Tag Archives: Solar

If We’d Known It Would Be This Cold . . .

An oft touted benefit of full time RVing (or, full timing) is the freedom to go where you want, when you want, for as long as you want. We asked some friends in Minnesota why they stay there in the winter. “Winter sports!” Well, sure.

We haven’t carefully investigated how we fell into “Chasing 75 Degrees”. We could burn 7 gallons of propane daily and still stay in cold weather cheaper than paying $25/night or more for a sunny, warm, inviting, recreational campground. The sunny, warm, inviting venues in southern and southwestern USA are beckoning nonetheless.

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We’ve been enjoying staying as often and as many days as we can on our small acreage in Ashe County. We’re at 3,500 feet. Views to the west and north open with leaf fall. This very quiet section has long been held within one family, and remains largely owned by that family’s members. The weather and atmosphere has been perfectly enjoyable for the past month.

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Enjoyment turned to a little something else — perhaps chill — with the sudden onset of wintry weather two days ago. We received over 4″ snowfall, considerably less than the 24″ measured in the nearby Great Smoky Mountains. Startling how rapidly the air can cool and, without sunshine, stay cold. Last night the outside temperature dropped to 25 degrees. The furnace seemed to run constantly to keep the inside above 44 degrees.

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Our hillside was pretty with snow on the sides of the driveway and the forest floor carpeted in white. Snow on the driveway melted away early, but with only slight sunshine peaking through it didn’t have as great an impact upon solar charging our batteries. And who knew you can’t fully charge batteries under 41 degrees Farenheit?

In four weeks we’ve loaded our portable 1kw generator more than in the previous seven years. It’s worked well with a two-three hour run on some cloudy days. I started the generator this morning and the batteries were registering only 1 to 2 amps of charge, instead of the normal 20 amps initial charging rate. Gradually the batteries warmed from the slow charging and started taking more. By noon the sun broke through, the temperature is up to 40, and the solar panels have taken over to a rate of over 11 amps charging.

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The snowy and cold weather didn’t keep us inside. We walked to the bottom of the hill and up again several times throughout the day. Sneakers sufficed since the driveway’s snow had already melted. The cold air still braced us and, you can see, caused at least one of us to bundle up well.

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If we’d known it would be this cold, we might have built a house instead of a road!

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie
dreamstreamr odyssey™
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©2007-2014 Dreamstreamr

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Sitting in the Shade

We’re at a rally of our airstream club, Carolinas Unit of NC, encamped under grand white oak trees. The trees around us are massive, strong and broad. They form a beautiful grove of sheltering long-limbed giants. Throughout the day they allow sunlight to filter through a little. And they add to the night-time darkness, allowing starlight only in the center clearing.

Rally camping in the shade

Rally camping in the shade

Camping in the shade, we can keep the trailer cooler but cannot maintain the batteries with our solar panels. We’re in our third day and still have 80 percent battery capacity remaining despite lots of laptop charging, use of water pump and fans, and lighting throughout the day and evening the previous two days. Battery voltage is sitting at 12.5, so everything is in good shape inside.

Camping in the shade we enjoy the shadows and calm filtered light entering our trailer. Sort of makes an argument for remote solar panels, I guess. But ours are so easy to work with, ninety-five percent of the time sitting in bright sunlight atop our trailer.

Oh — there is shore power too. But Jim enjoys seeing how many days we can thrive on just batteries and solar re-charging. Call it our small contribution to reduced carbon footprint.

See you down the road!
Jim and Debbie

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©2007-2013 Dreamstreamr

Battery Monitoring in Our RV

Just before sunrise Ketchum ID


Debbie and I have lived in our 25’ travel trailer year-round the past five years. It’s not too big, not too fancy, doesn’t have too much storage. And until recently didn’t have too much spare battery capacity.

We mentioned visiting QuartzFest 2012 in our post last January and how we’d dry-camped in the desert with good friends Herb and Lois. Lucky for us, their motor home generator has excess capacity and they were willing to share.

Trimetric 2025-RV

Truth is, we really didn’t know how much battery capacity we had at any given time. Sure, we’re starting with 460 amp/hours at full, but what about ten or twenty hours after full charge? We’ve just added a Trimetric 2025 battery monitor from Bogart Engineering into our trailer, and we are rapidly gaining a good understanding of our batteries’ charging and discharging patterns.

A couple of key measurements include days since full-charge, number of amp-hours from full, and most interesting to me, incremental watts or amps of each connected load.

My very compact ham station

My ham station, consisting of a VHF radio, HF radio, Hear-It speaker, Kantronics TNC, and LDG illuminated meter adds 1.5 amps load. Lowering the antenna requires 0.4 amps, raising it takes 0.8 amps, and tuning it takes 0.3 amps. I haven’t measured transmitting yet, but will.

I look forward to learning the observed ampacity of our loads and better understanding the capacity of our 460 amp-hours of batteries (four 6v Interstate batteries).

Debbie looks forward to my being less cranky about saving battery energy when we probably have lots to spare. She’s using 8.2 amps right now — I should go check into it, right?

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