Rewire Batteries & Solar

After a bunch of hours of driving today, I found my nesting spot for the evening and had enough time to complete another project: re-writing and consolidating the 12v power systems.  I also took a shower in the camper!

One of the selling points of the camper was the solar panels and deep cycle batteries that had been installed by the previous owner.  For some strange reason though, the camper had two completely separate 12v electrical systems.  The original system, which runs the lights, water pump, furnace, etc., was all connected to the standard onboard battery.  The solar panels and deep cycle batteries were only connected to a large inverter.  And nothing else.  Very strange.  Apparently the previous owner wanted the ability to run a microwave or other relatively high-wattage appliance and didn’t see any reason to consolidate the system so that the rest of the camper could be run off the solar panels and fancy deep-cycle batteries.  Or maybe he just had someone install it and didn’t realize what was happening.  Either way, I’ve fixed it.

I’ve re-wired the camper so everything is running off the deep cycle batteries.  This means I can use the lights, furnace, etc., as I see fit and I don’t have to be concerned about charging them.  The solar panels have plenty of power to more than cover my needs for right now and the batteries have enough capacity to handle whatever I want to power each evening.

Feels nice to actually be able to use the solar panels to run the whole coach.  I’m no longer worried about turning on as many lights as I want or running the furnace.  Prior to today I was trying to figure out when or where I was going to charge the on-board battery.  Normally it’s charged when plugged into “shore” power, or when traveling via the 7-pin trailer wiring connector.  Since I’m always boondocking and am just not interested in campsites, I was never getting shore power.  I also don’t have the 7-pin connector hooked up to my truck because the cable built into the camper is too short.  I could buy an extension cord (at ~$40), or install another 7-pin harness near the front of the truck bed, but both of those require unmounting the camper and having some free time and space to do that. In a couple weeks I’ll probably just get the extension cord, but now I don’t have to be in any kind of hurry about that.

Since I have all this power available to me now, I decided to be completely decadent and take a shower even though the bathroom set up isn’t as nice as I’d like it to be.  (Running the shower means running the water pump, a light in the shower, and the exhaust fan.) It’s nice to have a hot shower, and I was actually surprised at how well it worked.

RV shower heads (almost) universally have a quick on/off button to help save water.  My campers shower head has this, so the process is basically: get wet, shut off water, soap up, turn on water and rinse off.  The pressure was strong enough and I didn’t run out of hot water, so those are all good things.  I’m surprised residential showers don’t have easy on/off buttons like RVs do.

Tonight I’m staying in a Dollar Tree parking lot (in southern Illinois), across the street from the local Walmart.  GPS: 37.99814, -88.93888.  I’m thinking I might start storing these coordinates in case I’m ever back this way, I’ll be able to have my own personal review of these places.

The featured image at the top of this post is from Rural King, a local hardware/general store across the parking lot from where I’m staying.  You can buy all kinds of things there, including chicks.  As I was walking through the store, I could have sworn I heard birds, and thinking they were selling pets, I walked towards the chirping, and it turned out to be steel bins holding dozens of chicks.  I’m definitely in farm country.

Last night’s Walmart turned out to be quite noisy.  So much so that I actually threw on my robe at midnight, hopped in the truck, and found a new spot.  Drove towards the edge of town and found a gravel lot that didn’t appear to be very formally assigned to anyone.  As I was getting ready to go back to bed, I noticed some extra noise and flashing lights.  I peered outside and saw police interacting with a couple locals.  I turned off my lights and went to bed, it was getting to be past 1am at that point.  I got enough sleep to be functional today, but I wouldn’t recommend stopping in Bryant, AK if it can be avoided.

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