Tag Archives: solar panel

Shade and energy

IMGP7044Put a rain and shade shelter over the tiny green camper, to help it last longer and give us some added protection.  Happy with how the experimental design turned out.  Tying it in (literally-knots only for fastening) to two living trees makes it all “breathe” satisfactorily in what wind we’ve seen so far.  I’d be afraid that the tarp sail would promptly take out our posts if that’s all we had.  The shade and bigger dry perimeter is very nice.

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Got our wiring sorted out, too, and am very happy to discover that the solar panel handily charges two laptops, two cordless tool batteries, phones, camera batteries, and more in one sunny afternoon, without a blip on the battery voltage (ie. still a surplus of energy).  That’s pleasing, because that is most of our electric energy needs.  Currently for cooking, on demand solar shower, and the generator (to run power tools), we are using a bit less than a pound, or a dollar, of propane a day.  Not bad.  After that is driving fuel, which is currently about one day a week, which we expect to cut in half and reduce to once  per month before long, and chainsaw gas, fairly minimal.

Sigh, the wiring.

I learned a few things at this stage too, surprise surprise.  Converters and Inverters are different things (inverters change power down from 110V to 12v, converters convert power up from 12 to 110).  Batteries are finicky.

We have a 155W solar panel, and a 12V, 4amp fridge, the kind for truckers and tailgate parties that run off a lighter socket.  We’ve got a charge controller that I got with the panel, and then the converter that came with the camper, that also has a shore line.  Two deep cycle batteries of dubious condition.  Then a generator.  And a 2amp battery maintainer.  And a standalone converter unit, also for running off a vehicle lighter.

Figuring out how to put it all together involved a great deal of mental anguish, time on the internet learning about electricity (I was all good for Ohm’s Law, but when it came to the PEIR wheel I hit overwhelm), and looking for people who knew more than me that could explain stuff.

I think I hit an electrical turning point this time though.  By the end of it, it just all seemed so simple.  It just all follows back to what’s hot and what’s ground.  For years, that has not seemed simple at all, but it’s not so bad.

So without all the many hours involved in the learning curve and emotions, here’s what I did.  The solar panel is wired through its charge controller to the battery.  The charge controller is awesome, because it reads out the panel output or the battery charge.  The converter is suspect, so that is not wired to the batteries.  It’s a glorified extension cord.  It’s wired to the battery maintainer, though, so any time the camper is plugged into the genny or shore power, the batteries will be getting a little bit.

Continue reading Sigh, the wiring.