Let's start with our energy situation. We calculated our consumption needs in watts and determined the size of our deep cycle battery bank (to store the renewable energy to be harvested), and were ready to invest in one 100-watt solar panel, one 400-watt wind turbine, and three deep cycle batteries. The trailer (aka truckwagon) will be modified this winter to become our tiny home on wheels. Installing the new sources of energy, and then reinstalling them after the rebuild, would be a waste of time. Plus, our departure from Cedar Hill had already been delayed two days after our camper, El Valor, crashed...twice...so we did not have enough time to mount the panel or turbine before returning to Rockport. We decided to buy a new generator instead and to postpone the solar/wind install until after the trailer is finished.
|new "pumpkin" generator|
Meet the Generac 2000 watt inverter generator. Plenty of power to run the air conditioner and one laptop, or two laptops and all the camper lights, on one gallon of gas for about four hours. An inverter generator is imperative for providing energy for a laptop, especially. Our old generator was not an inverter model, and we fried the battery on both computers. Now that we have the new generator we can replace the batteries without worrying about power surges. Furthermore, we won't need to be plugged in except to recharge the new batteries, so we can back off our consumption of fuel used to operate the generator. More efficient!
The solar kit will cost around $500 and the wind kit around $600. Deep cycle batteries run around $90 each, so 3 new ones will cost just under $300. The Texas Coast is mighty sunny and windy. Based on conservative estimates of energy collection and liberal estimates of consumption, our investment will be returned in less than 6 months. Additionally, when/if we take the wheels off our home, so to speak, we can always reuse these kits.
Connections to cell phone and internet service are patchy in some of the more remote areas we "live." There is a gadget that costs around $500 that enhances these signals. It is popular among RVers, especially folks like us with off-road capabilities. But like the solar/wind energy combo, we will have to postpone that purchase until after the trailer is finished. This relayer, I think it's called, could also be reused on our future home-without-wheels.
When we travel on highways, I power my laptop and charge our phones by utilizing the 12V outlets inside the cab of the truck. The outlet draws energy from the truck battery, which is recharged when the engine is running. The deep cycle battery we currently have installed inside El Valor is also connected to the truck battery, making our pickup a sort-of diesel powered generator. Because it is durable and can handle the load of several tasks simultaneously, and diesel burns relatively clean, it is considered an efficient and green method of accessing energy. The other benefit of working while we are in-motion is that I almost always have a clear, strong cellular and mobile broadband signal. The downside is, we are ALL IN THE TRUCK TOGETHER. If you call, you will be treated to a heaping helping of background noise. Ha ha ha.
Refrigeration is next. I really appreciate all the suggestions from our facebook friends. There are so many good options to choose from! For now, we have turned off the fridge except when we are staying in locations with water and electric hook-ups. When switched to propane, at least this time of year, we could probably keep most produce cool enough for a few days. That is the next experiment; I'll post the results soon. Down the road, we will probably replace the fridge or maybe just buy a new one for the trailer. Again, the design of the rebuild will dictate that purchase. Until then, we will continue to focus on self-packaged and non-perishable foods when dry-camping, and expand our choices when staying in "civilized" locales.
Water is more valuable than gold. To campers, at least. Access to clean and palatable water is scarce, more limited than you mght imagine. Bottled water is not the best solution due to the cost and the amount of trash/recyclables that generates. (More about waste management in a moment.) Filters are great, but not for our situation. The holding tank on El Valor is old and in desperate need of flushing. Even then, I'm not interested in actually drinking the water that pours forth from this 25-year-old faucet. One idea has been to replace the tank. Another has been to buy a gigantic tank and mount it somewhere on the trailer. Like most of the solutions, this one will also have to wait until after the rebuild. Until then, we refill a 5-gallon Igloo container with drinking spigot and two 1-gallon plastic jugs. We also have two 5-gallon shower bags: one is used for washing hands, the other will be used for rinsing off the rest of our bodies. The source depends on our current location. When dry-camping on the beaches near Corpus Christi, we use the potable water station near Malaquite Beach. In Rockport, our client allows us access to her water (and commercial ice maker!!!!) Otherwise, we use the water connections at the parks where we pay to stay.
Waste management has become a tremendous task. In parks and on the beaches, we have unlimited access to trash and recycling receptacles. In Rockport, however, we have to drive our trash to WalMart's public bins or parcel out our packages of waste in the bins of the many businesses we frequent: the gas station, the grocery store, WalMart, the laundromat, etc. Regardless of our location, we have discovered ways to minimize our refuse. One is to buy self-packaged foods, such as bananas, avocadoes, assorted berries and citrus. Yes, even peel-and-eat foods leave "packaging" behind, but at least it's bio-degradable. I have no problem flinging produce refuse into vegetation. Maybe some desperate animal can gnaw on my old banana peel until its typical foodstuff comes around again. Another is to avoid glass packaging. Along the coast, glass recycling is not available so all those jars and bottles get tossed into the landfill. Not green, people. We recycle metal wherever available. Anything that is paper or plastic, we burn. We "reuse" those items as kindling for our campfires. Cutting the recycling machinery out of the loop is more efficient, energy-wise, and therefore greener. I can't guarantee that it always smells all that great, though...
Exercise. Putting out these fires these nearly-three months has kept us very active, both physically and mentally. We are still very fit. But as we streamline processes, we will have more time and (pardon the double meaning) energy to restart our running regimen. I find myself fantasizing about it, really...that and consistent access to showers and toilets. But that's another post...