Solar Prep

In October, I will be attending Steph Davis’ crack climbing clinic in Moab.

This will be my second trip with Conchita, and my first out of the state of Colorado.

I’ve been thinking more and more about boondocking, and what it takes to go off grid. I’ve spent a week as a tent camper at an RV resort, and I think I’d like to avoid those places unless necessary. I’m a long-term tent camper at BLM and National Forest campgrounds, and find the numerous amenities like showers and stores do not outweigh the sound of HUGE RV generators and loud neighbors – at least for me. While I do plan on using those RV campsites on occasion (and am open to having my views changed), most likely I will go the boondocking route.

I’ve discounted having a generator, for aforementioned reasons – I’d like a quiet, no-gas solution for my energy needs. And while I’ve been given suggestions as far ranging as wind-power, and even water and fire powered, the solution that keeps returning is, you guessed it: Solar.

The cost of solar has dropped over the years, and now seems like a great time for exploring solar as a way to get off-grid.

I’ve looked into it for my house, and the price I was quoted for my small 1200 square feet house was around $13,000. But, my 13′ Casita seems like a perfect opportunity for me to learn how to do it myself for a complete off the grid solution.

After researching solar systems for RVs, I kept coming across a company called Renogy.  Many other fiberglass RV owners, as well as other types of RV owners seemed to gravitate towards using Renogy products. Both their products and their customer service seemed to get high marks, as well as the ease of installation for the average user.

In my research, in order to build a complete solar system what I’ve found are the following necessary components: Solar Panel, Charge Controller, Battery, and a Power Inverter. The components worked like this:

  1. The Solar Panels collect the solar energy and uses it to generate an electric charge.
  2. The Charge Controller, both controls the charge coming from the solar panels, as well as tests the battery energy levels and coordinates so that the appropriate amount of energy from the panels go to the batteries. If the batteries are topped off it will shut down the energy stream from the panels
  3. The Batteries store the solar energy for use.
  4. The Power Inverter “inverts” the power coming from the battery from 12 volt DC to ordinary household power: Alternating Current or AC.

After pricing different systems, and frankly not knowing much about solar, I was looking for an all-in-one solution. The only one I could find that had:

  • 100 watts Solar Panel
  • Charge Controller
  • Inverter
  • All the necessary wiring

– was a Solar Panel Kit by Renogy:

This kit has everything except the battery: 100 watt Solar Panel, Charge Controller, Power Inverter. I feel more reassured using a kit since presumably all components have been tested to be compatible with each other. Reading further, it looks like you can add up to 4 100 watt panels, so it is even set for expansion.

I already had the battery, but am thinking of adding a second. I planned on using the single marine deep cycle battery that came with my Casita (Interstate SRM-27) until I feel I need a second (probably).

Many websites recommended figuring out my energy needs beforehand, and you know, basically it’s my iPhone and 13″ MacBook Pro.

From the Reduction Revolution website, I found the following:

Most of the time I find that my MacBook Pro uses around 12 watts. It uses 16-18 watts when crunching something (eg. opening a program, saving a file, etc). It’s power consumption peaks up to around 30 watts (eg. when starting up).

From the discussion form on Apple, I found that the iPhone charger uses:

iPhone wattage

iPhone wattage

So, fairly low power consumption, especially compared to a lot of folks I’ve ran into who power their Satellite TV, X-Box, refrigerators and air conditioning!

Basically, I don’t want to be forced into town in order to charge my (minimal) electric devices. (Wifi is another story…) But since my income is dependent on using my laptop, and my cell phone is my connection to the rest of the world, these 2 items are a must for me. A semi-reliable source of power is a must.

So, I’ll update y’all once the Renogy Solar Kit arrives, and how I install them for my Casita!

 

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  1. Pingback: Solar – from start to finish! | GripandClip

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