It’s the middle of the night when I hear the furnace fan blasting away. Usually it stops within a few minutes but not this time. Slowly it dawns upon me that this is not a good sign. Our battery must be nearly dead. The trailer has no power.
We have been here before, about a year ago when we went camping off shore power and pretty much wanted to try out how far we could go. Maybe not the most intelligent thing to do, have we learned since. It really is not good to let your battery go below fifty percent of its capacity. At that time, we were on our way back to our comfortable camp spot for the summer, with water and power hooked up continuously.
This week we happen to be visiting an Alaskan State Park, where we get permission to hook our batteries up to a battery charger that the maintenance crew has available. We can manage a day without power which means no charged phones, no running water or powered up freezer and fridge.
Not sure what caused the problem. We speculate that the solar system cannot keep up with our already very limited use of power. Clouds seem to have a huge influence on the efficiency of solar panels, which makes sense. When the battery seems completely filled, we hit the road to head to our own campground. The whole park is completely off the grid here, so we’d better stay charged.
That night, with the furnace off, we plummet again. Even when we use the battery solely for the electrical panel of the fridge and a little fan in our composting toilet, the battery doesn’t seem to handle it. What is going on? Did our battery die forever? It is time to purchase a proper battery charge monitor. We have been making do with something that is not quite giving us the information we need. It is crucial to get a better idea of what uses how much power. Because we have two 6 volts batteries hooked up in series to create a 12 volt battery, we should have many amps on board. What we don’t know for sure, is how it is being charged by our solar system.
Our friend Roddy, who does the maintenance of the park, lends us a ladder to check the solar connections on the roof, as well as a generator. We refrained from buying one ourselves before driving to Alaska, because we first wanted to see how we would do with just solar. So glad we can borrow one for the moment. We hook up the machine and see the power slowly return. By the end of the day, we are not quite there yet. We buy more fuel and keep the generator running during the day. It is not our style to be those people in the campground who run a generator all day long, but we need to see if we can rescue the battery.
In the meantime, we have been switching the refrigerator off a number of times to see if it makes a difference. Sometimes this seems to suddenly jump the power, other times it does nothing. The fridge runs on propane, but still needs some power for the control panel. For the moment we are eating everything that can spoil, and I won’t restock the fridge until we are sure of our power situation. We eat bacon, peas and blueberries for breakfast several days in a row. Green beans also go with everything and the organic hot dogs that I have carefully been storing for the past six weeks are happily consumed. The kids can drink as much milk as they like, and I add powdered milk to the grocery list. As long as there is bacon, we are not suffering.
While we run the generator, which costs a fortune, we can at least charge our phones without a problem. We may feel generally okay without common luxuries like electricity, but being without any means of communication, while camping so far away from town, does make me slightly uncomfortable. Until we know that our batteries hold power we are not out of the woods. Luckily we are looking at lots of sunshine this week, and we still have the generator as a backup. This allows us a week of trial and error.
To be continued.