Sunday, January 14, 2018

Rethinking Solar

Readers of the blog will recall that I decided against a permanent solar panel install on the roof of the Mini like I had on the Tank due mostly to me not wanting to drill into the roof of the Mini fearful of future water damage, the bane of all RV owners.  Instead, I went with a 2 panel 200 watt "Solar Suitcase" from Renogy, a California-based solar company which tends to give a better solar "yield" than panels that lie flat because the suitcase can be aimed at the sun at the most beneficial angle.

The 200 watt Renogy Solar Suitcase in action.

Rather than use lead-acid batteries like I did in the Tank I went with lithium-ion batteries that have the advantage of being much lighter albeit at a significantly higher cost.

The Mini's lithium-ion solar generator.  345 watt hours of goodness.

Initially, the system worked great.  The Solar Suitcase would quickly charge the solar generator and keep it charged all day during heavy usage.  In fact the Solar Suitcase was TOO efficient as after the 100% charged meter showed up the generator's internal fan would kick in, indicating the lithium-ion battery was getting too warm from charging.  (Ask Samsung Corp. if lithium-ion batteries can overheat and catch fire.)  Re-reading the generator's manual I discovered that the manufacturer said not to charge the generator with more than 100 watts of solar...oooops!  As a partial fix during really sunny days I'd cover one of the Solar Suitcase's two 100 watt panels, effectively reducing it's output to the desired 100 watts.

Covering a panel to reduce the solar charge to the generator.

I decided to use the suitcase to charge the Mini's 12 volt lead-acid battery and purchased a new Renogy 100 watt panel that I'll use to charge the generator.  I'll still have the suitcase available to charge the generator on cloudy days when efficiency is reduced due to lack of sun if needed.

The stand-alone 100 watt Renogy panel for the generator.

This week is the big move to a two week boondock in the desert outside Quartzsite so I'll get a great chance to break-in the new solar setup and I'll be sure to update how it's working.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Prepping for the Desert

My time here at the Escapee's Benson, AZ facility is slowly drawing to a close.  Plans now are to take the Mini further west to Quartzsite for the Big Tent RV show and two weeks of boondocking on the BLM land south of the town.  I've got a couple of years experience with desert boondocking and I've come to a couple conclusions about what it will be like staying there in the Mini.  First, it can get really windy in western Arizona in January and winds can come up in a hurry.  When I camped there in the Tank it wasn't the biggest deal because the Tank didn't have an awning.  The Mini has a large awning and it really helps shading the sunny side of the trailer from the sun but a strong wind could easily make it act like a sail and flip up, possibly damaging the awning and also the roof of the Mini.

The Mini's awning shading the sun from the wall,

Camco, an RV after-market parts vendor, sells a couple of awning tools that can help secure an awning in at least moderate winds.  I ordered both their Awning Stabilizer Kit (tie downs that attach to stakes that screw into the ground) and their Awning De-flapper Kit (attaches to the awning material in the middle where winds coming from either end of the Mini could cause intense flapping which could rip the awning material if it was intense enough.)

The two awning kits and a awning mat in the middle.

The second major problem you experience when boondocking in the desert is the amount of sand and dirt you track into your RV (it is the desert after all!).  With the Tank I can recall having to sweep it out several times a day which was a pain after a few days.  I also bought a 6 foot by 9 foot awning mat that I plan to deploy under the awning and in front of the steps up into the Mini.  The mat comes with four stakes to secure it to the ground and is made up of a fibrous material that allows sand and dirt to drop through it instead of remaining on the mat's surface.  We'll see, I guess.  I'll post pictures of the gear after I've deployed it after I pick my campsite at Quartzsite.  Plan is to depart from here January 17th break the four and a half hour drive in two by stopping and getting a few more things I'm going to need at a Home Depot in Tucson.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Last Meal

Happy New Year, everybody!  I'm really looking forward to camping in some awesome locations in 2018.  On the last day of the year I always have a "Last Meal" (of the year) and here's what this year's looked like:

Diet?  What diet?
The T-Bone was grilled medium rare on the Mini's gas grill.  The baked potato was microwaved to perfection in the Mini's microwave and the salad...well, salad is pretty much salad.  I was too full after finishing to even think about desert!  Have a safe evening!

Thanks for reading!