For a half done February, it is nice here in South Texas. The mesquites and assorted puckerbrush flora are showing tinges of green. The routine of late is a morning and evening walk followed by an hour or better of sittin’ out. Maybe coffee, maybe not. Vela Von chases the rubber ball incessantly. Dogs don’t ask for much.
The kitchen is in large disarray from a rush batch of Swamp Chili before we went outside. Cold front and rain on tap for tomorrow so it seemed like the thing to do.
One thing about this RV life I wanna talk about today — regardless of how hardcore you might try to be, we are not islands unto ourselves. Every recreational vehicle I am familiar with needs support umbilicals to provide power, sustenance and waste disposal. There are degrees of support however and that is what I am going to discuss today.
I don’t get into RV parks much with the NO Princess Palace but I damn sure enjoy it when I do. What is not to like? Water I can drink without running it through 7 filters, clean power and waste disposal just one stinky slinky away makes for a wonderful life. Then ya got the wonders of fast food, drive through cold beer stores and free wi-fi to suck up. I can dig it for a week or two but then I start missing the hermitude. Vela Von too as she has to live on the end of a leash so it don’t take much coaxing for us to flee the city. There is just so much of living in a hive, packed to psychosis with other people, I can tolerate.
Almost 6 years ago, I wrote about industrial boondocking and I still think that is an apt term for what an oilfield gate guard does. Yep, I am off grid and yep, I am secluded but roughing it? – not so much. All that support equipment costs upwards of $20k and then you got the people that show up at intervals to pump me some diesel and fresh water or empty my holding tank. It is a challenge but it is no where near as rough as a night in jail or somethin’ like that. When you have been gate guarding as long as I have, industrial boondocking becomes the norm and other RV forays to an RV park or the Secret Hideout become adventure time.
My Bro has been very accommodating over the years; letting me come and go as I please up at the Secret Hideout. I have done what I could to help out with its’ evolution from a hunnert acres of wildness to the current state. First there was brush clearing and driveway building and then there was a septic tank and a metal building with city water. Taken some years and a whole lotta sweat to carve that out. I spoke to him just last week and he said they finally got grid power hooked up. That certainly closes a chapter on the Secret Hideout.
Over the years both of us learned quite a bit about getting by with few amenities. At first, all the power came from generators and after putting thousands of hours on the machines, we learned out of necessity that a combination of solar and limited generator use was the way to go. One of the scheduled projects for my recent holiday project was to upgrade his solar system. With the pending hook up to the grid, I asked him if he still wanted to lay out the cash for a better solar system and he said “Sure! I want to be as self sufficient as possible.” Alrighty then…….
I am going to put all the Amazon product links I am fixin’ to talk about at the end of this piece – easier thataway. I get a few pesos when y’all click through one of my links and buy somethin’ from Amazon and it won’t cost you a penny more – just so’s you know. A looooooong time blog reader bought a bunch of high $$ motorcycle stuff last week and I sure appreciated it! I saw the items show up but I would not have ever known who purchased them ‘cept he dropped me a line and mentioned he was the one who had bought ’em. It sure was sweet! Gracias JW!
My Bro and I started out with a pair of Yamaha EF2000IS inverter generators and both proved to be an EPIC FAIL – both of ’em mind ya. Both of them failed at the same approximate hours with a serious oil leak and both of us experienced the same shit for warranty service from Yamaha Motorsports USA. I do not know how many damning responses I have written on various forums when people inquire about purchasing one of the POS Yamahas. I plan on continuing the Yamaha bashing as long as I draw breath. That is what happens when you have a thoroughly disgruntled customer. Rat bastards!
The POS Yamahas were replaced with a pair of Honda EU2000i inverter generators. He has put about 800 hours on his and my El Rojo has about a hundred on it. You can get the Honda for about $50 or $60 more than the Yamaha generally and both of us think it is better built and more powerful than the Yamaha.
Somewhere along the way it became very damned apparent that you could not run a generator each and every time you wanted a little sip of power. My Bro asked me to do something with a modest solar system for his fifth wheel almost 3 years ago. I had already purchased a couple of 100w mono panels and 4x250w mono panels from Renogy and I liked their stuff. He bought one of their kits which was 2x100w mono panels, a PWM solar controller and the associated wiring. It worked out perfect to keep the single deep cycle marine/rv battery on the RV charged. He would run the generator a bit in the morning for coffee and then a few hours in the evening for supper and TV; the solar system took up the slack. It was also nice when he was off working a job for an extended period. He became confident enough in the solar setup to keep the battery charged that he left his RV fridge running during his absence. Before he would have to clean it out and turn it off when he left — a real pain in the ass. ( Remember that an RV fridge requires 12v to power the control board. It shuts off if the battery goes flat.)
We had discussed upgrading his solar system for months before I headed up for the 2016 Holidays. He wanted to be able to run the microwave and watch a little TV without firing up the generator. He was more than sold on the simplicity of solar power and like me, understood that buying premium components was the best route if you were serious about putting together a good system. Buy once, cry once right?
A major overhaul was in order to achieve what he wanted so we decided on this:
- Renogy 4x100w monocrystalline panels on custom steel rack
- Renogy Tracer 40amp MPPT controller
- Samlex 1500w pure sine wave inverter
- 2 Trojan T105 6 volt 225ah batteries
Not a large system by any means but a good solid set up for what he wanted. All of the items except the Trojan batteries were ordered off Amazon. I made a trip to the Trojan distributor in Belton,TX to pick those up at about $160 each. Flooded lead acid batteries are one of the few things you cannot buy economically off the web. Since I generally do not have the luxury of such road trips when I am stuck on a gate I went ahead and picked up 2 batteries to upgrade the NO Princess Palace as well. More on that and some other goodies in a future post.
It was a fairly easy process. My Bro welded up an angle iron stand to hold the panels at a 45 degree angle. The battery compartment was large enough for the 2 T105’s and the solar controller and inverter were installed in the pass through compartment next to the batteries.
Everybody always seems to get all wrapped up discussing wire size and fuse placement when it comes to this kind of install. Here is what I did:
- Renogy solar cables with MC4 connectors from the panels to the controller. Add an inline 30amp fuse for the positive feed line coming off the panels.
- 4/0 cables between the T105 batteries
- 10ga wire from the batteries to the solar controller with a 30amp fuse at the batteries.
- 1/0 cables from batteries to inverter with a 200amp ANL fuse at the batteries
- 12ga extension cord from the inverter to a power strip inside the RV.
Easy peasy, right? From all reports, he seems pleased with the system and it has definitely cut back on generator run time. I custom made all the cables with heavy lug ends and added an economical digital battery gauge so they could monitor the batteries from inside the RV. All these components were chosen for quality and long lasting value. You could go cheaper I guess but why would you skimp on something like this??
There is just something very special about generating power from sun light.
- Yamaha EF2000IS -NO Link for this POS. I would never recommend it to anybody!
- RENOGY 2x250W Watts monocrystalline solar panels I have 4 of these in storage.
- WindyNation Solar Panel PV MC4 Connector In-Line Fuse Holder w/ Fuse 30A -to fuse the solar panels
- Scoshe EWFH Single ANL Fuse Holder Use with 200amp ANL fuse to protect the inverter.
End Note: Forever Young by Stoney Larue from the Live at Billy Bob’s cd.