We’re on the move

March 18, 2017 § Leave a comment

We left the Sonoran Desert south of Quartzsite AZ last monday for a higher and cooler camp.  The first night at the Forest Service White Spar campground near Prescott AZ,  our furnace decided not to work.  We have an appointment to get it fixed next week.  So we are now in cooler nights without heat.  Cosying under the covers works very well except for the occasional potty run.  In the mornings,  the percolating coffee pot helps heat the trailer but lighting the second burner on the stove works even better.  To circulate the air better we aim a fan at the ceiling.  This eats up the oxygen in the trailer but we are able to monitor that with our oxygen meter and freshen the air when needed.

We bought a Little Buddy propane heater last year for times when we didn’t want to run the furnace.   It worked for a while then decided it didn’t want to light anymore.  It would light sometimes but was way too much work for the times it did work.  When the furnace broke this week, we got the Little Buddy out of storage.  Low and behold it lit and we set it on the floor between the bathroom door and the entrance door.  This location allows the heat to get to the dinette area best.

It soon began to emit fumes rising from the catalytic burner.  We figured they were propane and wondered what to do.  There was no way I wanted to lean over the heater to turn it off.  That problem was solved when the accumulated fumes blew up.  That left low flames at the heater burner so I quickly picked it up and took it outside.  Picking it up activated the tip over protection switch which shut down everything and I just sat it down outside and left it.

There was no damage this time but there will not be a next time.

We’ve been able to get enough sun in this pine forest for the solar panels to charge the batteries.  It’s nice to not have to use the generator.

The forest service rebuilt the camp sites here a couple years ago and the are very nice.

It will be a lot nicer when our funace is fixed.


New Batteries 

March 11, 2017 § Leave a comment

We were going to baby the old batteries along until we just had to replace them but we ran across two batteries that had just been delivered.  With the date stickers indicating the current month, we were pretty sure that the batteries were fresh so we pulled the trigger and bought them.

The first change we observed was the internal resistance of the batteries.   The old batteries would drop about 0.23 volts when the television and a light turned on.  The new batteries drop about 0.05 volts.

Most advice is to break new batteries in slowly by not discharging too deeply.  We’re probably doing well with that since we have yet to discharge beyond 12.53 volts which is equivalent to about 91 or 92 percent state of charge.

Our battery monitor is showing that we are drawing as much as 24 amp hours to arrive at that state of charge which is much more than the 8% or so reduction in charge which would be something like 15 amp hours.  We think this is because the sun is setting later and there is some fading as well as surface charge involved.  All charging of the new batteries so far has been with the solar panels.  The extra amp hours do vary some from day to day so it’s hard to pinpoint any cause and effect for this phenomenon.  The results are welcome though.

The added capacity of the new batteries will come in handy when we hit the road later this month.


February 19, 2017 § 2 Comments

At first glance, batteries are a terrible investment.  It seems that everything you do with a battery shortens it’s life.

When we purchased our trailer, we were not instructed on proper care and use of the lone twelve volt battery that resides in a special vented compartment in the rear of our Casita travel trailer.  When the battery didn’t have enough energy left to light the lights, we knew we had to charge the battery.  After a while that didn’t work so well and we would get a new battery.  If that was within the one year warranty, we received a replacement  battery without paying for it.  If not, we paid for it.  We figured it was just a cost of using our home away from home.

After a few years, it sunk in that there might be a better way.  Many RVers use the 50 percent rule meaning that they try to never let the batteries fall below 50 percent of the capacity before recharging.  This rule is intended to extend the battery life.  We used that for a while but as we learned more about batteries, and studied the life cycle charts, we decided that limiting the battery discharge cycles to 20 percent as a goal extended the probable battery life much more. Especially so for the readily available and cheaper ‘marine’ batteries we are using.  So we now aim to limit the discharge to no more than twenty percent of the total capacity leaving eighty percent state of charge.  Since our single battery is rated at about 91 amp hours, that limits our use to around 18 amp hours between charges.  We enjoy watching television in the evening so we are liable to need to run the generator some in the evening especially in the winter with longer night times and maybe some furnace use.  To eliminate the use of the generator in the evening, we added a second battery.  It won’t fit in the trailer so it resides in the van and connects to a plug-in that then connects the two batteries in parallel doubling the available amp hours to 182.  This allows us to drain around 36 amp hours before needing to recharge.  This is plenty for us on a daily basis.

But wait – batteries don’t keep their original capacity. They gradually lose capacity.  We are now operating with a capacity estimated to be around seventy amp hours with both batteries.  That means we can use something like 14 ah between charges to stay with our twenty percent usage goal.  But these batteries are old and slated to be replaced so we’ve temporarily abandoned that goal until we have new batteries.  Our new goal for now is fifty percent which is around 35 ah.

Recharging the amp hours we use still has to take place.  We do that with our generator or our solar panels if there is sun.

We have two 100 watt solar panels that we move around to wherever the sun is shining.  It’s not unusual for the panels to produce over eight amps to the batteries after the controller throttles the power down to a safe level.

The solar controller is located in the trailer above the batteries and was indicating a 16.3 volt current coming to the controller from the solar panels when this picture was taken.  The current from the panels is often over twenty volts.

The battery monitor however is showing that the controller has limited the voltage to 14.16 volts to the batteries.  We would prefer the voltage limit to the battery to be 14.4 but that is a subject for another essay.

All this has allowed us to live off the grid here in the Sonoran Desert very comfortably for over four months so far this winter and we shouldn’t have to replace our batteries as often.  We are hoping the new batteries last at least five years.  We’ll see!

Corrected New Site Address

February 9, 2017 § 2 Comments

A strange character got placed at the end of our new site address.  It was corrected within a few minutes but the emails had already been mailed.  The correct address is :



New Site

February 8, 2017 § 1 Comment

We’ve created another blog site to contain Harrison’s life observations.   We invite you to check it out at http://www.harrisonphillipsblog.wordpress.com.

The first post is an Open Letter to the members of the US Legislature. 

“Dry” Desert

December 23, 2016 § 2 Comments

At least we haven’t gotten stuck yet!  We’ll see after tomorrow’s drenching.

Our “Christmas Tree”

December 16, 2016 § 4 Comments

That was taken looking west when the moon was coming up in the east.

That’s the way it is here in the Sonoran Desert. 

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