Dear R.V. Shrink:
We dry camp or boon-dock all the time. My husband bought a cheap generator from some mail order catalog that makes more noise than a pack of Harley hogs. I suggested we order a solar panel and get rid of the generator. He bought a small 15 watt solar panel and said we would try it. I told him that seemed too small. I talked to a couple that had a larger 80 watt and they said it kept their battery charged if they were very careful with their usage. I hate the noise our generator makes, it annoys other campers and doesn't even seem to charge very efficiently. Should I just buy one and prove it too him or wait for both of us to go deaf listening to this stupid gas guzzling generator?
--Say What in Wasilla
Dear Say What:
I'm hearin' ya. 15 watts is like spitting into the ocean. I wouldn't wait. If you have a internet connection, there are some very informative articles on how to figure your power usage and what size solar panel you would need. If you are just using that noise maker to charge the battery, you can't get much more inefficient. You can work from both sides of the equation. Whittle your power usage and suck enough sunshine to store what you need. I think 80 watts of quiet, free solar power would be a good start. If that doesn't work you can add on. In the meantime, you may want to add a gas light, small Wave catalytic heater and efficient 12 volt bulbs to your existing lights. If you can limit your coach heater fan from coming on with a small catalytic heater you will save a lot of battery power. A gas light will give you heat and light. Your husband will eventually see the light, but it may be dimming if he continues to experiment with that small panel. I don't know what he paid for that generator, but solar costs are dropping all the time. You can buy a nice 80 watt on Amazon for less than five hundred bucks. They are so easy to install even a Shrink can do it.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink