The Great Outdoors: Getting Through The Packing

Packing for camping or a vacation is like cutting through twenty steel walls to get to the safe or licking a Tootsie Pop to get the to the chocolate center without chewing. The prize is there but you have to earn it.

Its 3:15 PM and we’re finally on the road to go camping and prospecting again.  We’ve been up since 7:30am. What took so long? I swear I was packing while I was watching YouTube. 

Now I’m too tired to go camping. I need a nap. Thank goodness I’m the copilot. It doesn’t help that I had to take an antihistamine for a localized allergic reaction to a bee sting. I’ll be ready to sleep when we get to camp – or before. 

I hate packing so much, I have to be forced to do it. I can’t go shopping for clothes or dishes when we get to the campground. I put it off until I can no longer ignore the fact that it must be done.

gold panning road
On the way. The weird white object is our skull.

Its a grueling obstacle that must be overcome before the fun begins. Too much staging and organizing. I wish I could hire a professional packer: Merry Packers.

As much as I despise packing to go camping there’s one thing worse: packing up to go home – and worse – in the rain. I guess that’s two.

There’s a lot of dirt in the woods and cleaning up sopping wet, muddy tents and clothes and shoving them into the back of a vehicle when everyone’s exhausted and bummed out because its Sunday – well, you get the idea.

How many of us want to unpack the entire car when we get home? We never really finished unpacking from the trip we took two weeks ago. It made it a tad easier to get ready yesterday. Only a tad.

We’re considering leaving the car packed for outings but that would still require some organization or risk finding the hotdogs we lost on the last trip two weeks later under the wet clothes we forgot to take into the house.

That reminds me of the time I brought home something extra from a camping trip. I was driving the car down the freeway and had to get something out of the glove box. I opened it up to see a mouse peering out at me. I closed the box and kept driving.

I suppose in the end, a little work is a decent trade off for the rewards of vacations and camping. The job can seem overwhelming but the payoff of spending some time in the outdoors is worth every scoop of sand in the washer – and some.

gold panning road back
The mighty Columbia River near the Canadian border.

Ode To A Power Inverter

The usual disclaimer that I love my solar power system but my power inverter seems to have fallen victim to either myself or the elements and it just makes for good material. The metering is confusing so I’ve underlined the syllables you put emphasis on.

You once sat so proud upon the top shelf of the rack

Your spot above the batteries the leader of the pack

Then one fateful rainy night I went out to go ground you

I raised the lid and God forbid a drop of water found you

I flipped your switch there was a glitch as I dealt the death blow

That was the end can’t comprehend Be missed more than you know

You failed the test you weren’t the best now all I have is scrap

To Amazon where you belong you sorry piece of crap

I bid adieu I feel for you it just might be my fault

Made a mistake you I did break was a form of assault

Now I’m stuck and out of luck no microwave, TV

Back to the gen where I began for electricity

DIY Solar – A Poem

A venting I must go

Bought a freakin’ solar kit

Thought it’d really be a hit

Catch the sun rays from the sky

Found out different tell you why

First you have to wire it right

Clamp them hard and do it tight

If you don’t they break in two

When you strike them with your shoe

Get it all set up and goin’

Plug it in and nothin’s showin’

Check it all with a volt meter

Skip a wire and you’re a cheater

And when you still don’t get power

Throw a wrench go take a shower

Next day when you’re at it still

Find out your controller’s ill

Then redo it put together

Hope that rain’s not in the weather

Find out that your cable’s wrong

Wow this’ now taking too long

All I want is my TV

Tools all over skinned my knee

Cables came redid them all

Will my power come on at all

No of course not that’s too easy

Batteries fried and I’m uneasy

Check the RV for the problem

Breakers sockets test all of ’em

Turns out that we’ll be just fine

Only use it at night time

What to do now what is next

Send the comp’ny email text

Hit the troubleshooting checklist

At the bottom and now I’m pissed

What the fuck did I do wrong

That I can’t turn my lights on

Feel so mad like I’ve been jerked

Bought a gas gen cause it works!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overwhelmed

Trying to keep up.

I feel so overwhelmed right now.

We got our shed about a week ago and I expected to have it up in one day but there it sits. We’ve been working on it but there isn’t enough time in one day and dark coming earlier hasn’t helped.

The matter with the neighbor over the cul-de-sac derailed us for a day and a half. We left a succinct letter for him and his wife on one of his fence posts and are waiting for a response – if any. He’d previously gone onto our property (past well marked posts), and spray painted survey marks on the ground for the cul-de-sac he was planning – for all of us.

We had wood delivered the other day and you’d think we never get visitors by the way we spent an hour showing the guys around the property. We traded some antique ax heads for a discount. One of the guys does handy work so we may have some help with the work around here. The shed might be his first project if he’s game.

I insulated the battery bank tonight. I got a plastic container and we hefted the batteries and about two-million wires and cables into it. It’s now lined on all sides with foam board insulation.

The fire wood is mostly stacked thanks to my husband and son. We’ve been trying to involve him more in chores for the benefits those things offer a young person.

Work in progress photos:

Our sizable new water tank needed to be refilled but alas, the freeze snuck up on us and the hoses froze with water in them. It took us an hour yesterday to drag them all downhill from the spring and get them into a tub of hot water. After soaking them, my husband had to use the pump to force all the ice out. It was exhausting and we’re emptying them after each use from now on.

I moved the ever-growing pile of tools, fasteners, parts, and the propane fridge we got a month ago out of the trailer. We want to put it all in the shed but it still needs to be built!

We need to clean up the messes from all of  our projects too. It never ends around here.

I also have a million administrative tasks to do. I’ve been grouchy from the sheer volume of items. I drew a big mind-map on some card stock and filled it with every item to be done – complete with sub categories. I hope to dispel some stress by getting the morass out of my mind and onto paper.

Writing also helps me to cope when I feel overwhelmed. It’s a little like talking to someone only they don’t talk back. 🙂

 

 

 

HUGE Industry-Wide Problems With Solar

This and some other issues need to be addressed.

It’s been a couple of months since we bought our solar power system and we’ve noticed a big problem that seems to run across the DIY industry: the kits don’t have a built-in low voltage disconnect (LVD) for the AC part of the set up.

Solar kits run both AC and DC loads. The AC is the one you would use for your home. It’s strong enough to run the big appliances. The DC is stuff you run right off of your batteries like when you go camping.

With batteries, if you deplete them too much, they become damaged and their lifespan is shortened significantly.

Our solar power kit came with charge controllers that have a low voltage disconnect (LVD). It cuts the draw from the batteries at a certain voltage to protect the battery but ours only turns off the DC load – the part we don’t use.

The inverter that came with our solar kit turns off the load at 10.5 volts – way too late.

Because we thought everything was being monitored, our batteries ran well below fifty percent many times. We wonder if they’re ruined.

I bought a generic LVD from another company and installed it but it stopped working, possibly because it couldn’t handle the amount of amps going through it. I was warned that might happen.

We had to remove the relay so the inverter would work again but now we are back to square one. One option we have is to buy an inverter that is programmable but they’re super expensive.  We now have no way to monitor the batteries but we kind of don’t care. I’m tired of messing with this stuff for now. I need a break so we’re back to using the gas generators until everything is running smoothly.

Here’s another thing to be aware of if you live in an RV: when you’re adding up how many watts the various appliances use per hour, don’t forget  you’re charging the RV batteries also.

I had a ball trying to figure out how many watts it takes per hour to charge fifty percent of two batteries. I’d share the formula but I lost the paper with my notes on it.

The solar kits come with a battery thermometer that plugs into the charge controller. The temperature probe gets taped onto the side of the battery to let the charge controller know how much energy to use to charge the battery, depending on whether it’s super cold or hot. They’re not mandatory but they make charging more efficient.

There are a lot of variables that impact the functioning of a solar power system. If one part isn’t running or working well, there goes the whole thing until you track down the problem.

I believe a low voltage disconnect is the most important part by far. Batteries are expensive. Every DIY kid should have one built into the AC part of the system.

I love having solar but the truth is it’s been a huge pain in the but to set up properly.

This poem says it all:  Rant Poem On DIY Solar

 

How Many Is Enough?

A solar poem.

One two three four five six seven eight

How many solar panels does it take?

Nine and ten and eleven and twelve

Now you’ll have to buy some shelves

Thirteen fourteen fifteen sixteen

This is really getting extreme

Seventeen eighteen nineteen twenty

Quick the generator’s empty

 

 

Good Things To Know About Batteries For Your Solar Power System

Hint: You get half of what you pay for.

It’s five o’clock in the afternoon and as soon as we got home I, as usual, check the status of our new solar power system.

To my dismay, the charge controllers are only showing that the batteries have a 11.9 volt charge or forty percent state of charge (SAC). They should never be discharged below fifty percent.

It appears as if the batteries are either not charging or they are not holding a charge. To find out, we’ll have to test them. It’s also overcast and when there are multiple possible causes, the fun begins.

When we bought the solar power system we learned a lot about deep-cycle batteries (their are other types you can use for solar) including the fact that you’re only supposed to discharge them no lower than fifty-percent. If you do, the battery won’t work as well the next time around and it’ll get worse the more times you over-discharge them.

So basically, when you buy one battery you’re buying one-half of a battery and you only get to use half of the amp hours listed on the label if you don’t want to ruin it.

Plan to buy twice as many batteries as you think you’ll need.

But wait, there’s more.

The batteries are where all of that free energy will be stored until you use it. If it isn’t set up properly, all of that sunshine is going somewhere besides your refrigerator. It’s a good idea to learn a little about them if you’re going solar.

20200526_201125

Setting up a battery array can be confusing and the topic of batteries in general, is hotly debated in the online forums. Some issues you will have to deal with are:

  • How to connect them correctly (there are many different configurations).
  • How many solar panels at how many watts per panel will you need per battery to charge them each day?
  • How many batteries will you need to meet your power needs?
  • How to calculate how much power you’ll need.
  • How to equalize the batteries in your array or does your controller do that for you?
  • What is equalization?
  • What type of battery is best and how much of it’s charge can you use to prevent rendering it useless?
  • How to tell if it’s useless (one bad battery will compromise the performance of the rest)

Try browsing any forum looking for answers and you’ll find certain personality types:

  • The guy with the overly scientific approach who posts mathematical formulas broken down into several categories depending on the type battery, panels, geographical location and whether or not you like peanuts.
  • The guy who gets right to the point; “your batteries are dead, done, depleted, sulfated.”
  • The poor newbie who dared ask a question without all of the information needed for the first guy to apply his scientific formulas.

Another thing we didn’t know about batteries is that they may be bad but appear to be good if you don’t test them the right way. A surface charge is the false reading a bad battery will have right after it’s fully charged – but it’s temporary. Make sure you test a battery at least four hours (preferably twenty-four), after it’s been fully charged in order to get an accurate result.

We’ve had batteries tested at stores that had a surface charge showing they were full that, when tested later, dropped volts – they were bad.

We’ll test our batteries and if they’re good, the problem lies elsewhere in the system.

Learn the basics about batteries before you buy a DIY solar power system. It’ll help you to not ruin them like we may have ours. Not everything is in the instruction manual.

And get a low-voltage-disconnect to protect them from over discharging. HUGE Industry-Wide Problems With Solar

 

 

 

 

The DIY Solar Energy Learning Curve

A sure-fire formula for guessing.

E=mc/2 + 100 volts/230X67 + 6 batteries +8 solar panels, times the total amount of appliances you have divided by 50 percent of the watts needed to power Las Vegas – 10,000 liters and cubits divided by the number of hours in a typical day in Antarctica; Divide that number by whatever parallel you live at and reduce that by another 50 percent and add in the number of teeth your dog has and that’s the formula to follow to estimate how much power you’re going to need from your DIY solar power system.

Unless you want to use the washer/dryer on Tuesdays rather than Wednesdays and in the spring and not winter. If your preference is winter, redo your calculations and add one.

My head would start to spin when I cruised the websites searching for information on setting up a solar power system.

I looked at charts of average watts and amps used by various appliances and read about how many watts a solar panel produces and tried my damnedest to figure out how many batteries we should have (depending on what size) and how configuring them differently would produce more volts or amps or something and less of something else.

I finally gave up and ordered the basic four-panel starter kit from Windy Nation, a wind and solar power company.  Of course it wasn’t enough so we ordered four more panels and I redid the calculations. This time I came up with a number that clearly showed we were now at about a third of what we would need to produce one-hundred percent of our own power.

Progress.

learning curve

Regardless of the math involved to start, I love having solar power. After the initial cost it’s free! I’m chomping at the bit for more panels although I have yet to figure out for certain, how many batteries we need for the number of panels we have. I think we’ll need a larger inverter, also. For the time being, we have a solid compliment to our generator.

You really do learn as you go. The best calculations can’t teach you what real world experience can, like if something has moving parts, it uses more electricity.

To cut down on energy usage, we switched out all of the regular light bulbs with LEDs and replaced the electric water heater with a propane model. We need to get a propane fridge.

So initially setting up is a pain in the ass but I totally recommend solar.

Hopefully your learning curve won’t twist into knots like ours did.