It was ten past seven Saturday morning when John measured the Casita battery voltage. It read 12.5 volts.
We had arrived at the storage facility exactly at seven o’clock. I signed in and drove directly to our rented space. I unlocked the Casita’s battery door and left to get my solar panels out of the car. John pulled out the battery.
I unzipped the solar bag, pulled out the three attached panels and lay them on the ground for the sun to energize. The solar kit comes with 14 feet of electrical cord. The length of the Casita is 17 feet.
John carried the battery about five feet from the battery compartment so the cord would reach.
He plugged the Anderson connections together. Within seconds, the meter registered an increase in voltage: 12.52, 12.59, 13.12. My solar was alive and working.
It was at 7:15. A beautiful, sunny October 7, 2017, morning.
However, the battery was outside the Casita.
It would take another three hours before we could place the battery back in its compartment, pack up the tools, the solar unit, and call the project a success.
We modified the original plan and achieved a much better result.
A photo of my original solar panel placement with 14 feet of electrical cord.
The Casita is 17 feet. Two factors restrict my solar placement.
- A wall is directly behind the Casita. It’s in shadow.
- A travel trailer is next to me. No room to set up the panels.
I have seen pictures where people place their panels flat on the ground (like in the photo). For maximum voltage air should flow under the panels.
Chris, who reads up on all this stuff, told me to use the adjustable legs attached to the panels. Here is the result.
Once the battery was removed from the compartment, John went to work measuring where to drill a hole very close to the battery terminal block. Bernie looked on. (Bernie may look trusting, but when it comes to such technical stuff he is very picky)
Chris decided that the solar panel placement was fine and apparently John passed Bernie’s inspection. They decided we could proceed and left to take a nap in the car.
Once they were out of our hair, we got to serious work.
My original idea was to use the Anderson connections by wiring to the battery terminal block. I failed to consider doing so, meant I couldn’t close the battery door when hooked to solar.
As I shared in a previous blog, an open battery door allows critters to get into the trailer. It also allows human critters to steal both the battery as well as the solar unit.
Little House Customs have a ‘fix’ for my situation. They include ‘the fix’ as part of the solar kit. It consists of white and black wires with ring terminals at one end and a device at the other end. It is designed to insert through the Casita fiberglass wall and connect to the battery terminal block. It allows a solar connection and a locked battery compartment door.
It does require drilling a hole in the Casita. It also requires exact (or darn close) measurement.
John had a better idea.
John has a Casita. He likes to tinker. He has helped me make several modifications to my Casita. Since I received the Casita in July, we worked together to upgrade my Casita. I am very pleased with the results.
Rather than drill a hole in the Casita, we used the electrical power door for the solar connection to the battery terminal block.
It gives the option of leaving the Anderson connections outside the power door, or I can have both connections inside the compartment door.
My preference is keeping the connections inside. It keeps them out of inclement weather. The only restriction is the 14 feet of solar electrical cord.
The electrical route from the battery terminal block to the electrical power door is fairly direct. The battery terminal block is attached to the wall that separates the battery compartment from the water heater.
The black/white wire ring connectors are attached to the battery terminal block.
We drilled a hole next to the terminal block large enough to allow the wires to pass. We threaded the black/white wires through a grommet and shoved the grommet through the hole.
We daubed silicone around the grommet. It ensures no battery gas seeps through and invades the Casita.
With the Anderson connector now outside the battery compartment, it is a straight shot to lay on top of the water heater to the electrical power compartment and door.
The battery compartment is pale yellow. The adjacent white box is the water heater unit. The water heater igniter is the light gray box on top of the water heater.
John had some flexible, protective split spiral material. It serves to keep the wires together. It makes it easy to snake the wire to the power cord compartment.
The power cord could become tangled with the solar wires. (A very remote possibility, but why take the chance?)
Essentially, that is all there is to it.
- Drill the hole,
- manipulate the wires through and,
- Snake the wires to the power cord compartment.
It doesn’t have to take three hours. You know how it goes. You figure a job should only take ten minutes, then you hit some glitch, and three hours later you finally finish.
Our glitch? We had some trouble trying to get both battery terminal nuts loose. Perhaps someone used a torque wrench on those battery terminal nuts?
I smiled driving home. From day one, I wanted to have solar so that I could boondock. It took three months to achieve that goal. Now I’m ready to find some boondock spot and be off the grid.