Completion of our Solar Project

Well it has been a long road for our solar installation on our Excel Winslow Fifth Wheel Trailer. I am a little embarrassed at how long it took me to complete the project. I started off well enough, installing the two DM 158w Monocrystalline solar panels just after we left on our adventure of Full-Time living (April 2014).  It appeared I was making great progress. Several weeks later I had the combiner box in, 4 gauge wiring installed from the roof to the Morningstar TS-45 Tristar 45 Amp Charge Controller and our Trimetric TM-2025-RVBattery Monitor System installed and operational. (Check out: Phase One of our Solar Installation and Solar Power for our Rig) But then the project stalled.

I probably could come up with a long list of excuses why it took me so long to complete the Solar Project, but two things come to mind: one was cost and the other was we just did not need the electricity. The cost component was the steep price of the inverter (what turns our battery electricity from DC to AC so we can run anything that plugs in, and I was stuck on a Magnum MMS1012 1000W Inverter Charger with a hefty price of almost $1,000). But maybe more importantly, it was the fact that we just had not needed solar power. For most of our travels we were volunteering, in campgrounds, or in family or friends driveways, all places where we could plug-in. And when we were not plugged in, our Crown 260 AMP-Hour 6 Volt Deep Cycle Batteries, fully charged, could easily go a week off the grid: running our lights, hydraulics, and water pump. The downside when we were not plugged in was: no television, stereo, coffee maker, vacuum cleaner, or charging our electronic devices.

Okay, so enough with the excuses. On May 8th we left Arizona (after being plugged-in for six months) for a month and a half trip back east, with plans to do a lot of boondocking (camping off the grid: no hookups) and dispersed camping (staying in public lands), as we visited as many National Parks in Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota as we could. For these travels we wanted to be able to plug things in and needed AC power to do it. It was time for the purchase of an inverter, and to finish-up our solar project!

solar-items

I did some more research and in the end decided to save significant money and purchased a Xantrex 806-1210 PROwatt 1000 SW Inverter, and so far the Xantrex has worked perfectly in our installation – I have no regrets. Besides the inverter there were many challenges to finishing the solar project, but in the end we are very pleased with the outcome.

The freedom of solar power is remarkable,  something we did not foresee. To be in a picturesque spot deep within a National Forest and able to run everything in our RV makes us feel very smart, and not having to run a generator to do it: doubly smart. And solar power is effortless, once it is up and running, no noise, no fuel to deal with: truly liberating.

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First test: grinding coffee with power from the sun!

During our travels east this past spring we were plugged-in only once (Moab, UT, when it was over 100 degrees and we needed air-conditioning), and we stayed unplugged all summer and during our two-month journey to the Northwest. Currently we are visiting good friends in Husum, WA and you know what? The sun does not shine so much in autumn here and our panels are struggling to keep the batteries charged. Add to this the latitude (45 degrees N, same as Montreal, Quebec!) and you have a sun problem for solar power. There are two solutions: one is to add a couple more panels, giving us double the Watts (624), the other is to head south! I think I like the heading south idea!

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8 Comments

Filed under Jeff, RV Living, Solar, Uncategorized

8 responses to “Completion of our Solar Project

  1. Jesse

    NIce! Glad to see it up and running. We cut down a couple of those old maples, so when you park at our place again there will be less panel shade to contend with.

    • Jeff

      Hi Jesse!

      Natasha will rest much easier, she worried each night the wind blew, that one of them would fall on us!

      I have gotten much smarter on solar power, no better way to understand it fully than to do an installation! And I usually can even explain what I did to someone, and I think they understand, another sign I am getting it. Have you made further progress on your hopes for solar at Smokey House Center?

      We would love to get back up to the Center; maybe I could be of help in any solar plans!

      Jeff

    • Jeff

      Hi Jesse! I am officially retired from WVU, as of Jan. 4th! This is the first time I have not had a job since I was 14! Strange times for me and for us, but the change will be refreshing, I am excited for new opportunities. For now we are living on my 401K and will as we finish out our Full-Time Lifestyle, probably two more years. Drove back east for a month and the Holidays, visited family and friends, good time. Now we are back in Oakland where we have been staying at my brother Jon’s. Haven’t been in the Rig since Halloween, wow! Time to get back to it; we head to McDowell Mountain County Park this Sunday where we will volunteer for a couple of months. It will be nice to be back into our “Life”. I hope all is well with you and the family! We are all fine.

  2. Jen Jones

    Jeff,

    Great article. So cool that you are self sufficient and living mostly off of the sun. Awesome!

    Hugs to all!

    Jen

    • Jeff

      Hi Jen, Yes, Solar takes care of our less hungry electrical needs, but for our more high energy needs we depend on propane (heat, refrigerator, hot water). I should pay more attention to how much propane we use (though it is always changing due to circumstance), but if I were to guess we spend maybe $20-$30 a month. Tractor Supply prices for propane are $1.79/gallon in most places, but we have seen as much as $4.00/gallon at other locals; of course we shop carefully for the best price and Tractor Supply stores are everywhere!

  3. Excellent wrap-up tutorial Jeff. I am glad you have the installation complete now. Will it run a satellite dish so you can get Internet in the boonies?

    • Jeff

      I’m retired; and jobless for the first time since I was 14! So I better be better responding to our Blog! I lost my work hot-spot: it was free and unlimited data! So as concerns Internet we are working on a fix. Satellite will run with our solar set-up, but is way expensive and not fast. We will probably just up-our data plan for our phones and tether for a hot-spot.

  4. Jeff

    Our Solar will run a satellite dish but they are expensive (for Internet purposes). The boonies are a problem for cellular signal. Even here in Husum, WA we have sporadic coverage and no data. Lucky for us, our gracious hosts have strong WiFi we can pick-up in the Rig. And just down the hill, less than a mile, we get four-bars of AT&T Cellular. Of course there is always the local library, which I am a regular guest of down in White Salmon.

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