Solar Upgrade!! 12/19/21

Burrr!! It’s been chilly here the past week or so! We’ve had some chilly nights that got us down into the upper 30s. I know, I know, I shouldn’t complain because our highs have been in the 60s consistently, but that’s still pretty cold! We’ve been collecting some sort of desert wood (we think it’s the Desert Willow) and burning that in our wood stove at night. Man, that stuff burns HOT!

425° might not sound too hot, but we are heating less than 200 Sq. Ft.!!!

The first night we used the desert wood, we filled up the stove as usual, closed off the air intake, and headed to bed. Within a half of an hour we could hardly breathe because the bus was so hot! I opened windows and doors because I was afraid we would melt things again. (One time back in October we got the wood stove so hot our plastic lights started to melt!) Also, the refrigerator is an evaporative refrigerator and needs cooler air at the top behind it in order to run properly; with the bus that hot, I knew it wouldn’t be operating efficiently. After about 10 minutes of the windows being open, it was finally cool enough that I felt safe going back to sleep. I left one window near the fridge open a crack just in case, and went to bed… without blankets! When we woke up the next morning, the wood stove was still warm and had a bed of coals. Now, we only put 4-5 small chunks in at a time 🙂

It doesn’t take many clouds to severely affect a solar harvest. Just this light feathering can negatively impact a solar-based off-grid setup. Thankfully Solar Penny got us hooked up and running!

After a week of cloudy, chilly days, our solar system couldn’t keep up with our usage. We even had to run to the laundromat because we didn’t dare run the washing machine for fear of not knowing when we would again be able to get the battery topped off. We contacted a woman from Craigslist who had a solar generator similar to ours and a 300-watt solar panel for sale. We went and checked it out and, after making sure we could pick up the missing piece at a local solar store, bought it from her. We now have just over 700 watts of solar on the roof and 4200 watt-hours of battery combined.

The four panels in the front are each about 100-watts and they are connected in series-parallel. They are great for catching morning and evening rays. The Bohemoth in the back is our new 300-watt panel that is separate from the other four and works really well when the sun is directly overhead.

We have our big Bluetti running the AC portion of our build (the scooter, washer, DeWalt batteries for Jeff’s tools, small kitchen appliances, etc.) and the new, smaller generator we affectionately dubbed the ‘black-etti’, running the DC portion of our bus (lights, refrigerator control panel, fans in the composting toilet, phone, etc.).

The Bluetti (a 2400wh battery) is on the right and the new, slightly smaller ‘black-etti’ (an 1800wh battery) is on the left. It’s basically identical aside from color and length.

Now, when I run the washing machine, we don’t trip the breaker on the rinse cycle because we aren’t pulling a lot of AC and DC power from the same machine. Apparently spinning the drum and pumping water simultaneously was too much for one battery so I would have to sit there and flip it back on during each of the two rinse cycles. I still can’t run the dryer portion as the 1000-watt inverter isn’t enough to run the dryer heating element in either condensing or venting mode. But my drying rack is getting very good use!

While Jeff was working for the Glass Artist, Bray and I did school, washed laundry, hung and dried laundry, charged both solar generators, and even cooked some eggs for egg salad sandwiches. A productive day for all!

Unlike most passenger vehicles, the bus doesn’t have a 12v “cigarette outlet” up front. Almost as if the industry standard is to not smoke while driving a bus-full of kids around or something. I digress, but now that we have two generators, each with a 12v outlet, we plan to run one up to the front so we can power our fancy CB Radio and our Garmin dashcam/GPS! Yay!! We are very excited!

4 thoughts on “Solar Upgrade!! 12/19/21

  1. thanks for the update! never heard of dessert wood … but wow! that’s some heat! 👍🏻 didn’t know Arizona got that chilly!
    never knew things took up so much power! 😳 glad you got another solar panel!! but a shame you still can’t use the drier! 😞
    sounds like it’s all coming together tho! 👍🏻😁👍🏻 hope Bray is enjoying school work.. fun learning is the best!
    ooh .. where’s the Jeep?? I really hope that works out for you!! good help is hard to find, so sad!
    keep me posted on the mail! 😉 hopefully you’ll get both cards this time..
    enjoy your day, hugs to all!! 💕💕


  2. 425 at the pipe is toasty..!
    Love the design of the panels, and clean installation..! The bus looks like it can fly..!
    And we’ll take a cord of that desert wood when you swing back up this way..!!
    Can’t wait for an update on the CB….


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