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Monday, April 2, 2018

Grid Vs Off-Grid Camping



My lovely wife and I just spent over a week camping in an off-grid campground. Juniper Springs in Florida's Ocala National Florida is a great campground. Like most of the Federal Campgrounds in the Ocala, it doesn't have power at the campsites.

We don't have a generator as I find them noisy and smelly. When trying to enjoy nature that's the last thing I need. Instead of a generator I'm using solar. Frankly, I'd probably not bother with electricity at all if it wasn't for a couple of things. The most important is that I have sleep apnea and use a c-pap machine while sleeping. The second is the fact that I like to us a small computer for writing and to connect to the Internet.

There's a 105 watt solar panel mounted on the van, connected to a heavy duty deep discharge 12 volt battery. I also have a seperate 50 watt panel with another 12 volt battery. The smaller panel is portable and can be moved to sunnier parts of the campsite.

Out campsite was partially shaded. Even with moving the 50 watt panel to a better spot, my solar harvest was probably about half off what it could have been. Then there were the occasional cloudy days to reduce solar gain even more. In spite of that there was no difficulty running my c-pap, computer, hotspot, refrigerator/cooler, fan, and cell phone.

So what does being on-grid get me? Microwave popcorn. My microwave doesn't work very well on my 1000 watt inverter. When off-grid the micorwave's does duty as a bread box.

There's been some trial and error getting the electrical systems running the way I wanted them to run. My c-pap and fan run directionly on DC, eliminating the inefficiencies of the inverter. The compressor type cooler is the biggest power savings. The old DC cooler with a Pelitier system could kill my battery in a day or two.

Most of what I leaned through field testing my equipment can be transferred to sailing. Now I have a pretty fair idea how much solar and battery storage I'll need for my boat. Since “on-grid” with a boat means being in an expensive marina, being able to be electrically independent is a huge savings. I'll be able to anchor out as much as I'd like.

-Sixbears

11 comments:

  1. Probably don't have to worry about tree shade nearly as much either.

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    1. I get huge performance out of the little 30 watt panel I have on the boat now. Sun reflecting off the water increases the yield too.

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  2. Good to know before you take to the water.

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    1. It's surprising how much van living and sailboat have in common.

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  3. We found water and waste to be the most problem areas. Electricity was pretty much a non issue, as when anchored out or island hopping we just plain didn't use the stuff.
    Except for anchor lights and such. Refrigeration just wasn't needed.
    Of course circumstances May differ eh ?

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    1. Everything flows from me needing a c-pap to sleep well. Once electricity is squared away for that, other options open up.

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  4. It is amazing how far a little power can go as far as comfort and convenience is concerned. Most couldn't get by without grid power.

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    1. One couple was excited by the fact that their small solar panels could power a radio. They were super happy with that.

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  5. Six I have a request, when you finish this trip post a list of the campgrounds you used and if you would use again.

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    1. That's a good idea. It would make a good blog post.

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  6. Me and my solar panels are great friends.

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