Monday, August 6, 2012

C'mon Sun!

The other day, someone left a comment on one of my blog posts that was kind of aggro. I figured it was one of my friends messing with me so of course I responded in my usual style with something like, "lick my nuts." Something like that. Then I was curious as to who it was, so I went snooping around inside the dark underbelly of and found this tab called 'stats' that shows how many page views I get and where they're from, etc. Dude, I'm big time for sure. Climbingnarc posted a link to my last post today and I got like 700 hits or something ridiculous.
What really fascinated me though was the map of the earth that shows where people viewed this blog from. Dude, 25 Germans checked it out. I'm sure one of them was Kenny Barker but the other 24...Maybe it was just Kenny checking 25 times. I don't know how it works. Two Spaniards checked in. I assume it was Dani Andrada and Ramon Julian just scoping my guns. Nine Australians, twelve Brits and 67 Canadians? Not bad eh?

Come on Africa? Can I get a little Brazil? Get your head out of that sweat shop China!
200 million people in India lost power recently. They have an excuse. But honestly, I'm surprised that 200 million people in India had electricity to start with.

The point is, I had to delete my ball-licking comment cause I figured it might really be a real person, not just one of my friends. I also saw that I still get a bunch of traffic from the Sprinter forum site. There are a lot of folks that are interested in Max the rig cause they want a sweet rig too and they want to know how to do it. Since my beta is ironclad in all respects, and those van nerds don't give a crap about rock climbing, I figured I'd throw up some photos of Max's newest accoutrement.

C'mon Sun!

I've had Max for about 2.5 years now and he's still killing it out on the highway. He stumbled a bit on this trip and busted up his harmonic balancer which set us back 500 bucks but other than that...oh and we had to replace the front rotors but that's just standard maintenence. But let's talk ironcladbeta.

When I first got Max, I had no fridge and just one 55ah battery. The next year I installed the electric fridge and needed to up the battery bank so I got two more 100ah batteries for a grand total of 255ah of bank. I thought that would be plenty. For the most part it is. As long as I drove him a bit each day, the batteries would stay topped off. At least in the 12 volt range. Thinking back though, even last summer, we'd have to pay for hookups every now and then and really charge them overnight from shore power. This summer, we struggled a bit and really had to watch the charge. When we were up at Crazy Woman for weeks at a time, just driving to town every other day, we even crept into the 11.8 volt zone which is borderline bad for the bank. Drain them too far and they'll never hold the same charge again. Sadly, I think Max's batteries just aren't what they once were. I feel ya Max.

With the prospect of having to replace the whole bank in the next year or two, a cost of about 700 dollars, it looked financially more appealing to bite the bullet and hook up solar to keep them healthy. Thanks to the Chinese, who've also brought down the price of flat-screen TV's, Ipods, and everything else, (which is probably why they don't have time to EVER check my blog), solar panels are cheaper than ever. This panel I ordered from Home Depot for 200 bucks and the shipping was free. It's a 100 watt panel which just a few years ago would have been double the price. I also ordered a cheapo charge controller at the recommendation of 'customers who bought this also bought this.' The whole package was 240 bucks, but then I spent another 80 on wire and mounting hardware. Still a hell of a lot cheaper than damaging those precious battery cells and having to replace all the batteries.

If anyone can figure out what's going on here, you're a better man than me. I say 'man' cause there's no way a woman could figure this out. (Ladies, I'm joking. No one can figure this out. Not even Sarah Palin and she's wicked smart)

You'd have to be a total idiot to mess up the wiring on this thing though. Red wire from the panel goes to red wire on the charge controller which goes to the red post on the battery. Black to black to black. Done. The only freestyling I had to do was to put the ground wire to the ground post of the monitor instead of the battery. The monitor wasn't reading the charge flow but I knew it was working cause it was reading an increase in voltage. A call to dad and some brainstorming cleared that up.

End result. An immediate increase from 12.6 volts to 13.2. Despite a few clouds I was getting 1.9 amps and when it was full sun I was getting about 5. At one point, the fridge was running and I was charging my phone on the inverter and I still had a 1.7 amp charge from the panel.

Why would this interest you? Well, if I knew then what I know now... I may have invested too much money into the battery bank when I could have originally put that into the solar panel. For my use, in a small camper, I think a 200ah bank with a 100 watt panel would be sufficient. I was worried too that 100 watts wouldn't be enough. I'll comment fully on that later I reckon. I'm also keeping in mind that a 1-year old solar panel puts out about 80% of what it does out of the box. It gets weaker over time, kind of like the batteries and my muscles. 

Moral of the story is that I'm really excited to have this panel on the rig and I highly recommend incorporating it if you're in the conversion phase. It's totally worth the relatively minimal cost and I foresee this saving me lots of worrying and being more carefree with charging the laptop, leaving the fan on, etc.

Lastly, a note about mounting it. I fully freestyled this, so take it with a grain of salt. I just bought some aluminum angle and created a little framework that barely overhangs the edge of the van. I bolted the angle to the panel and then bolted the framework to the rain gutters. I just drilled right through them and siliconed the crap out of the holes. If they start to rust'll just go with the theme of the rest of the van. I drilled a hole through the plastic brake light cover and ran the wires through that. Siliconed the crap out of that hole too.

We'll see what happens from here and I'll make some comments a few months/years down the road. Hopefully it will be tales of never worrying about power needs and a constant 13 volts. More likely it will be that I didn't realize that the hot wire was running over my hack saw that I store in the battery compartment and driving down a washboard road finally shaved through the insulation causing it to ground and spark right next to the propane hose that's in the same compartment and Max and Milky went down in a blaze of glory. 


Anonymous said...

Better not park that smug solar powermobile at the arsenal, brah!

ClimbHansen said...

What type of resources did you use as you began to wire "Max"? Is solar power the way? I'd love some links to the beta you had when you began your building. Thanks

Anonymous said...

Hi Mike,
Need some iron clad beta! Ever been on Sweet Dreams at Fern Buttress, between Surge Complex & Easure & Pain?? 11b seriously? And not "R" rated? Where doesit actually go? Got to be the hardest, scariest 11 I've benn on!!

Thanks, in advance, for guidance!


Anonymous said...

That should have read "between Surge Complex and Pleasure &Pain"

Mike Williams said...

Jeff, Sweet Dreams is the arete. You start on the right side. I remember protecting the crux with a slider nut; crucial gear to carry when getting on any Artz/Barry face climb. Above the crux I remember transitioning to the left side and "wandering" to the top. There is some type of crack system up there as I remember. 5.11 trad routes that were put up in 1986 should not be taken lightly! My guess is that this route went in ground up and probably onsight. Artz, Barry, Begoon, Heller...the old NRG climbers were masters.

Mike Williams said...

Climb Hansen, I don't have any written materials on wiring. I learned a lot on the internet and my dad helped me with the initial wiring. It's pretty easy to learn about. I would recommend a solar panel or two to keep the batteries healthy.

Shoot me an email at if you have any specific questions.