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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

It's time to start getting your rig ready for winter snowbirding

We're just about half way through August, the waning days of summer. Depending on how weird the warming planet skews the weather, you may be spending more days in the northern climes as days stay hotter longer before winding down to shorter days and a chillier autumn climate.

Then again, old man weather may decide he's tortured us with enough consecutive 90 and 100-degree days and suddenly bring on precipitously falling temps and blustery northern winds. In any case, you might want to start planning now on your migration plans so that if you wake up one morning and realize it's now time to head south--and pronto--that you're ready.

Here are some thoughts on upgrading your electrical power supply for boondocking:
  • Add another solar panel to make your desert stay more comfortable. The winter weather might get weird also, with several days of overcast and hazy sun when you cannot get a full charge. The extra panel will help pull in some extra amps.
  • Add another house battery. If the desert does go abnormal with low temps and overcast skies, you may be glad that you stored up extra electrical energy in an additional battery. 
  • If you do add a battery, it's a good idea to replace all your house batteries at the same time as a weaker battery will pull juice out of the stronger one. 
  • If you cannot fit an extra battery in your present battery compartment, you may have to design and build a new compartment. If so, design it to have adequate ventilation and airflow, and place it is as near your solar panels as possible to reduce current loss. 
  • Check your wiring between panels and batteries. You may want to replace the wiring with a larger size when you add an additional panel. This will reduce current loss. 
  • Clean and wire brush corrosion away from all your connections, then coat with a battery terminal protection spray. IMPORTANT: Don't forget to check the terminals regularly and clean and spray as needed. Corrosion can shut down your whole system and you may take needless hours replacing fuses, looking for mouse-chewed wires, running continuity tests, and all manner of troubleshooting efforts when it is nothing more than corroded terminals.  
  • Add extension arms to your solar hardware kit so you can tilt your panels toward the sun. On shorter winter days and the sun's trajectory closer to the horizon, it could improve your efficiency by as much as 40%. They are easy to make, simply a length of aluminum barstock with holes drilled in each end that raise your panels up on one side. 
  • And the best part of this upgrade is that after you put in the effort, there are no more costs, and you now have a clean, noiseless, maintenance-free (almost), additional, cost-free energy supply. 
Check out Bob Difley's Boondocking, Snowbird Guide, and saving money on the road eBooks at RVbookstore.com

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