time until this winter. We had to do a local pickup from the warehouse in Phoenix in order to get a single panel in the size / price range we wanted. On the plus side, during the three years we spent trying to figure out how to get a panel, prices dropped significantly. For what we would have paid to get a panel three years ago, we could have easily afforded two today.

On our way to RTR, we picked up the panel. The trouble was the size of the panel! We had to put it on the bed as that was the only safe spot large enough to hold it… which meant Jenn and I, plus the dog and a cat or two slept on the couch our first night in Quartzsite. Comfy.

The next morning, we hit Solar Bill’s shop to pick up some wiring to make a connector for the camper and headed over to RTR. Our first afternoon was spent installing the panel and controller, which probably seemed anti-social to some folks, but I wasn’t going to spend another night on the couch.

Our solar panel is slightly tilted

Our solar panel is tilted…slightly

It’s over a month later and we’ve only run the generator for power tools and a quick charge up right after the installation. I’m sure that’ll change once we leave the desert, but I think we’ll have a lot less generator hassles in the future.

It’s too bad we abused the batteries for three years with constant deep discharges. I think we’ll still get a few years out of them, but they and the inverter are probably the next ‘big ticket’ upgrades. There are also a few smaller tweaks we may do in the future, but even as it stands, I’m loving the ‘free’ electricity that requires so little work from me.

Happy Birthday, Johnny!

June 28th, 2008

happy_birthday

If I had an oven, I would so make you a cake! I know, I am supposed to be using the solar oven, but babes, it wouldn’t be very effective here in the rainforest anyway. Oh, and the fact that we used up all of the sugar and eggs feeding the local folks pie doesn’t help much either.

That’s our new life hun. 🙂 I hope you’re loving it as much as I am.

Glad to be spending another birthday with ya. I am sorry that all I have to give you is this stolen birthday card.

xoxox Happy Birthday, Baby! xoxox

Banana Juice

April 2nd, 2008

I decided to play hooky from work today. As I was sitting around doing finances, Johnny let me know that my bananas were on their way out by proclaiming that he smelled the stench of rotten bananas. Let it be known that Johnny isn’t the biggest fan of fruit. So, he’s a bit more sensitive to the smell of ripe bananas. It was really just his cute way of reminding me of their existence and that something would need to be done soon or there would be a banana puddle. I agreed.

So, off I went in search of something, other then banana bread, to do with bananas that are on their way out. We don’t have an oven in the camper, and I haven’t made a solar one yet. Even when I did have one, I don’t think I ever had the right number of left over bananas anytime I tried to make bread. Anyway, after sorting through 100s of bread recipes, I finally found something unique.

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Some Tech Specs

September 24th, 2007

Still got a bit of waiting to do, but we’re trying to finalize some of our technical gear.

On the power side, we’re going to start with 380 watts of solar panels. These are big honking 3’x5′ 24 volt panels, so we can only fit two without some extra work. If we find we need more watts, there is a possibility of putting a third panel without any major modifications or wiring smaller 12V panels in series for 24V. We will probably be supplementing this with a small generator – I still haven’t decided on a 1000W or a 2000W. Either should run the A/C, so I’m leaning towards the smaller genset for weight and efficiency reasons.

For power storage, we’re going to start with at least 4 12V group 31 batteries. These pack roughly 120Ah each. I’m still up in the air on AGM versus regular old lead acid. The AGM cost about twice as much, but should charge a bit faster and have the capability to be mounted upside down and sideways as well as indoors. The deciding factor may end up being how much junk we are going to haul outside versus inside. A battery stored indoors will have less Ah lost during cold weather, so indoor AGM’s would be a nice way to go.

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It’s Official!

September 2nd, 2007

Yesterday, we put down a deposit on the camper. We added and removed a handful of things that should really optimize the overall comfort for two people.

  • No oven. Really, how often are we going to be baking cookies? A stove is plenty and Jenn wants to play with a solar oven anyway. Maybe we’ll pick up a small grill to go with the thermal cooker. We get a large cabinet where the oven would be.
  • No dinette seating. We opted for the couch instead. This should be more comfortable for general lounging. There is still a table we can set up in front of the couch, although I think we will probably build our own articulating desktops.
  • Wet bath. A lot of people don’t like wet baths. They do, however, provide a lot more room to move around by combining your toilet and shower space. Additionally, we get a very large wardrobe next to the bathroom by saving space. The only real downside in our mind is that the ‘bathroom storage’ is limited to what will fit in a medicine cabinet. But with all the extra storage we gain outside of the bathroom and the increased space to shower properly, it’s a net win.
  • Full wall wardrobe in the cabover. This was a bit more difficult decision. It cost us a nice window, but the extra storage space is considerable. For long-term living, storage is one of our most important concerns. Besides, the window on the driver side is a wide escape hatch instead of a narrow, divided window.
  • No skylight in the kitchen. The benefit of the skylight really seemed questionable to us as we stood in the unit on the lot. It added some light, but only in a limited area. It is one more potential leak and one more place to introduce heat and cold. We save a few bucks by getting rid of it as well.
  • No generator. The standard generator burns LP gas inefficiently, is rather noisy and costs about $3k. We can pickup a quiet, efficient gasoline unit for around $800. It won’t make quite as much juice and we can’t push a button to start it, but overall I prefer this route.
  • 7K BTU air conditioner. Hopefully, this will put an end to my search for the perfect AC unit. It’s a bit higher wattage than I’d like, but I’m more comfortable with it’s ability to cool the camper. Sadly, we actually had to pay more for a 7k unit than if we had gone up to a 13.5K unit. However, with this unit, we should have no problem running it on our downsized generator.
  • Thermal pane windows. They really charge a premium for these, but if we’re going to be in the cold weather, it’s thermal pane or storm windows. And just where are we going to store those storm windows when we’re not using them?

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