Friday, May 16, 2014

16 May, 2014 Home again ...

We're back home, for awhile at least.  We have another summer trip coming up so we've been working on getting the motorhome ready for the trip.  We have a third motorhome now.  This one was purchased just for this trip.  We may keep it or sell it afterwards depending upon  how we like it.   It's kind of a cross between our big motorhome in Nevada and the smaller one we made out of a U-Haul truck.  The major issues will be reliability and gas mileage.  But not everything we've been doing is related to the motorhome.  There've been some other things to take care of as well.

We're still attempting to get some writing time in here.  I finally have everything I need for a vehicle recovery book I'm working on so I can get more done on it.  I'm also working on a couple of other books:  one on simple solar power systems and the other on alternative weapons for self-sufficiency.

I've needed some of the things at home here to finish the books. 

The motorhome was purchased just before we left for the winter in Nevada.  We had assurances that everything but the furnace worked which we've found to be true so far.  Surprisingly it had a full tank of propane.  The auxiliary battery was dead as a doornail but a few hours on the fast charger got it functional again.  It passed a load test anyway.  I'm going to install another back-up battery before we leave on the trip.  We aren't going to put solar panels on this one because we plan on being on the road a lot and the vehicle's alternator can keep the batteries charged.  We do not plan on using a generator either. 

The furnace is not a big deal at this time.  If we keep the rig we'll do a lot more modifications and get everything up to snuff.  It has a three-way refrigerator.  It does not work on 120 volts but does work with propane.  I have not tried it on 12 volts yet.  It draws 240 watts which is a lot of power for operation on batteries.  If it goes bad we'll replace it with an energy efficient unit that runs on 120 volts.

I'm still getting to know it and will have updates later.

I still have to fix some marker lights but that shouldn't be a big issue.

We took our time coming home and visited a few national Park and Recreation Areas on the way back.  We camped out twice and had a few nights in motels also.  One of the things we forgot to pack were cooking utensils for the motels.  We pack food along but it often needs cooked before eating.  When camping we just made a fire or used the backpacking stove.  However, our steel cups wouldn't work in a microwave so I bought this at Wal Mart for about $4.00.  We had to take turns cooking with it but it got us by okay.

Scott likes to look out the window and he likes to climb.  Here he got to do both.
We we're all glad to be home.  One of the first things Scott did was stack the cups.  It's fun to see them growing up and improving their physical and communication skills.

I got out our 65 watt solar panel out to top off the battery in the motorhome.  It was low but would still crank the motor over.  The carburetor was dry though and I ran the battery down pumping gas into the float bowl and had to put the fast charger on to start the motor.  I ran it a few minutes then shut it off.  I put the solar panel on it for a few hours to top off the battery.
This is an old panel and the wiring is connected manually inside the "black box." 
We use this one as a portable unit.  I have battery clips to attach it to whatever battery we're charging.  The chain is to secure it to something so that it doesn't grow legs and walk off without a fight.  It's often in use in the far corners of our property (way out of our sight).

Here the panel is leaning against the front of the motorhome.

Battery clips attached to the battery ...

and security chain in place!

It was also time to change the solar array from the winter to the summer position.  That's pretty easy.

Unbolt the arm at the bottom on both sides ...

then reposition it at the summer setting.

When I  added the extra panels a couple last year it made the array top heavy.  I put a safety chain on to keep it from falling over backwards when changing it from the summer to winter positions.

It's now facing the sun more directly.

We purchased a couple of Harbor Freight Tool solar chargers.  One is a small unit for keeping cell phones, etc. functioning.  The other is a 13 watt, portable battery "maintainer."  It's basically a solar powered "trickle" charger putting out about one amp.  It won't really charge a dead battery but it will keep one topped off if it sits for weeks or months at a time between uses. It comes with cigarette lighter attachments in both male and female configurations and with battery clips.  It also has a clip for charging batteries for cordless drills, etc.  It's very portable, folding up like a suitcase, and seems to do it's intended job well.  It was purchased to evaluate for the book on simple solar power that I'm writing.

I have it attached to a deep cycle battery here.  I've also installed a small charge controller.  A lot of comments on the unit said it needed a charge controller.  I'm not so sure that is the case.  At less than one amp it would be very difficult to damage a battery using it without a controller.  At any rate, I actually purchased the charge controller for the 65 watt panel.

The 65 watt panel installed on the deep cycle battery.  I was doing some comparisons of the two.  Obviously the larger panel had more output.  You can actually recharge a battery with it.

Here the HF unit is hooked to the motorhome battery.

I was greeted with a summons to jury duty upon arriving home so we made the 90 mile trip to the county seat  (Libby) for that.  They had a huge pool of jurors and since my name was near the end of the list I was not chosen.  It sounded like an interesting (civil) case.

It's a beautiful drive along Lake Koocanusa.

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