We moved from Camp Verde to Sedona, and found a great boondocking location off forest road 525 (Pictures below). It featured breathtaking views, some not so predictable weather, and the Mud Tribe coming together to help us learn to boondock better. We called it the mud tribe because by the second day of rain, the Pullen’s RV was in a mud/clay swamp, and Opting Out Of Normal was a day of rain away from being stuck too. There were a few other RVs at this location before us, they quickly decided to leave when the weather got bad. That opened up some high ground and we quickly began moving rigs up to the drier side. John brought home pallets and stacked them outside of the Pullen’s rig so they could have some porch space and a way to get over the lake forming in front of their door.
The installer called with concerns that he would not be able to make it to us. He was worried that the mud was too bad and he would get stuck. The rain that was supposed to be occasional sprinkles turned into four days of pouring rain. The former installer was correct with his concerns, that it would turn muddy and decided not to come. We were disappointed he couldn’t make it but we didn’t have time to think about that. We had a pile of thousands of dollars in solar equipment sitting in our living room. We had to find a new installer, and quick.
Soon after we moved the RV’s up to higher ground and everything began to dry out. It dried much quicker than we thought it would. We were really lucky to be surrounded by the Mud Tribe because Justin from Opting Out of Normal and Gary from Pau Hana Travels had lots of experience in building, construction, and solar.
Justin had installed his entire solar system himself. Justin and his wife Stacy also have a 5th wheel that’s very similar to ours, so it made it easy to figure out how and where to put everything. Gary and Stacey from Pau Hana Travels also knew a lot about solar after their install from Brian Boone. Plus, Gary had built his own home so he’s quite adept at construction. Soon after the installer we’d hired changed plans Gary and Justin came together and said they wanted to install it! We couldn’t believe it!
The batteries arrived from Full River a week ahead of the panels, so we got everything installed ahead of the panels, and used the generator to keep them topped off. With the new inverter and batteries installed we had a HUGE surprise. Shortly after arriving in Sedona our residential fridge had stopped working. Since the fridge was completely dead, we were planning to buy another one, but not until after the solar was installed.
The night we flipped the switch from the old batteries to the new set and and new inverter John was messing around with Justin looking at the fridge, and it fired right up like there had never been a problem. Not only did it come back on, but it worked better than ever. From my point of view, this was too good to be true, and I was waiting for it to explode or the other shoe to drop. But it didn’t! We let it run all night watching the temps drop faster than it ever had. We were in total shock. Suddenly we didn’t have to spend $500-$600 dollars and remove the door frame to exchange a fridge. We immediately began putting the food back in to help stabilize the temperatures and it continued to work!
We spent 2.5 days on the new batteries, wiring, and inverter and the entire RV worked differently. Electronics worked better, smoother, and faster! Our suspicion was that the WFCO 1000 watt modified sine wave inverter (what some consider “Dirty Power”) that came with our RV, wasn’t supplying the fridge with the power it needed.
When we installed the Magnum Hybrid 3000 watt (pure sine wave inverter), it provided “clean power” to the rig! Our phones charge faster now than even on 50 amp service. We were informed that a quality inverter will be expensive, it was, and it was worth it. We found this at Northern Arizona Wind & Sun, and this one part likely could have solved the fridge issue had we known about it, on day 1. Next came the new batteries.
With the new batteries we had 830ah total, 415ah usable (50%), but since we didn’t want to drain them past 70% we really only had 249ah usable for us. This is still a lot of battery compared to what we use. Our point in spelling this out, is that sealed AGM batteries should not go below 70% of their capacity if you want them to last as long as possible. If you take them below 70% on a regular basis you can shave a few years off their life span. If you take them below 50% even a few times you’ll actually damage them.
We chose the best AGM batteries on the market. Because they’re such a considerable investment we wanted to make sure they last as long as possible. Also, they’re warrantied for seven years if never depleted below 70%, and we want to maintain the warranty. We found that over night (between 8pm and 8am) we used about 12-18% of our batteries. This was on very cold nights, running the furnace, refrigerator, an hour or two of TV, a few lights, the air purifier, and charging our phones. This was the first time we were able to quantify what we were actually using. We will share more on that side later!
Then the panels arrived! Originally we had purchased some Panasonic 325watt HIT Panels from Northern Arizona Wind & Sun. They were HUGE, but we only needed 4 of them giving us 1,200 watts, and they were a good deal. We had Opting Out of Normal and Pau Hana Travels look at them and came to the conclusion that we should order the 200 watt nominal solar panels from Brian Boone’s website instead. With buying different panels that were physically smaller we decided to get more watts since we could fit them on our roof. We splurged and bought eight panels for a total of 1,600 watts.
When the panels came in we could see some of the differences they were concerned about with an RV. They were much less flexible, smaller, and still the same weight. We felt like these would stand up to the rolling earthquake our house goes through every week much better. It was a great suggestion from Northern Arizona Wind & Sun, and very cost effective, but we would not have money to do this again should anything go wrong. There was not very much research available on the panels because they were so new. The previous panels typically used by Brian Boone were 165 watts. We were comforted though, that the panels had been used on many RVers rigs. Justin had them on his 5th wheel and was very happy with them.
We waited another day or so for weather to clear again before we could get the panels up. The DiCor used to waterproof the new holes in the roof has to applied on a dry surface and needs time to dry. So we wanted to make sure we had several sunny days coming up before we started. We were able to get them all installed in one day, especially since everything else was ready to go. The boys worked extremely hard on it and have since had several people ask them to do installs on their rigs! We seriously can’t thank Justin, Gary and Andrew enough for all of their help getting this accomplished!