Tuesday, December 30, 2014


This is something of an experiment.  I'm sitting in the Beast, parked in the storage lot.  Two things going on:  I hooked the solar panel up to the starter battery up front.  Although it was able to start the engine pretty easily, I haven't taken the rig on the road for a long time.  So I figured that giving its battery a boost wouldn't hurt.  It was easy to hook up, and the readouts on the solar panel were exactly right:

"PV" stands for photovoltaic array, which sound all high-tech and cool, huh?   The 5+ amps coming out of the unit is close to its maximum rated output, which isn't bad for mid-winter low sun angles!  

I gotta admit that the idea of using real electricity from sunlight like this really pleases me.  And of course it tickles my gadget-loving fancies as well.

Experiment #2 is the RV furnace.  I've never used the furnace to, you know, heat the thing.  It was pretty chilly when I arrived -- we've been having cold nights -- and I wondered how long it would take to warm it up to livable.  Not long.  I had to start the generator to provide AC for the furnace fan motor, which was noisy and uses gas, of course.  And I had to start the truck to provide enough oomph for the generator to start up ( it hadn't been run in forever, either.)  But it all fired up, and the RV body was cozy warm in something like 15-20 minutes.   I plan to get a little catalytic heater, but it's nice to know that I can get the place habitable pretty quick with the big guns, and then maybe use the little heater to keep it comfy where I'm sitting and working.

After running the generator for about 30 minutes, I shut it down, and thus also the furnace.  After maybe another 30 minutes, I tried starting the generator again on just the RV batteries, and it started right up... as happily as it ever does.  Small gasoline engines are just plain cranky!

Experiment # 3 is setting up the laptop with the inverter.  It's crude right now: lots of wires running around exposed.  But it works like a champ.  I'm writing this, and will upload it, from the dining table. The weak link is the very low signal strength from T-Mobile here.  That's been a problem pretty much everywhere I've gone; it looks like I made a mistake not getting a Verizon hot spot, since their service is much better almost everywhere.

-- break --

I just moved the solar panel so it could connect to the RV batteries, and all the readouts are good -- if I'm reading them right, I'm running the laptop completely on solar ... which would be really cool if that's right. 

The other other experiment isn't really an experiment.  I'd been concerned that the sub-freezing nights we've had (down to 28 or so) might be a problem for the RV plumbing -- like burst pipes or something.  Apparently not: I have running water from all my faucets. I haven't fired up the (gas) hot water heater or the fridge, but I have no reason to think they won't work.  The only question would be whether the solar would provide enough power to keep the batteries topped up when they're running. Although the both run on LP gas, they require DC power for their control circuits.  

So the Beast seems to survive not being run for a while without much fuss.  And it's stayed perfectly comfortable once it got warmed up -- albeit on a sunny day and as warm as it gets around here in the winter: 68F.  Maybe some winter trips are feasible... 

I'm going to upload this and then pack things up and go get lunch. 

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