First Things First: Building A Reliable Power System

It has been one long damn winter, just another reminder of one of the reasons I’ve decided to hit the road. But now, even though we’ve had two major snowstorms in the past three weeks, there are signs that spring is beginning to take over. And that’s what I’ve been waiting for.

Optima Blue Top Battery

When I saw that this weekend would offer some reasonable temperatures and the snow would stay away (and it was iffy — there’s a storm system staying just south of our state right now, but that’s far enough), I decided to start building an electrical power system that is robust and sustainable. Unlike people who just use their camper a few days or weeks at a time, mine has to function reliably, 24/7/365. So I’ve been doing a lot of homework to figure out how to do that.

Power Storage
I went ahead and ordered my Optima Blue Top 12v AGM Deep Cycle house battery. It was a choice I made after hours of reading blog posts and watching dozens of videos on the topic. I figured I’d be able to install it without freezing my butt off or having to deal with precipitation. Yesterday, I went and picked it up.

That was the second huge item I checked off my list, related to getting my rig roadworthy.

Flexible Solar Panel

Power Generation
The first was the purchase of four flexible, 100-watt monocrystalline cell solar panels, which I ordered weeks ago, immediately after learning that the current federal administration had imposed a 30% tariff on imported solar panels. I wanted to get them before the tariffs artificially bumped prices.

Those panels have been sitting in my living room for several weeks now. I’m likely going to wait to have them installed until January, when I attend the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous in Arizona. I’ve heard there are many places down there that specialize in installing solar systems on RVs, and I think that’s my best bet for having it done properly.

However, timing was not my friend on the battery issue. I had thought I’d done my homework thoroughly enough, and had invested in one of the most highly rated 12v AGM batteries available, and highly recommended. The problem is, the day after I ordered it, I found some new info — both from a new friend online and from several videos — that made me realize I needed to take a different approach.

Since I’m going to be boondocking so often, I really need more power storage capacity than I can get with a single 12v battery. Because it doesn’t matter how much power my solar panels can create if I can’t store it all. Otherwise, what will happen is that the panels will make more than enough to fill the one battery, then it will go into “float” mode, and everything made after that will just be wasted. I need an electric storage system that may consist of more than one battery, sized so that the panels will adequately charge them up but not make so much extra that power is wasted.

And, without going into the whole technical thing of why (that is enough to fill a whole section of its own, which is why I’m researching and getting help with sizing my solar power system), it appears I can more than double that capacity by going with two 6v golf cart batteries wired in series, rather than a single 12v battery.

Fortunately, I am able to return the Blue Top with no penalty, so I’m off to research the best 6v batteries I can afford, and order those. Meanwhile, I’m making do with the 12v marine battery that came with the rig to provide light and heat while I move forward with renovations. I can charge that one with my trickle charger as needed.

One Last Thing

Trailer vent insect screenLastly, I was able to install the small but important bug screen that will keep mud dauber wasps and other nasties from building nests in the outside furnace vents. A certain amount of propane that doesn’t get fully combusted is vented outside, and apparently the wasps are attracted to that smell…go figure.

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