Thursday, September 24, 2015

Living Off The Grid

I had a big drive today – maybe thirty minutes. Love it. This area of Pennsylvania is lovely, rolling hills, every time you turn a corner there is a house that you know was built hundreds of years ago. It seems that the roads are following the old trails also – fairly narrow, no shoulders. Speed limit was 45, I felt sorry for the people behind me, I was only going thirty because a) it was all the faster I could handle and b) it was all the faster I could handle. There was no place to turn off to let them pass so at least they got to go slow and smell the roses.

I'm at Brandywine Creek Campground. Lots of seasonal people here but I happened to get a prime spot. I am overlooking the creek and happen to be right at a section where there are some mini rapids so I get the sound of the babbling brook as I sit in my site.

This campground has all these cardboard dogs scattered around the property.  They have gold tags that say Goose Patrol

The main reason I'm here in this area is that I am going to get solar put on my rig. I'm super excited about it. It means that I can go anywhere and not have to worry about having electricity to hook up to. I can go to Camp Wally or out in the boondocks and still run my microwave, have lights and watch TV if I do desire.

The premier RV Solar company is a place called AM Solar in Oregon. Putting solar on an RV is a little different than putting solar on a house – and AM Solar specializes in RVs. The guy I'm having do my solar is Greg Young at RV Solar Solutions. He was trained by AM Solar and is recommended by them. He lives full time in his RV and travels around the country doing installs. I tried to get an appointment with him when he was in Illinois but he didn't have any appointments available. He did have one appointment available in Ohio but the timing did not work out for me. So the next place was Pennsylvania where he only had two openings. So I guess I've chased him around the country. I'm happy that I got to snag one of them. The whole process is supposed to take two and a half days. Two days to install, half a day to educate me how on all the ins and out of the system. I'm nervous about this because this installation involves drilling holes in my RV. It hurts to think of that part of it. My pretty little RV.

Tech Info for those who care – feel free to skip over this paragraph if your eyes are glazing over.
4 160 watt solar panels
3024i MPPT Charge Controller, IPN Pro Remote meter, shunt kit for IPN Pro remote meter, temperature comensation sendor, wiring harness
4 Lifeline AGM Batteries 6V 220 AMH

Greg and his friend Craig spent most of yesterday doing the install while I spent most of the day in a lawn chair overseeing their work. Fun guys and very efficient. By the end of the day, they had the install completed. Greg did not want to turn the system on because it was the end of the day and if something went wrong, he would have to hang out and fix it. Craig evidently did not hear Greg say that and turned everything on. They call it a smoke test – the first test is to make sure that everything is hooked up correctly and is not going to blow up, cause fires, hence the smoke test name. I must say, they were pretty much kidding about smoke test – but in the end, it seems everything went well. They turned it off and everybody went their separate ways for a couple of hours, Miko and I wandered over to their place to hang out at their campfire with Craig's wife Jo and Greg's dog Hobie. Their drink of choice was Red Bull and vodka. I had never heard of that combination before. Evidently, it keeps you awake as you get buzzed.

Miko and Hobie

Yesterday, Greg said - “I can't believe how easy this install is going” What a terrible thing to say because when they showed up today to finish up, of course there were problems. You just don't say things like that before a job is finished – it causes the Jinx Gods to get all riled up. They decided that they were going to upgrade a charger that I had and they went under the bed where all the wiring for the coach are. What they found was a total mess. I worry about our future when basic workmanship is so underrated. They spent most of the day changing some of the wiring around and keeping me calm which in itself is a full time job. I am pretty impressed so far with these guys. There is no problem with the solar install and with the solar charging my batteries. The problem is coming from the batteries into the coach. I swear the electricity in my couch was done in the factory early on a Monday morning after the electrician had a very hard weekend.
Getting Started

Nice Day to Be working outside

The guts of the system
One of the ongoing problems I've had with my rig is that the CO2 indicator keeps going off.  I thought it was going off because of low battery.  It seems that it might not be going off because of low battery but it might be actually alerting me to a CO2 or a LP problem.  Greg went out and bought me a portable CO2 detector and we will see if that goes off also.  It might just be a wiring problem though like everything else in this rig.  At least it gives me something to think about.
Hopefully everything is working out.  Tomorrow is education day

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