“Back on task! Yellowstone!”
Preparing the camper, part 2: Solar power.
A week ago I blogged about getting the camper and truck ready for the big trek out West. This is part 2. I am going to dedicate this entire entry to just power.
Electricity: There are three sources to consider. Shore power; this is where you have a plug in and use someone else’s source. Typically, this is what is provided at a campground. It comes in 20 amp, 30 amp or 50 amp service. Generator; this is when you have a portable generator that creates power for your RV. Usually runs on gasoline or propane. Renewable; this is where windmill or solar are used to generate power to be stored in your “house” batteries and used when needed.
Most campgrounds will offer hook-ups where you can plug into 30 or 50 amp service. And this usually comes with a cost. Simplest and easiest but can come with some cravats. It is not always reliable and there can be variations. At the very least, get a specialty surge protector similar to this one from Camping World (https://www.campingworld.com/portable-surge-guard-protectors-30-amp)
Surge protector moto
Not all campgrounds have electrical hookups. Also, if boondocking on BLM land or on your “back 40” you will need another source. Here is a place for a portable generator. You can get by with a relatively cheap “construction” genny… but I caution you. They can be loud and the power is not pure (could cause issues with some electronic equipment). Campgrounds frown on these types because of the noise.
House genny on left (noisey and heavy but will power everything) and camper genny (quiet and neighbor-friendly). Some are made to run on either gasoline or propane (or both!).
You can purchase genny’s that are designed for camping (acceptable at most campgrounds). They are quieter, more efficient, but more expensive. Honda and Yamaha are the leading brands but Champion and Harbor Freight (HF) have reliable lower cost models. There are others as well. Do your research. There are different configurations that might work better for you, too. (example: 2 smaller ones can be tethered to double the amp output)
Finally, there is the GREEN option! If you are somewhere where you may need large power consumption (AC, microwave, etc.) this may not be a good option. But like most situations, there are even exceptions to this rule – I have seen large battery banks (six 6v batteries) with 300watt solar systems that will power an AC or microwave.
So, you have decided this is what you want; carbon-neutral footprint! Some considerations: wind, portable or stationary (solar), and battery bank. Even though wind is an option, I have not explored that and will forgo the discussion to just solar.
First, lets talk about power storage. For your 12v system you have at least one deep cycle battery. There are different types of batteries so if you are purchasing them, do your research. And if you are going to do this, get a battery bank of at least 2 deep cycle batteries. If you can afford it, get four 6v golf cart batteries and hook up in series and parallel. Typically, 6v cart batteries will give you more amps – critical when boondocking. There are a lot of articles on line so do some research.
Installing solar can be intimidating (but don’t let it) …and expensive. Again, determine your need and then go forth. My system has two house batteries (12v deep cycle) and I use a Harbor Freight 100watt solar system. I purchased a 2 pin Lug cable with 10A fuse, two spools (25’) of 10 ga wire, and two 2 pin wire connectors. I ran 2 strands of wire (red, white) from the battery to the controller (part of the HF solar set). This is hardwired into the controller. At the other end you attaché one of the connectors. This will plug into the other end of the Lug connector (with 10A fuse) and connect that to the battery bank.
The controller is attached just under the sink. Notice the 12v power outlet. I have a small inverter to run some 110v appliances.
Now run a second pair of wires from the controller to the solar panels. Connect the other 2 pin connector and this will plug into the one the solar panels have. Place the panels in the sun and…Voila! You are now producing power. FREE!!
The first picture shows the panels generating power. I ran the cord into my storage area and then down underneath and came up through the floor under the sink. That is where the controller is. The second picture shows the panels with the hinges attached. (my modification)
This total set-up cost me just over $200 and some DIY abilities …and careful planning.
Options with solar: The panels can be attached to the roof. This works well particularly for the Ronco types (you know, “Set it and forget it”). However, park in any shade, power is diminished greatly. Also, being on the roof they may always be facing up …in the general direction of the sun. But this isn’t always perfect. Mine are mobile so I can place my panels out into direct sunlight. And turn them as the day’s sun moves across the sky. To help me, I attached hinges on my panels so it can fold up like an accordion, which helps with the mobility and storage. Again, assess your situation… then go forth and be totally off the grid!
Next week we prepare to leave …On To YELLOWSTONE !
STAY TUNED! More “tales from the campah”! Coming soon.
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