This blog is about our travels in our solar powered "Airstream" and living off grid, in our passive solar home, near Bancroft, Ontario, Canada.

If you have any questions send us a comment; we love to hear from our readers.
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Thursday, 31 March 2011

Back in Zavalla

Arrived in Zavalla, Texas about 5 pm yesterday. It was great to see Marvin and Annie after many months of touring seperate areas of the USA. Once we were set up they invited us over for a delicious meal of deep fried fish, caught right here in their lake.

This part of Texas reminds me of home; fir trees, rolling hills.

Remember these? If you are over 50 you probably have memories of movies with the speaker hung on the window, and sneaking your friends into the show.

Solar panels up and working in the late afternoon. The next two days are to be sunny, so our batteries should get a full healthy charge over the next 48 hours.

We will be here for a few days then head north on the Natchez Trace Parkway. Mary wants to attend an international quilt show in Cincinnati April 7th. I'll take a break from posting until we start north for home next week.

Safe travels

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Solar on a Cloudy Day

Yesterday's forecast called for hail just east of Dallas and Paul thought we would be safer here in Cottonwood. Mary spent the day baking, I spent the day reading about our solar system and checking our meters every few hours. Paul was kind enough to drop off a wiring diagram of the system he installed and so I filed that for future reference.

As you can see the day was heavily overcast. I was surprised that our panels were able to collect some energy even without direct sunlight.

While we were in Fort Worth (on Monday) another customer dropped of her trailer for repairs. It is amazing how many women are travelling alone in "Airstream" trailers.

Our Trimetric 2025-A meter showing the amps coming in from the solar panels (don't forget this was in heavily overcast skies). This meter is essential if you plan to use solar power and want to know how many volts or amps are going in or out of your batteries.

Paul watches while we use an hydrometer to measure the specific gravity of each battery cell. This gives us a true reading of the state of charge and health of each battery cell.  If you think Paul looks a little different you are very observant; he shaved last night.

Mary records the data, which gives us a history of our batteries for future reference.

Today we leave for Zavalla. How far we get ................... who knows?
Safe travels and stay in touch.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Fort Worth, Texas

Spent yesterday in at the stockyards, reliving the life of a cowboy.

This was quite an operation with over 50, 000, 000 cattle, horses, mules, sheep, pigs shipped through here.

Arrived just in time to watch the herd being driven through town, just as it was done back in the 1800's.

Their horns measure 6 feet across, and they were very effective against predators out on the range.

Even had two "cowgirls" riding "flank".

View looking west into the stockyard.

Today we are hoping for sunny weather so we can see how effective our solar panels are at charging our batteries. Tomorrow we are off to Zavalla to visit Marvin and Annie.

Safe travels

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Living on Solar

Paul worked all day Saturday to complete the installation. First the brackets and hinges had to be installed on each panel. Next each panel was placed on the roof of the trailer and secured with 12 rivets to make sure they don't come loose when we are going down the highway at 70 mph.

Next each panel was wired and connected to the solar charger, which then controls the rate of energy flow so our batteries stay healthy.

We can tilt our panels which is helpful in the winter months and increases their production by about 30% as compared to leaving them flat on the roof.

All panels in place. Note the high quality window covering on the rear window. Looks a little "red-neck" to me.

Panels in the closed, riding position. If we are able to camp with the front of the trailer facing west then the panels do not have to be tilted since they would already face south at an angle.

That's it, fully wired and living off grid. I will report back in a few weeks as to how everything works. As for now we are happy to be living with solar and without the aid of a generator.

Our system: 3 - 130 Kyocera Solar panels, 4- 6 volt Trojan Batteries, Morningstar TriStar Solar Battery Charger with Temperature Sensor, Prowatt SW 2000 Sine Wave Inverter, IOTA Power Converter/Battery Charger, plus wire, fuses, clamps, battery box, hydrometer,

Saturday, 26 March 2011

One Up - Two Down

As promised yesterday, we did make it up on the roof. Before we started on the panels, I decided to have Paul remove the air-conditioner and TV antenna. These two items we never use and without them the chances of shadows interfering with our solar collection would be reduced.

Paul starts to remove the air-conditioner. It was the original and we found a huge bird's nest tucked inside.

While Paul worked on the roof, I added a pigtail clamp to the trailer frame.

Careful........... we don't want to drop it or damage the trailer.

OK, nothing goes as smoothly as planned when you are working on an old trailer. Our inverter kept shutting down, which meant there was a short somewhere in our electrical system. Three hours later we found the problem, rewired the plug and we're ready to fix the holes in the roof.

We've decided to call our trailer "Shotgun Girl" and here she is with a clean roof. (Remember kids when you called "shotgun" to ride in the passenger seat? We heard a country song called "Shotgun Girls - Just along for the Ride" and we thought ...............  that's our trailer; Shotgun Girl.

Time to patch the holes and start working on installing the solar panels.

Paul holds our first panel to see if the location is acceptable.

Paul, happy that finally the problems have been solved and we are actually putting up the solar panels.

One up, two still down in the workshop. We are happy to finally reach this stage of construction.

Today we will finish the project, stay overnight to make sure everything is working fine, then leave to camp nearby just to be sure we know what we are doing with everything.

Safe travels and see you tomorrow.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Day Four - Just About There

I thought for sure we would have been up on the roof by now, but today we spent on the ground. First off, was a trip to Lowes and Tractor Supply to get electrical parts. Don't forget we are fabricating as we go so have to improvise as new problems come up. Found the flexible pipe we needed to connect the battery box to the trailer and home we went.

The first job was remove the couch. It is crowded enough working in a trailer, without crawling over and under a couch to make electrical connections.

Now this is going to hurt. .............. Paul is about to drill two 1 inch holes in the trailer skin.  Hope he has measured correctly.

Click on this picture to see how large the cable is coming from the batteries. That cable will carry some serious amps.

Last job for the day was connecting the battery cables. Paul uses 04 gauge wire, which is heavy and capable of carrying the battery voltage we need.

If you click on the picture above and look closely at Paul's T-shirt you will see what happens when you carry batteries against your clothes............. holes! Remember to wash everything that touches battery acid immediately.

Tomorrow for sure we will be up on the roof installing the panels. Check back in 24 hours.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Day Three, Solar Installation

Picked up the battery box yesterday and I was delighted. This box will hold 4 Trojan batteries on the tongue of our trailer and give us plenty of amp storage.

While Paul and I worked on the trailer the ladies worked in the garden.

Once we knew the box would fit, Paul cut away the old storage box and prepared the frame for painting.

This is the steel frame Paul made to support the stainless steel battery box. It also was painted once we knew  it would work.

Finally it was time to crawl up on the roof, run the wire and clean off the old solar panel. Pop-rivets were used to seal the holes and each was immersed  in sealant to prevent any water leaks.

To-day the batteries go in and the panels go on. Can't wait to see how it all works out. Check back tomorrow for more pictures.

Safe travels.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Day Two Solar Installation

We are making progress. First order of the day was to set up our monitoring panel. Here Paul works at cutting out the head-liner in the trailer and attaching the different gauges for the inverter, charger and controller.

When he was done I thought it looked like a factory installation, very professional.

The converter, charger, and inverter are located under the couch at the front of the trailer. Here you see the IOTA DLS 75 Power Converter installed and ready to work.

Final job of the day was patching the hole left in the trailer body when we removed the battery box. Paul is very meticulous about making sure everything fits perfectly and is properly sealed. I was very pleased.

This morning we are off to Justin to get the battery box. Not  sure if we will get the solar panels on today or tomorrow.

Write and let me know if you have any questions.

Safe travels.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Day One

The roar of the diesel engine woke me yesterday and I pulled the curtains aside to see who had arrived.  It was the salvage truck, here to take the damaged "Airstream" to the junk-yard.

This is what an "Airstream" looks like after you've rolled it across the highway. Not a pretty sight.

Now it was time to work on our trailer and the first job of the day was removing the battery box and re-attaching the front panel to the frame of the trailer.

We pulled back the moulding strip, added sealent under the panels, put sealant on the new pop-rivets and put it back together, better than new. Fortunately there was no floor rot or water damage.

While we worked the two Marys chatted and visited outside.

Here Paul is working on the "transfer" switch, located at the back of the trailer in our bedroom. This switch will sense the shore power hook-up and prevent the electrical system from trying to draw power  from the batteries at the same time as shore power is available.
Today we have the controller, inverter and battery box to install. Then if we have time we need to fabricate the frame for the solar panels and the mounting system for the roof.

Check back tomorrow to see how we are progressing.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Paul's Place

Yesterday we woke in Bryson, Texas after boondocking the night beside the baseball fields. Often when we boondock, total strangers will drop by to say hi and chat. Yesterday these boys were outside our door bright and early.

Up close and friendly.

Our destination after leaving "Roosevelt Dam" has been our solar installer, Paul Mayeux's place near Fort Worth, Texas. We finally arrived about 4 p.m. Paul has a number of trailers on site, in different stages of repair. He works full time at restoring vintage "Airstream" trailers and installing solar equipment for those wishing to camp off grid. If you have an "Airstream" needing work, Paul is the man to call.

Paul and Ann cooked a supper of asparagus, scallop potatoes and BBQ roast beef done over oak wood for us. Delicious!  Thanks Ann and Paul. Then we sat around until almost 11 talking about "Airstreams", travel, cost of living, travel, solar panels, travel .......... you get the idea.

They have a beautiful home, designed and built by them. It is a SIPs house. Think of one of those icecream bars that have icecream sandwiched between two cookie bars. Paul's house is built like that. The outside walls are made from 4x8 panels, specially constructed with 6" of Styrofoam insulation sandwiched between two panels of plywood; makes for a highly insulated, warm house. I took a lot of pictures because we liked what they did to the kitchen and living-room and may use some of their ideas.

Today the solar panels will be installed so check back tomorrow for some photos.

Safe travels