Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Power to the People!

This rack-mounted solar panel is unobtrusive, and the airflow underneath can help aid output by keeping the panel cooler.

This rack-mounted solar panel is unobtrusive, and the airflow underneath can help aid output by keeping the panel cooler.

Originally posted 4/26/2013

This post is just to let you know how the riff-raff south of the tracks live. Mike is not a newbie, having full-timed off and on for the last few years, But, he has been doing without solar power while living in an ex-construction E-250 van. He’s been drawing power off the van’s starting battery, which isn’t good for it in the long run because they aren’t made for that type of use. He just bit the bullet and stepped up to a 245 watt solar panel and a couple of 6-volt deep cycle AGM batteries that give the system more power than two of my 12-volt AGMs. For a van with much more modest power needs than me, this is a pretty hearty system. Some outfits make 12VDC refrigerators and refrigerator/freezers that look like typical coolers you’d use for a picnic, so getting decent electrical power begins to open up possibilities for food storage and other things that can greatly affect how you live.

Unlike my rig, vans have no problem with either rough terrain or in-town store parking lots.

Unlike my rig, vans have no problem with either rough terrain or in-town store parking lots.

I couldn’t possibly pack myself into a van for more than a couple of months, but these guys seem just fine with it because they figure out how to use the very limited space effectively, and consider it to be cozy instead of claustrophobic. Hanging out in lawn chairs, working outside on folding tables, and having cookouts on Coleman stoves is common. They tend to hit the nearest town regularly, and don’t lack for fresh food or clever ways to fashion fine meals.

Mike ran the two solar panel output wires through the passenger door opening. It's the easiest approach by far, but will eventually deform the sealing gasket and might leak in the rain. That's just an "if" though, and it's worth trying in order to avoid drilling holes in the van's body.

Mike ran the two solar panel output wires through the passenger door opening. It’s the easiest approach by far, but will eventually deform the sealing gasket and might leak in the rain. That’s just an “if” though, and it’s worth trying in order to avoid drilling holes in the van’s body.

 

Here's the less glamorous part. Mike mounted the solar controller and a circuit breaker box on the bulkhead between the driver's seat and the cargo area, next to the hinged door that allows entry. That bulkhead protects the driver from flying cargo in case of an accident. Mike wound up selecting the same big controller that I have, except he added a digital readout that allows reprogramming and monitoring lots of confusing data. The weird-looking thing on the left is a bike helmet - he's somehow stuffed a bicycle in there, too!

Here’s the less glamorous part. Mike mounted the solar controller and a circuit breaker box on the bulkhead between the driver’s seat and the cargo area, next to the hinged door that allows entry. That bulkhead protects the driver from flying cargo in case of an accident. Mike wound up selecting the same big controller that I have, except he added a digital readout that allows reprogramming and monitoring lots of confusing data. The weird-looking thing on the left is a bike helmet – he’s somehow stuffed a bicycle in there, too!

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