Solar happy

What makes a fulltime camper happy?

A campsite view like this makes me happy!

Camping happiness is two full propane tanks, a full fresh-water tank, empty waste tanks, a full tank of gas, a well-stocked refrigerator, and an inverter reading 14 volts before noon.

I wake up this morning, hug Bridget and Spike, and send them out the door.  “Ah yes, another beautiful day. . . Time to put the percolator on.”

“What?  No propane?  Oh, nooooo.”

A nice mix of sun and shade, pretty and private

Yesterday afternoon I moved us over to this new camp.  It’s lovely here.  We can still see the mountains, yet our camp is more secluded as it’s away from the wide part of the pond.  There’s a tiny island of reeds and bushes where birds come and go.

I also feel it’s safe to let the crew off-leash, as long as I keep an eye on them.

We even have our own little beach!

Well, I’m glad I didn’t unhitch last night.

Off we go for propane.  Our neighbor at our former campsite across the pond told me where to find it. ( I’ve learned to ask questions.)  Soon we have our two tanks full with the lid to the propane tank cover securely in place!  I also gas up the Perfect Tow Vehicle.   As I tow the Casita back to our new campsite, I’m relieved to see no one has moved into it.

"Spike! Come back! You can't go with them!"

Propane and gas are my first two expenditures of the new  year.

One of my new year’s resolutions is to keep better track of my expenses.  From mid-August, when I picked up my new Casita, until now, I’ve only made sure the money going out was less than the money coming in.  I’ve got to do better than that.  I’m going to record the day’s expenditures at the bottom of each blog entry.  Maybe that will make me more fiscally responsible!

Back to the wonderful 14 volts in the morning . . .

I feel a song coming on. . . “Oh what a beautiful morning, fourteen volts all the day . . . Oh what a beautiful feeling, sunshine is coming my way . . . “

The PTV stands proudly with her panel tilted toward the sun.

Anyway.  Certain readers of this blog are impatient with me for not fully explaining my solar escapades.  Here’s a history and a summary for you solarites of which I am one.

My solar was all set to go when I was in New Mexico. 

The 3000 watt inverter, which came mounted in the PTV when I bought it used, was integrated into the system, even though it’s way honkin’ huge for the job.  Once everything was finished, a snowstorm blew in.  Then I discharged my batteries when I turned the fridge off of propane during the night, not thinking about it automatically switching over to suck power out of my batteries.

I took the PTV to a NAPA place to get the batteries charged up.  Immediately the weather turned rainy and cloudy FOR ABOUT A WEEK, thus making it impossible for the batteries to keep their charge, because rvsue couldn’t stop turning on the monster inverter every single day in order to charge her laptop so she could blog, blog, blog, and reply to comments …. Whew!

I’m leaving out some of the story.

No need to go on and on about all the comments, advice, and helping hands that got involved along the way.  I find myself sitting in the beautiful desert fed up to my eyeballs while trying to get my solar to do its thing.  So I pull up stakes and get us to Yuma, where I was planning to go anyway, and immediately motor on over to Starlight Solar.  I camp in their parking lot.

Larry and his crew go over everything and suggest some changes.

The small inverter has a digital read-out window and two outlets.

First off, the Monster Inverter is just too darn big.  It adds too much load on the batteries, especially on a series of cloudy days.

Larry suggests I only turn it on when I want to use something with a heavy draw, like a microwave, toaster, or hair dryer.  Then I should turn it off and leave it off.

I can use this small inverter that connects to the “cigarette lighter” 12 volt outlets in the Casita (or PTV).  I can plug my television or laptop cords into this small inverter.  I also can run lights and charge up things like my camera and phone.

How does this inverter get its power from the batteries in the PTV?

Gimme them 14 volts, baby!

A cord (or wire, whatever) runs from the battery box underneath the PTV to the bumper, ending in a nice little outlet with a cover.

Another cord (or wire, whatever) runs from somewhere around the refrigerator panel box, underneath the Casita, to extend out along the Casita tongue with a plug on the end.

I keep this plugged in all the time, except when I want to go somewhere in the PTV.

This photo is for those people who couldn't care less about my solar.

Okay.  You still with me?

There was a problem with the relay in the PTV’s engine compartment.  It worked for a short while and then died.  Another type relay was put in to allow charging of batteries while the PTV’s engine runs.  I was assured there is no way the engine battery will be drained.

The wire going from the solar panel to the batteries was okay.

However, it was not UV wire.  In other words, it would deteriorate in the sun.  That was replaced.  The charge controller I have . .. a SunSaver MPPT . .. is considered topnotch.  It needed to have the “jumper” removed on it to adjust it for use with AGM batteries.

So that pretty much sums it up.

If you have questions about the panel and equipment I have, click on the menu items under “Solar Power” in the header.  I’ll be adding more information to it in the future.

Did it cost a lot of money?

Yes, it did.  Having a three-person crew working on your solar costs over $100 per hour.  The Starlight Solar people do great work in a professional manner.  They work incredibly fast and are careful and thorough.   Everything was explained as they went along, and I had the opportunity to say yes or no to any of the work.  Larry kept me informed of the cost.   He gave me a discount for paying by check, instead of by credit card.  Well, actually, what he did is not charge me for the little inverter.

I stayed three nights in the Starlight Solar parking lot. 

During the evening my batteries were hooked up for a trickle charge.  They checked my Casita battery and it is fine.  The Casita was plugged in to their shore power both nights.

Larry told me to expect my little inverter to read between 12 and 14 volts throughout the day.  This should give me the power I want for my typical usage.  Last night I watched television for about an hour and had plenty of juice to spare.  I would have watched more but every channel I get here in Yuma is in Spanish!

This is what it's all about.

It’s time to sit back and enjoy my solar for a change.  I love it!  Never has sunshine felt so good.


1/1/12 . . . $0
1/2/12 . . . $ 22.75 for 8.4 gallons of propane, $71.86 for 21.14 gallons of gas
1/3/12 . . . $0



About rvsueandcrew

Fulltime nomad
This entry was posted in Simple living and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

71 Responses to Solar happy

  1. Maribeth says:

    Excellent idea on the expense notation at the bottom of each post. It will also help a fulltime dreamer such as myself to get and idea of just how much it will cost to live on the road. Maybe I will find I can do it after all. Lovely spot you have Sue, lovely. Hi to Bridget and Spike.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      That’s what I was thinking when I decided to show my daily expenses. At some point in the future I’ll put it all together with my other expenses such as insurance, technology, and road service to show the complete picture.

  2. Old Fat Man says:

    Good operating solar is a wonderful tool for helping to have tooooo much fun.

  3. Hotel California says:

    We just love snowy egrets. They always make us smile!!!

  4. Emily says:

    I am a picture lover!

  5. I know you been getting tons of advice. We use our solar and are we are avid boondockers and we only turn on our inverter when needing something big, just like you said.

    But here is one thing you may not realize:

    Your laptop is already DC.

    The cord that comes with your laptop converts the AC to DC to make your laptop work.

    You are, in essence, changing the DC to AC and then back to DC again when using your inverter (yes even your tiny new one)

    It is MUCH easier to just order a DC power cord for your laptop and hook it up directly to the DC outlet. No inverters needed. Easy Peasy.

    We have DC power cords for both of our laptops, for both of our cell phones, for our Verizon Galaxy tablet (which gives us our wifi) and even to charge up our video camera. About the only time we turn on the inverter is if we are running a tv or using my steam iron for working on my wool socks– for setting the stitches and blocking the wool yarns into shape.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Thank you for telling me about the DC cord. I think someone else mentioned that a few months back and I forgot aobut it. Makes sense. I do a lot of things without putting any thought into it whatsoever.

  6. To help you better keep track of your BUDGET try setting it up on Excel or a spreadsheet. You can customize it to total Expenditures and subtract them from your Inflow. That’s what those function tabs are for.

    It’s about time.

  7. Reine says:

    Congratulations on getting the solar issues resolved. Your total solar expenditures are being repaid daily in campground fees you DON’T pay and in enjoyment of places that you couldn’t really enjoy without solar.
    Great idea to record your expenses – and thanks for sharing them. It will definitely keep you accountable plus be of benefit to other folks who are dreaming of your lifestyle. I’m guessing that one of your goals for this year is to build up a larger emergency fund for the “just in case” situations. In my experience Murphy stays farther away if you have funds already allocated for the times when he calls.
    Happy New Year – oh wait, you’re already having one.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      You’ve got Murphy’s Law nailed. If you aren’t ready, expenses jump out of the woodwork.

      I appreciate you cheering me on about my solar, in spite of the up front cost. Another “law” I’ve discovered is . . . If you don’t invest your money when you have it, it will dwindle away and you won’t have much to show for it.

  8. longdog2 says:

    Glad you got things working properly. Unfortunately things are sometimes trial and error and a matter of learning but it didn’t impede you from enjoying your travels. Your spot is beautiful with just enough company to enjoy.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      It is a good combination here of privacy and company. Some women came by and we talked for a short time. They left and I had this end of the pond all to myself and the crew.

  9. gumo says:

    Google has excellent spreadsheets that do any function for you and it is free and unlimited storage. Thanks for the solar summary and your great sense of humor.

  10. Geri says:

    YaY! Love it when everything works!!!! So glad you are happy, healthy and full of sunshine. Hound Herd says “Hi!” to The Crew! We love ya!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Time for you guys to get rid of the pesky paperwork and head west! Thanks for the sweet thoughts. Now round up the Hound Herd, toss them and Chuck into the Mothership, and fire up her engine!

      • Chuck says:

        We’re trying Kiddo!!!! Just got the skirting done on the mobile, Geris’ new toitoi so we can close it down and not worrying about another set of burst pipes. Just waiting for FL to send the titles, Beastie is legal to pull the Mothership. Thanks for the solar info!!!!!

  11. cathieok says:

    Have to admit you lost me after about the first sentence on the solar explanation. 🙂 Good thing I don’t have to understand it. I am just glad it is all working for you. Love your new spot on the other side of the lake.

  12. ThatCase says:

    Or, you may want to consider (web based and free) or Quicken (computer based and must be purchased) financial software … both products of Intuit, the same company that offers TurboTax. I have used all three for years and have been very satisfied. Much more user friendly than spread sheets (although I also like google documents – mentioned above by “gumo”). Sure there are even more out there.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Thanks, ThatCase . . . I’ll look into it.

      • Bob Giddings says:

        I’ve been using Quicken since about 1990. It will change your life, mostly by making it hard to ignore where your money goes. There is a short learning curve, mostly getting in the habit of listing and categorizing every purchase. But once you get a couple of months worth of data in, it’s pretty painless to keep up…. and often painfully revealing.

  13. Lynne says:

    Hey cool! You’ve got the exact same little inverter I do! I really like the digital readout. I plug a power strip into mine to get more AC outlets so I can recharge my laptop, camera batteries, phone/ipad all at the same time. The only thing it squawks at is if I try to keep my laptop turned on while also trying to recharge all those other items (because of the extra demand). So glad the Solar guys were able to get your system fine-tuned and helped you learn more about RV electric while doing it. I copied their name down so the next time I’m out in AZ I’ll see if they can install solar for me too….don’t trust the bozos here in Chicago to do it—we never get any warmth or sunshine here 😦 . Well, I predict if you spend much longer camping on the shores of that lovely pond, we might soon be reading about Sue’s new inflatable kayak (or fishing pole!). What a life!

  14. Rod Ivers says:

    Sue, I would like to add emphasis on the 12 volt DC cords for your lap top and other DC devices. If you reach over and touch the small inverter, you will find that it is hot to the touch. That is wasted energy coming from your batteries given off as heat. The DC cords for your laptop and other devices like a router will not get nearly so hot because you are not converting to 110 volt AC and then back to DC with the power brick that comes with your computer. Typical laptops run on about 19 volts DC, so the DC to DC device only steps up the voltage to 19 volts which is much easier than converting it into 110 volt AC and then using the power cord and brick that comes with the laptop to convert it back to the 19 volt DC. Each of those devices give off heat which is wasting the electricity that is stored in your batteries.

    I know this is all somewhat confusing, but based on your explanation above, I think you have a good understanding of what is happening. Especially the fact that your 3Kw inverter takes more power to run than the devices that you are running with it. Again, it is giving off more heat than the coffee maker it is powering, running down your batteries at twice the rate necessary.

    This is getting longer than I intended so happy boondocking! Rod

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I appreciate you taking the time to explain all this for me, Rod. It’s obvious now that I need to get a DC cord for my laptop. Hey, long comments? Not a problem!

      Have a great year!

  15. Darrell says:

    I vote for the Red Chief and No. 2.

    Glad things have worked out. Now it is time for you and the PTV to “recharge your batteries”.

    Peace be with you.

  16. bearwise2010 says:

    Those are amazing pictures, you shouldn’t post them, you should set up a web site and sell them they are priceless. Oh no that would be work, yes no no retirement easy life no stress.. sorry
    ha ha… well I do love the pictures, of course I know you said you can’t say where that was, but in time I hope you publish a journal and that place will be indicated, this is one place I would love to visit when retirment rolls around and hopefully in good health to do this. Take care Stay in the Sun..

  17. bearwise2010 says:

    PS. stay away from quick books etc complicated software for what you need. Just a simple excel spreadsheet you can sit in the am with a cup of coffee and keep track of your expenditures.

    • bearwise2010 says:

      Sue what type of software do you have, can design you something really simple to use and you can do it while waiting for your pictures to load, just have to know what you have on your lap top. I have one for excel but you said you didn’t have excel. trust me very simple to use, you can try it doesn’t mean you have to use it. let me know.

      • rvsueandcrew says:

        Hi, bearwise . . .

        I appreciate your offer. I’m a bit leary about having things transferred to my computer, due to the possibility of malware or some other bad thing coming along, too. Even though it’s not intentional, it might happen, no matter how nice the person sending it may be!

  18. Darrell says:

    Sue, Sue, Sue,,,,sit down and I’ll explain. Everyone was recommending computer software for you to use in keeping up with your expenses, so I went the other way and recommended a pencil (No. 2) and paper (Red Chief tablet). Maybe you’re too young to know about Red Chief tablets?

    I hope you know I’m just kidding.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Oh, I get it now. Funny! I kept thinking of The Ransom of Red Chief and couldn’t make the connection.

      I doubt I’m too young, just a bad memory. To tell the truth, I don’t mind sitting down with a calculator and adding up expenses and then using a calculator to subtract expenses from income, but that’s old fashioned!

  19. Donna K says:

    I enjoyed reading about the solar problem and fixes. Still trying to decide if we want to install a whole-house inverter. We have two 100 watt solar panel and two house batteries but no plugs are connected to the batteries…lights only. Seems like we could power more. The TV has it’s own inverter. So I wasn’t tired of reading about solar but I liked that water reflection picture anyway!!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Donna!

      Glad you enjoyed reading about my solar fix. I figured some photos were necessary to keep readers from suffering from TMSI . . . Too Much Solar Information!

  20. Hi Sue

    Thanks for your blogging. We have recently sold up our house and set off in our motorhome to travel around Australia. Your posts are interesting and inspirational. But, being Aussie, we are confused by a couple of terms being used:
    – boondocking
    – dry camping
    In Australia there are places where you can camp for free but you must be fully self contained i.e. carry your own water and have your own toilet, shower and cooking facilities. Are we right in thinking this is what the terms mean?

    Kind Regards
    Glenda and Robyn

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hello Glenda and Robyn!

      I’m no expert, for sure . . . I think of dry camping as simply camping without hook-ups, either in a campground or not, like you described.

      Boondocking, to me, is dry camping in a secluded, out-of-the way place. The term comes from the non-rv word “boondocks” meaning a remote place as in “That hermit lives in the boondocks.”

      I associate boondocking with the phrase “living off-grid.”

  21. Pam Perry says:

    Gee, thanks for deciding to add daily expenses. That’s very generous of you. I dream of having an RV again, but don’t have huge funds to spend on it.

    Thanks too for the pretty pictures among the technology. The technology is important. I’m interested in it too.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Pam!

      I don’t have huge funds either. It may seem that I do, what with all the spending I’m doing. I saved up over the years so I’d have resources for these start-up expenses, including solar, with some left over for the inevitable maintenance and repair costs.

      Now I’m turning my focus to learning how to live this nomad life well within my income, so I can replenish the maintenance and repair fund, and emergency costs.

  22. Page says:

    Thank you for educating me about the solar. Photos are lovely as always.
    Be safe, warm, and well!

  23. Liked the serenity in your photos:))

  24. Tootles says:

    Wow, what a happy solar story ending. I understand your feelings about spreadsheets and such. It conjures up dread! Thanks for posting your expenses. We don’t realize how simple it can be.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Tootles!

      It’s said that money can’t buy happiness. Well, when it comes to solar power, yes it can!

      “We don’t realize how simple it can be.” . . . great comment, so true!

  25. george says:

    Hi Sue….great blog ! I found you thru a link in Becky’s Interstellar Orchard. Fun to read and I’m learning a lot about RV living from reading these blogs.
    I’m new to this whole RV thing, and am having a blast going out for days at a time with just my dog and my camera as my companions !


    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, George!

      Welcome to my blog! I’m glad you like it. So you have an RV now? It sounds like you have what you need to enjoy life . . . good for you!

  26. Fred says:

    Hi Sue,

    I have a spreadsheet (excel) that I created for 2011and subsequent years, separated by month, that should include all the income and expense items you should need if you would like to use it. No crazy formulas or anything like that just simple easy to enter boxes. If you would like it, I will send it to you. If not, I’ll be happy to take your expenses and keep track of them as long as you keep recording them at the bottom of your blog. Keep up the great pics.

    Fred (now in Pahrump)

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Fred!

      Thanks for the offer. I’m a little skittish about receiving things through email or even being included in group emails. Sooner or later some malware or other baddie will sneak into my computer, through no fault of the sender.

  27. john says:

    Hi Sue,, Just love reading your blog, & pic’s are great also,, One of my favorite movie’s is “Jeremiah Johnson” with Robert Redford, and all I can say is


  28. butterbean carpenter says:

    Howdy sue & B&S,
    So glad to hear the joy in your voice,but there is fear in it, also.. My GREATEST FEAR in getting online was VIRUSES & CRAP!!! My s-i-l told me to quit worrying about that!!! There are so much
    s–t floating around that you CAN’T DODGE all of it and your BUILT-IN PROTECTION IS MORE THAN LIKELY ADEQUATE!!!!! I have been ALL over the world; Europe, Australia, Japan & China
    (probably) without getting anything BAD!! There are HONEST SCANS you can use to check your
    ‘pooter’ with and ‘clean’ it IF you get ‘infected’… Your ‘pooter’ automatically reads each email and ‘scans it’ for viruses; IF YOU OPEN IT!!! Set your email SCANNING to eliminate JUNK & SCAMS!!
    My SPAM FILTER FILLS UP EVERYDAY(over 100+) and I just ‘clean’ it!!!!
    I got a laff outta Big Chief & #2!! A x-school teacher shud no!!!(1st grade)
    Pet the pups and don’t let Spike hurt those ‘big’ dogs(probably female)!!!
    If you get a kayak check the Gypsy Journal stories on the Sea Kings!! Don’t take up much room!!

  29. Fred Wishnie says:

    If you have 2 propane tanks, you may have an automatic switchover system that will tell you when one tank is empty, allowing you to fill them one at a time and never running out of gas. If you can email me a picture of your setup I may be able to save you some grief.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I knew one of the tanks was empty . .. I took a chance because I didn’t see a propane place on my way over to this camp. I’ve been using campground shore power for my fridge up until I left New Mexico, and in Ajo I used my propane heater at night . When you’re new at this, it takes a while to estimate how long the propane will last. Next time a tank goes empty, I’ll know better than to procrastinate!

  30. Mike Leonard says:

    Always entertaining! Thank you for the information on solar panels… not sure it is for us, but I am intrigued. We are in a Casita as well, but our Nearly Perfect Tow Vehicle probably won’t work for carrying solar panels…. It is a four door Toyota Tundra Pickup, which I love, but it doesn’t have the roof area that the PTV does.

  31. Rubbertramp says:

    Thank you Sue, you are such a sweatheart! Jack

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