Solar ?

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Solar ?
Fog Looks like crashed UFO

An ominous fog was hanging out in our area. Wondered if maybe an invisible space craft landed, and for extra security, used the fog to hide its activities. Worse yet, this day could be the starting of Hitchcock film. Whatever this, it is really cool looking! Something this weird, can’t be a good omen! With that in mind, it is time to trouble shoot and improve the electrical system of Rolling Shoe Box. The electrical system is not meeting our dry camping needs!

Troubleshooting Battery Problems Can be a slippery slope to the sun

As you may remember In our last article we found out the house batteries in Rolling shoe box, were being supported by the RV, rather than supporting the RV.5 Year Old Batteries

We cleaned the battery cables with baking soda paste

Battery Cable 2/0

After being cleaned in a paste made from baking soda and water, the batteries charged faster, but unfortunately they were only giving us three hours per charge. We were expecting twelve to twenty four.

Time for new batteries

Eventually every one and everything, including me, out lives its’ usefulness.  Some objects, can be traded for newer fresher objects with a proven track record. In this case, we turned in four – five year old  Rayovac 220Amp  batteries that we thought were 100 Amp batteries in exchange for four Trojan T-105 batteries. We read the wrong line on the chart. In our ignorance we thought we were trading 400 amps of battery for 950 amps, and were really expecting a big kick. We did not understand the battery math. We will not cover the math here, we did it in our last article. Needless to say when you buy 900 amps of batteries wire them up RV style, you get 450 amps and only 225 of that is usable who would have thought that more would be less. What happens if we buy more? Is there a law of diminishing returns? Maybe they should charge us less when we buy more? After all, we seem to get less. The take away is the old batteries were the same as the new batteries, just older, dirtier, and weak from old age. This guy is feeling like the fool he is. Watch the following video, it cover battery math, and the wiring procedure if you are as confused as we were.

Battery Mechanics are explained in the above video. There must be a lot of batteries in the world. Where do they go when they die? I hope it is a wonderful place, but I think they are organ donors.

The upside is the new T-105RE is pretty much the defacto standard in RV batteries at this point in time. We have caught up with Clark Griswald’s cousin Eddy! I know he is out here, but security is good! I don’t know which rig is his, there are thousands that look just like his scattered all over the desert. They are hiding him using the make-everyone-else-look-just-like-him ploy. Seems to take the plain folks act a little far, don’t you think?

These Trojan batteries have a reputation for living about eight years under regular use, and proper maintenance. Trojan says charge the battery to 14.8 volts, equalize the batteries once a month, check the water levels monthly to ensure the battery lead is submerged and refill fill to 1/8th below the well lining, never discharge below 50%, and lastly make sure they are fully charged every 5 days.  Wow, this reminds me of the movie Gremlins where we were told how to keep the little critters fat and happy, lest certain destruction would abound. OK, guess our batteries are Gremlins, but we still do not understand how to care for them!

What constitutes a full charge? How do we know we did this? We chased this riddle until our brains turned to mush and were served over hominy grits to the locals, while trying to find out what a full charge is. We talked to shops all around Arizona and never got the same answer twice. How do I know my batteries are charged? Later in this article we will show how we got our answer. The first hint  is our Magnum ME2012 with a 100 Amp charger needs 6 hours to charge a battery that is 70% discharged. At that point the charger says “Battery full”.  Holy cow, that is a lot of generator time at .17 Gallons of diesel per hour. With the new batteries, we were making it about 8 hours until they hit the magic number of 50% full. Then we had to start the generator.  If we are going to boon dock extensively, the generator is going to need some help. We need to hire a second power generator to assist loyal friend. We have learned over the years never trust electronics built by mankind. Remember the space shuttles?

We went back to Discount Solar and explained our energy problem. We told them we were only seeing 20 amps crossing the ME2012 inverter monitor, and the batteries are depleted in six hours, and they looked at us funny. We continued on to tell him we replaced the energy hog gas refrigerator with a snazzy new electric Samsung high efficiency model. They looked at us like we were not from earth. Then three techs came and explained we only have a usable capacity of 220 Amps on those pretty red batteries we bought. It’s battery math, every RV’er know it! They then offered to sell us a Tri-metric meter thing for $229.00 with wires and shunt. They had lots of them so we figured we would come back when we knew what it would tell us. We then went to Solar Bill in Quartzsite and shared our story with them. They wanted us to buy 1300 Amps of battery power using huge batteries by Rolls, for about $1400 plus installation. Sounded like a weeks worth of power, but how would my generator ever charge those things? They then said I needed 1000 Watts of solar for $3600 installed, but the price was only an estimate. They were asking me for about $5000 to fix our batteries and give us solar, it was also clear we would be paying 3% Quartzsite tax plus cost anticipated over runs, I know I have a mood disorder, but I did not know it was showing that much! They saw a man ready to part with cash, and they were not going to settle for little bit, they wanted it all.  I saw the dollar signs in the reflections of their eyes, it was kinda cool seeing people who are hungry like a wolf, and will pounce on whatever they can find. I would hire them. Athena was with me, she never spends money until issue we are trying to solve is understood, and even then it takes a crowbar to get cash from her hand when the numbers are larger than that of a Pepsi. I had no money, and I am kept broke by design. So now that we have pointed out that we are RV dwelling skin flints, you will noticed the energy use issue is still unsolved!

We then moved on to Lifestyles RV on the west end of Quartzsite. They were in a hurry to close, and without discussing my issue told me I needed $2500 and they would install 300 Amps of solar the following week, and we would be good to go. We decided to split the difference in amps between Solar Bills and Life Styles with dull bread knife and go shopping for a local panels, or kits (Within 200 miles), maybe some solar panels could help. I spoke with AM solar on the the web, and he told me it would take our inverter 6 days to charge the batteries offered by Solar Bill. We headed down the solar track. We decided on 460 amps in panels, and to stay with our current battery setup. We can always ad on, can’t exactly get our money back if we over build.

Our Goal, is to be able to leave the RV for 24 and have the refrigerator running when we return

Our entire goal, is to let the refrigerator run continuously, run our computers, and some lights without recharging for 24 hours, and 48 hours would be Nirvana.  We often run to Phoenix and have to leave the refrigerator off while we are gone, and in to the next morning as the batteries cannot live that long. If we drain the batteries below 50% they can be permanently disturbed, and I don’t want company in my disturbance! Often ,we get home at 1 am, and cannot turn on the generator after 10 pm and it must be off until after 6 am, or the long arm of the law will fall on us, likely forcing us to move to California as punishment. That is risky, food likes to be under 40 degrees, Californian’s are just too plentiful and they are all on the road at once. The punishment is an unimaginable hell, so we must find a quiet solution to our energy needs, and since I love my wife, her fancy new fridge with the ice maker must stay.

See us install a high efficiency fridge in an RV.


We found some potential slaves lounging about, and guess what they are doing? Making electricity! They sit around all day getting their rays for nothing, and the electrons for free. Solar, must be a big part of the puzzle! Wow, being a slave does not sound all that bad. The term of endearment is only 25 years, then your put out to pasture because you are too old and weak to accept sun and pass electrons. Hopefully solar panels are reincarnated after they are gone. Servants like these are likely to me missed. After some serious price shopping, we got 460 Watts of Zamp Solar for $570.00 with the panels, wiring, controller, and the combiner box.  The closest competitor would be Renegy Solar which is comparable in cost since they include the mounting brackets. Would have ordered Renegy from Amazon, but UPS does not have a GPS coordinate shipping program.

Solar Panels – Who They are made, are the Green?

Here is a video on how Solar is made. Watch all three parts.

With the energy and Phosphorus required to build the panels, we are not sure solar panels are green. The phosphorus is considered a contaminant by some locals, and has been banned. Keeping a furnace at 800 Celsius, will take big power plants, probably nuclear or coal. Good panels convert  only 14 to 19 percent of light to power. After looking at these things, their definitely not green, they seem to be more of a navy blue with silver stripes. If the price is right however, they can be fun for laymen like us to play with. Green is not important to us, just return on investment! Wish I could work IT at this plant, the robotics and automation are awesome.

If you have a lot of guts, and patience build your own solar panels. You screw this up, you can hose a lot of electronics, not to mention solar cells generate heat, enough to burn a structure, if not done just right. Think long and hard about this, we don’t have the skills to build them ourselves. We got our factory made for about a dollar per watt. Excellent classroom lesson though.


During the day, the solar was keeping the batteries looking full. The Samsung RF18 Counter Depth high efficiency refer was fine with the solar, but come night time the batteries were no match for it. It pulls between 3 amps and 22.5 amps, at random intervals, and we seem to have no say in the matter. This has been an awesome fridge, but uses more than the 1 amp stated in the door. More pieces to energy management puzzle. Can we fix it, or will be the fools the technicians talk to their friends about?


To add to our night time energy needs, we put up an LED rope light beacon so we can find the rig at night. When we return from Phoenix it is often 1 a.m. The rope burns .5 amps of power each hour and is our savior in the dark.


Install Solar – Come Hell or high water we are aiming for the sun

This kit includes all wiring, the combiner box, and the controller for $116.00 on clearance at Lowes.  Many use a junction box they mount in the roof. I like the combiner box. The hole in the roof is smaller (I drilled 1/2″), and the panels can be quickly connected and disconnected using 12V automotive connections.


These are some materials from the kit we purchased.  Three 100 Watt Panels were $100.00 per panel on clearance at Lowes. The 160 Watt Panel was $160.00 on clearance. Note that 160 Watts is rated at 9.2 Amps. One other neat thing is the Zamp components are all made in Bend, Oregon. It’s cool to help out our own citizens. Lets design a mounting system, a roof layout and install these babies!


The panels need to be fixed to the roof. The instructions I got from a shop in town was to use L brackets glued down with 3M VHB tape then smothered in epdm caulking. We did some testing, and found the VHB tape was holding our test materials for about a week, then suddenly it would let go with maybe 20 pounds of pressure.  We kept testing the scenario while building the brackets. We drilled 3/8″ holes in the panels and brackets, and used pins so the panels would be bi-directional in their tilt.

We built the supports for the tilting out of PVC pipe. A solar dealer told us to aim the panels south, tilt them 83 degrees to maximize sun visibility. They gave us a load of bad information. We found that our latitude plus 19 was optimal for us. 34 degrees latitude plus 19 = 53 degrees. We went from 7 amp hour collection at the high sun to 25 amps. The angle matters…

Tilt mechanism for solar panels

Testing the tilt mechanism before sending and Athena and Sarah up to install it.

First Look at Trimetric Meter and charger


Here is a note on tilting panels – Also pay attention to the TriMetric, it becomes part of the solution, and was mentioned to us by Discount Solar.


Wiring the combiner box for 460 Watts


This is inside the combiner box. Each port has a red and black wire. The ports red wire goes on the post on the far left. The middle post is for the red battery wire. The reason is, that the ports are on one side of a fuse, and the battery on the other. It protects your equipment on both sides.

Close up view of the ports on the combiner box.

Combiner box is capable of 500 Watts maximum capacity.

Solar Wire is now run from battery Box to Bedroom of Holiday Rambler 40 PLQ

We are running the solar wires from the Battery compartment in our 2006 Holiday Rambler Ambassador through the inverter compartment using the existing hole to the battery box.

We exit to the back of the RV right under the inverter cooling fan into the back cap.

From the inverter, we are headed up the back cap accessing this area from the oil check, and fuel filter change area on the right hand rear of the coach.

Just using existing conduits to support our wire.

At the top of the photo you will see we go through some foam and have to drill a hole that goes through about two inches of materiel.  This ceiling is about two feet above the dip sticks. We also discovered that it would be wise to not drill so close to the firewall, pull back a couple inches. There are fewer objects to hit with your bit.


Drill with caution and turn off all the power.

When we pulled the bit out of the hole, we found this yellow piece of plastic. Previous experience has taught me that this is the insulation from a #12 Romex AC electrical cable. Now the project is delayed while we find the injured cable. This not a project that we would wish on anyone. Especially me!

This is our destination for the solar cables. Left hand rear wall right by my desk. We will have a slight delay in pulling the wires.

Using an I-Phone on string find the damage

We sent a I-phone camera with a light on it down the hole. The top of the photo is the floor in the wall.  You will see there is an odd looking yellow glob at the floor right where I drilled.


We placed the zamp controller in the upper hole, so we could feel like we were progressing, and cut a new hole near the floor. We were able to reach in here and repair the cable, using some spare cable from a previous project and get it all spliced together. Also note, surprise wires are why I always cut 100% of the power before penetrating a surface that may have wires in it.

Dang, the rain is getting us wet.

Mount the panels

The panels are stacked and ready to go.

We found the VHB tape was a real disappointment, and the idea of just gluing the l brackets was abandoned. We purchased 8′ – 2″ “L” shaped aluminium and cut that to run the length of the panels with the reciprocating saw. (Yes one good friend from home stowed away with us, and boy can he cut.)  We stayed with the hing pins at the corners for tilt and quick release for now. The panels will be mounted so that the rails will prevent the wind from flowing under the panels while the rig is in motion. They will be fastened with epdm caulk and 1.5″ #10 zinc wood screws. It is time to Rock – N – Roll. Lets get this power house installed, and see what she can do!


Athena and Sarah are taking the panels up to the roof. They are using wrapping from Athena’s Instant pot from Amazon as a bag. The bag made such an ugly gift wrap, I almost hid her gift till I could get rid of the bag. Who knew, this old blue microfiber bag was perfect for transporting the panels to the roof. Had the panels been any larger I think Sarah and Athena would have mutinied. The panels were 28″ X 37″ and weighed about 30 pounds.  Something to keep in mind when buying solar panels. Since I can’t go on the roof myself, the helpers, their size, and their temperament must be kept in mind.


Meanwhile I have to run the solar cable from the bedroom to the roof.

I have to remove the breaker box as we are going to mount the combiner box right over the top of it. (Drill close to the front of the box or you might miss the roof. Things are not where they appear.)


Pull the wires from the hollow in the rear cap, and the back of the cabinets. Here we used existing holes. We wrecked out the side of the interior of the cabinet to access this corner.

We are pulling the cable from the controller to the inside of the breaker box cabinet. Here we used existing holes. We wrecked out the side of the interior of the cabinet to access this corner on the left upper rear corner of the room.


These cables head out the wall behind the breaker box. Don’t follow them! 10,000 cables can be wrong. Glad I looked before I jumped on this freeway.


With a 1/2″ spade bit I go as straight as the body will let me go, and as close the front of the cabinet as I can get. (Don’t use a spade bit, everything chips and is not clean. Go with an auger bit)


Mount the combiner box

Athena is mounting the combiner box with the VHB tape. She will connect the solar wired from down below, tape the box down, then smother the edger in EPDM. Hope it holds for the long term.


Fix my math / Geometry

They are redesigning the layout. My math was bad due to the fact that I have never been on the roof. I did it all by measuring the ceiling from inside. One other big surprise, the roof has an arch they say. The arch kept our longest panel from laying flat. I did not believe them about the arch, everyone knows rv roofs are flat, unless it’s a Winnebago. This one is a Monaco! In good humor though I helped them come up with an orientation for the long panel that allowed it to sit flat.  In the picture, the closest panel will be rotated 90 degrees and moved to the passenger side for wind reasons, and to allow service personnel to get on and of the ladder. Also note, no panel can be more than 9′ due to wire limitations. We ended up with a surprise, that made laying these babies out more of a pain than we expected. The air conditioner has been evacuating its fluid under the fiberglass. The wood under neath in the rear quarter has been compromised. Guess we will be replacing the roof next time we get to stop on private property for a month.  Sarah needs roofing lessons any way.


Athena puts down rails. She caulks underneath.

Almost done caulking

The rail is ready to be screwed.

We have tape on the drill bit to limit the the depth she drills, we want the bit to hit the wood, not go all the way through. This method will give the screws more bite.


Holes are ready for the screws.

These screws will be buried in caulk very soon.


The project is taking shape. They do great work. Sure wish they would have told me our roof was curved. All these years I thought the roof was flat. The long panel is not laying according to plan. Since I had never been up there, I did not take into account the curvature of the roof. Won’t hurt anything. Loses some of the professional appearance we wanted though. Note – Spend some time getting intimate on the roof before making your map! You will save a lot of time.


We now build the tilts. We checked around, we were going to use hand twisting knobs on the tilts but Solar Bill says they lost a few panels that way. They are now using metal lifts at each corner, bolts and lock nuts. So much for easy teardown and set up. We decided on Brass hitch pins as an alternative. Plain and simple making good tilts is hard. You might want to try this set from amazon, then screw it to the roof, and replace the knobs with more secure bolts. Just a thought as most of the hard work is done for you. The angle of the panels is fully adjustable, as ours is 53 degrees, or flat.


VHB tape on an “L” bracket.

Fasten to the 2″ Aluminum “L” about 18″ long.

We will rivet the pieces.

Drilled into 3/8 inch holes.

Looking good.


The bracket is ready to go up.


Stop and see God’s work. The buttery fly dropped by to say hello. Blends in with the rocks.


Athena places the tilt mounts the same way she did the rails.


The brass pins did not work out. When the wind comes up the PVC slides back and forth on the pins. Sounds like jets are crashing on the roof. The PVC pipes are now on with #10 stainless machine screws 24 threads per inch and lock nuts. The chatter is no longer a matter. Had that been the only thing keeping us awake, we would be sleeping like the dead.


Athena is checking things out.

Good job my ladies, things are looking up. You did all this work in sub 50 degree weather with a cold wind. Makes a man proud.

We are starting to look the boon docking part.

A coyote circles our camp. There is not much here for him to eat I would think. Perhaps he is looking for rat sized dogs, typically in those white boxes that show up here every year about now.

Installing the Controller


Panels are up, and the controller is being wired.

We cleanup the wiring and seal it up.


After dropping the panels back from 83 degrees to 53 degrees by cutting the PVC pipes shorter we get 24 amps, and on some days we have seen 34 amps. Only two of the panels have been dropped to 53 degrees. Athena and Sarah are kind of tired, so the other panels will be done another time. It will be interesting to see the power when they get those done. Note: when sizing your array, make sure your battery bank is large enough to accept the number of amps your solar array is capable of putting out, and that you will be using enough power to use the power it make. This setup can put out 238 amps on a good day. Most days are not good days and we expect about 30 – 150 amps depending on weather. Don’t buy to large of a battery as you might not get it %100 charged often enough, and this will destroy your battery bank over time. This Zamp 30 controller, is great for a young man, but if you want to play with the big boys, you invest in a Morningstar 60 MPPT controller. It gives you lots of data that can help you better manage your solar array and your batteries. Since we have a small 460 watt system, and not a lot of desire to play with it long enough to get our solar collection data accurate to the point that it will fit on a gnats rear end, we will wait a bit on this. For those jumping in with both feet here is a very informative video.


Get Morningstar here


The batteries are living large. Trojans are fat and happy at 12.8 volts. We learn here, the refrigerator, has short bursts of 20 amp usage, once per day it had a 40 amp defrost cycle that last for 15 minutes. If the ice maker is on, it runs between 12 an 18 amps most of the time, and sleeps at 9 amps if no one opens the door in over an hour. If the ice maker is off, the  fridge like to run at 9 amps when busy, and we have seen it shut the compressor down using no power at times. When it feel like running late at night, it never exceeds six amps. The Trimetric will further confirm these numbers in better resolution. One obvious key is do not run the ice maker when we are gone for the day.


Break time – We go see Holly. We go to Superstition mall in Mesa to get her some Maternity clothes. I can’t believe the carousel, it’s a double decker!

Handy Bob said install a TriMetric –

We did, now you learn what it is, How, to Install it, and to Program it. Wish I did it before buying the batteries

After all that, we can’t understand why 8 hours is all we can get out of a battery charge. I drive to Discount Solar where I bought the four batteries. (The batteries are code A7 which means they are a manufactured Jan 2017. The “a” is the month. The 7 is the year, resetting each decade.) Since I bought them the beginning of December 2016, one month into the future must mean they are super new. They again insist I buy a $229 meter called a Tri-Metric. They also offered to check the RV for amp drain I can’t see for $89 an hour. Very tempting, but my time is worth less than my money, I will keep looking on my own.  We went straight home and googled “What is a Tri-Metric”. Handy Bob started showing up the results.  This man, loves this meter. Without him, I would still be clueless. Now I am only scratching my head. Big step forward I think. Well we got us a meter because Discount Solar and Handy Bob told us to. Sadly we had to buy it from Solar Bill though as Discount Solar was fresh out when went back. Again we are back to wiring. We start out in the battery box, through the inverter, the back cap and into the office right next to the solar controller.

Here are a couple videos explaining the new TriMetric meter we are about to install. The first is about battery monitoring, getting a right reading and knowing what we have left at any given time, is essential managing the energy needs of the RV. I wish we had bought this before replacing the old batteries. With some effort, you can sort out exactly what power is used where, and you might even find your wasting power via bad wiring, lights on in a basement, who knows? The second video will show you the basic programming of the unit. This is needed to be sure it delivers accurate information.


I know they were dry videos, what more can you expect from engineers. If you are dedicated, they have a ton of essential information. Learn for the experts for free! Watch them over and over.




We start wiring the Trimetric controller wire up to the house. We are able to use all the same holes made for the solar install. That makes me happy, no wires to drill through.


In the inverter area, we just cross the compartment and exit the back. I will zip tie them later, my body is protesting the art of leaning over.

Out the back into the rear cap of the rv.


Into the office via the oil area. Sorry the rig is so dirty, no water to wash it with in the middle of the desert.


We have to wire this 500 amp shunt on the negative post of the battery, and all the other wires on the negative post go to the opposite side of the shunt.


The wiring map is confusing, my eyes are dancing just following the twisted pair image! I really don’t know what a Kelvin is, I always thought Kelvin’s where a who.


We taped, then screwed the shunt to the battery compartment wall. We placed a battery cable from the battery to the lower end of the shunt. We placed all the negative loads on the top end of the shunt. The two black wire G1 and G2 are wired to the top. The signal wire is a white wire and connected that to the lower end of the shunt. The remaining red wire goes to the positive battery post and to the power connector of the tri-metric unit. The Solar store told us to use the red wire from the signal on the board to the positive on the battery. Sounded like a bad turn, from a tired tech. We checked with Tri-Metric. It was a bad turn. Watch your wiring, these things can burn, and that can cost you. If you have a Tri-Metric we know it is confusing. The people on a web site Red Rover have done a bang up job of clearing the wiring of the Tri-Metric up, their wiring diagram is clear and to the point. Go there if you need help.


500 amp shunt for Tri-Metric 2030

Another image of the shunt

Red skinny wire connected to positive post and heads out to unit. The cable with the “+” runs to the solar controller.


Big ring on red cable helps one remember the red is power and goes too the positive side of the battery where all the other red cables are.


Back side of Tri-Metric look like a $6.00 transistor radio from the 70’s but has a new purpose. My teen daughter asked why we gave so much money for something that looks cheap and antiquated. I told her some times the value is not in the appearance, but rather what it does.

The wires screw in at the end. Make sure the wires on the board here match the wires you setup in the battery bay. We are not monitoring the starting battery, so only four screws are used.


The unit has power which means we wired it correctly.


Tells us 96 percent of the battery is remaining. We like that number, it is better than green if 12.8, yellow if 12.5 and red if voltage is 12.1 which means battery too dead to use. The Tri-Metric relies on Battery amp capacity, minus how many amps left the battery through the shunt as well as current volts. That is a basic explanation of percent full, but it is actually more complex. In the end, it seems to be a lot more accurate, and knowing our real depletion rate is giving us several more hours of battery usage. There is one discrepancy we don’t yet understand. On option P3, we programmed it to a battery capacity of 450 amps as it wants the total amps of the parallel battery banks. The meter shows us the battery is 80 percent full, while the volts are reading 12.1 which is 50% full. The meter shows a used amps number of 67 amps. We are still confused, and it is critical we figure it out. I guess a call to Trimetric is in order.

We are ahead just with this meter, and the solar is gravy, but we still cant go 24 hours.  The unit also shows us the exact power draw at every second, which allows us to get accurate measurements of every device that uses power.  We now know why the LED lights we rigged out the RV with a couple years ago are such a benefit. We are finding that regular lighting we have not yet moved over to LED, is 10x more power hungry than the new LED’s with the same output. The LED ceiling lights run .5 amps per fixture. The 18″ flourecent bulbs they replaced demand just shy of 3 amps. We have 10 of these fixtures, that adds up, and we are just getting started. When you do the count around your home, you will be amazed at the LED savings.


Cost of the project to date

Controller / Combiner / Wire – $116

Panels $460

VHB Tape $8.00

Aluminum “L” rail – $110.00

PVC and Brackets – $40.00

EPDM – $24.00

Total: $758.00 plus 13% State and local tax = $856.54 (Can’t believe Arizona hates us snowbirds so much. That’s tax from just one project).

Things we needed before adding Solar

Batteries 4 – Trojan T-105 – $500 ($125 each)

Bogart Tri-Metric amp meter. – $229.00 (They need a competitor who knows their stuff) reads to the 10th of an amp, and to a hundredth on some screen. The Magnum rounds to the the nearest 3 amps. This creates math who’s incompetence knows no bounds.

Total cost $729.00 no tax, used for solar. – Guess Lowes does not know about the solar tax incentive.


Grand total for the whole energy experiment was $856.54, as the batteries and meter are considered required maintenance.  Our power cost in fuel alone for the generator have been $250 monthly, this is shaving $150 a month. At four months per year boon docking, we will break even at just over a year.  These numbers will change, if we decide to add another 460 watts solar and or two more batteries which will power the fridge make ice, and exceed our up time goals.



Well that’s the project to date

We started the project on December 1st. Worked on it most days or nights when I had energy to work. No idea the hours, I don’t keep track nor care, Just play with my hobbies when I have the energy to do so, mostly reading, because I have forgotten everything I learned in college. It was about 30 years ago, I lose many other thing sooner.

In the end, we took a month from buying the batteries to installing the Tri-Metric, and we still are not done. We will edit and add to this article over time, we are always learning. We cannot take responsibility for what results you get if you follow our path, we installed these items learning as we went. We can’t guarantee we did any of this right, we have not tested anything over time, and will be unlikly to repeat this experiment. This site is nothing but ideas that we tried, and found worked for us. Learn all you can, ask us questions, offer advice, help us with the meter, buy products via our links so we can pay the internet provider and keep providing all this content.


Sadly, most days have been heavily overcast  and or raining. We are getting solar collections yielding dismal numbers. Many days we are seeing a total take of 40 amps or less. Athena may win the bet this time around, and we will not realize our investment in 2017, or 2018. I will pray for global warming, and lots of sunshine. It’s my only hope. For me, the project did reach a non-financial ROI. It kept my mind off the issue with the kids, our health issues, and allowed me to formulate a project, and see it through to the completion of the first phase. In the workforce, my performance would have got me canned. The finished product was on budget, but was modified time and time again, and is kind of ugly do errant drilling that is rampant. We are happy though, as it works! It has been road tested at speeds up to 35 miles per hour, some day we might go as high as 65, but were not sure it might do. Remember, it’s all for scientific posterity. We are the pioneers who will go down in history as geniuses, or maybe something more colorful. Hopefully we will never know, as we will not out live history, or maybe we have already. I don’t know. – The day after this article was written, we charged the batteries to full with the Generator. We ran to Phoenix with the refrigerator on, we came home with the batteries down 30 amps from full at midnight. We left the fridge on through the night (We normally shut it off at night) and the batteries were at 122 amps down when the sun began putting in more amps than we were using. Had to go to town for the day, got back at 5:30 when the sun was done for the day. The batteries had regained all but 49 amps, and the skies were overcast. My main goal of being able to leave the rig for a day or two, seems to be accomplished! Now if only I could make this happen with the ice maker on. I would have to spend $300 in additional batteries, which would be the cost 125 bags of ice plus gas to get them. At two trips a week and $5 gas each trip, and $3 a bag for ice we are looking at $256 of expense over four months.. If we have good weather and boon dock 4 months per year, our ROI would be just over a year. Worth it I think if Ice is a big deal, Athena and Sarah seem to really like the ice, If it is around, I’ll use it, other wise I kind of forget it ever existed.  What I miss when boon docking is Breyer’s Rocky Road Ice Cream. I the fridge made that, the extra batteries would have bee installed before we started the solar.

Sunsets are pretty

Moon Rises can be spectacular. Who needs a T.V. when you have God’s creation.

Here is a list of required objects if you wish to replicate this project.

If you need any of these items, please follow the links and order them there. It costs you no more money, not one red cent, but the commission from every order is that much more we get to pay our internet service provider with. If we pay our internet bill, our web pages are here for your consumption. Otherwise these pages will become history. – Thanks in advance for your support.


There is nothing like being “White and Nerdy” – Let’s here it from our friend Weird Al!

A country home looking for a family to love

Well its’s the end of an inning for this article, we hope you found it a pleasure to read, and maybe even learned something.

Should you be thinking it is time to settle in quiet little town in Washington State, with lots of room to roam to add Solar, wind or other fun technologies. You can do this while your wife plays chicken ranch using the giant hen house, and the kids play hide and seek in this giant Victorian home on a huge lot. If you have so much as had an even a slight thought of living large in small town America you better look at this video and give these people a call (Yvonne Dugan 509-287-2079 with your offer, or to request a viewing.) This house, right of s fairy tale and has hosted some story book romances. Your story, but the next beautiful tale.  The house is a steel as it is currently priced, but offers are welcome. You will not pay less for a house of this caliber!



May all your dreams be warm and dry! Good evening and good night!



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