Thursday, August 19, 2010

Vagabond on the road

The best place to park your home in the summer is underneath a tree as long as you aren't worried about the tree falling on you. It reduces the sun load on your metal walls keeping your inside temperature at a minimum. In the winter, it is just the opposite, you want to absorb as much sun as possible to minimize the amount of heat you need to add to stay warm. All this is well and good but parking in the shade underneath the trees isn't always good for your solar and wind turbine charging system. So you have to make a trade off between what is best for your total system.

Solar hot water heater
The solar water heater is another system that needs plenty of sun so it is in contrast to keeping your home cool also. I am experimenting with a portable system that I can relocate to a sunny location then reconnect to the RV systems once the water is ready for use. My RV  uses a 6 gallon water heater meaning that water would weigh 50 pounds. However, I don't use 6 gallons of hot water per day. I use a gallon and a half for a shower so a 2 gallon tank would work just fine for me. That would be a more manageable 17 pounds of water plus the weight of the Solar collector.

My portable shower
My portable shower uses a garden sprayer built from HDPE and colored black. They are available in the hardware store. I can locate the garden sprayer in the sun on a reflector and it heats up nicely. The sprayer can then be pumped up to provide pressure for taking a nice outside shower. While this is handy, I would like to be able to take an indoor shower since I have one in the RV but I would like to save propane. This means I need to build a solar water heater that I can connect to the existing RV system. One way to do this is to pump up the garden sprayer to transfer the hot water to my existing tank.

Mixing of water
A good hot shower will have water between 105 -120 degrees. So if you are mixing the cold water in the water heater with the warm water in the solar storage tank, you will need hotter water than 120 to mix with the tank water. If you heat up 2 gallons of water to 130 and mix it with two gallons of water at 70 degrees, you will get a nice shower temperature. The shower will have to come 100% from the hot water tank of 100 degree water.

Easy but unsightly
This can be used in remote locations but those campsites won't appreciate it at all. A coil of black hose left in the sun will heat water very well. Turn the water on as a trickle and let it run into a bucket, garden sprayer, or back into your tank. The water gets hotter based on the amount of time it stays in the hose. It is a solar version of the tankless water heater.

More compact portable version
I am looking to add an attachment that will allow me to keep the functionality of my propane hot water heater while adding a solar adjunct to the system for use while boondocking. I will need some quick connect fitting and a small enough package to move easily to a sun location. It must also look reasonable good for those camping areas that care. I will post more about this again.

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