Tag Archives: solar power

Lucky Contacts in Pennsylvania

This is our Airstream’s first time in Pennsylvania. Various interests have pulled us all over the continent except, until now, the North Atlantic regions. The Airstream Club invited us to attend a region rally in Centre Hall (it really is in the “centre” of Pennsylvania.) We stopped first for a few days in Penn Wood Airstream Park. Thanks to Rorie, the Park President, for allowing us in despite a very busy Memorial Day weekend in the Park. And thanks to the many folks we met this weekend for their friendliness. We’ve had a great stay in their home park and look forward to our next visit.

HAM RADIO
The space Rorie found for us is at the top edge of Penn Wood (maybe she was hiding us?) It is a pretty and very quiet site. Our roof-mounted ham radio antenna works well here, better than many places we’ve visited. The nearby trees are fabulously tall white pines. I couldn’t resist hanging another antenna over the top of a great tree on this hill.

Good antennas plus good atmospheric conditions provide opportunities for long range conversations on the ham radio. The last couple of nights I’ve talked to hams in Slovenia, Geneva, Aruba, San Diego, Mille Lacs Lake (MN) and Rentz (GA.) The wire antenna I was using, the site we were in, and great conditions all combined for easy and fun work on the radio.

I’ve tried a lot of different portable antennas and wasn’t thrilled with many of them. I have a favorite antenna now. I learned a couple of years ago about a simple antenna from an article on the internet. The antenna consists of one 71′ piece of 12 gauge wire and an electronic box at the bottom. The box is an auto coupler, or auto tuner, and sits on the aluminum roof of our Airstream. The wire attaches to it, and a coaxial cable (similar to cablevision for your television) connects to the radio inside our Airstream.

Sometimes the wire attracts attention, often it doesn’t. The wire’s insulation is grayish brown and the wire isn’t large. The rope pulling the wire steeply upward toward the tree is smaller than the wire. Combined they are over ninety feet long and go very high up to the tall white pine across the driveway. If you look carefully at this picture, you might see the wire sloping upward away from the trailer.

end fed antenna

Two nights ago I turned on the radio, tuned up, and bang! I heard the station in Slovenia calling for North America. A few minutes later I heard the Geneva station then the one in Aruba. Last night I was listening for a few minutes and trying to reach a Naples station I heard. The Naples station fell silent and I heard a person asking, “Is the frequency in use?”

I waited while he tuned up and answered when he called “CQ, CQ, anyone anywhere?” Gordie was visiting Mille Lacs Lake and trying out his very old radio with good luck. I don’t think the radio is quite as old as Gordie though — he’s 92 and says he’s been a ham for 75 years. I started too late to ever match that! We had an enjoyable conversation for almost a half hour. Doesn’t happen often but is nice when it does.

JACKSON CENTER OH
Last week we were at the Airstream factory and at the Airstream Club central offices, both in Jackson Center OH. Enjoyed working with other members of the Club’s leadership on budget for next FY and plans for next year’s big summer rally. Membership is rising again, no doubt helped by the prodigious increases in production and sales from the Airstream factory and dealers. This year’s Airstream Club President Joe Perryman deserves a lot of credit too. He worked collaboratively two years ago with a team of very interested members to develop an action plan for the Club.

Joe and his team have a lot of great ideas to improve the club. They arrived at a series of priority issues to accomplish during his leadership year. Under Joe’s watch the Club has implemented a digital directory (“Big Red Numbers Lookup”, some friends call it.) Joe relaxed the dress code for business meetings. He reinstated the electronic newsletter, “News and Views”; issued a survey of Club membership; hired a new Corporate Manager; has continued support for modernizing the Club’s administrative processes and has pushed for on line registration and renewals. It’s been a good year, and things are looking up for the Airstream Club!

While at the Airstream factory we asked the service center to do an annual tune-up on our trailer brakes. It turned out to be a little more than expected. The excellent service techs found a problem with two of our wheels’ brakes and quickly adjusted their work plans for the afternoon to finish this up and get us going before closing time.

Nothing is without a cost, though. I was hoping for a brake adjustment and repacking the trailer’s wheel bearings. Sometimes this work has cost us under $100. This time the techs showed us damaged drum faces and ruined brake magnets in our wheels apparently caused by a pair of lost retaining clips. They explained very well what must be done. Our bill was $1,000 to bring everything up to safe working order.

It’s a relief to have the brakes and bearings in best condition and ready for another year on the road. An interesting thing about the Airstream factory service center technicians — they work ten years in the Airstream assembly plant before eligibility for joining the service center. Pretty good credentials, we think! We try to stop by every year or two and catch up on needed repairs.

REPAIRS ON THE ROAD
This afternoon found me begging to tackle anything productive. Our solar charge controller quit working ten days ago, displaying one bright red light and doing no work at all. We don’t have specific plans for boon docking in the near future. We’ve found over the past eight years the solar power system is very convenient to keep our batteries up no matter where we go. This charge controller’s only four years old and should be good for many more years but just stopped working. I had lined up a replacement unit identical to this one (BZ Products 2500HV) and decided to take a look before I ordered the new one.

2-P1000119

Pulled the fuse from the solar panels, carefully removed all the mounting screws to release the control box from it’s mounting spot. I took the unit out into bright sunlight and Debbie and I examined it very closely for any cold solder joints or blown components on the circuit board. The circuit board was dirty but everything looked fine to our unpracticed eyes.

1-P1000109

I carefully dusted off the board and realized I might have gotten by with just resetting power to the board to clear the failure. It hadn’t occurred to me earlier because I expected to find a blown capacitor on the board or a loose connection. Crossing my fingers as much as I could while wielding a screwdriver, I reassembled the control box and reinstalled it with all the electrical connections.

When I reconnected the fuse the charge controller worked again. Four more years trouble-free service? I hope so. Having the solar collectors and charging is very handy and has allowed us lengthy stays in Quartzite, NC mountains, and elsewhere without any commercial power connections. Even when we’re connected to shore power, the solar charging system reduces our demand on the grid. Nice to have.

This reminds me of another problem we corrected a few days ago. We’re connected to an old park power system and apparently are on the long end of it. Voltage is low and power is almost non-existent. We can’t run the microwave without going below 108vac. The low power tends to make me hyper aware of potential problems.

I was probing around, just looking for another problem when I realized our batteries weren’t doing anything. We’re connected to shore power, the park’s 110vac system. We generally assume the batteries are ready to go too. I turned off the trailer’s main 110vac breaker, and everything turned off. Not s’posed to happen!

Hmm, did low voltage mess up our charger? Are our batteries shot? Calmly, I pulled the trailer’s 12vdc two main fuses, one at a time, and put them back in (you can see the pair of 30a main fuses in the below picture.) The second one was apparently a little corroded, because when I plugged it back in everything powered up. A little strange. . . I’ll be tightening up all the 12vdc and 120vac terminals on our power system today!

1-P1170663

We feel very fortunate to have everything working well so much of the time. Bouncing down the road more than 100,000 miles in ten years is what the Airstream trailer is made for, but it can’t be easy. That’s a lot of shaking and braking, and fortunately not so much breaking. We often do routine maintenance and cleaning and try to keep a sharp eye and ear out for trouble. A well-built RV helps reduce problems. A little luck helps too.

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie

dreamstreamr odyssey™
visit our website
©2007-2015 Dreamstreamr

Solar Charging Stuff for RVs We Should Have Known

winter tilt position on our roof

winter tilt position on our roof

You might be interested in buying into the quietest electrical power generator? There is no fuel to keep up with and pour (and spill). Maintenance is very minimal for the panels, just wiping them off, ensuring they are well-attached to the RV, and keeping the wires secure and free of chafing. You should already be tending your batteries to keep them clean, topped off with distilled water (unless yours are “no-maintenance”), and keeping the connections tightened, no matter whether you have solar panels or not.

pair of 125 watt solar panels

pair of 125 watt solar panels

Solar makes sense for more RVers than just full-timers. These roof-top battery chargers allow us to go most of the year without ever needing to use the trailer’s electrically-powered battery charger. A small solar charging system can tend your batteries for your RV without any shore power connections. A larger system can keep up with all your daily uses for your RV’s batteries including fans, lights, water pump, and even ham radio operations.

from http://www.solarchoice.net.au/blog/wp-content/uploads/Module-cost-vs-BoS-costs-on-average.jpgStill higher end systems can also provide all the DC, or 12 volt power, as well as your 110 volt power for your RV. You could run your microwave, hair dryer, coffee pot and more from your batteries, all recharged with solar panels. Beware though, there are costs to all this. The trick, as with so many things, is to strike your optimal balance between cost and benefit.

Before you consider buying anything, study up a bit.  Don’t buy anything yet!  The two links that follow this paragraph provide helpful information about solar panels, controllers, what sizes are useful.  

Look at http://www.windsun.com, halfway down the page. They have “Solar Information Pages” with good learning info about solar.

Look at amsolar’s rv_solar_education pages. They provide good learning info.

Before you buy anything, read this short post we wrote about installing a meter to measure and record battery usage and capacity.  We highly recommend anyone consider carefully this tool before spending a dime on changing the size of their battery bank or adding more solar panels.  If you don’t know what size shoe you wear, why would you order a pair of shoes without being fitted first?<

Trimetric Meter by our fridge

Trimetric Meter by our fridge

The meter we installed in October 2013, in case you did NOT read the article I just told you to, is a Trimetric 2025RV.  It costs $180 from BestConverter, including the required shunt. You can see it through this link. We bought the approx 25′ of control wire from a really neat store in Boise Idaho, they spooled off 25′ of Cat5 for about $5.  We had the battery cables we needed to connect the meter in-line with our batteries and the house.

No one told us to have a cooling off period or to learn more.  Well, we learned more anyhow — we studied our fannies off learning about so many sizes and brands of solar.  Solar was smoking hot in 2007, the dealers could not keep good panels on the shelves.  Same with charge controllers (you already learned in the first two links way above, these are very important), they were often unavailable.

We somehow stumbled upon a very nicely documented description of installing solar panels ON OUR VERY RV — Yep, Don had installed a pair of solar panels atop a 2005 Airstream CCD 25 trailer.  Wow, we’re supposed to do this.  We tried to be just like Don.  We ordered the same kit from the same place, put our panels in the same spot, installed our charge controller in the same blank panel.  This is too easy!

Well, it wasn’t quite so simple.  You see, you have some days luckier than others.  The day we installed our solar panels was a less lucky day.  Jim drilled holes in our trailer’s roof. Eight 5/16″ holes, four feet for each panel, didn’t take very long to make.  The panels attached easily to the roof with the supplied mounting hardware and . . .

Inside the trailer the 12 volt lights didn’t work anymore.  Oh, it’s probably something really simple.  No. A wire must be cut somewhere from all that drilling.

see the patched hand-hole from patching wires?

see the patched hand-hole from patching wires?

After much snarling and searching and spending sleepless nights, Jim found the one hole in which the drill bit had touched two wires.  The insulation stripped off, the two wires were crossed and shorting out.  Finding the problem was the hard part.  Jim spent only an hour or two fixing these two wires and our solar charging system has worked fantastically since.

Here is one more link, to a seller with very nearly the same system we bought over five years ago. This is our favorite system, the 270 watt one, close to what we have but seems a bit sharper and is certainly much less expensive than what we paid then. The technology has improved in five years, although we’ve read the manufacturing may be lower quality. The article we read from NY Times reported a case where the failure rate for newly manufactured panels has risen from below 5% to between 13 and 22%.

P1120863We are now more advanced users due to lots of practice — full-time with the solar charging system for over five years.  All the components are original, but we’ve enlarged the battery storage to four 6v golf cart batteries.  Jim can now rest assured of having full power for his ham radios before sun-up tomorrow, every day. Debbie rests confident Jim will not once ask her, “are you still using that light or may I turn it off for you?”  We have lots of battery capacity.

arm uni go powerJim installed a neat tilting system for our solar panels. Our panels can be up to 30% more effective by tilting than if lying flat on our roof.  This is especially useful in winter months, when the sun is much lower angle in the sky and solar gain is much harder to obtain.  

both panels now tilt at once

both panels now tilt at once

Our panels, tilted up, are ready to get all the solar they can in winter.  At least each quarter-year, Jim changes the amount of tilt to correspond with the sun’s higher, or lower, path across the sky.  And no, we do not travel down the road with the solar panels tilted up. The panels lie flat on the roof for travel.  Jim can easily and quickly tilt the panels, standing on a ladder leaned against the trailer’s side.

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie

locate us here
visit our website

©2007-2013 Dreamstreamr

Odds and Ends

We voted last week.  Picked up absentee ballot from our mailbox and realized we had zero days to deadline to get this in the mail and on the way to NC.  Our first time to do this, we’d always been home to vote before and relied on local newspaper for sample ballot and our research.

This time we studied the candidates electronically with great assistance from a voting info page sponsored by one of the universities.

A sign I’m back into my rhythm — three days in a row I’ve enjoyed my cup of matcha tea on our patio by 06:00 a.m.  It makes me feel great to watch the sun rise (closer to 06:50), to breathe the clean morning air, hear the morning noises of a busy city street, sip the rich tea, and read just one scene from a play or one small chapter of a slow book.  Except this morning I spent adding to these paragraphs and my next post.

We were moving around and committed to other things for the previous six weeks.  I might not have had but one sunrise cup of tea.  Didn’t even get out of bed until after 7 or 8 or even later a few times.  Well yeah, those times I stayed up until after 01:00 in the morning and am not too likely to get up right away.

I like this groove better.  Quiet time, just a little niche in the day, to get my my bearings.

Found the sole general delivery Mesa Post Office last week for our forwarded mail.  Mesa has maybe a dozen contract postal units (CPUs) serving their respective resorts like this one and several branch post offices in Mesa. We learned last year the branch post offices won’t handle general delivery mail.  Most folks staying in these many resorts simply get their mail through their CPU.  We receive a key from the resort for our mailbox, and the CPU stuffs whatever arrives (plus a generous helping of junk mail) into our box for us.

Our mail would go from the forwarding agency (Escapees) to the local post office, and then to the CPU for our resort.  But last year one of our forwarded packets disappeared.  The CPU lacks a scanner and so cannot account for what the Post Office does, and does not, transfer to the CPU.  Our packet left Escapees and the Post Office scanned it successively throughout its journey until it left the local Post Office.  Did the CPU get it?  We’ll never know.

This year we’ll use General Delivery instead of the resort’s CPU.   We pick up our mail every week or two directly from the post office.  The post office retains secure chain of custody on our package until we pick it up ourselves, at which time the post office scans it out as delivered.  Safe and sure.

Finally turned on the AC, it was 92 outside in the shade and we’re parked in full sun.  Mornings were 60 degrees, really nice for sitting outside.  I’m back to an old habit, making a cup of matcha and reading a chapter at sunrise.  Sort of symbolizes return to routine for me.  But this week the morning lows are high 40s, a little chillier.

Seems funny to have the air on and still turn off the converter to save electricity.  But the solar panels are more than capable, with all this sunlight, of maintaining the batteries throughout all the day’s use.  Why pay for more kwh?

We’re running the lights and fans and fridge controls and phantom (okay, all the battery loads) with solar charging only.  This is an experiment, to see how well it works and for how many (if any) weeks we can do this as the sun gets lower and lower in the sky.  Our solar panels aren’t yet tiltable but I’d like to correct this — maybe I can get to it in the next couple of months?

Jim and Debbie

locate us here
visit our website

©2007-2010 Dreamstreamr

How did 2009 work out for Dreamstreamrs?

We realized today, with a laugh, our last year’s resolutions were almost identical to this year’s. Well, maybe they worked out well and are worth repeating. Let’s see how well we did in 2009 living our resolutions.

We resolved for 2009 the following:
# 1. Spend less
# 2. Eat healthier
# 3. Exercise more
# 4. Expend fewer non-renewable resources

We spent under our budget for the year 2009. A few of our reductions included dining, site rental, and, most notably, truck fuel. Truck fuel cost reduction was easy, just reduce towing mileage. 2008 we had very high towing mileage (18,000 miles) and fuel costs per unit were very high. We cut this greatly in 2009 (see #4), so #1 achieved.

We dined out less in 2009 and prepared more of our own meals. We ate almost no “fast-food”. We managed to eliminate pop from our (Jim’s) diet. We drank more fresh-brewed green tea. We made healthy choices for our pantry and refrigerator. We ate healthier, so #2 achieved.

Exercise was on our minds throughout 2009. First quarter we walked a lot, at least three miles a day. 2nd and 3rd quarters we were traveling and still managed to walk frequently. Not enough but we were trying. 4th quarter we went wild, playing tennis almost every day for six weeks in November and December. We managed to finish the year having had more exercise than in the previous year. #3 achieved.

Finally, we pledged to expend fewer non-renewable resources in 2009. Did we? We spent whole weeks powered only by our solar panels powering the RV’s electrical system and re-charging our pair of 6 volt golf-cart batteries. And we reduced our towing mileage by almost 9,000 miles or over 850 gallons of truck fuel. We don’t generally know how much electricity we buy is coal or gas-fired. All the energy we saved by driving less is non-renewable energy. Yeah, #4 achieved.

So our resolutions worked great for us for 2009. We hope we’ll do as well in 2010.

Jim and Debbie
visit our website
locate us here

©2010 Dreamstreamr

Ya don’ hafta chill the beer

This morning, at 35 F degrees, is our seventh chilly morning yet the warmest. Our nine day stay in Ketchum has been remarkable for several things and outstanding among these is the weather. Sun Valley and Ketchum are beautiful, yes, but pretty darned chilly too. Our standard operating temperature has decreased to the same winter standard we maintained in our sticks and bricks home. A couple of nights ago we were playing cards in our aluminum home and thinking, “68 F feels pretty warm”.

It has rained on us only once, and later the same night we listened to the soft luffing sound of snow landing on our roof. The days have all warmed nicely, the sun has shone brightly, and we’ve enjoyed the nice weather. We’ve stopped our mutinous rumblings about pulling stakes early, hitching the wagon, and heading for Phoenix. Definitely we are looking forward to warm weather but we’ve adapted to this cool autumn setting.

You might be asking, “What about the Jazz Festival? Aren’t they in Ketchum and Sun Valley to attend a jazz festival? Wow! The music is soooooo good, the bands are great, the performances have all been outstanding. We’ve attended one other music fest, the Galax Fiddlers Convention. The Fiddlers Convention sucked us in quickly, giving us a feel of connection with the musicians and their music. Same thing in Sun Valley, maybe more so.

What’s so good about the music at the Sun Valley Jazz Festival? First, the great majority of the music is pre-1950s. The bands are playing compositions from Fats Waller, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington, and many many others. Second, many of the best jazz musicians performed here this week.

We’ve listened to, and watched, jazz bands from The Netherlands, New Jersey, Connecticut, Louisiana, California, and Idaho. Today, the last day of the event, we must rank the bands on our eval forms. This is tough but fortunately they allow us to have more than one favorite band.

It might be even tougher if they required us to force-rank the musicians. There are so many outstanding ones on each instrument. We think we heard the best couple of drummers (John Gillick, Danny Coots), several incredible clarinetists (Bob Draga, Louis Ford, Joe Midiri), amazing trumpeters (Brian Casserly, Flip Oakes, Bria Skonberg, and too many others to name), and many other fine musicians and singers.

The only thing to do is to go again. We’ll be in Arizona next month and so will the Jazz Festival in Chandler — is that near us? We’ll be finding out soon. We are also making tentative plans for Mammoth Lakes and Sun Valley for 2010. Who knows, maybe they will be as great as this was?

Our dry-camping experience has increased nicely with the past ten days. We stayed in Camping World’s lot the night before we arrived here. That night and tonight total eleven nights and our batteries and tanks are in great shape for more days yet.

We started with 40 gallons fresh water, and we still have over ten gallons remaining. Our rinse water tank registers empty, because we only have washed and rinsed some pans and utensils, and have used paper plates. We have showered daily at the ski lodges’ excellent facilities instead of using our hot water and rinse water tank. Our black water tank registers half-full after ten days.

Finally, our batteries have restored daily from solar power. We have run the generator once, for two hours, in the past five days and only for a couple of hours the nights before that. Our solar panels have been working great in maintaining our batteries. We haven’t had much extra power for things like charging the laptops or iPod. Instead we have plugged in the rechargeables while the generator is running and gotten everything charged at once.

We’re encouraged by this dry-camping experience because we enjoyed these good results in very cool temperatures. Remember, our byline is Chasing 75 Degrees. We could have, and considered it, left when we found out how cool it was to be. Instead we decided this would be a great adventure. It has been. And we have learned we can do much better much longer than we thought. We’ll stretch further another time, to find our limits on dry camping.

Tomorrow we head for Mesa, Az. We have only fourteen days to get there — we’ll just have to stop along the way and see what we can see. And we’ll need to put the beer in the cooler when we’re there. But until then the beer is cool enough sitting in the carton on the floor. Ya don’ hafta chill it in Sun Valley in October.

See ya down the road!

Jim and Debbie
visit our website
locate us here

©2009 Dreamstreamr

No water or electricity? How primitive is it?

Saturday’s post about dry camping was unintentionally misleading. And we promptly received feedback from some of you faithful readers about this. It seems I may have provided an overly stark description of the conditions when dry camping. But, in fact, there isn’t much primitive to it. After all, we are living in a fully self-contained and very capable recreational vehicle. We aren’t roughing it, even these past seven days. As Debbie reminded me at supper this evening, even dry camping in our Airstream is still pretty luxurious.

In the interest of fair and balanced reporting, I’m going to detail better what I meant when I talked Saturday about our week of dry camping. Here’s an excerpt from Saturday’s post:
“This has been easy camping, although not far different from what we usually would do. We can’t use the microwave. We use a small portable inverter to convert 12vdc to 110vac for someone’s curling iron and to recharge the laptop. And we can watch television if we want, again using the same 150 watt inverter. Everything else is battery-powered. After completing five and starting the sixth day we have remaining 10 gallons fresh water (we have used 29 gallons). We have 1/2 tank each in black water and rinse water. Our batteries are fully charged. It seems we could go at least another two days at the current rate of water usage.”

Okay, so what did I leave out? Actually, I left a lot to the imagination. I ignored a pretty basic rule of writing, where the writer remembers who is reading the story. A couple of you told us we sound as though we might not have water enough to provide bathing and cooking, for example. And some of you wondered what does the battery power provide, different from when we are connected to electricity? We can see how yesterday’s post left out some really important details. The problem is this: we forget we aren’t writing to ourselves. Said another way, I understand exactly what I meant but I am not writing well if I don’t help all of you understand what I want you to hear.

I’m going to take another pass at describing the end of our week of dry camping starting first about our water consumption. At the end of the week we had used an average of five gallons daily of fresh water for drinking, cooking, cleaning up, and flushing our toilet. We would have used more but sometimes would use the campground’s very nice washroom and showers. Our water consumption would probably have increased by at least two gallons daily if we had not used the campground’s washroom and showers. We would have used all 39 gallons of our fresh water tank in this week. We would then have pulled the trailer to a nearby drinking water faucet, connected our hose to the threaded faucet and refilled our 39 gallon fresh water tank.

The amount of the trailer’s stored fresh water we consume pretty directly impacts the rate at which we fill the toilet’s waste tank, called the black tank, and the shower’s and sinks’ waste tank, called the rinse water tank. The black tank will hold 18 gallons and the rinse tank will hold 39 gallons. Since we start with both waste tanks empty and only have 39 gallons of fresh water, we won’t fill both waste tanks at once. In fact, at the end of over 5 days we had poured some part of almost 30 gallons of fresh water between the black and rinse water tanks. Since their combined capacity is 57 gallons, we had filled the two waste tanks only by one-half.

Our electronic tank monitoring system displays for us the water level in the three water tanks, the fresh water and the two waste tanks. It warned us we had only one-fourth of the fresh water available (almost 10 gallons) and we had filled the two waste tanks approximately 1/2 full each. If the fresh water tank reading is accurate (we think it is, since I calibrated these not long ago) then the readings for the other two tanks make sense. The numbers work out. Sometimes things are like they seem, and it is good.

It appears we would have run out of fresh water before the waste tanks filled up. We could, in short order, hitch up the trailer to our truck and tow the trailer the several hundred feet to the water hydrant to refill the tank. Some people carry 7 gallon fresh water jugs and others carry a larger water bag (sort of like an inflatable bed or water bed) to bring a resupply of fresh water to their trailer. We haven’t had much experience dry camping and, so far, haven’t minded moving the trailer to the water source.

But if our waste tanks filled first we would tow our trailer to the dump station, empty our tanks, and return to the campsite for another five days. Some of the people in the state park carried with them a portable blue rolling tank to help manage their waste tanks. They can empty the trailer’s black or rinse water tank into these portable “honey pots” and tow the honey pot to the campground’s dump station. They can empty the honey pot, rinse the connections, and their camper will go another three or four or five days before they repeat this aromatic chore.

Okay, now a brief description of the electric side of things. We have friends who are very experienced solar charged battery managers. They contend they can use their trailer’s batteries to power anything they want pretty much all they want to. And their batteries will hold up to all this use. We haven’t enjoyed this much battery power. Our system is apparently more modest, with two heavy duty 6 volt batteries wired in series to provide the 12 volts our trailer needs. What needs this power?

Our Airstream uses battery power in several different ways. Perhaps two of the most important are the trailer’s gas detector and the refrigerator automatic control. The water heater uses battery power for its ignition and automatic controls. Our tank monitoring system needs battery power if we are going to be able to determine how much fresh water we have or how much space we have in our waste tanks. The trailer’s water pump is battery-powered, and delivers a wonderful brisk water pressure to our faucets and shower head. My ham radio uses battery power so I can listen and transmit on the amateur radio bands. Our laptops, phone, and camera batteries use the trailer’s battery power to recharge them. Did I mention I am listening to our FM stereo radio while I’m typing this? Yes, it uses the trailer’s battery power too.

Would you have guessed the trailer’s batteries can do all this? Oh! What about the trailer’s interior lighting? We have four reading lights we can aim for best reading illumination. Two are at the sofa and two are above the head of our bed. We have a dozen bright ceiling lights we use whenever we lose something under the table or on the floor somewhere, or when we are cleaning the inside of or Airstream. We have two downlights shining down onto the sofa area to help with reading or working on the laptop like I’m doing now. We have eleven lights inside our four overhead storage bins to help find stuff there and to help provide indirect lighting into our Airstream’s interior.

Our washroom has two light bulbs in its fixture, and the vanity has three bright light bulbs so someone can do the detailed work she doesn’t really need but likes to keep up. Our clothes closets each have a light fixture. And our two cargo compartments (our basements, sort of) each have a light fixture. We have downlights for the kitchen’s work surface, shining down onto our dinette, and in the range hood to illuminate the stove’s cooking surface. Our refrigerator has an interior light. And we have a light fixture outside, above our door.

A lot of lights, isn’t it? And these are all powered from the trailer’s two batteries. If we are dry camping, how long will the batteries last, with all these things drawing power from them? Not all these appliances and lights are on at the same time. Some evenings we will use only one or two lights at a time. The batteries will last anywhere from a few hours to a day or so, unless we can recharge the batteries periodically. If we cannot plug into electricity to power our trailer’s battery charger, then we have two other ways to recharge our batteries. One is the really nifty portable 1000 watt Yamaha generator we have and have needed once in four years.

The other way we can keep our batteries charged is with our two big solar panels mounted on top of our Airstream’s roof. These have kept our batteries recharged perfectly for the past week, and the solar panels do this without charging us a thing no matter how much electricity we use. The sun can shine brightly or it can shine through clouds, and the solar panels still provide a charge on our batteries. So we are never really without electricity, as long as we have either an electrical outlet, or solar power, or our generator.

But if all these battery-powered systems happened to not work, then what? We have candles, a portable battery powered lantern, and flashlights. We can draw water directly from the fresh water tank, using a small bucket we carry. And we can buy a cooler to help our food stay cold if the fridge stops working. We’ll have to eat the ice cream before it melts. And there’s the beer and wine we can drink, too.

You might see, after this explanation, we have back-ups for our back-ups, and if all those fail, we have a back-up plan. If we don’t have electrical power, we can charge the batteries with solar power. If the solar panels don’t work because of rain or too much shade from trees, we can use the generator to charge the batteries. And if the generator also won’t work and we can’t move the trailer to a sunny spot or somewhere with electricity, then we’ll just have to eat the ice cream before it melts. And if we run out of water, we’ll have to drink orange juice, and milk, and beer, or go find some water somewhere.

How did we ever get by when we were tent camping? We plan ahead. We’re versatile and flexible and creative. And things haven’t been very primitive. Like Debbie said, even dry camping in our Airstream is still luxurious.