Sunday, December 28, 2014

Retirement Boondocking: Year #1 Stats

     Although I have planned, researched, and built my initial boondocking system for several years I have also had a year or two prior to this to shake down and fine tune my project.  Since we are currently in an RV park in Las Cruces, NM we have effectively completed our first year of utilizing this system.  Honestly, we did not use the water purification system but twice.  There was always plenty of fresh water available for free in town prior to establishing camp.  If the solar panels were the 'workhorse' of the system then the battery bank was the 'heart and soul'.   The CEA Solar Panels easily outperformed the Harbor Freight panels due to weight, efficiency, and performance.  The battery bank, consisting of 4 Trojan T-105REs performed like the stallions I knew they would be.  The battery bank is the most important link in any designed off grid system.  Trojan batteries routinely discharged no more than 20% will have an effective life span of nearly 10,000 cycles.  The occasional discharge to as low as 50% is not a factor.  The total system including the onboard battery provides 585 AH of power easily recharged via panels and Honda generator backup if needed.   Interconnect wiring was via simple 4 gauge jumper cables from bank to RV onboard.  Very little line loss was evident.  Solar panels come with standard 15' leads, but I purchased extensions to 45' to account for RV placement in shade while panels could be in full sun.  Longer cables would seriously reduce voltage supplies. 

     With our Alaska trip and our first Winter South Adventure we were on the road 224 days during 2014.  We boondocked 59 days during this time.  Boondocking is defined as overnights utilizing solar panels, water pump, or generator/on board battery or battery bank NOT in RV parks, campgrounds, or connected to external commercial resources. This may have been Wal Mart parking lots, Cabelas, National or State Forest dispersed camping areas, or just pulled off the side of the road whenever or wherever feasible. Waste water dumping is nearly always available at RV friendly facilities (and some waste water treatment facilities) for little or no charge.  These site locations can easily be 'Googled'.  Admittedly, we utilized much more of these options on our return trip from Alaska as we 'learned the ropes'.  Our campsite/water/electric savings totaled $1003.  Our generator use to augment solar and battery bank use totaled 180 hours at $81 (generator runs 20 hours on 3 gallons of gas averaging $3 a gallon with 2 oil changes for the generator at $5 each.  This amounted to a net savings of $912 for the year. 
     We achieved nearly all of what we set out to except to use it more than we did.  We do plan on looking for more opportunities in the years to come.  Make no mistake, we do utilize commercial RV parks and campgrounds over half the time in order to enjoy (much like anyone) the facilities and comforts of civilization.  We are planning on attending the largest RV Show in the world at Quartzite, AZ in January.  Who knows what new gadgets I might discover?  Nothing makes my wife happier than a Laundromat and a local Wal Mart. 

WiFi courtesy of our Verizon MiFi Hotspot

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