solar panels for off grid camper
May 13th, 2016 by Off The Grid

Today’s video podcast looks back to the early months out here when I was installing Solar Panels for the Off Grid Camper. If you have ever been interested in alternative energy, generating your own power from the sun, or solar panels in general then today’s show should be entertaining. One of the main things to remember when hooking up solar panels is that you are working with DC (direct current) as opposed to AC (alternating current). Most grid tied houses run off of AC.. this is why most of the electrical appliances you buy are 120 volt. A lot of times when you are powering an RV, or in this case a camper DC can be a better option especially if you have access to solar panels.

 

Video Post notes from today’s Off The Grid Podcast

  • Today’s lesson: Think outside the box and consider alternative energy like solar.
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off grid amp reading
September 25th, 2015 by Off The Grid

For the last week I was holding out hope that the solar battery bank may be ok but unfortunately it looks like the batteries are done. If you remember back in Episode 52 Big Solar Battery Bank UPDATE I topped off all of the batteries with distilled water. Then I reconnected my off the grid solar panels via the charge controller to the battery bank. The last few days I kept an eye on both the levels of individual battery cells along with the amps at the end of the day. After not noting any change as to the solar battery bank holding a charge I started checking each individual deep cycle battery. As it turns out one by one each one of the (3) 12V deep cycle batteries were in fact done. Not a single rechargeable battery held a charge so my off grid solar battery bank needs to be replaced.

The second notable note for today’s podcast I was trying something new for my DIY / homemade off grid toilet by using kitty litter. If any of you have cats you may be thinking one of two things.. one your crazy!! or two wow that makes sense so lets try it! lol Well time would tell as to weather this was going to work. First impression so far was that the “99% dust free odor free” might just be false advertising. It was still to soon to tell about the odor but there was a lot of dust! Now granted this was kitty litter and probably not intended for use in an off the grid compost toilet of any kind but out of necessity I was willing to give it a try. The off grid toilet that was a simple 5 gallon bucket lined with trash bags that anybody could easily put together in a SHh hit the fan scenario.. Attention preppers you probably already knew that but it doesn’t hurt to explain for the newbies out there. People wanting something quick as a DIY toilet for off grid living will appreciate the simplicity of it all too.

“At the start of a journey your desire is always greater than your talent and sometimes that time is just so that your talent can catch up”

Thank you guys once again for tuning into the podcast and sticking with me. It really does mean a lot and I thank you for it! It seems like for the most part every day is a welcomed new adventure in many small ways. Yes for years probably just like you I listened to and watched countless shows about people living off the grid or way out there in harsh environments. It was really cool to see how they were able to figure out and adapt to challenging situation. Evey day I learn something new and am still amazed as to just how much of “everything OFF GRID” that I simply could not have imagined or predicted. Life as always it seems is best experienced first hand as opposed to watching hours of TV.. especially when things are far from ideal. lol

 

Show notes from today’s Off The Grid Podcast

  • Today’s lesson: Experience life first hand not in front of a screen even when things are challenging!
  • Got questions, comments, or tips about living off grid? Please post and share them here or Contact me!
  • Please help support this show and the off grid community by checking out Off Grid Singles.
  • The Off Grid Podcast is now available on iTunes and Stitcher so please Subscribe and rate the show!
  • If you like the show please tell a friend about the podcast 🙂

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small off grid battery bank
September 22nd, 2015 by Off The Grid

This just in ~ BIG BATTERY UPDATE in the off grid camper! If your a regular listener to the podcast you are aware of some of the problems with my deep cycle batteries not holding a charge from the solar panels. Due to the heat I have not been able to stay out here in the camper all day long in order to keep an eye on the batteries during an equalizing cycle. First and foremost I want to say I am not an expert here but I am learning very quickly! lol I have been having an issue with the batteries not holding a charge. The solar panels were putting out electricity. The charge controller was supplying the off grid battery bank with the proper DC power in order to charge the batteries up. The issue ultimately wound up being with the deep cycle batteries themselves. I have 3 deep cycle batteries in my off grid battery bank in total with a fourth battery on the side. The fourth battery is a gel cell battery where as the other 3 are lead acid deep cycle batteries. A gel cell battery is sensitive to overcharge so this is why it is not hooked up to the main off grid power bank.low solar battery

After figuring out that all three batteries in the off grid solar power system were low on fluids I researched on how to correctly top them off. It turns out that all three deep cycle batteries needed to be topped off with distilled water. If by chance you found this this episode of Off The Grid Podcast in seeking an answer to your own deep cycle marine batteries not holding or keeping a charge then please research thoroughly. I found that you can not use tap water, spring water, or filtered water for topping off a battery. Only use distilled water because other trace elements in waters can cause calcification as well as other issues with the plates inside your lead acid battery cells. It took about two thirds of a gallon of distilled water between the three of them. Time would tell as to weather or not this recent lesson in off grid solar power problem with the battery bank was going to work. Crossing my fingers and holding my breath a moment I decided to hook everything back up so the solar panels would charge the batteries the next day. Just because your of the grid does not mean you do not need power. Well.. um I guess ultimately you don’t but it sure makes thing easier. Really the only thing I want right now is to have enough power here in the off grid camper to be able to run a refrigerator. This would give me the ability to refrigerate and preserve food like normal! lol I couldn’t wait to find out if this was going to work or not.

If topping the off grid batteries off with distilled water and then running a couple of water for deep cycle batteriesequalization cycles did not work then this was going to be a $200 – $250 mistake. Why a semi-costly mistake you ask? Because I bought the deep cycle batteries used. Comments, questions, or lessons anyone? If your off the grid solar power system does have an equalize feature integrated within your charge controller please use caution before using. Why be careful equalizing your battery bank? Because running the equalizing feature charges the batteries at a slightly higher voltage causing the lead acid battery cells to literately boil. Use caution because when equalizing deep cycle batteries because the boiling is meant to clean the plates within the cells themselves. Again I am not an expert but I have learned a lot in the short while of my off grid journey. If you are having an issue with your battery bank draining and I can help I will. Yup.. today’s episode of the podcast motto rang true. “Its not what you have its what you know”.

 

Show notes from today’s Off The Grid Podcast

  • Today’s lesson: Save money ~ If your running a solar powered battery bank check your levels regularly!
  • Got questions, comments, or tips about living off grid? Please post and share them here or Contact me!
  • Please help support this show and the off grid community by checking out Off Grid Singles.
  • The Off Grid Podcast is now available on iTunes and Stitcher so please Subscribe and rate the show!
  • If you like the show please tell a friend about the podcast 🙂

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Thermoeletric power module
September 9th, 2015 by Off The Grid

Today was the weekend and that meant another great find from the flea markets! I found an old-school thermoelectric Brinsdon 12V DC powered refrigerator cooler slash warmer for only $10. The little fridge turned out to be both a tiny cooler and food warmer combined in one. brinsdon refrigerator warmerAfter inspecting the cord I noticed it had a small sticker to indicate it would get both hot and cold on demand. Later on I found out that these types of coolers used a space age thermometric technology and do not need refrigerant or compressors to stay cool. Aside from the fan there were no moving parts. The only down side is that these thermoelectric coolers were not that efficient compared to your average dorm sized refrigerator for example. It was small, portable, and at only $10 I was super excited to find this new edition to the cool off grid family here in the camper.. with the solar panels etc.

Refrigeration has been my biggest challenge out here off the grid. That includes cooling myself! lol If you take a look at the basics of living off the grid and begin brinsdon thermoelectric coolertracing refrigeration back to one of the most basic elements you quickly recognize that power is the real issue.. not cooling. So in my search for an ever more efficient solution to minimal power consumption coupled with affordability this brings the count to 4 small refrigerators in total now here in the camper. The original refrigerator in the off grid camper did not work so my aunt gave me one to use until I could figure something out. The thing was that my aunt’s fridge was nice but it took a good amount of wattage to use. It could only be run for about an hour in the morning and again at night before the batteries ran down. The 120V fridge (on grid power) was being powered through my power inverter which took the energy from the solar panels, stored in the 12V deep cycle batteries (off grid power), and converted it into 120 volts AC. Not long after my aunt loaned me her fridge I found another one at the Brinsdon coolerflea market for $35. The $35 dorm sized fridge worked great but again power was an issue. The $35 refrigerator was a lot more efficient drawing about .9 amps per hour but again.. I was only able to run my new off grid camper fridge for about an hour and a half to two hours verses one.

This new cooler I found was so small I was hoping to be able to run it all night at least. Further testing was needed so I was looking forward to trying this DC powered thermoelectric cooler off grid in my camper. A side note: I accidentally “cooked” some yogurt over night because I mistakenly reversed the 12V DC power plug the first time I used it. There is a lesson.. don’t forget to read the directions before using your new flea market finds! lol All in all this vintage Brinsdon thermoelectric refrigerator and warmer was a great find! So if you get nothing else out of my experience please remember to never give up!

 

Show notes from today’s Off The Grid Podcast

  • Today’s lesson: Never give up! This makes refrigerator number 4 and it works woo Hoo! lol
  • Image credit: Learn something new! check out the link to Wikipedia about thermoelectric technology.
  • Got questions, comments, or tips about living off grid? Please post and share them here or Contact me!
  • Please help support this show and the off grid community by checking out Off Grid Singles.
  • The Off Grid Podcast is now available on iTunes and Stitcher so please Subscribe and rate the show!
  • If you like the show please tell a friend about the podcast 🙂

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off grid fridge
August 27th, 2015 by Off The Grid

As I lay down to sleep last night looking up at the foot and a half wide cabinets going the full length of my bed I realized there were more bunks in the camper! Don’t you just love discovering new things when you move into a new house? Well in this case it was my off grid camper with a lot less space than the average home so I was excited. lol I don’t know why but for what ever reason it never occurred to me as to why a camper this size would not have more than 3 beds. It tunes out that there are 4 bunks (2 up top & 2 below) toward the back middle part of the camper. Being off the grid in a camper is challenging enough so discovering new space was awesome!

“There are no problems in life only challenges”

Another new addition to the off grid camper was a decent refrigerator. The dorm size fridge that originally came in the camper did not work. My aunt had graciously offered to let me borrow her refrigerator for as long as needed. There was only one problem.. er umm.. “challenge”. The two deep cycle batteries that were hooked up only days before did not seem to have enough power to run my new off grid refrigerator for very long. The power inverter made its usual unhappy sound of “Errrrrrrrrrrrrrr” after only an hour or so of plugging the fridge in. So this was yet another challenge of many that now seemed to be a daily exorcise of patience coupled with a fun game of “hmm ok. Now what?” I am still very much a rookie in this new land in the off grid landscape of nature.

“Its not what you have. Its what you know”

Living off the grid has proven thus far to be very exciting in one way or another! 😛 Every day offers the opportunity to learn something new if we pay attention in life. I grateful be able to learn all of this quickly in kind of a sink or swim attitude by jumping straight into this lifestyle. My journey off grid has only just begun but I still consider myself fortunate to have this opportunity to try “it”. Several people that I have spoken to over the years (myself included) have always said “I wish I could do that.. live off grid”. Its crazy if you really stop to think about it because it was not that long ago that everyone lived this way. It was the norm. Through much patience, some planing, and the kindness of close friends & family I have made this small leap of faith off the grid. Life is in session. Are you paying attention? So if you ever find yourself in a camper deep in the woods looking for more space and having issues with power just remember. There are no problems in life only challenges. Learn what you can because its not what you have. Its what you know. 🙂

Show notes from today’s Off The Grid Podcast

  • Today’s lesson: Every day offers the opportunity to learn something new if we are paying attention.
  • If you have questions, comments, or tips about living off grid then please post them here!
  • Please help support this show and the off grid community by checking out Off Grid Singles.
  • The Off Grid Podcast is now available on iTunes and Stitcher so please Subscribe and rate the show!
  • If you like the show please help support this journey off grid by telling a friend about the podcast 🙂

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