Monday, July 29, 2013

More Solar / Power

Given the cumbersome nature of my recently created 110 watt solar setup, I decided to augment it with a semi-permanent addition. Over the last year, little amorphous 7 watt solar panels have been at Princess Auto for less than $20. 

7 Watts at 12 volts admittedly is not much. Nevertheless, over numerous visits to the Princess, I ended up with three of these panels. I kind of had a plan, but never acted on it...until now...
Three of these panels mounted quite discretely, stealthly even, in my Vanagon's luggage rack, and you can't even notice them unless you're either 7 feet tall, or standing at an above the van vantage point. I ran the wires through one of the drain holes in the corner of the luggage rack and sneaked them into the van, attaching them to a small charge controller. From there I have a setup comprised of several options: First, I have a plug going to the main starting battery for trickle charging/maintaining that. Next, there's a barrel post connector that I can plug in to my PowerBox 800...
This PowerBox is handy as a booster pack since it has booster cables. It also has a 600w inverter for short-term powering of 110v devices. so I can keep this charged. Finally, I can also run a cable to my main auxillary power setup...two 115 amp-hour Costco Deep Cycle batteries nestled in the van...
pay no attention to the ammo box...heh...heh...
All of this pretty much satisfies the power needs quite nicely, and I like that all my eggs are not in the one basket.

Friday, July 26, 2013

More Solar

I found some time to putter...yay! Along with my two Coleman 40 watt solar panels, I dug out two 15 watt Canadian Tire ones that had been lying dormant. One of them was never even removed from the box. I thought of buying more, but resisted the urge. Sometimes it's best to use what you have, especially since none of this is critical. Nevertheless, a total of 110 watts is better than nothing, so I decided to try and make a "system" of sorts. Basically, I constructed a crude "suitcase" affair from 1x3 strapping and old panel board. Into this, I fitted the two 15 watt panels. Then I added the two 40 watt panels on hinges so that the whole thing unfolds...
   Notice in the picture above, the 15 watt panels are physically larger than the 40 watt ones. They are several years older than the new 40 watt "polycrystalline" ones. This seems to be working out ok, but the whole thing is a bit heavy. However, it folds up and packs away nicely. This is all part of my plan for a semi-portable off-grid power setup. These panels, along with 2 Group-27 Deep Cycle Batteries, an inverter, a small gas generator, and a hefty battery charger should make for a good multipurpose Power Station. Fully charged, I'll have about 250 amp-hours of power. That will easily run my fridge for 3 or 4 days. Assuming those 3-4 days include some sunshine, the solar will extend that considerably. Then the gas generator will only be needed as a last resort, i.e. after 4 days of no sun. That's much better than having to rely on a gas generator the minute the power dies.
One possible problem though is that my little charge controller is rated for a maximum of 105 watts of power, but my setup is actually 110 watts. I'm going to take my chances with that one though. Each of the 40 watt panels came with a charge controller, so if one fries, I'll learn my lesson and buy a better controller, something I have planned anyway...or I might just use both controllers, hooking two panels to each for example...
More to come...

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Solar?

I've been fooling with 12 volt power of late, and seeing how complicated or simple it might be to depend on it. For this, I chose a single task; the powering of my 12 volt cooler. I used a separate 110 amp hour Kirkland (Costco) Deep Cycle battery. The initial take-home message is that I need much more solar collection ability than I have. Combined, my two 40 watt Coleman solar Panels are simply inadequate. I'm not quite getting 5 amps of charge from them, and that's only in ideal conditions. Thankfully, the cooler is quite efficient. The unit draws a maximum of 46 watts, or about 4 amps. Also, it's only cycled on for less than half the time so I'd estimate about 2 amp hours consumption. Assuming one does not want to run their battery much below half-way, we're looking at the single battery easily powering the cooler for a 24 hour period, but not much more. Of course while driving, the battery can charge back up, but if you want to stay put for a few days, you'll need a solution.
 Assuming nice sunshine, my setup can "maybe" put 50 amps back into the battery on a nice long summer day, if I move the panels to better face the sun as the day goes along. So, in reality I can barely keep up.
Knowing this, I think I will conclude that 200 watts of solar panel is a working "minimum".
 With that in mind, I'll probably try and sell my 2 40-watt panels and go with some larger ones. thankfully they are coming down in price. I could add another battery, but that would only be a partial fix. i.e. it would last another day or so, but then I'd still have to recharge everything. Depending on the amount of time you camp without an electric outlet of course, this whole discussion could be a little academic. Nevertheless, it's good to have options. Perhaps I 'll go back to propane refrigeration, but that's another story...

Operation "Johnny Paycheck"

As I plan on exiting my current employment situation somewhere around mid to late 2019, I have launched what I jokingly refer to as “Operat...