The Road to Glacier and Rocky Mountains (Solar Power) - Part 3

June 27, 2015

As I continue my planning and preparation for my trip to the Rocky Mountains and Glacier National park, I knew based on other previous extended trips that I wanted to improve my electrical power capabilities.  I knew that I wanted to be able to have power for my small refrigerator, my Jobo film processing system, and be able to recharge my notebook computers, phones, etc.  These foundational requirements sent me down a path that was actually very easy to design and implement.  

First, I knew that I wanted to use solar panels for the battery recharging process.  I researched all of my options and decided on going with some portable panels from Go Power.  I went with the 120W folding portable solar panels because they were easy to store in my Sprinter and they had everything I needed already included.  They can be setup and connected within two minutes.  They can quickly charge my battery.  I haven't tested the charging process from a depleted battery, but a guesstimate based on calculations is that I could fully recharge my battery on a sunny day in less than 3 hours.  A more realistic scenario is that I will likely top off my battery every few days, which is most likely 30 minutes or less.  I like to build things with room for growth, because you never know what the future holds.  

Next, getting the proper battery to be used with solar panels and one that could withstand frequent charging and recharging led me to AGM Deep Cycle batteries.  I ended up going to my local Batteries Plus store and got a 100Ah 12V DC deep cycle battery.  This battery is sized large enough to provide more power then I could likely ever consume for many days before recharging.  

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The solar panel and 12V DC battery takes care of my DC power requirements.  One could technically stop here if you didn't need A/C power.  My refrigerator runs on 12V DC as does a couple of my cooking appliances (skillet and small trucker oven).  I wanted to be able to watch movies at night, run a fan when it is hot, recharge my laptop computers and so on, so A/C power was needed.  This meant that I needed to be able to convert the DC power into A/C (like the power you have in your home).  I decided to stay with Go Power again for my power inverter because they had the best value based on the specifications that I was looking for.  My unit is a pure sine wave inverter (provides an exact replica of AC power). It has two GFCI-equipped outlets that provides a safe and convenient connection for reliable access to pure interference-free power.  I like the fact that this pure sine wave unit can handle larger loads then I think I will ever need and that it provides high quality and a clean, pure source of AC power.  My unit is sized big enough that it could run appliances, and sensitive electronic equipment like TVs, stereos, and computers.  The photo to the left illustrates my inverter unit (yellow box), custom cabinet that I built with a switched LED DC voltmeter to display current charge on my battery, and the solar panels to the left.  To the right of the unit is my refrigerator that sits between my seats.  

In a future post, I will show you the solar panels in the field and report on how long the charging process takes.  I also purchased a couple 12V DC LED switched lights that I am going to mount in the back of my Sprinter for reading lights.

I will keep you posted on the next steps in my journey in the near future.  

-Tim Layton


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