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A busy day at the off grid solar camper

Article from April 4th, 2013


Today was a very busy day at the scene of the off grid solar camper. I was boiling off maple tree sap to make maple syrup, installing camper skirting, searching around the property for building materials and installing brand new solar panels.

The day started early with building a fire to make maple syrup from the gallons of maple tree sap I have been collecting. One tree alone has been providing me with about 5 gallons a day when the nights are cold and the day is above freezing. If the conditions are right, the trees flow lots of sap. Today I spent the whole day keeping the fire going. My pot is about 2.5 gallons and it takes a whole day to process two batches of sap in it. 2.5 gallons of sap gives me about a pint of maple syrup. When the season is finished and I have enough video, I will upload a video and an article about making maple syrup.


My off grid solar powered camper in the winter


I put my little seedlings outside again this morning to catch some sun. They will be going out by day and coming inside by night for a while until the nights are warmer. The tomato plants got sun burnt yesterday, but most seem like they might survive. Sadly I forgot my little hot pepper plants outside last night and they froze. I think they are done for.




I have a new homemade passive solar window heater that I move from window to window as the sun moves. I made it using simple materials. Just a cardboard box, aluminum foil painted black and tape and I have a heat generating device that really works. This simple thing can keep the daytime temperatures inside the camper comfortable so that I do not need any other heat source when the sun is shining.

It was warm out today – finally. I put the cat out on a chain. I would let her roam but the deer ticks here are so bad, I do not want her going out too far. And there was a huge hawk screaming at me because I would not let it get its dinner (my cat). She is very small and would make nice pickings for a large hawk. I am not sure who would win a battle between the two, but I am not going to take any chances.

Today I got a huge surprise package from fellow youtuber “douglasfi2re”. Tim, as I know him, sent me some solar panels to use until he comes some time in summer to pick them up from me. I now have three 200 watt solar panels to use for my off grid solar camper.

I immediately hooked up two of the panels and put my old homemade panels off to the side. The new panels are 24 volts and my system is 12 volts. This means that I can only use one or the other, but not both sets together. So my old ones will sit off to the side for now. My solar charge controller takes 24 volts to charge 12 volt batteries just fine. But the problem is that since the voltages are not matched, I will not get the full charging current out of them. I will actually only get about half of the rated solar panel current.

The good side of this setup is that I will see a charge from sun rise to sun set.

My batteries were charged within mere hours of hooking up the new solar panels. I was outside all day, so I did not get to see the maximum charging current in full sunlight, but the batteries were showing 15.2 volts in the late afternoon, which surprises me. I have never seen such high voltages on a battery before. I believe this is the special top off charge a solar charge controller gives to batteries once in a while.

The solar panels still put out a little bit of charge to the batteries even after the sun goes down. This is along the lines of what I expected because the solar panels put out a maximum of 36 volts in full sunlight. They still have enough power to charge my batteries even after sunset. This is good. I will get all day charging from them.

I took my truck around the property today digging around for usable building materials I could use to improve my camper with. I found a bunch of cement blocks and some other odds and ends. I found a heavy duty table frame I can use as an outdoor work bench. I just need to put some boards on it.



I also found a nice outdoor planter I will use for my lettuce.

And the best find of all was a huge swimming pool liner. This thing is long enough to almost completely wrap around my camper. I spent a few hours fighting with this huge, heavy roll of sheet metal to put it up around my camper as skirting. It fits from the tongue on one side, almost all the way around to the tongue of the trailer on the other side. I now have camper skirting!

I just hope the wind is not bad tonight because I need to find a better way to secure the metal to my camper firmly. If the wind blows like it has been, the metal will blow away from my camper in a flash. I will work on improving it tomorrow.

And, one final project for the day was that I started to rip out my old camper toilet. I want to put in a composting toilet. My old one was sitting on the tank anyway. The floor had rotted out under the toilet and it felt like surfing each time you used the toilet. You were literally sitting on the plastic tank under the toilet. There was no other support. That is an usettling feeling.

The toilet came out very easy with just two screws and out it came. I had to unscrew the water connector, though. I MUST remember to close this off before I try to turn on the camper water supply again.

The floor and frame under the toilet were gone. I got the camper for free due to water damage so I am not surprised.

I built up a new frame and put a piece of thick 3/4 inch plywood on top of my new frame. Then I sat a 5 gallon bucket on top of my new floor and put my toilet seat on top to get an idea how it looks. It looks just like a toilet. I just need to build the framing and cabinet for my new composting toilet and I am in business.

Today was a very busy and exhausting day. Tomorrow another begins. Lets see what adventure awaits me.

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Troy Reid


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