Embracing the Solar-Powered Lifestyle with Renogy
We are “Part Time” RV Travelers who have a home base in beautiful and sunny Clearwater, Florida where we spend our time relaxing and enjoying all that Florida has to offer. I am a retired Army Veteran and Amanda is Civil Engineer that works remotely; this allows us to enjoy our favorite pass time, which is exploring North America and the United States in our 2001 Airstream Travel Trailer.
You may also know us as “Stranded ‘n’ Paradise” on the community page and on YouTube. We rescued our Airstream from a barn in 2020 and renovated it. We use our Airstream 4 to 6 months a year uninterrupted usually in a regional area like the “Pacific North West” or “Rocky Mountains” etc. exploring as much of that area as possible before returning home. Amanda and I spent the last 2 years experimenting and adding solar and lithium equipment using a phased approach in order to determine what works best, based on our power requirements, travel habits, and of course budget.
Upgrading to a solar power RV system was an exciting and rewarding project, but it's not without its challenges. As part time RV Travelers and solar enthusiast, we have first-hand knowledge of how hard it can be to take the steps necessary to become energy independent while not sacrificing the comfort of having a home on wheels that brings us to amazing destinations and grand adventures.
Stranded ‘n’ Travel Brings Us To paradise
As seasoned travelers our favorite travel adventures are when we can disconnect from shore power and boon-dock or stay in no hook-up campgrounds in National Parks, or Public Lands. All of our boon-docking is made possible with a 100% pure Renogy Solar and LiFePO4 system, which has allowed us to access unique off-grid locations without losing the comfort that the Airstream provides. During travels we have discovered some incredible places like North Cascades National park and the surrounding area, for instance we recommend visiting the town of Winthrop Washington for a scenic bike ride in the mountains or Ross lake Lodge, which is only accessible by water taxi. Not to mention the incredible drive through the national park.
Amanda and I believe in the power of connecting with people especially other Renogy users and have suggested organizing a "RV Solar Rally" in order to bring like-minded adventurers together and share ideas and stories of their own off-grid life. We are huge fans of National parks some might call us National Park GEEKS. We have spent a great deal of time exploring parks all over the United States and Canada, and have a few favorites like Grand Teton and Glacier National Park where you can spend time exploring and hiking to remote and beautiful places.
We recommend using the Harvest Host /Boon-dockers Welcome app when RV Traveling which allows us to stay overnight at wineries, farms, and other unique locations like a Wind Farm it also offsets RV park fees.
Our Solar System and Off-Grid Living
Throughout the upgrades, I have increased battery storage capacity from 200AH to 600AH of lithium, upgraded from BT1 to BT2, and installed a 3000 watt inverter charger . I have also increased the roof solar panel wattage from 200 watts to 900 watts, upgraded to the 100 Amp Rover Charge Controller and added the 20A and 40A DC to DC Charger that can be controlled independent of each other through up-fitter switches in our truck.
Most recently, I installed the Renogy One Core to allow us to monitor across our entire system from almost anywhere. With the rising cost of copper mineral ore and supply issues worldwide, the cost of simply connecting all the components into one working system that functions safely and as expected can be prohibitive to most folks looking to get started on a budget because of this we definitely recommend identifying what you expect your system to do, draw a simple basic schematic of the components you want to install, how they will be laid out and how they will be connected.
Additionally, we advise if at all possible having someone with electrical experience to review your plan to ensure it is actually feasible and safe this will save time and money in the long run by not having to install, uninstall, and change components around.
Less Is More: More isn’t always better, just because someone installs 10 disconnect switches in their system doesn’t mean you should, or even have too, every connection you make is a resistance point that bottlenecks the electrical current and can cause a possible point of failure, overheating, or even balancing issues in the charge and discharge sequence. Any old school electrical engineer will tell you that…
“ It is important to know your WHY, and build your own solar system it is the best way to learn how the equipment functions, how to troubleshoot faults, and be more confident in the system you have built ”—Jason K.
Corrective actions, I encountered balancing issues with the charge sequence that led me to some of the best advice I have ever received when it comes to building a DC electrical system; A story within a story.
Upon completion of my initial install, the system that I had worked so hard to build was having a balancing issue during the charge and discharge sequence. First, when I was connected to shore power we noticed a 10 amp difference in between the 2 separate battery banks during the charging sequence, then during discharge through our inverter charger the system was experiencing a 6-8 amp difference. If not corrected this could eventually lead to a greatly diminished life span of the 6 Smart LiFeP0 Batteries that we had spent a small fortune on.
So with little understanding of how to correct the problem I enlisted the help of a friend and neighbor “Sean”. Sean is a nuclear and electrical engineer that has more than 40 years of experience working on some of the most sophisticate low voltage components in the world, including navigation systems for very large rockets.
Anyway in walks Sean with a cold beer in his hand and a smile on his face, Sean sat on the floor of the Airstream travel trailer right in front of our newly installed yet not quite functioning system and studied it for about 15 minutes. After asking me questions about the Renogy components and their functions he reached out and started checking a few things grabbing cables, testing for the tightness at connection points, something in particular got his attention and he reached out and grabbed the main battery cables one at a time after pausing he laughed and said “ Well I can tell you this for sure you have a resistance issue” he pointed out that he could actually feel the 60 hertz or 60 cycles per second flowing through one battery cable coming from the Renogy PCL Inverter Charger but not the other.
Sean requested that I grab each cable so I could feel the difference too, right away a light bulb turned on and I knew he was right, I could feel the difference. Sean provided me with some guidance on the cable flow, making to point out that shouldn’t have negative and positive cables overlapping each other and touch because it can cause energy flow interruptions, then he sat back chugged the rest of his beer, assured me that I was on the right track and to make some minor adjustments and last but not least he gave me the best piece of advice I had ever received during my DIY build which is…
“Always build your cables and wiring to equal resistance not equal length”—Sean
So with some system redesign and the help of a Nuclear Engineer we now have a functional system that maintains balanced battery banks and correct power distribution.
Stranded ‘n’ Paradise, Our Best Advice Is Know Your WHY Before You Commit
We installed solar and an upgraded power source in our Airstream because we want to have increased flexibility to enjoy unplanned excursions to remote and beautiful destinations and to maximize the travel experience that we have dedicated ourselves to enjoying as much as possible. We want to do all of that without losing the ease and comfort associated with the RV lifestyle regardless of where we may find ourselves, whether that is stopping on the side of the road in a National Park to eat lunch and take in the view, or spending three days at a “International Dark Sky Preserve” in the mountains of West New Mexico, or at a “Harvest Host” parked under a giant wind generator. That is our WHY and it is incredible!
Our Clean Energy Philosophy
Our clean energy philosophy is deeply rooted in the Core Values instilled in us by our family and in my service to the US Army: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage.
Those core values influence the way we live our everyday life and we believe that it is our “Duty” to be good stewards of the planet and to “Respect” our natural resources and green spaces, and we should all demonstrate the “Personal Courage” it takes to move to a more sustainable future using renewable energy, and doing that wherever possible in our personal lives.
We also believe that it is a tremendous undertaking to change more than 100 years of using fossil fuels as our primary source power to relying on the more sustainable forms of power that reduce the effects on our planet as a whole, but with global cooperation, establishing realistic goals, and managing the expectations of the people, our world leaders can make real changes in sustainable energy and usher in a brighter future for our planet.