Before we talk about outfitting the Georgetown so that I don’t have to look for a “current bush” to plug into each night, here’s an idea that crossed from the Sprinter to the Georgetown. I added a new one-pane Empire ceramic heater to use in place of the regular furnace. It doesn’t have a blower to run the batteries down. It is imperative, however, to always crack a window or keep a vent ajar for adequate oxygen.
Now for the solar: On the advice of Greg Holder, a Life on Wheels instructor, inventor, and owner of AM Solar, I contacted his associate, Ron Walter, who was in the neighborhood. For a full-time RVer in Arizona, this means that he was on South Padre Island, Texas. A month later, he installed my solar in Arizona.
My personal solar history began with living on a Baja Mexico beach for six months in 1986-87. Hoagy and Jan Carmichael were beach neighbors and old family friends. Hoagy installed my first 35-watt solar panel just to keep the batteries up. In later years, two more 35-watt panels and a 2,000-watt Trace inverter were added. Those served me well over 18 boondocking years, traveling from below the Tropic of Cancer to above the Arctic Circle.
In transferring old equipment into the 12-year newer Georgetown, “parasitic” loads (i.e. transmission and dashboard memories, alarm systems and detectors) would equal the original 105-watt panels. Watt to do? I was spoiled. I wanted to continue the ultimate freedom of running without that black umbilical cord yanking me back to a utility box.
Ron replaced Georgetown’s two 12-volt house batteries with two new 105 Trojan six-volt golf cart batteries and in the nearby hold, boxed, bolted, strapped, and vented two more, wired in series/parallel.
On the roof, he installed a SunRunner 100-22 system, “designed specifically for RVs.” This included, two AM100 44-cell solar panels to generate charging current, and AM Solar’s new “Heliotrope HPV-22, Maximum Power Point Tracking current-boosting, taper-charge strategy controller to regulate the flow of electricity to the batteries.”
The panels were mounted with AM Solar’s “exclusive combiner box and stainless steel rocker foot mounting system.” Sunlight resistant 10/2 tray cable was used for the solar panel connections; and eight-gauge wire, to minimize voltage drop, carried the charge from the panels to the batteries. Glue-filled, shrink-tube, butt connectors and ring terminals provided for long life and corrosion-free wire connections. The SunRunner 100-22 handles up to four AM100 solar panels so that if I want to add panels in the future, it is ready.
The solar combiner box receives the output cables from each solar panel and combines them into one output cable that goes to the solar charge controller. It attaches to the refrigerator vent side with double-sided tape. The “mount adapter” attaches to the solar panel and the “rocker foot” attaches to the mount adapters and swivels to conform to the shape of any RV roof.
As the solar company says: “Solar panels have no moving parts to wear out, no fuel to consume, and no filters to replace. They need cleaning occasionally with a non-abrasive cleaner. Check the mounts and fasteners to make sure they are tight. Modern charge controllers are mostly solid-state electronics and have no moving parts to wear out. Check wire connections and clean them once a year. Check the battery water level quarterly. Add only pure, distilled water when necessary. Battery maintenance is mostly inspecting wire connections to make sure they are snug and cleaning away corrosion.”
Those are all things I can do and I am assured: “As long as there is enough light to cast a shadow on the ground, they will produce electricity.”
Instead of a 2,000-watt inverter wired into the coach as I had with the Sprinter, this time I went with a 600 PROwatt inverter. I had already put beaucoup bucks into the motorhome and car, so I cut cost at the inverter. The wired-in inverter was more convenient and quieter. It was on all the time and I could plug into any outlet. Now I physically turn the inverter on each time I use it. I plug whatever I’m using into the inverter itself.
Parked under Mammoth Cave National Park’s canopy of luscious green trees for a week, I ran the 4,800-watt Generac generator about an hour a day to keep up with all my computer use. “The brighter the sunlight, the more power the panels produce,” I was told. George is partially under trees here in Michigan and we’ve had many rainy, cloudy days, but the power is still going strong without a generator boost.
Ron is a graduate of a nine-week Camping World Recreational Vehicle Institute course on refrigerators, furnaces, water heaters, plumbing systems, and generators. He was trained, and installed solar under Greg’s tutelage. He is now doing freelance RV repairs and teaching solar installation as he crosses the country. He is quick, meticulous, and conscientious. You cannot ask for more than that. Well, he is also tall, dark, handsome and single, but that’s another story!
Greg Holder is also tall, dark, and handsome but he is married to the lovely Deborah and I hold their integrity in highest regard. AM Solar was founded by Greg in 1987. He and Deborah have their business office in Eugene, Oregon. Says Greg, “We are a family business and strive to give down-home style service and provide the highest quality solar electric products.”
O.K., so I love it. Would I recommend you go with solar? I would definitely suggest one solar panel to keep your house batteries charged. Beyond that, it depends on your needs and pocketbook. If you are going to be in an established, full-hookup campground each night, you don’t need it. I like the amenities wherever I am.
You can get a complete explanation of solar power at the AM Solar Web site at www.amsolar.com.
Next time, I’ll tell you about some of our adventures.
For information about six RV-related books written by Sharlene Minshall, see www.full-time-rver.com. Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.