Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Archive for the tag “Solar”

Lesson Learned. Again.

I would have put a picture of an elk right here, but for today’s trip to do laundry and visit the dump station and get a few more tomatoes at the market inside the Grand Canyon in preparation for leaving tomorrow, I figured, “Hey, what would I need the camera for? I’m not visiting anything.”

On the way into the park, a couple of cars are pulled over because there were two elk a couple hundred feet off in the thin woods. Naturally, the people were taking pictures. I do my business in the park and leave. Lo and behold, I’m tootling along on a small road leaving the market, and three cars are stopped in the opposite lane. They’re stopped because there’s a standard-sized elk with a full set of moss-covered horns grazing right beside the road. And I don’t mean fifty or 100 feet down, I mean two feet from the edge of the pavement. Paid no attention at all to the cars.

Outside the park, a van has pulled over and a woman is photographing a few elk grazing in the woods. Back at the north end of Tusayan in the four-lane, the right lane is stopped completely. At first, I thought it was one heck of a 35 MPH chain reaction accident, which

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What’s Your Angle, Bud?

With support poles at a slight tilt, this has been my only concession to following the sun's lower winter arc.

With support poles at a slight tilt, this has been my only concession to following the sun’s lower winter arc.

Well, I was out admiring the Enterprise again and noticed that the sun at noon was not even remotely perpendicular to the solar panels, which were too close to horizontal to be very efficient. A panel that’s markedly out of position in relation to the sun presents a smaller surface area to it, and captures less light. The limited daylight of the winter sun is bad enough, and so is the inability to physically follow it across the sky. Why waste it further by having the basic panel tilt way off?

I looked up the seasonal data for my latitude, which is just shy of 33 degrees above the equator. Turns out the recommended panel winter angle for my location is Read more…

Solar Article Update


For those who saw the “Ingenuous Modular Solar Power System” post on the Cheap RV Living Blog, you may want to know that it was the Reader’s Digest abridged version of Solar of the Absurd, which contains more technical information as well as useless trivia. Should you be considering a solar system, you may want to saw through it. An update on it, based on constant use in the boonies, will follow on this blog.

Belt and Suspenders

Not gonna risk these babies in a windstorm.

Not gonna risk these babies in a windstorm.

Originally posted 12/13/2012

If you read my previous post on the coming “Winter storm” as the radio calls it (it’s 66 degrees right now at 3PM and the first rainfall is due at 4) then you know I was planning on watching the solar panels to see if they had any tendency at all to lift when the wind picks up from what feels like 30MPH right now. It’s predicted to pick up some more. The desert around Quartzsite is noted for occasional high windstorms (some say 50MPH+), and today’s are Read more…

Equipment Mods Completed

Originally posted 12/9/2012

Note to self: One milestone has been reached. All electrical work related to the solar system is done, not needing to be played with any further. I’ve installed heavy 12GA wiring with a big-ass 40A fuse directly from the four-battery office pack to the 300W DC->AC inverter, per Samlex’s instructions, and I can operate just about any combination of gizmos in the office without having to wonder how high connector temperatures are, because there aren’t any. Realistically, I don’t think I’ll actually use more than 200 watts at most, on media projects. My usual usage hovers around 120-145W. I patched over the TV/DVD to the same pack too, since it seems to have such abundant capacity.

What’s abundant? In practice, this lets me (in sunny Arizona anyway) use the office computer all day if I need to, watch a couple of DVDs that evening on the 28″ TV, then put in more computer time until 11PM if I have a project going, which I often do. Then rinse and repeat the next day. The pack will still reach a completed recharge by early or mid-afternoon, day after day. Of course, that’s harder on me than it is on the office pack, so I go for my Official Health Walk, read, fix meals, meditate on what the heck I got myself into, and examine the peeling wallpaper that still needs to be removed, or survey all the crap that still needs to find a permanent hidey-hole somewhere. (I’m still looking for my tiny harmonica that I got in the ’70s. It’s here somewhere. It sounds great. I’ve just never been able to get anything resembling actual music out of it.) Oh dear – now I no longer have an excuse for procrastinating on cleaning this rat’s nest up. Look for photos of the trailer’s interior when I’m in a position to be less embarrassed about it.

Finally, just so you will no longer be jealous, we’re now in the official Cold December mode of weather down Read more…


Ah, today's sunset by the camper. These are the most clouds I've seen for a long time! This was my view straight out the office window, but the iMac is so big, it blocks the view! So when I noticed it, I grabbed the camera and went outside.

Ah, today’s sunset by the camper. These are the most clouds I’ve seen for a long time! This was my view straight out the office window, but the iMac is so big, it blocks the view! So when I noticed it, I grabbed the camera and went outside.

Originally posted 11/29/2012

No sage insights and philosophical points brewing today. I spent the day screwing down the iMac to the office desk and hooking up 14 devices to the office power supply. 14! Hard drives, scanners, printers, card readers, my digital picture frame, an audio amplifier, and the record turntable. I labeled all the plugs so I had some idea what the tangle was, and I’ve been downloading bank statements, item receipts, and offloading the camera photos for a couple of hours now. I also got the propane and carbon monoxide alarm hardwired to the office battery pack. Plus, I’m doing a data backup for safety’s sake. That’ll take awhile.

The goal of fastening the iMac to the desk is to hopefully allow me to move the trailer without having to carry the iMac rearward and plop it on the bed for safe transport. That was a pain, especially whenever the solar panels were stowed in the office/living room passageway. There’s some risk in bolting it down, because it’s top-heavy. When the trailer does its rock ‘n roll on a rough road, well… we’ll see what happens – or not. It’s worth the try, and by my reckoning, nothing short of a  Read more…

A Bit More Peace of Mind



Originally posted 11/11/2012

As you might have been able to tell, those big solar panels hanging on the side of the trailer have been a concern to me in high winds. The concern is that trapped air under the panels might cause them to flip on their hinges over the top of the trailer, ruining them, their mounts, and any equipment mounted on the rooftop. Further, winds in this area have been claimed to approach fifty miles per hour on rare occasion. The panels have stayed firmly planted up to at least twenty-five, and have plenty of air escape space all around them, but who can say? Who wants to take the gamble? I don’t. They effectively can’t be replaced, because they can only be purchased in sets of four, and certainly can’t be truck-shipped to a post office.


The wind in the late afternoon yesterday was gusty and changing direction. So, in the spirit of frugality and reasoned concern, I visited a local vendor tent yesterday and bought four 15″ rebar stakes with eyelets. I pounded them into the ground with a ball peen hammer, having found that I had neglected to abscond with my trusty 32oz hammer from my former home. I shall miss ye, old friend.

The time being sunset, I then introduced the weak link, good-sized cable ties, through the stake eyelet and the hole in each pole handle. It’s far from bulletproof, but it’s certainly better than gravity alone. It stands to reason that aircraft cable would outdo cable ties, but I’m letting the problem soak for awhile to come up with a better cost/performance solution. At some point, the holes in the plastic handles might tear out, so some thought is needed. I’d ultimately like to run a strap directly from each panel outer edge down to the frame of the trailer, but that approach is not as straightforward or problem-free as I’d like. In the meantime, the panels are modestly protected, and I don’t feel compelled to look out at the panels every time the trailer wiggles in the wind.

It’s the Institution, Man!

Originally posted 11/11/2012

In the continuing saga of the local post office’s staunch determination to slow one man’s progress in these difficult times, I received an e-mail from UPS notifying me that my shipment of additional controllers was presented to the Quartzsite Post Office on Friday, shortly before 5PM local time.


Their notification included some critical info: “Receiver stated that they did not order and refused delivery. Returned to shipper.” Arrrgh! The package was to be addressed identically to the one that got through a week ago, so I’m stumped. I’ll have to visit the post office on Monday and ask in a calm, civil manner what the problem might be. If it remains problematic, I’ll either have to talk a local brick-and-mortar business into receiving it for me, or have it sent to my residence address in Illinois and have it repackaged and sent as Priority Mail. Then I’ll have to contact the vendor, confirm/alter the shipping label wording, arrange for reshipment to somewhere, and pay for it. Again.

The only positive point is that neither controller is critically needed. The working house battery system is nicely handling all the essentials. When needed, I can recharge the CPAP’s battery by plugging my 120V charger into the same inverter that runs the DVD player, but that CPAP battery is lasting a lot longer than I expected. To say that I’m looking forward to getting the office system up and running is an understatement, though. This is apparently one of those situations where blind stubbornness may prove a virtue.

It’s an iMac Day

Originally posted 11/8/2012

I like the look of the app that The Weather Channel offers for the iPhone, iPad, etc. It has a very rich appearance, and exudes a confidence that gives one the ability to plan with confidence. If only they could work on the data, though. I’ve noticed that the numbers have been consistently off for Quartzsite. Way off. Example: it says that right now, Quartzsite has an overcast temperature of 72 with a 10 MPH breeze and zero chance of rain. What made me wake from my beauty rest and notice was the howling of the wind through the windows, and the rocking of the trailer. And that’s with the stabilizing jacks down. I was watching through the windows how the big solar panels were reacting, since they are facing the wind on about a 45 degree angle and their behavior in high wind is completely unknown so far. They seemed to be staying put very nicely at this point. Seems more like a 25 MPH-plus wind, but the sprinkle of rainwater on the windows also got my attention. Both my indoor and outdoor temp readings are 80. High winds make the roof drum, sounding like somebody unable to hold a big metal panel tightly in place. I assume it’s really air doors in the A/C unit up there. The roof itself is one continuous piece of aluminum, so the sound can’t match the reality.

I left at about 6:20 AM this morning for Phoenix, giving myself an extra hour for the 2-1/2-hour trip. I’d like to say that this was all planned out, but it was an oopsie on my part, an oopsie that turned out  Read more…

Spending My Days How?

This "deer tooth box" and sign were at the entrance to the bad road to Queen Canyon. What's up with that????

This “deer tooth box” and sign were at the entrance to the bad road to Queen Canyon. What’s up with that????

Originally posted 11/7/2012

I was asked a fair question, as in: “What’re you doing right now? How do you spend your days?”

The answer to what I’m doing these days is quite a bit different than it will be a couple of weeks from now. Basically, I’m getting the travel trailer’s basic systems up and running, and checking on how well they’re doing. I’m merely continuing the modification process that I started in September and didn’t have the good fortune to complete by the time I left Algonquin, Illinois for Quartzsite, Arizona. This is doing it the hard way.

My day is spent poring over installation manuals, calling vendors with questions, doing Internet research, and making to-do lists as well as shopping lists for bits and pieces of hardware. Making a mistake now in selection or installation out here costs significant time and money. You pay more for problems.

Today specifically? I checked out the feasibility of Read more…

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