Solar freebies

Today marks the start of the time when we can camp without constantly watching the battery meter. Although we have three whacking great house batteries for all our on-board electricals, (as distinct from truck batteries which start the motor) we can only go four to five days, with very judicious usage of lights etc, before we have to either go on a long and costly road trip to top up using the alternator or hook up to the national grid at a campground, again at some cost. Covering the power usage has always been a bit of a problem, especially since we decided to go for a battery fridge, rather than a three-way combo which utilises battery, mains and gas to run. We rush around at night, turning off any lights that aren’t in immediate use, tutting at each other for our wastefulness.

But now, we have three large 60watt amorphous silicon solar panels adorning the roof and they are pumping in totally free electricity faster than the fridge and this laptop combined can use it. And the day is overcast, with occasional rain. Once the sun comes out, the free stuff will simply pour in, in all probability keeping the batteries topped up to the high 90% mark for most of the day.

We chose the amorphous silicon over mono-crystalline because they will work even in the shade, even on cloudy days, even if some random leaf drops down onto the panel. The alternative mono-crystalline panels are divided into sections and a single leaf shielding one part of a section blocks the input to up to 50% of the panel output, depending on where the leaf falls. Amorphous silicon panels are only blocked in the area that the leaf lies on.

This move will mean that our day-to-day costs will be reduced somewhat because we won’t be tied so much to high cost campgrounds. Freedom camping beckons!

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