I've been on solar power for more than two years. A 65-watt Kyocera nestles in the luggage rack area at the back of my bus.
|The 65-watt Kyocera solar panel.|
Romex wiring leads from the panel through the side air vents to a 7-amp controller inside the engine compartment below. From the controller power is fed to both the main battery and a deep-cycle sealed AGM battery under the jump seat inside.
I have found in my travels that 65 watts, or 3.75 amps, is all I need. Your mileage may vary.
Just as important as power input is power consumption. There are two main draws on my system. A 16-liter Engel fridge nestled between the front seats of my bus and my Acer Aspire One computer. Both consume minimal amounts of juice. And that is important.
|From street level the panel is invisible.|
At that rate the fridge is drawing only about 4 amp-hours over a 24-hour period. In warmer weather it will run more often of course. Still I have never known it to run more than 20 percent of the time.
I keep the fridge at a modest temperature, about 45 degrees. In hot weather I insulate by covering it with a towel. There is also a small 12-volt fan if needed to blow air over the coils.
But the real secret to minimizing fridge power consumption is understanding that small fridges need little power to maintain constant temperature but considerably more power to cool warm things down inside. So whenever possible only put things in your fridge that are already cold.
|Raindrops outside my door.|
I replaced the original three-hour battery with a 10-hour one (good actually for about 7) and can now work long hours without recharging. In practical terms this mean waiting until the sun is bright and the bus batteries are fully charged before drawing off power to recharge the computer.
How does all this work in practice? Surprisingly well. I always have extra power to watch the occasional DVD on small TV, read at night, occasionally make coffee in the morning and touch up clothes with a small portable steam iron that draws just 408 watts max and works like a charm.
But don't let thinking solar stop there.
A solar shower on the roof heats up nicely any time the sun is out, providing warm water for showering and cleaning up. A bucket of sudsy water placed in the sun gives you plenty of warm water for washing clothes. A clothes line lets you dry them. Sleeping bags, blankets and pillows all can be aired out and sanitized in the sun.
You can even—so I am told—use the sun to sterilize water by putting it in clear plastic bottles and laying them lengthwise in the sun.
And the list goes on. Put a few tomato plants in pots and you have fresh food ....
Find a quiet place to watch the sun go down ...
...or while your coffee's perking watch the sun come up.
Or just get a book and a folding chair and sit outside in the warm sun and read.
Now the overcast skies that prompted this post are clearing. Time to go outside and watch the monarch butterflies having their spring moments in the sun in the blood-red azalea bush full bloom.