Friday, April 16, 2010

Portable Solar

After a lot of discussion with Airstream owners, we decided not to mount the solar panel on the unit but rather, set it up manually so as to better capture the sun's rays. So far, so good.

Installing the controller involved disconnecting and removing the refrigerator (to be able to snake wires alongside it) and cutting an opening in the wall. Everything went well until I went to close the cupboard over the refrigerator, and the arm hit the controller unit. Too late to move things so I moved the arm to the other side of the door.

I put on a quick disconnect near the hitch and ran enough wire to be able to move the unit around to either side of the trailer. When I first tried everything, I got nothing, even though the controller was reading battery voltage. After reading the instructions again (what a concept!), I realized that the leads to the solar panel were on the wrong contacts -- a quick switch and we were in business.

It's a great feeling to see that controller registering 4 amps of current or so in full sun. It's almost easy to feel smug -- sort of "take that, power company" feeling. The unit topped off the battery, shut down, and came on periodically as I used a little power for things.

The setting, with trees and intermittent clouds (as you can see in the photo), was not ideal but it was a great start to getting more independent energy-wise.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Off To Massachusetts

Having worked some on installing the solar controller and wiring up the solar panel, I tested it yesterday and it was great to see the meter registering 3 to 4 amps as the sun came out from behind the clouds. For now, I'm planning to use the panel up against a sawhorse, positioned to catch the sun -- and not mount it on the roof. Several friends (and my brother) set it up that way and like the versatility.

We packed up and headed out today -- still winterized -- to visit our daughter and family in Merrimac, MA. We've set up a nice little parking area off their long driveway so Penny (the Vizsla) and I boondock out there. It saves a lot of hassle since Jen has an old cat and Penny is terrible with felines.

The trip down was uneventful -- aside from the fact that our running lights still do not work. It was rainy and foggy the first hour and while not dark enough to require lights -- they would have helped from a safety factor. Next week's project.

The site here, as you can see in the photo, is pretty wooded so the use of solar is going to be iffy. Right now, the leaves are not out so there's hope -- but the forecast is for rain. I'm on a limited electrical budget and monitoring the battery with the new controller. I ran the old furnace with the blower for just a bit and saw an immediate drain. Fortunately, the catalytic heater is cranking and should take the chill off. Penny plants herself about a foot from it.

Being further south, the birds are more plentiful and active. On a walk with the dog just before dark, I saw about a dozen or more species including a lovely pileated woodpecker. Hope to do some serious birding tomorrow or Saturday at Plum Island.