Sunday, March 11, 2012

Back into Spring

March 2012 makes 31 months of camping at work. Over the winter, I haven't had to run electricity, and my only purchase was $7 (actually $5.98 + tax, but I round up) for two propane bottles. For most of the winter, I used one left over from last year, and I'm currently on the first one of my purchase. Since we're getting back into 60F+ weather, I suspect I won't need the second bottle.

Here is a quick snapshot of my savings, and as always, the spreadsheet is available.

31 Months Van
Equipment: $5500
Operating: $1380
Total: $6,879
Equipment Average: $178
Operating Average: $45
E+O Average: $222
31 Months Apartment
Rent + Utils: $600/month
Total: $18,600

Savings: $11,720

Over the winter, I haven't needed any electricity, but I've been observing that my batteries haven't been charging properly. I assumed that this was a problem with the batteries themselves. However, today I went ahead and disconnected all the wires and measured the voltage of each battery. They are all reading 12.5 and when combined, 24.8, so they seem fine. After disconnectng and reconnecting the inverter, I was able to power it on, and I can power the light and fan from the batteries. I then measured voltage from the solar panels. The PV array is putting out around 40V, which is pretty good. My Xantrex C35 can handle up to 55V, so we are well within limits. The problem is when I measure the voltage on the Load/Battery terminal from the C35. The C35 is putting out only 0.1V, which is bad.

I checked my history, the the C35 arrived at my house on 3/12/2010 with a 2-year warranty. I am very glad I decided to fully troubleshoot the system today, as it allowed me to put in a warranty request and get an RMA number before the 12th. I will find out this week if it will still fall under warranty (the warranty language only requires notification within the warranty period). Hopefully they don't attempt to finagle their way out. The device hasn't been working for at least a month, if not more.


  1. I find this interesting. Im of course going to be camping at work ...well sort of. I'll be near them. I will be able to charge everything there and use the "kitchen" they have. I will also have some solar but not a lot. I know I'll be saving money but gee you can really save this way. Thanks for posting. Oh where do you go when your shifts end?

    1. Let me rephrase that. Where do you stay when your not working? In the van?

    2. I work (or did until this week) 12 hour shifts, which leaves me with <12 hours to kill. I split that time between sleeping, going to the gym, or hanging out a local Wegmans. I don't always excercise... I plan to, but I just haven't gotten myself to stick with it. But I still use the gym for shower and brushing my teeth. The Wegmans has this upper floor with tables and free wifi. People go there for business lunches, interviews, etc. It even has a kids section with a TV that plays kids movies all the time. I can just go there, maybe get a drink and use their wifi for several hours.

      Another place I go to from time to time is the library. They also have wifi, tables, and books.

      Now that I'm on a different schedule (4x10), I still have to figure out how I'll spend my free time. I do have a desk in the van, power, and in reach of wifi. I can watch TV shows on hulu and the network websites, as well as any movies I might have. But I'll probably want to do more than just sit in the van all the time.