Sunday, March 18, 2018

Day 2 of Boondocking at the Hugo SWA

SWA: State Wildlife Area.

Woke to pretty good sunrise, though a bit brisk in terms of temperature as I moved around taking in the light. (32°F (0°C)

 So glad I remembered to pack the tripod this trip as
some of the shots involved long exposure times!

As the morning wore on, it became a pretty sunny and mild day, temperatures hit a high of around 65°F (18.3°C) as I motored into the town of Hugo just before lunch to see what was there.

 Good sun for the solar panels till about 4PM, then the clouds moved in.

Bright and clear in the morning.

One duck kept me company in the pond next to the RV

Hugo is a neat little town I must say.  First one I've seen where apparently folks don't object to RV's being located (with sewer hookups) in seemingly random spots around town.  Yep, right next to established houses.  Sure, there were a couple of RV/Mobile Home lots but I also saw 1-3 RVs, with sewer hoses in place, in several spots that were surprising to me.

This is a view of Uma, from County Rd 2G

I had intended to pick up some condiments I'd forgotten in the RV loadout but turns out the local grocery store is closed on Sundays!  Doh.

The afternoon turned very windy and cool, with clouds making their appearance first as fluffy white clouds then turning gray and stormy looking.  We're supposed to get some snow/ice (less than .25" accumulation though predicted) near midnight tonight.

 Stormy Clouds Gathering

Tomorrow will be colder, highs in the low 40s.  I'm going to miss this unseasonal warm weather of the last couple of days.  It's supposed to warm up Tuesday and Wednesday so conditions will drive whether I go home early or not.

The afternoon windy conditions (winds clocked in the 20's mph) caused me to reposition the RV (which was rocking a little bit sometimes).  Uma now has her nose pointed south and her tail to the North where strong winds are predicted for tomorrow, supposed to be in the 30s mph with gusts to 50 mph!  I hope the weather guessers are hyping those numbers.

The clouds did make for a very nice and colorful sunset....

 using Sunset Mode

As darkness fell, I put Scarlett on the trailer and secured her with two tie-down straps.  The trailer is north of Uma now, and Scarlett's weight should help hold her down when the 50 mph wind gusts show up tomorrow.

Strong winds are buffeting at Uma, it feels like she's very slightly rocking at times.  I brought in the slide-out to minimize her wind exposure, hope it helps.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Boondocking in the Hugo State Wildlife Area (SWA)

I left home around 1030 AM or so and drove east into Colorado's eastern prairies via the I-70 super slab, then at Limon, south on county roads to check out several State Wildlife Areas (SWAs) listed in the app.

The southernmost one was the Karval SWA, near the really small town of Karval, CO.  Nice little site, with smooth dirt roads and some shelter structures along with a pit toilet building.  Nice location but no cell reception, zip, nada.  So I couldn't use it.

Next up, just a few miles away, was the southernmost site of the four belonging to the Hugo SWA.  Good cell reception was found at location South1 but it had no trees and was quite windy and exposed.  Nearby south locations were a bit more sheltered due to being lower but they had less optimal cell coverage.  It was still good, but only 1-2 bars.

Hugo SWA South1
Continuing north on the county road that spans the SWA, I came to the Hugo Middle SWA site.  The sites are a bit small for Uma but I could have shoehorned her in but decided, that while cellular signal was OK, I'd see what the North location would show.

Hugo SWA Middle

All the above sites had a loop at the end of their access dirt roads, very nice and considerate of Colorado State Wildlife department!  It made it easy to explore with a RV and trailer and not get stuck without being able to turn around.

The Hugo North SWA was just right.  Found a nice almost level spot near one of the ponds and settled in. 

Hugh SWA North

 My campsite in the Hugo North location.

 A copse of Cottonwood Trees I found in the Hugo Middle SWA
when I went riding after setting up camp.

 Several views of the campsite during the Golden Hour

Not much of a sunset for us here in the eastern plains, I had to make do with a copse of trees located near where I set up camp.

It's basically just rolling prairie and large widespread ranches in this part of Colorado.  Not a single mountain peak in sight! 

Since I had not set up the solar panels till close to 2PM, the panels didn't have a lot of time to bring the battery to full charge and power the charging of electronics and running the fridge in propane mode. 

So, I start the night with just 12.3V reading at the battery, should be enough to run the fridge through the night but it'll draw the house battery down.  Just as well I'll be replacing it soon as it fails completely.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

"Spring Forward" Sunset

Sunday, March 11, the day Daylight Savings Time (DST) once again is inflicted on the nation in an attempt to make people think they get more daylight.  So, we're told to "spring forward" or set our clocks one hour forward.

There might have been a time, perhaps when the USA was an agrarian nation, where this measure made sense.  Now?  Not so much, at least from the way I see things.

Regardless, Mother Nature did give us a nice sunset on Sunday, perhaps as a way to make up for the taking away of an hour from us by whomever came up with DST.

 Mount Evans

 Stoner State Capital Skyline

Sunday, March 11, 2018

My initial foray into Solar Power

Ever since buying Uma, the URRV, I've explored and researched the use of Solar Panels to provide electrical power to the RV.

I'd resisted going with permanent panels, mounted on the roof as associated costs were seen with very little ROI given projected days of use.  In other words, easier to run the old but still working Honda eu1000i generator for when I needed power to charge up the on board house battery and power/charge my electronics for work.

This last boondocking session, saw the Honda generator burning through a lot of oil.  So I'd begun thinking about replacing it perhaps as the cost of a ring job on the generator might not be worth it as opposed to buying a new one from Harbor Freight for $450.

I'd also previously calculated that I needed 5.5 Amps/hour from either a generator or solar panels to
  • Power the RV refrigerator while its in propane mode.
  • Charge/Power the electronics (laptop in docking station, charge phones, weboost cellular booster) via the 600 Watt inverter already in place.
  • Power the LED lights as needed.
  • Run the bathroom fan as needed.
  • Run the water pump during warm weather glamping.
All of the above and at end of day when the sun sets, still have a fully charged house battery to carry on through the night hours, powering the fridge in propane mode and providing power for lights.  The electronics, would be fully charged as well and would be on their respective batteries for the night.

So, over next few weeks, as we camp in the URRV, we'll be using this setup:

From Harbor Freight, their Thunderbolt 100 Watt, four solar panel kit with included charge controller and wiring components:

image source: Harbor Freight

Overall construction seems pretty sturdy, but I splurged and paid an extra $30 to cover it for one year past the initial 90 day warranty provided by manufacturer.

Assembly was easy and mostly intuitive.  Operation seems simple enough but we'll see in the long run.

It's got a float mode of 13.8 volts and a Boost mode of 14.4V, we'll see how that works as well in reality.

Testing will tell if I can use it to do all the above and have a fully charged house battery at the end of the day, I've doubts on 100 watts being enough.

I'm thinking, right now, to use and move it as required for good sun exposure and not mount it permanently for now.  Also, my house battery is on its last legs so we'll see how I can stretch its life out while I explore solar panel technology.
Sunday Testing.

Took the above solar panel kit over to the RV storage yard where we keep Uma, the URRV and set up the panels up on the roof.  I think a setup location at ground level will be easier of course as you don't have to haul the panels up to the roof but it was all quite doable.  About 13-15 minutes to setup the whole thing and to tear it down as well for travel.

So far, the results are quite satisfactory.  I believe, given good sunlight, I can run everything I need, when boondocking, and still have enough battery capacity remaining to power the fridge in propane mode overnight.

Some power usage notes:

Using boost setting on the solar panel charge controller (14.4)

13.2 Volts at inside meter
13.4 Volts at battery

For reference, when on shore power, it usually reads between 13.3V and 13.5V as
that's what the converter is set to provide.

Fridge on Propane mode - Worked OK


Amp/Watt draw from inverter:
Tv and weboost powered - killawatt reports .36a or 24watt
Note: I used the TV to simulate power draw of my laptop, which I forgot to bring 

Add camera charging: .4 Amp or  26 Watts

Add iphone charging:  .46 Amp 31.5w  (Highest utilization I saw was 
32 Watts via Inverter)

Water Pump: Went from 13.2 to 12.3 when pump was on.

Turning on all the LED lights along with above (- water pump) caused the 
voltmeter inside to go from 13.2 to 12.5

After 90 minutes, the house battery read 12.6 after turning everything off.  
This figure isn't truly accurate of course since the battery wasn't "at rest".


Further testing Notes.

Whether flat or tilted, the difference is minimally higher when tilted, so probably best (when setup on the roof of the RV) to leave them flat to avoid the wind catching them and sending them flying.

Brightness of sun (duh) drives how much power delivered.  Solid overcast conditions resulted in barely 12.5V reported at the charge controller but it did "seem" to be delivering a small charge to the battery (with the battery isolated from all drains and inverter off)...otherwise with stuff on, the battery was being drained.

So far, in strong sunlight, a reading of 13.7V at the charge controller is best performance seen so far.  That showed an inside voltmeter reading of 13.3, with fridge running and electronics on.

Pretty certain the existing house battery is damaged in terms of capacity due to repeated drawing down of voltage previously.  Soon as it dies completely, I'll be looking to replace it.