Sunday, April 10, 2011

Low Batteries

Today is the first time I have had to take notice of the limits of my solar power. We have been boondocking for three nights now with only a one hour drive between the first and second day. We have been living as we normally do, charging two laptops, two phones, camera battery and watching TV for hours each night (usually both TV's). The Cradlepoint WIFI device is also never turned off. We have two inverters, one in the front and one in the bedroom, and they stay on all the time, used or not. This is quite a power drag on my two three year old six volt golf cart batteries. The single solar panel is also probably covered with pollen from Florida and South Carolina that I never cleaned off.

Last night I was up for a minute and decided to check the battery voltage. It was 11.4! This is about a 15% charge and is getting down to the point where the electronics on the propane powered fridge could stop working! I immediately turned off both inverters and checked the fridge to make sure the "Check" light was not on. We are moving to Las Vegas today so it will get a three hour run and we will probably go to a proper RV park where we will plug in.

My friend Rae just got a new solar panel installed and has been much better than I at monitoring it's performance. This is probably the first time we have boondocked for that long without a day's drive between stops and probably the first real test the system has had.

I am off to the rooftop to clean my solar panel. It is a sunny day today.

EDIT: I cleaned the panel (it was filthy), the full sun is on it and the batteries are charging at 12.5 volts. "It's Alliive!!!"


  1. Don says - Don't slip on the ice when you are up on that roof! We had frost here this am in Congress. We have 2 135 panels and 4 6 V and we run the fridge on propane when boondocking. Still, our big tv and sat dish are a drain. Safe travels to LV, we are headed that way tmr.

  2. No ice her in Laughlin! It has been in the mid 60's.

    Our fridge is on propane as well but the electronics require 12 volts. I am not sure what their voltage requirement is but thankfully it was working on 11.4.

  3. I don't have to worry about my fridge until I get into a voltage in the 10's.

    And, of course, battery voltage really means very little. You could be reading 11.4 because of the current draw from all the appliances, but still have plenty of capacity left. This is where a battery monitor comes in. I'm investing in one next!

  4. Croft. Main street station downtown has a nice little RV park for about 12.00 a night,last time I was in Vegas. It has full hookups and you can walk to Fremont Street its only 2 small blocks.

  5. We're boondockers 90% of the time, with two big panels (usually down flat unless we're set up for a long stay). I check voltage only early in the morning before a charge has begun and expect it to be 12.5 at least (more then 3/4 charged. We use 4-6 volt batts. to run a single 2000 watt inverter/charger that energizes all 9 outlets inside and outside. The inverter stays off unless we're doing something with it as its a big draw in itself, but we can (though seldom do) vacuum, run a microwave, toaster or a hairdryer. We do coffee the perc method on the stove, never use our generator (okay, 22 hours in almost 9 years). Our fridge draws several amps per day from the 12 volt system, thats a constant.


  6. Never a good idea to really drain down batteries (especially the sealed versions). You will have to give a report on your system one day.