Browsing "Inverter"
Mar 17, 2013 -

54 Days of Boondocking

I am just under a week shy of completing one solid month of boondocking! I’m doing one night on FHU and then it’s back off the grid I go.

Boondocking for so long didn’t seem realistic when I first started as I had so many troubles with my electrical setup. But I persevered in my troubleshooting and have been rewarded with a 12V system I now only need to monitor as it is adequate and functioning well for my needs.

That said, I’m not sure I would still be here on the beach had I not been able to borrow that generator at the beginning of February or if L and B hadn’t installed a new continuous duty solenoid in the motorhome engine compartment. It really does take the proverbial village…

I’ve got my power usage down to a routine now. I charge my computer in the morning and leave it plugged in for the entire afternoon. It still consumes a few amps at full charge, but it’s a fraction of what it needs to charge, so I’m able to charge the house batteries fully by dinner time, and I have a fully charged computer for the evening.

I don’t leave the computer plugged in in the evening because of the enormous voltage drop due to undersized wiring that I still need to correct. If I leave it plugged in, I don’t have enough voltage to even run an LED light without it flickering.

Now that I know that the wiring is undersized, I can manage my 12V use so that the system doesn’t get over loaded and the DC charger doesn’t get hot, so there are no fire concerns. I am eager to beef up the wiring, but it’s going to be a costly job and there are other upgrades in line first.

If it’s sunny out, I can use 120V items, like the printer and vacuum cleaner without a second thought. If like yesterday, it is overcast, then I need to shut some things down (usually unplugging the computer is enough) or run the engine to get the added voltage boost.

As for plumbing, the holding tanks haven’t been a problem. I could likely go a couple more weeks.

I am sorely missing having water in my on board tank, but have conceded that my 10-gallon water heater means that having instant hot water while boondocking is a wasteful luxury. Having a navy shower is no better than bathing in a basin. So, really, hauling and heating water is always going to be in my boondocking future when I am not somewhere that I can fill up regularly.

I do so desperately miss my long hot evening showers as they were my transition time to bedtime. I need to find access to showers the next time I’m off the grid this long. When I had my house and the plumbing was off in the dead of winter, I’d just go to the gym. I need to find an equally suitable setup on the road. The RV park where I am going does have showers, but I’d have to pay an extra $5 per day to access them. Much as I love my showers, they are not worth that much!

When I started reading about RVing back in 2008, I thought of all the things I would have to give up, and the first that came to mind was my daily shower. I can’t even remember the rest, but the showers hold true. That’s really the only concession I make when off the grid. Otherwise, I am living a more electrically-mindful version of my normal routine and I don’t feel deprived in the least.

Finally, boondocking is infinitely superior to staying in an RV park with all its restrictions!

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Batteries, Battery Monitor, Black Tank, Boondocking/Dry camping, Communications & Electronics, Computer, Electricity, Fresh Water Tank, Generator, Grey Tank, Indoor Shower, Inverter, Plumbing, Solar Panels, Technical, Toilet, Travel    6 Comments
Feb 19, 2013 -

Two Good Electrical Days In a Row

Today is another day with more sun than expected. It’s chilly, but I’m not complaining!

I’m going to have the computer on charge all day since I’m in major backup mode. My MacBook Pro keeps crashing, so complete hard drive failure is imminent. I just need to decide on a new drive and order it; the choices are a little overwhelming. I want to make sure I have several recent Time Machine backups and two different bootable backups. It’s likely way more than I need, but with the current drive being only good for the dump, I want all the chances I can get to be up and running perfectly about four hours from the new drive making it here.

Power right now is at 88% and holding. I’m actually getting 7 to 8A in, so I’m breaking even. The more the batteries are depleted, the more efficiently the alternator charges them, so I’ll wait till about 4PM and then run the engine for a bit to make sure I’m at at least 90% capacity tonight and then I’ll aim for 100% tomorrow.

In other news, R and S from Colorado are back, so a beach party is imminent!

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Batteries, Battery Monitor, Communications & Electronics, Computer, Electricity, Inverter, Nice Folks, Social, Solar Panels, Technical    3 Comments
Feb 17, 2013 -

Using My 1,000W Pure Sine Wave Inverter As a Whole House Inverter

My inverter finally works the way that it should and I really enjoy it being technically a whole house-type installation.

How I have it wired is that it has short beefy runs directly to the battery, and then I have a 120V heavy duty extension cord running from the inverter to the shower power cable compartment. In there, I use a 30A to 15A adapter to plug the shore power cable into the extension cord. So when I flick on the inverter, I have 120V power in most of my outlets.

The unfortunate thing about my setup is how my converter is wired. To avoid a huge drain on my batteries, I have to flip off the breakers for the fridge (so that I don’t accidentally switch it to AC), the microwave and air conditioner (in case I lose my mind), and the converter (which would stick my batteries in an endless charge and discharge loop). The converter is on the same breaker as all the outlets on the driver’s side of the rig.

This means, I only really have access to three outlets, the new one under the desk, the old one above the desk, and the hard to access one in the kitchen above the fridge in the far corner of the cabinet.

Having the one under the desk be live is great since my UPS is plugged into it and all my computer peripherals except the printer are plugged into the UPS. But the printer and shredder are normally plugged into an outlet by the converter and I have to snake an extension cord across the room when I want to use them when boondocking.

Now that I’ve ascertained that the load on the new outlet is actually very small, I feel comfortable getting an extension cord and running it around the rig to the UPS to permanently plug the printer and shredder into that outlet. So I’ll do that soon as I get a chance to pick up a good extension cord.

In the kitchen/front room, I like the outlet at the foot of the bed under a cabinet for plugging in the vacuum cleaner or the crockpot. I now have an extension cord coiled up for easy access in the over fridge cabinet and I pull that out when I need to plug something in in the kitchen. It’s a good workaround even if I would prefer to plug the crockpot into the outlet by the sink and not have to worry about tripping over an extension cord (not that I would, it’s long enough that it can sit flush across the floor).

I don’t leave the inverter on 24/7, only when I need it. Even so, it has zero to negligible draw when it’s on without a load. I’ve checked and rechecked this and my inverter is definitely not a power hog, which is a pleasant surprise.

One thing that bugs me about it is that I had to mount it at floor level because of the cable lengths available to me. It came with a remote starter, so I thought I would be able to put the start button within easy reach, but the dang remote starter doesn’t work! So I have to bend down to start the inverter. A bit of a pain, but it’s not something I do often. One good thing about having the inverter in that location is that it forces me to be more thorough in my vacuum (you know, move the chair to vacuum behind it instead of just going around…) to keep dust to a minimum. 🙂

It was a bit of a steep climb to getting the inverter to work correctly and to perform according to my expectations and needs, but it was worth the work. Being able to press two buttons (inverter plus UPS) and have my office come to life is a real blessing.

And so was being able to use my jigsaw to cut a little trim the other day. Imagine that, I’ve gone from not being able to charge my computer while boondocking to running power tools. I’ve come a very long way since the start of my boondocking experiment.

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Boondocking/Dry camping, Electricity, Inverter, Technical, Travel    No Comments