Now that the weather has (relatively) cooled off in Texas, I decided it was finally time to get away from work and take a little vacation. I scheduled some time off and booked a spot. The location wasn’t exactly what I had in mind because the whole world is currently booked up but I was lucky enough to find a place at Canyon Lake.
It worked out because I had just installed 200Watts of solar panels on my roof and needed a sunny place to try them out. This place had water and power but I decided to pretend to be dry-camping so I filled the water tank at home and planned to not use any shore power. There are really no legal places to boondock in Texas because all the land is owned by some bastard or another even though they probably never even visit it.
I arrived and set up camp. There were no clouds to be seen the whole time so I had full sun on the panels. I designed the mounting system myself using aluminum angle iron. These L shaped pieces are full of holes making mounting a snap. I bolted the rails to the roof and then using a tap-and-die set made holes in the corners of each panel so that I could use thumbscrews to hold them either flat or with the addition of a brace (unfortunately on the other side of the panels) keep them at an angle. The angle is best for winter camping. The cables run along a flexible conduit down the refrigerator vent.
Seen from the ground, they look damn cool.
I kind of expected them to be a conversation starter at the campground but the other camping zombies weren’t conscious enough to realize a good thing when they see it. Nobody cared but I had a great time being off the grid.
It’s really just as much fun as you think it is.
I used a MPPT charge controller I bought on eBay for around $80.00. Be careful. Not all charge controllers on ebay are actually MPPT. False advertising is rampant in this category. Make sure before you buy. This model is verified to be MPPT so I got maximum power out of it.
Shown here, I have it mounted next to the power converter conveniently located under the sink next to the refrigerator so only a short run of wire was needed. It was a quick job to connect right to the battery cables on the power converter. Don’t yell at me about the wires. I’ll tidy it up eventually.
Here you can see the readout on the charge controller. It indicates a battery charge level of 12.9V. 11.7Amps or 150 Watts are being supplied by the solar panels in full sun. Pretty good to get 150W out of two 100W panels. There’s always some loss.
Even in the shade in my driveway I got at least a few watts.
I was easily able to run the ventilation fans, lights and the inverter to power my entertainment system. It’s really quite fun to be watching TV and using power that is coming directly from the sun. Why isn’t this stuff everywhere?
So now I’m ready for real boondocking. In the winter of course. I would need to cover the roof and tow a trailer full of solar panels to run the air conditioner for summer camping. They really need to come up with a more efficient way of keeping cool.