Saturday, February 16, 2019

Day 39 - Getting Prepped for More Solar

Went up on the roof today to measure the spot I am planning to put the new solar panel. You can see the location of the existing junction box. I’m pretty sure that the brackets will allow the new panel to fit over it. In case it doesn’t, I have several backup options. The tape measure is set to the length of the new panel. It is about 6” wider than the other panels so there is plenty of space.

As a refresher, I pulled out the MC4 crimp tools and installed a connector on each end of the leftover cable from the original solar panel installation. Since I needed to make cables for the new panel anyway, this just helps the process get started. The cable itself is 10 AWG with UV-resistant insulation and is designed for use in solar installations. By “designed”, I mean the insulation is the proper size for the MC4 connectors. These are most of the tools needed for crimping and I have the two MC4 connectors shown below the crimp tool.

First, the pieces for mechanically securing the cable to the connector are put in place before crimping the cable. The insulation is stripped off enough so that just the tip of the bare copper wire goes into the body of the pin. This is just so that stray strands don't get caught in the connector.

The pin is crimped using the ratcheting crimp tool specifically made for these connectors. What I did not show was a little bit of the Ox-Gard anti-oxidation compound was put into the area of the crimp before going into the tool. I didn't include a picture of the crimping process as it takes at least two hands to make sure things stay in position during the crimping process. The crimped pin is inserted into the back of the plastic connector until you feel and hear it "click" into place.

The silicone ring, plastic teeth that grip the cable jacket and the knurled nut are put onto the back of the connector. These are plastic wrenches that are specifically designed for MC4 connectors to tighten the knurled nut. The two prongs at the end of the plastic tools are used to disconnect the connectors as the clips are recessed and almost impossible to reach without these tools.

Success. I did still remember how to install the MC4 connectors. I still have two more pairs of connectors and depending on how I end up connecting the new panel into the system, I either need one pair or none. UPS says that the panel and brackets will arrive on Tuesday. Another fun project and I can drill more holes in the roof...

I just made an RV park reservation for the middle of March in Orange County. Definitely no boondocking around there. I needed to send a picture of the RV before they would finalize the reservation. I hadn’t run into that in a while. BTW, they said the RV looked fine.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Day 38 -

63°F, partially sunny, no rain... What more can you ask for? This morning, we went back to Fort Mohave in AZ for fuel and some groceries. We noticed that even though there are a lot of people living in Needles, there really aren’t very many stores or large grocery stores. I’m sure you can guess why. The same reason most people just go across the river to fill up their car. At the Walmart gas station, a class A motorhome pulled in and started to fill up his 75 gallon gas tank. He said that he was sure glad that he made it into AZ to fill up. His savings from California to Arizona was over $150. If you look up river, there is almost no development on the CA side of the river while the AZ side is full of housing, farms and ranches.

This has been a pretty slow week. The video below was a test of time-lapse on the iPhone while I was enjoying the pool. Nothing exciting.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Day 37 - Modest Solar Expansion

I guess Needles was the place to be. At least when this screen capture was done. Actually, it has been raining on and off since late last night. Enough for there to be puddles in the sand of the campsite. I think that Bridget may have here hands full dragging a couple of unwilling dogs around the campground. The National Weather Service has been putting out a flash flood warnings for the area.

I’ve made plans to return home for several days next month. This is to meet the State of Alaska retirement system requirement to not be out of state for more than either 89 or 90 days. I’m not sure which it is. Plus, I needed to get taxes done and a few other things. By late afternoon, the steady, light rain had ended but it was still kind of dreary.The cooler daytime temperatures meant the furnace ran more and not much solar. Though, surprisingly, we were still getting 5 amps around noon.

I’ve been looking at a solar web site called Continuous Resources, LLC, that was one of the exhibitors at the Quartzsite RV show. At the time, I was looking only at Renogy 100 watt panels to match the ones that we already have installed on the RV. But, it really doesn’t matter as long as the panel is 12 volts. This is their 180 watt, nominally 12-volt panels with an Isc of 9.87 amps and a voltage of Vmpp of 18.95 volts. The price for these panels is about $20 more than the 100-watt Renogy panels which have an Isc of 5.75 amps. That seems like a good deal to me. BTW, this is where they get their 180-watt rating. 9.87 x 18.95 = 187 watts. For our system, 14.8 x 9.87 = 146 watts. Still a good deal.

Their mounting brackets are a bit more expensive than the Renogy brackets but they do tilt. The tilting feature is important as I plan to install this panel on the passenger side of the roof and it will be over the combiner box. With the ability to tilt the panel, I will still have access to the box. At least, I'm pretty sure that the panel will fit in that spot. I'll go up on the roof and take some measurements when it's not raining. I've ordered one panel and associated installation pieces. With this addition, our maximum charge current will be around 33 amps. I'm thinking that this will allow us to run the refrigerator off of the inverter while traveling, especially on sunny days.  

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Day 36 -

Not optimal weather for the pool but the temperature is fine. More sunshine would be nice. Not much going on today. I refilled another 30# propane tank and picked up some sweet bread at a Mexican bakery. Delicious. I had stopped to look for some locally made tamales but they didn’t carry them. I finished off the converter installation by replacing the sheet metal screws with machine screws and locknuts. And, since the unit is mounted on the metal chassis, a separate ground wire seemed to be redundant.

BTW, even with all the cloud cover, the solar was adequate to bring the batteries back up to 100% by the end of the day. This surprised me. I’m looking into picking up some panels from a vendor who was at Quartzsite.