Boondocking, living off the grid, enjoying the vast open areas of nature found in BLM lands, National Parks and the great West.
Of course, it requires a way to power your RV. Plugging the electrical cord into the ground doesn’t work very well, for some strange reason, there is no juice available there. ;c)
So, you can do without, run a generator or turn to the power of the sun…with solar panels.
All the research I’ve done showed me to generate the amount of electricity with solar for our fulltime needs would cost about $4000.
The first thing needed would be to upgrade and add batteries to the Journey. Currently, we have three 12 volt house batteries. They do fine for limited time off the grid, but we have to recharge them daily with shore power or generator run time.
To properly have enough battery power to meet our needs, I’d have to change the three 12 volt batteries to six 6 volt batteries paired up to give the 12 volts, plus add another two to three pairs of 6 volt batteries. To do so would require welding new mounts for the batteries, after some pretty serious engineering. There is not enough space in any of my basement compartments to handle additional batteries.
On the roof would go four solar panels, each one at least 100-130 watts, plus the mounts and tilt mechanism. Cable to run from the panels to the heavy duty charge controller mounted on the interior, with additional cable to run from the controller to the batteries.
The Journey already has a 3000 watt inverter, so that is one area I could save some money, as long as it worked well, if not, it would have to be upgraded, and it too is an expensive item.
So the basic question comes down to will the solar charging system save any money over the long run? Maybe, if I keep using the system after installation for the next 30 or so years (or if diesel hits $10/gallon).
The solar charging system is not economical in that sense. It is a convenience, to allow you to boondock off the grid, with little to no generator run time.
So, are we going to install a complete solar system to enjoy “free” electricity?
After analyzing our travels and our needs for electrical power, it would not be cost effective and necessary for us. The past four months, in our 7000 mile dash around the country, we ran our 8KW quiet diesel generator six nights to generate heat in the Northern states. Then in Quartzsite, AZ, where we stayed for a week, we ran the generator during the evening hours.
All tolled, we used about 150 hours of generator run time. The generator uses 1/2 gallon of fuel under load per hour, for about 75 gallons total. At $4.00/gallon, (not that we paid that much during the travels) it cost about $300. The rest of the time, we were in full service campgrounds, with no generator run time.
Looking ahead, we will be staying 99% of the time in full service campgrounds and our travels will consist for the most part east of the Mississippi River, where there are fewer boondocking areas and much more tree coverage.
Solar won’t be worthwhile for us, the generator will work just fine for the limited times we’ll need it. Maybe someday things will change and it will be worth having it. But for now, we’re going to pass.
However, our day would not be complete without a picture of our little sunshine.
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