It's all about the sun!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

I woke up early because I needed to be at Discount Solar by 9 am. The good thing about getting up early is actually SEEING the sun rise. It was beautiful yesterday morning.



I got the the shop about 15 minutes early, after a short defugalty with my inadvertently leaving my front door unlatched (happens when you exit one door, fully intending to re-enter that door but get side tracked and actually enter the driver's cab door...LOL)

They got us right in and we went through my requirements again. When I initially set up the appointment I was going with two Kyocera 130 watt solar panels. After much thought & discussion that day, I went with three since the additional labor was only $50 if done now. Since then I had decided to add another 64 watt panel if there was room...I would only be slightly over my budget and since I would be saving labor charges, it made sense.

They got up on the roof and laid out a plan for the three panels and possible location for the fourth, smaller one. We went inside to discover that there were no more 64 watt panels, there was a 55 watt and while they were measuring it I asked about the 80. We went to the showroom and they were all sold as well (that's what happens when you get your solar at the end of th Quartzsite show rather than before). While we were discussing the option of adding the 55 watt panel, one of the salesman broke in and said he had one 80 watt that had been saved for someone, no money down, no name, no phone number. Turns out the owner had been asked by someone he knew to hold it...he checked it out and released it to me. (Yes, I need a bumper sticker that says I AM A POWER PIG)

So the final panel setup was four Kyocera solar panels - three 130 watt panels (7.4 amps each) and one 80 watt panel (4.5 amp).

Next battle was the batteries. I had ordered six AGM 12 volt batteries, IF we could find room for them. I was sure I could easily fit four but again, Power Pig at work here. We opened the various compartments on side of the rig and they started measuring. At the same time we discussed where my inverter and Solar Boost controller would go. I opted to add the tilt mounts (more money) so if I am parked for a longer time and need them tilted, I have the capability (if I can find someone willing to go up on the roof & do it...and someone to undo it later...LOL!)

In the end they managed to fit five of the batteries in the battery compartment and one in the next storage bin where they also mounted the controller and inverter. Now the work started....one on the roof mounting the panels, one doing the batteries, both of them involved in pulling the wiring and one more doing the supervising and the final inverter wiring and setup.

I took a lot of photos as the day progressed, here they are and then I'll outline my final setup for you.

Inside the Store

Measuring the 80 watt Panel



Battery Setup



Installing Solar Panels, Tilt Mounts & Sealing Roof



Inverter/Charger, Solar Boost & Remotes


Last night I mostly charged my laptop which was almost 100% depleted. This morning I ran the TV, DirecTV DVR, the microwave for less than two minutes, my laptop, the water pump, the water heater and catalytic heater...just as the sun was coming up. I could see a small charge coming in and that meant only 8 amps were going out. I was impressed!

Here is the final setup:
  • 3 Kyocera 130 watt (7.4 amp) Solar Panels
  • 1 Kyocera 80 watt (4.5 amp) Solar Panel
  • 4 Sets of Tilt Mounts (tilt to either side of the rig)
  • 6 Lifeline AGM 12 volt Batteries
  • Blue Sky Solar Boost 3024i 30 amp Charge Controller with remote IPN
    NOTE: can piggy-back another of the same controller to handle more solar panels
  • Prosine 2.0 Inverter/Charger with remote panel
    2000 watts pure sine wave with 4500 watt surge capability
    Remote temperature sensor - mounted on battery in storage compartment (unvented)
  • 10 gauge wire from panels to junction box
  • 6 gauge wire from junction box to batteries
  • 300 amp T fuse
  • 50 amp bullet fuse
It is set up so that the batteries will charge from the generator, shore power, the engine alternator or, of course, the solar panels. It's a really slick setup and I am VERY pleased with it, the folks at Discount Solar here in Quartzsite and the job they did. Final tab including all wiring & cables (which can't be accurately calculated until the actually start running the wire), labor & sales tax was $6122.75. As I said, expensive but I should never need to add anything more to this system and it will let me boondock and use my television and computer in a way that works for MY lifestyle. Campgrounds are going to be infrequent stops...more for doing laundry (now I'm glad I have a LOT of clothes with me) & taking that long, hot 30 minute shower. LOL!

Now for a couple of Readers Ask questions (remember folks, I can't email reply to your comments unless you log in and use an email address - so the best way to get a reply is to email me directly if you have a question):

"I am confused: you talked about getting a solar oven, and now you say it will be an all day job. Are you getting solar panels on the roof to charge your batteries? I don't see how a solar oven could be an all day job."
Sorry for the confusion. The Solar Oven is a free-standing item that you sit outside in the sun. Check out this link to better understand how you use it. My installation was for a full solar system so I can have power without using my generator (or plugging into shore power). Feel free to email me with more questions.

"You could leave your frig on auto IF the outlet it is plugged into is NOT included as one that the big inverter feeds. If the inverter is connected to the main power line such that it is auto-switching and feeds all the circuits then you don't want it on auto."
You are right. If you have solar you do NOT want to use the refrigerator on electric. My is an auto-switching one so it now is set on GAS and will not switch usage when there is 110 volt incoming power.

"Did you steal Tioga George's heater?" (tongue placed firmly in cheek)
No, but that sure might have been a shot he posted at some time! My shower is full of water bottles for the most part...LOL!

"I don't know where I'd put a heater, so I guess I'm stuck with the furnace!"
That's why I got the legs to put on mine. I have no place to mount and and with the quick-disconnect added, I can get it completely out of the way when I'm not using it (any place you have a little storage room). When I'm using it, thje 7' hose lets me place it where it's convenient - in the living area facing me or down the hallway or closer to the bedroom/bathroom area.

One caution to anyone considering a catalytic heater...because they require oxygen to run (just like we do), you must leave a window slightly cracked to allow more oxygen to enter your RV.

Till next time - keep on rollin',
Froggi/Donna

Boondocking - The Lily Pad gets ready

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I've mentioned boondocking in some previous blogs and forgot that some folks might not understand the term. So first, in the most basic terms, boondocking is camping without hookups. That said, some consider any overnight stay without hookups as boondocking. Others insist that it's only boondocking when you are in the middle of the "boonies". Regardless, it's a way to save on campground fees. For some further information try "Boondocking—Making It Work" by Paul Bernhagen and "What is Boondocking?" by Bob Wells as well as Boondocking.org.

For me it will be the ability to park in the boonies as well as other dry camping spots, thus saving me considerable money on campground fees. But this doesn't come cheap....not if done right. I've been fortunate to be able to spend a week with a wide variety of folks who boondock, sometimes weeks on end. I've learned much more about what I can and can't accomplish with the solar setup I am getting. I already knew that my microwave & A/C were off limits but I've also learned about replacing my reading lamp (40watt Halogen bulb) with a small fluorescent light. I've learned that having a small but bright LED light at the front & back of my rig will help me locate it in the dark.

I've learned the difference between a converter and an inverter. I learned about controllers aka regulators. I've learned about different size inverters and what they will run. I've learned that I need to keep my refrigerator on propane rather than auto so it doesn't pull down my batteries. I've learned that a catalytic heater won't use any electricity like my big furnace (and my space heater) and uses less propane than my big furnace.

At the big tent I found a great price on a Olympian Wave 6 catalytic heater as well as the legs that you attach to make it a portable unit (allowing me to move it from the living area during the day to the bedroom/bathroom area at night/morning). Here is a photo I found on the internet...mine looks just like this except I don't store it in the shower, I store it in the cockpit area (mine is a step-down) and keep it covered with an old pillow case to keep the dust out (much cheaper than the $25 color they sell for it....LOL!)




Next step was finding someone to install a propane shut-off valve & quick disconnect as well as the hose to allow me to move it around. Yesterday I had an appointment to get that done as well as get a 12 volt outlet (cigarette lighter) installed close to the door where my desk will eventually go. That will allow me to run a 400 watt inverter for my laptop during the day, rather than firing up the large inverter. Here is a photo of the shut-off valve with the quick disconnect and one of the 12 volt outlet mounted at the top of the stairwell.





Tomorrow is my solar installation which will take pretty much all day. I will write about my setup once it's done just in case there are any last minute changes. I'm getting excited!

Till next time - keep on rollin',
Froggi/Donna

Who said it doesn't rain in the desert....

Sunday, January 27, 2008

It started raining during the night and continued for most of the day. There were a few glimpses of the sun but not many. Yesterday was nice so I used the good weather to re-sort some of the stuff in my storage bins. I cleaned out a shopping bag full of stuff and took it to the Boondockers Social Hour and got rid of all but one thing. WHOO-HOO! Oh, and I have two bags over-full with books & magazines to take to Paul at the Reader's Oasis. Still need to get Doug inside the store so he can get a better flavor of it.

Today was paperwork day...I've been putting off sorting through three large stacks of paperwork, receipts, etc so today I tackled that. Made some great headway, shredded a bunch of things and tossed out a bunch more unneeded paperwork. Next still will be to get my finances updated in Quicken...that will be an entire day all by itself. Ugh....but must be done.

The cloud and rains produced a spectacular sunset vista....and as a reader posted on a previous blog, I never get tired of them! Hope you enjoy them as much as I do...



Till next time - keep on rollin',
Froggi/Donna

Stu and Lin: Busy week ahead

Busy week ahead
Jan 27, 2008

Hi all,

Thanks for all the calls, cards and emails. We really enjoy staying in touch with everyone.

It was pretty much a slow week, waiting for the doctor to call with all the appointments. Sure enough, we now have three days worth. None of them in Livingston. Monday we travel to Houston for a two day stay at a Hampton Inn a few blocks away from St Luke's Hospital where Lin will have all the imaging done on Tuesday and Wednesday. Then it's on to Kingsport, just north of Houston on Thursday for a cardiac stress test. Needless to say it will be a challenging week.

On Friday, we got a call from Duane. He was in Houston delivering a load and heading back to the east coast on Saturday. We got together for lunch here in Livingston. It was good to see him and catch up with things. He helped Stu get Lin's new chair out of the truck and into the RV. (see the pictures) Thanks Duane.

Stu

Another lazy day in Quartzsite...

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Not really. Today started out with breakfast at Sweet Darlene's. Formerly housed in a tent, now in a steel building with communal style eating arrangements. We arrived in a group of 7 and found seating at the very end of a table...perfect!

The restaurant was really busy and we knew it might be a while before we ate but since we were in good company....no problem. I decided on a Western Omelet...well, at least until the waitress came and announced there were no omelets today. Sigh...okay, figured I'd go with my second choice the higher calorie option, French Toast. Most everyone else went with either the special or pancakes. (Yup, I'm still the oddball...LOL!)

When it arrived I was pleasantly surprised to see it done with Texas Toast (very thick slices of bread). It was delicious....I managed to eat all but one final half slice and passed that along to whoever was interested. Several tasted it and all pronounced it as tasty as I had said. (Guess the communal eating went beyond just the table arrangements....).

From there I accompanied Doug to visit the Reader's Oasis bookstore (he had never been), but it was closed for restocking. We then headed to the Post Office so I could drop off some mail and then back to the hardware store for a final chat with the person who was going to install my propane connections. After talking with him, both Doug & I were not comfortable with him doing the work. I called my local friend Marty and asked about alternatives. We settled on using RV Lifestyles here in town.

Next stop was the ATM at the bank across the street....I never saw such a complex & SLOW system. It was taking everyone at least twice as long as normal....the line was long but I finally got my cash and we left.

A short stop back at the rigs to catch up on emails and a few other things, then we headed to the neighboring town of Bouse. Doug was having a telescopic lens shipped to a store there and the UPS tracking showed it should be delivered today. When we arrived UPS hadn't come yet so we drove around town a bit and checked out some of the historical areas. Then we hit an on-going auction for a while where the smell of hot dogs made us realize that we had skipped lunch. So it was back to the store to see if the package had arrived (it had) and then next door for the Friday special - All You Can Eat Fish & Chips. Delicious!

We got back before the social hour was over so did some visiting and I became an OFFICIAL boondocker BOF member. Back to the rig where another gorgeous sunset caught my eye and at 7 pm we headed back to the campfire till 9 pm. Soon I am going to have to stop having so much fun and start getting caught up in back emails, website work and personal paperwork. LOL!



Till next time - keep on rollin',
Froggi/Donna

Life at its best and its worst....

Thursday, January 24, 2008

What a day....woke at 3 am (and 4 am and 5 am and 6 am) to rain starting & stopping. Nothing serious but enough to change my sleep pattern. I finally rolled out of be at 7:30 and grabbed a shot of what should have been sunrise.



Doug came over around 9 am, we chatted for a bit, ate some breakfast and made plans to hit the local solar vendor that many were recommending. The night before he and Doc had laid out what should be a good working solar environment for me and we wanted to get a quote from these folks.

We visited them and got what we felt was a fair quote and set an appointment for next Wednesday. It will take most of the day for the installation and on Thursday the system will start charging and I will enter a new way of boondocking.

From there we got diesel in the truck, grabbed a quick sandwich and hit a couple of little auto parts stores trying to find a decent quality, flush mount 12 volt power outlet (cigarette lighter style).

Nothing found, we continued over to the main event. I wanted to see if the better quality roll-up tables had arrived as well as check out the catalytic heaters (running the big furnace is counter-productive to the energy efficiency of the solar lifestyle ). Doug wanted to talk to the SHURflo pump folks. After parking what seemed to be 2 miles away (even though attendance was much lower than my last visit), we headed in to see if we could locate our vendors.

On the way there I managed to find a LARGE table full of hats! Yup, still searching for a good mesh hat for warmer weather. I managed to actually find one that fit close enough to satisfy me and looked decent enough to buy. Continuing into the tent we wandered a bit and it felt to me that the vendor I wanted was on the midway outside so we took the next exit. Voila! There was the one I wanted. The tables still weren't what I was looking for but I did find the catalytic heater I hoped would work. If it was too large, I could bring it back and exchange it for the smaller one. I then asked the salesman if he happened to know where the SHURflo vendor was. He did...since it was their space as well...we headed there and Doug got his questions answered.

Time to head back to the truck but as we passed an ice cream stand....who wanted a real dinner anyway! LOL! Super double scoop (one flavor or two) ice creams cones hit the spot and we got to sit a bit and rest our legs before the last stretch of walking.

The final stop was at Herb's Hardware where we managed to find a 12 volt outlet that would work (so I can get a small inverter to run my laptop during the daytime), a cap for my trailer ball and a small bottle of Gorilla Glue. But the best part was locating a young gentleman who will come out to my rig and install the shut-off and quick-connect for my catalytic heater.

A quick trip to the campfire for social hour where I continued to really enjoy the Boondocking group. They have made me feel very welcome and I look forward to many more good times with them. Finally back to the rig where I snapped a couple of sunset shots.




Shortly after returning from the social hour, my cell phone beeped that I had voicemail. Strange since I never heard it ring but that seems to happen out here, sometimes it never rings for me but goes right to voicemail. Anyway, my good day was about to go bad.

The call was from my youngest brother in Florida. One of my cousins and her family live in the same town...and everyone also rides motorcycles. On his way to work this morning, her husband was killed. The details aren't important but he was not at fault. A co-worker was just behind him and was almost involved as well. This was not the way to end what had been a good day.

As I said, today was life at its best and its worst....Tim, you will be sorely missed. I know you died doing what you loved, riding, but we are left here without your shining presence. DTFR...forever. What a ride it's been...

Folks, tell your loved ones how much you care about them....you never know when the final moment will occur.

Till next time - keep on rollin',
Froggi/Donna

Where did she disappear to?

Yup, the best laid plans of men (and women) are set in Jell-O and mine have changed. I got up this morning with full intentions of getting out early to get gas and head to the campground in Bouse where I had reservations.

Things were moving along swimmingly until I started checking my tire pressure. My left rear outside dually decided to start spewing air out the valve stem. All I had done was check the pressure and next thing I know the stupid thing is SPITTING air at me! I took a bit but I managed to get the dust cap back on but I could still hear it hissing, although slower.

I headed to the SOLO campfire area to see if there was anyone who might be able to help me. One of the guys came over with managed to get it unstuck and I got enough air in it to be comfortable driving. I knew it would have to be fixed but at least now I could go get gas.

As I was finishing up putting things into place to move, my phone rang. It was Doug, a new friend I had made the night before at the final social hour for the SOLO gathering. He had ridden over on his vintage BMW from the Boondocker BOF area where he had been staying...he was a SOLO and needed to pay his dues. We chatted for a bit and he invited me to dinner and then we sat around the Boondocker campfire for a bit.

Anyway, we had a great evening and he knew I had planned to head to the campground in Bouse this morning although he had encouraged me to move to their area for the next week. Well, we chatted a bit and he convinced me to change my plans . He also volunteered to go into town with me to get gas, propane, fresh water and dump - all necessary to spend another week out. I opted to drop the trailer in the Boondocker area where I would be staying, making the trip into town a little easier & less traumatic.

Getting gas was easy, getting into The Pit Stop for propane, Water & dumping was a little more complicated. We approached it from the same side of the road and quickly got our propane. I paid for everything, a little over $23, and had to pull BACK out on to the main road to wait in line for the water & dumping. Seems like someone had let too many into the wrong line and things were badly backed up. We watched several rigs try to jump in front of us from the other direction but the staff quickly re-routed them (thank you!). Once we got to the dump, it was fast & relatively painless and we headed back to the Boondockers area. What seemed like forever turned out to have taken barely over an hour.



One advantage of moving over here is that one of the guys, C.B., had what was needed to replace my valve stem needle. That worked! Using Doug's air compressor we quickly added more air and it seems to be holding well and no longer sticking. Phew!

The rest of the day was spent chatting about my solar needs, where to go, what to get, when to do it....a fun afternoon. Tonight we went to dinner in Parker with friends of Doug's - Doc & Val. We laughed continuously all the way to Parker, listening to a Jeff Foxworthy tape that I hadn't heard before. Dinner was at a Mexican restaurant they had frequented before and it was very good. Half of my order is now in my refrigerator...the portions were HUGE! I ordered something I couldn't pronounce - it had shredded beef, refried beans, rice, guacamole (that got left on the plate there) and warm soft tortillas on the side. Doug had another dish that I forget the name of and I had a taste of it...also very good.

We came back, did the campfire thing again, laughed a lot more and then headed back to our rigs for the night. All in all a great day with good folks....oh, I almost forgot. I will be here till early February now...learning how to be a better boondocker and hopefully getting some solar capability!

Till next time - keep on rollin',
Froggi/Donna