Browsing "Computer"
Feb 2, 2013 -

More Finetuning of the Electrical Setup

The battery monitor still hasn’t been working properly even after I redid the bad connection on it. I haven’t had a full charge to recalibrate it, but it would have been nice to get an accurate read on the amps going out instead of it claiming that my laptop was pulling 500A and that even with that, I surely had 150 hours of running capacity left! I ended up completely disconnecting it until I could deal with it properly.

Since I will have a full charge by the end of today, I could finally synchronize the battery monitor and get it working for me again. The plan of attack was to remove ALL the terminals, even the ones that seemed good, and replace them with new ones.

In a classic example of lack of foresight, I did not have what I needed to work on the project, so I had to drive back into Port Lavaca to find terminals and, perhaps, a better crimping tool. The Radio Shack didn’t have much in the way of terminals, leaving me at a loss and desperately missing Canadian Tire. I remembered that there was an auto parts store on the way to the Walmart, so I decided to try there. They ended up having a better selection of terminals and I found a crimping tool for just $11 that, *spoiler alert*, worked great! The connection kit came with two fork-type terminals that I replaced with ring ones, figuring that they couldn’t work their way loose from a screw.

I came in and spent a half hour cutting, stripping, crimping, screwing, and swearing (not necessarily in that order and sometimes in combination). Done, I decided that if I came in and the monitor wasn’t working or was still giving screwy readings, I’d done my bit and it was time to quit and call in a pro. Well… everything is looking good! I’m getting the correct amps out reading. I’ll be able to recalibrate shortly and life will be good!

One thing that I have concluded is that I have enough amp hours but not enough charging capacity. In other words, I have enough batteries, but I need another solar panel. I’m averaging 5A in average conditions (a little cloud cover), so with 11 hours of charging time total (the charger clicks on at about 7AM and clicks off at about 6PM), I’m getting in about 55A per day, which is about 10 more amps than I use in an average day if I’m not running the furnace and only using one computer. With another panel, I could double those figures and get about 110A per day coming in, which would be plenty to replace what I’m burning with the two computers running. And that 5A really is an average. I tend to get a full 1A coming in by 8AM, by 11AM I’m running at peak capacity with 8A or more, by 4PM, I’m down to just about 3A, and then I peter out as the day ends.

I’d really prefer to have another panel installed by AM Solar, but I don’t see myself getting back out to Springfield ever again. I could get a complete 150W solar panel kit sent to me for $400 (free shipping) or $300 for a 100W (I need to check how much space I have left on the roof), and I suspect they might be willing to walk me through adding the panel to my current setup since they did the original work. At any rate, I can’t afford that right now, but it’s a consideration before I return to Canada.

That math is good news. For $400, I could just about solve my electrical shortage, leaving me to use the truck in really dire circumstances. This is a MUCH cheaper option than repairing or replacing the genset.

It’s okay that it’s taking me this much time to get the electrical setup right. My math was good when I originally did it, but circumstances have changed and, thanks to an unusual amount of foresight, my system is expandable.

I’ve been here a week and a half already and I think I just might make my goal of boondocking for four weeks!

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Batteries, Battery Monitor, Boondocking/Dry camping, Communications & Electronics, Computer, Electricity, Solar Panels, Technical, Travel    14 Comments
Jan 31, 2013 -

Well, That Was Empowering

When I hooked my house batteries up to the truck, they were reading at 12.1V. Eeeeeesh. I let them rest a little after disconnecting them from the truck and they read 12.8V! AND I plugged my laptops into the truck at the same time and got some juice into them, too!

I will not be making a habit of charging my batteries this way, of course, but I will be doing it again if I seem to be heading into a similar scenario BEFORE they get so near to full depletion.

I still need to come up with a better way to charge my laptops. For the PC, the obvious solution would be to get a few spare batteries if they aren’t too expensive. For the Mac, I’m not so sure (the battery is not user swappable). Otherwise, I use no power worth mentioning.

And, yes, I do need to use my computers as much as I do. Do you need to run your TV as much as you do? It’s amazing how in our day and age people who spend four to six hours an evening watching TV think they are sooooo superior to people who spend their day making a living on a computer. *boggled*

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Batteries, Communications & Electronics, Computer, Electricity, Solar Panels, Technical    12 Comments
Jan 31, 2013 -

Solar Charging a Laptop, Literally

When I did the math for my battery setup to determine the solar panel and battery capacity I’d need, I never would have thought that I would end up needing to power two very power hungry 17″ laptops. I was doing fine until we got several overcast days. Now, my batteries are just about depleted and I’m almost at the point of conceding defeat and finding a place to plug in for a night. I’m going to see where things are tonight after a second sunny day and may end up pulling out tomorrow. 🙁 There is an RV park just across the streets, but their rates are outrageous (something like $40 a night PLUS $40 to use the dump!). I would be coming back once the batteries are topped up, though! So the great boondocking experiment is a failure. 🙁

At any rate, I had a brainstorm this morning. The 15 watt solar panel I originally put on the roof! It’s just been sitting there waiting for me to do something with it. It only puts out about an amp in full sun, but that’s enough to power the laptops! I grabbed a 12V outlet, wire strippers, and electrical tape. End result? Success! I doubt that I will get much of a charge and what I get will be very slow, but at least I’m not using house charging power to power the laptop. I’ll give the PC a few hours on it and then try the Mac.

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Batteries, Communications & Electronics, Computer, Electricity, Solar Panels, Technical    9 Comments