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Harnessing the Sun

Harnessing the Sun

“Someday man will harness the rise and fall of the tides, imprison the power of the sun, and release atomic power.”

– Thomas Edison

Thomas was a sharp guy! I decided I would try a little of that “imprisoning the power of the sun” stuff …add the ability to “play acoustic” in the RV…go a little green ☺

As I mentioned in an earlier post , I know I am supposed to be meandering across country but, given the delayed start to the adventure, I needed to make up some lost time…needed solar panels installed in AZ and wanted to be out West to tour northern AZ and be within striking distance of the Rockies for when the weather warmed up…

So, on to Camp Verde AZ to connect with Marvin of Precision RV to have solar panels installed on the roof of the Bunkhouse to harness the power of the sun. With solar power I would be able to boondock – RV lingo for taking advantage of free and unplugged camping on various Dept of Interior lands. And, free is good!

Being able to boondock meant I could try, as one writer taught, “… boondocking in any one of the thousands of pristine areas around the country… As you roll open the blinds and peer out at the morning, you see a herd of elk (or wild pigs, coyotes, a covey of quail, etc.) roaming past your “site.” Later in the day, as you relax after a little hiking and photography through some amazingly beautiful landscape, you marvel at just how loud silence can be. Nobody comes by asking for your daily rental fees–where you’re boondocking, there is no charge for camping….”

It’s a huge reason many RVers say there’s nothing like boondocking. My RV plan is to go “off the beaten track” on a regular basis and find peace and quiet, some great fly fishing spots, and beautiful landscapes to photograph. So solar means being able to unplug, not run the generator – its noisy for me and not very neighborly sometimes – the exhaust smells and results in closing all the windows on the exhaust side of the RV (and, have you seen the price of diesel !! ) and it meant not worrying about draining batteries and still be able to use my computer, TV, and so forth.

Adding solar is not free though ☺ so I spent a lot of time doing the research and fortunately there’s a lot of information out there. ( I provide some links at the end of the post ). And, I spent some time deciding who would do the installation – enter Marvin from Precision RV.

Marvin was great. He’s an RV’er first and does the RV service work to support his lifestyle – a real pleasure to work with. He helped me better understand my needs and then put together a system that would not only fills those needs but also provides the ability to expand the system. He really, really understands this stuff – I was truly impressed!

Marvin spent a day and a half doing the installation and explaining how to use the system – and, was very patient with this newbie whose head was often spinning trying to make sense of amps, watts and volts. Marvin was that rare find – a consummate expert and also a very nice and down-to-earth guy who knows solar and whose workmanship was excellent; his attention to all the details was great – routing wires carefully, sealing holes, and tying up all those loose ends on a job like this. Guess that’s why one blogger referred to him as Marvelous Marvin”!

You can find out more about Marvin on his website

I mentioned the research I did and that led me to make some early changes/modifications to the power grid on the RV – had Brannon Hutchenson’s Custom RV in Red Bay, AL replace the old cell batteries with brand new and super efficient Lifeline AGM batteries. Not only maintenance free but a perfect marriage for a solar system. And I had him replace the OEM modified sine wave inverter/charger with a “true sine wave” inverter/charger—needed to make the change so as not to fry my IMac and the residential refrigerator – might not have happened but why take any chances. (By the way, like Marvin, Brannon is one of the best in the business-simply doesn’t do solar—but if you get up his way you need to use him! )

The solar work involved components from AM Solar that Marvin and others recommended – very efficient solar panels – had to use six 100 watt and not four 150’s –seems the damn Chinese and US bureaucrats are having a tariff war and there aren’t any 150’s around; a TriStar controller that is the brains of the power grid; a Bogart battery monitor that allows me to see real time what is going in/out of the batteries –yup really geeky stuff but great to know exactly what is going

Now not only am I green but I can run all my toys throughout the day and not worry about things – provided the sun is shining brightly and I can imprison the sun –sweet!

By the way, a tremendous amount of this was researched and inspired using outstanding info from Nina and Paul of WheelingIt

Nina’s four part series of posts on their process is outstanding – Thanks Nina!

By the way – Nina is a great writer and blogger and photographer –be sure to follow her!

There is a lot more out on the web to read as well

Jack Mayers Site – Lots of good, detailed info here on Solar including using higher-voltage panels.
Handybob’s Site – He’s very opinionated (no doubt), but there’s lots of good info hiding here. Take time to look through the text and pictures.
AltE Site – This is a commercial site, but they have plenty of detailed articles written in plain English explaining how solar power works.
AM Solar – Another commercial site with some easy education articles

see you down the road…

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Thanks so much for the shout-out. SO happy you had Marvin do the install and enjoyed working with him as much as we did. Sweet set-up you have now!

    May 6, 2012
    • Stephen #

      glad you saw the post – and, thanks for commenting. Marvin was great to work with (having dinner later with him and his wife Ellen) – your articles were outstanding – thanks for sharing all you do – your blogging about the RV lifestyle and boondocking has been a great source of inspiration – I look forward to all your posts – wishing you all the best – safe travels

      May 6, 2012

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