Time to Move
Originally posted 10/26/2012
My multi-day tour of the Petrified National Forest is done, and I’ll be posting an article with pictures when I can deal with the logistics of being able to upload it without having to make trips to the nearest town and McDonalds for WiFi. That’s where this is being sent from.
The solar controllers are still going into float mode after just a few minutes of sunrise exposure, which means that the batteries are unable to get a charge. This time, another call to BatteryMinder Tech support produced instructions on how to recalibrate the unit to raise the trip voltage – the voltage that the battery must hit before the unit kicks into float mode. Definitely sounds like what I need. That involves taking each unit apart and turning a potentiometer with a small screwdriver. In my case, without a variable output DC power supply, I will have to make an adjustment and then keep an eye on behavior over the course of time. Could take many days to get right.
Unfortunately, a cool air front moved in last night and it got down to 34 degrees. That caught me a bit off-guard because a wind came up in the opposite direction – the one facing the solar panels. So at 2 AM I watched them for any hint of moving or lifting at the outer edges. They’re big enough to make great sails, but are also heavy enough to want to stay put. I lowered them a bit just for insurance and went back to bed.
The combination of low temperature at 5,000 feet and the probability that this potential fix will take awhile to sort out makes me inclined to head for Quartzsite, which is at less than 1,000 feet altitude. 250 miles and about 4-1/2 hours away not counting various in-town stops I will need to make along the way. You know, propane, hardware store, grocery, and a place to search online for an alternative controller and vending source – just in case.
I’m optimistic about the readjustment procedure, but I’m a belt-and-suspenders kinda guy. Always have a backup plan, if possible. There’s no shore power available in the Quartzsite LVTA, but worst case I can temporarily use the Ford to recharge the house batteries, and their only legit use in emergency conservation mode is to ignite propane for the fridge. I have three one-gallon jugs for water, so using the electric pump is not really required to wash up or get a drink. Remember, when those three are empty, I’ve got seventy gallons more in the Tankmin. At night, the CPAP can easily be spliced into the two battery packs intended for the office, getting perhaps two weeks’ worth of operation without breaking a sweat. Neither heat nor light need to have anything to do with electrical power, either.
Having shore power actually gets in the way of trying or dialing in the solar system, at least for the house batteries. The solar controller, for safety, will back out when shore power is connected and attempting to charge them through the camper’s factory inverter. As long as I’m on shore power, the solar system is out of the picture. So, I’m leaving the umbilical cord of shore power in NE Arizona, and heading for the western border. Goin’ for broke, with a heroic optimism fueled by a studied blend of ignorance and naiveté.