Wednesday, April 1, 2015
I feel a little smarter
Have you ever noticed how on a given Monday you think "Wow, I really know a lot about 'this, or that', but by Friday after learning a whole lot more than you thought there was to know you look back on Monday thinking "Wow, I didn't know as much as I thought I did!". That's kind of how I'm feeling today after the last 7 weeks of mostly living off the grid.
When we arrived in Cottonwood, AZ on February 13th we hadn't really 'boondocked' in a year. Sure we did a lot of dry camping for 1-4 days here and there, but never long enough to really get a better feel for our solar charging system, or for that matter at living on less water from our fresh water tank, or at generating less 'black water'. Since that day we 'boondocked' 10 days near Cottonwood learning a lot, and now 16 days at Lone Rock come this Thursday, which will be our single longest stretch of 'boondocking' period. After our 10 day stint in the Verde Valley we both really thought we had learned a lot, and arrived here at Lone Rock feeling just like I described in the first paragraph.
Now, after almost 16 days being off the grid it seems like we were still 'babes in the woods' when we arrived, and I guess that is really my point for today. You can talk with others exhaustively about 'dry camping/boondocking', but until you spend a significant amount of time doing it with your own RV's setup you will only be scratching the surface of knowledge.
Everybody's RV is different.....as I have said to TLE numerous times there is an RV configuration for every person's unique taste and/or needs. And, conversely, every RV has different fresh water/waste/propane capacities, and different electrical needs. When we were preparing to have our solar system installed we did (with the aid of installer) an analysis of what our electrical needs were going to be, which would determine how many watts of solar panels we would need. Our coach is more low tech than most newer Class A diesel pushers, and, therefore, does not use a lot of 12 volt power. The the things that take a lot of power are all alternating current type appliances (TV's, electric heaters, hair dryers, microwave, etc.) which we can run off the inverter. In our case we no longer have a microwave.....we used to have a GE microwave/convection oven, but it was destroyed when we plugged into a bad outlet during the first year of our wanderings. Ultimately we opted not to replace it mainly because TLE rarely used it....I used it to heat up cold coffee, and make popcorn. We converted that space to hold a toaster oven which we only use when we are plugged in, or have the big generator running. Our biggest consumer of power are our TV's, and we have FOUR of them. When we are boondocking I only run one TV at a time, when we are plugged in and there is a big 'game' on I'll have up to three of them going at the same time so I don't miss a second of the action.
At any rate over the past 7 weeks we have learned how to budget our power usage, and keep our batteries from discharging too far down. What exactly have we learned though? I learned that I can watch almost unlimited TV during the day off the inverter while the batteries are still charging.....this comes in handy on weekends when there is a big golf tournament, or just recently 'March Madness' which was mostly televised during the day. Probably the biggest thing we have learned though is how important it is to situate your RV in a way that your solar panels get maximum exposure to sunlight for as many hours each day as possible. In our case, we tilt them up since the sun is lower on the horizon this time of year, and park our Newell so that the nose is facing just a little to the northern side of west on our compass seen below. This accomplished two things.....we get sun on the solar panels starting around 8:30 am, and finally lose it by 5 pm....that's a lot of charging time. Plus, by facing west we keep the passenger side out of the sun which helps our fridge (located on the passenger side) function more efficiently. Of course, this compass heading will vary a little depending on the time of year, and based on the setup of your RV you may need to face a different point on the compass.
Another thing we have learned is that staying in a region of the country where the temperatures don't get too hot (not good for solar panel efficiency), or too cold (doesn't draw down your batteries as fast) pays dividends and means you will have a better chance of getting back to 100%, or close to that every day, and that has been our experience here at Lone Rock. We have noticed we lose half as many amp hours over night here with overnight temps in the high 40's to low 50's compared to Cottonwood where the temps got into the low 30's at night. Last night (Tuesday) we only lost 5% of our battery capacity over night and that is in direct correlation to the overnight low being in the mid 50's.
As far as water consumption we have been able to keep to less than 2.5 gallons of water per day per person, just like we did at Cottonwood, and used only 70 gallons from our fresh water tank in 14 days. On the black water front we have learned a lot more about conserving 'space' in our black water tank, and after 14 days had used just 75% of our 40 gallon capacity.....we could have gone a few more days, but we opted to dump our tank Tuesday so we can roll Thursday morning without worrying about that.
So, essentially, get out there and start dry camping/boondocking.....it is the only way you will learn how to do it for extended periods of time!
A few days ago our friends Chris and Cherie posted this picture (below) showing them with friends Becky and Julie whom we met at Amazon in Fernley a few months ago.....what a small world! They have been workamping in Texas this winter and were able to hook up with Chris and Cherie as they meander down to Austin.
Hi Becky and Julie!! (bottom, left to right)
It was a little windy late in the afternoon so there was no fire, but we did convene, as is our custom, to the 'veranda', as TLE calls it, for our sunset cocktails.