Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Solar power

Solar power

Late June 2015, first trip of the summer for the Blue Whale, up north to the Saguenay region, for the Bagotville International Airshow. They stayed at the St-Félix d'Otis municipal campground, just a few miles east of the military base, where they met my brother Luc & family with their popup camper, and Dad's cousin Roger in his Class B Safari Condo RV.

After the airshow, my parents drove west to the Lac St-Jean region, where they stayed for a few days and visited relatives (Lac St-Jean is Dad's birthplace).

On this trip they could test the newest addition to the Blue Whale: a nice 140W roof-top-mounted solar panel. Since the Whale is almost always used without any campground hookups, this solar panel should provide enough power for extended stays without the need to use the genset daily to recharge the battery.

One of the issue encountered when dry camping was the fridge would quit as soon as the battery voltage would drop a little. The fridge's main gas valve, 12V powered, seems somewhat sensitive to voltage drops and shut the fridge off all the time, pretty annoying. Now that solar panel keeps the battery voltage high enough that the fridge ran flawlessly for the entire week.

Also, most of the standard bulbs in the interior fixtures have now been replaced with LED lights. These lights all come from my favorite electronics and gadgets store, Deal Extreme.

Click HERE to see the exact LED bulbs used.

The solar panel provides almost as much power as the LEDs use during the evening. The battery stays mostly recharged, deep discharges are thing of the past, and this will help extend the battery's life.

The panel is glued to the rooftop on four brackets Dad made. Dad didn't want to drill a hole on the fiberglass shell to run a wire, so the panel's wiring goes down in the motorhome through a nearby roof vent, then into the small fuse compartment in the cupboard above the counter, where it is spliced in the Travco's electrical system. The panel uses a small voltage regulator (a little electronic black box) which is also housed in that fuse compartment.

What's that noise?

There was this strange noise that started on this trip, coming from the top (non, it wasn't the solar panel!). Turned out it was the air conditioner shroud that was flapping in the wind and hitting the top of the AC unit.
That shroud is in decent shape, but over time it started to sag in the middle. So once back home, Dad took the shroud off the motorhome and decided to freshen it up a bit. First the sag was cured by adding 2 small aluminium channels lengthwise, on the top. Notice how they curve a little bit in the front to match the shroud's shape.

Then some clean up, a bit of sanding, a nice coat of paint, and now it looks like new!

Gerry's lucky bad luck

Dad's best friend Gerry, who's living full time in his motorhome, has been parked at my parent's place for a few weeks. Last Sunday he decided it was time to move and pay a visit to relatives and friends in Lac St-Jean. Off he went, but after a few miles he phoned to my parents: he was coming back, his engine just blew his head gasket! Coolant was leaking out the engine, but he figured he would be able to make it back. And he managed to make it, and he was relieved he did, coolant still dripping out the engine but with the temperature still showing normal.

So, he was lucky in his bad luck. This gasket could have blown 2 hours later, where he would have been in the middle of nowhere, and it would have never been able to come back and it would have been a costly towing to get him out of there. Now at least he was at my Dad's place, probably the best place one can choose to be stranded!

Gerry will fix it himself. His Winnebago motorhome is a big Freightliner-based diesel pusher, with a Cumins engine.  There it is, parked in front of the my parent's Travco.

Gerry was a mechanic by trade, he knows these big diesel engines very well, he knows exactly what to do and how to do it. He says a head gasket job is not overly difficult, it just takes time. He figures maybe 20 hours, taking his time. Here's a picture of the engine, which is in fact under the master's bed, at the back on the vehicle:

No comments: