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Learn How You Can Have FREE Wi-Fi In Your Rig

chrisadmin 18 comments

Welcome to FulltimeFamilies.com, the RV club for families who live or are seeking to live, the full time rv lifestyle.

A reliable internet connection is like the Holy Grail for many full time rv’ers.  How many crowded lodges have I come across full of surfers, with every available power outlet in use.  Wouldn’t it be great if you could have reliable, free internet right in the comfort of your own rig.  Did I just say “free”?  I did indeed, and now I’m going to tell you how!

I have researched this for a long time and have come up with a solution that will work 90% of the time.  This internet solution requires some hardware and software configuration, but at the end of the day, you can expect to have FREE internet 90% of the time.  That’s right, I said FREE!  How can this be you ask??!!

Ok, here is the answer to FREE internet on the road.  Most McDonalds, Starbucks, book stores, or even local libraries offer free Wi-Fi.  I know what you’re thinking; I don’t expect you to sit in at coffee shops, book stores, or the library all day.  This is about internet in your RV at the location of your choice!  This is about internet, in your jammies, with your own snacks an arm’s length away.

With this configuration, I have been able to pick up Wi-Fi  from up to 1.7 miles away!  I said it right, 1.7 Miles away!!!  This is surrounded by mountains.  With that in mind, I think I may be able to get up to 3 miles away on flat terrain.

To get access to FREE internet in your camper,you will need 5 pretty inexpensive hardware components.

  1.  100’ Cat6 Ethernet Cable
  2. RiteAV – Cat5e Network Ethernet Cable – Blue – 6 ft.
  3. Ubiquiti BULLET-M2-HP Outdoor 802.11b/g M2HP
  4. TP-Link 2.4GHz 15dBi Outdoor Omni-directional Antenna, N Female connector, weather resistant (TL-ANT2415D)
  5. NETGEAR WG602 54 Mbps 802.11g Wireless Access Point

I put links in the text to Amazon where you can find all these components for about $200.00.  This is a small sacrifice when thinking about what you pay a month for an Air Card plan or paying a campground a monthly fee for internet.

Putting all these components to work for you is not a hard task either.

1.  Pick a spot! The first thing to consider is where you are going to place your wireless access point and how you are going to run the 100’ Cat6 cable to your Ubiquiti Bullet and Wireless antenna.  I mounted my bullet and antenna on the existing TV antenna so that when I bring my TV antenna with the crank, it brings up the Celluteq antenna as well.  It will also lay flat for travel making this a seamless system.  You can mount this setup on a flag pole style mount, but that will require you setup and tear down every time you move.  For now, let’s keep going!

2.  So you have found the perfect spot for your wireless access point and antenna.  Now you will need to run the cable as neat as you can from the two devices.

3.  Once you have run the cable, connect the bullet to the antenna with the N style connector.  You just simply screw the two pieces together and you’re ready to go.

4.  Next plug the Cat6 cable into the Power Over Ethernet (POE) device that was provided with your Bullet.  From the 2nd port on the POE device, plug the 6’ Cat6 cable in and run that to the wireless access point connecting that to Port1 of 4.

Voila! Your hardware installation is complete and all that’s left is configuring the software of the wireless access point and the Bullet.

Using the supplied documentation (included with your wireless access point device), configure the wireless access point to meet your needs.  Once you have completed the configuration and you can connect your your access point wirelessly, you will need to configure the Bullet.  Complete the form below to download the PDF on how to configure the Bullet.

That’s it, you now have FREE internet from the local hotspots in your area.

Here are some more pictures for you to get an idea of what everything looks like:

 

The Road Can Be Exhausting

chrisadmin No Comments

Life on the road in an RV is not always how you picture it.live

 

When we first made our plans, we envisioned our life on the road checking off our list of must see items or putting x’s all over the pages of our copy of “1000 Places to See Before You Die”.

But after a few months, burn out began to set in, and we found ourselves rushing through or barely glancing at some of those things we had so looked forward to seeing and experiencing,

While in Portland, a friend mentioned that we would be in the vicinity of one of the country’s most beautiful waterfalls.  Our family loves waterfalls and we were excited to be awash in the spray at Multnomah Falls.

But when we had the opportunity to actually see it, we were all so exhausted that we just sat in the car, in the parking lot, peeking at it between the rushing trucks on the highway.

This scenario was never part of my “life on the road” picture – and yet – there we were – all too tired and uninspired to actually unbuckle.

We never even turned the engine off.  We just stayed in our seats, told the kids to crane their necks so they could see the majestic rushing falls, and then we got back on the highway.

Had you told me this scenario was more than a possibility before we headed out, I would have never believed you. So full of curiosity were we to see and do everything! But in our travels, we have met with a multitude of families on the road, who have very similar stories. Who passed up the Petrified Forest to get a screaming toddler a Happy Meal?  Who missed putting their feet in the Pacific because there were too many stairs?  Who sat in the parking lot and napped at the Grand Canyon?

After this turning point, we decided that our life on the road was speeding past us.  We couldn’t even keep up with it, so we made the conscious decision to SLOW DOWN.   We’ve been spending more time in an area so we can truly appreciate the scenery and the natural offerings there. Setting a new pace has been beneficial to all of us and we are all enjoying our journey immensely.

Kimberly Travaglino is the author of “How to Hit the Road”, a comprehensive step-by-step guide for making your family’s full time RV dreams a reality.  She also serves as the Editor of Fulltime Families Magazine, a company that supports risk takers, pioneers, and enlightened families blazing their own path across the country.

 

RV Tire Safety – What you need to know

chrisadmin No Comments

This blog post is directed specifically to travel trailer and 5th wheel trailer owners.  Drivers of cargo, utility, horse, or any pull behind trailer will also benefit from reading this article.

The number one safety issue when pulling a trailer is your tires.  If you pull your trailer hundreds of miles, you need to pay attention to this article closely.  This will not only potential save you and your passengers lives (i.e. family and friends and fellow motorists), but will also save you a great deal of money too.

In an effort to keep RV sticker prices low, RV Manufactures install tires intended for weekend (ie; minimal) use. These tires are not appropriate for RV owners who will be putting big miles on their equipment.  It is wise to install solid, reliable tires on your trailer but before we dive into how we can identify inadequate tires, lets see what inadequate tires can do to you and your equipment.

  1. blowntire1 Unexpected blowouts can cause a roll over, out of control skids, tear up the RV’s structure, and leaving you on the side of the road wishing you had quality tires, or worse!
  2. Overheating tires which will yield erratic air pressure, poor ride quality and extra expenses for repairing the RV from tire damage not to mention new tire cost.
  3. Angry wife, frustrations on the road, and unneeded emotional stress.

Bridgestone_tire_cross_sectionSo now you are wondering, how do I know if I have these poorly made tires?

That is very easy to identify.  Take a look at the side wall of your tires.  If they say, polyester, nylon, and steel, these are tires that are not appropriate for extended travel.  Polyester and nylon materials weaken from changes in heat and ultimately cause them to snap and then a blowout occurs.  The heat is caused by friction, trailer weight, and road conditions.  A lot of these poor quality tires are made in China. The law requires Country of origin be stamped on the sidewall of the tire as well.

So, what tires should I be riding on to keep my family and fellow motorists safe?

AllSteelBeltedTo keep you going down the road safely, you should be running on all steel belted tires.  Trailer tires do not come this way so you will need to run a commercial truck tire.  From what I have found, you will need a minimum of 16″ rims, but most RVers like to run 19.5 inch rims because you can go all the way up to “G” ply (load range) tires.

The Ply Rating is a load rating that the tire is made to handle (i.e. weight).  Full-time RVers will want a minimum of “E” ply (load range) tires because their trailers are considerably heavier then their weekender counterparts.  The Ply Rating is also listed on the sidewall of the tires.

It is always a good idea to weigh your trailer before purchasing tires so you know you are matching your trailer’s weight to the load rating / ply rating.

But What Tire… Really?

On our trailer we run Michelin XPS Ribs.  Prior to installing these tires, we experienced, numerous blow outs, body damage and excessive tread wear.  It was these critical safety concerns that led me to research the best trailer tires available.  My search led me to discover Michelin XPS Ribs.  Did you know that horse trailer drivers use these tires specifically because they do not blow out and therefore are safer for transporting horses.  These all steel belted tires have lasted us in excess of 30,000 miles and they still look new!

Where can you get Michelin XPS Ribs?

Any tire shop can order or will have them in stock for you.  You can also order them from the web and take them to your local tire shop for installation.  I recommend Discount Tire as I have found consistently they always offer the best price and provide a nationwide warranty, which is paramount for a traveling family  Good Year makes a commercial truck tire and there are some Chinese tires that are all steel belted, but I have never run on these before so I can not say what the performance is like.

Tire Math

What will I pay for the right tires?

So, now here comes the math that we all hate because this is where the money comes out of your pocket.  You can expect to spend somewhere between $250 – $300 per tire depending on brand and size (ours were $250 each from Discount Tire).  You will also need to pay for mounting and balancing of your new tires.  The average on that is about $20.00 per tire.  Yes, good tires are most definitely an investment, but it’s an investment in safety, security and dependability that is well worth it.  Just look at the alternative.  If you blow a tire on your trailer with the cheap tires, you will pay about $100.00 per tire and any body damage you might have incurred.  It would only take you 2 1/2 blowouts to pay for 1 tire.  Not to mention, your new tires have about a 50,000 mile tread life compared to the 15,000 mile tread life on your cheap tires.

What else do I need to know?

tourqewrenchYou need to know the proper way of keeping your rims attached to the hub while driving down the road.  There are many times that RVers have told me that there wheels have fallen off while driving or their lug nuts have come loose.  To keep this from happening, you need to “torque” your lug nuts down every time you travel for the first 3 times after having the rims installed on the RV, then after that, every 1000 miles.

Here is a link to the torque wrench that I use and it works well.

Safe Travels and we look forward to seeing you down the road!

Here is a torque chart for Lippert Components axles:

torquechart

Installing Solar Power on Your RV

chrisadmin No Comments

The Adventure is calling… are you ready to unplug from overcrowded RV parks and take the Road Less Traveled?

Would a solar system make it easier for you… keep your refrigerator running?  Let you have some light?  Maybe make a cup of coffee to enjoy landscape with?

But Solar is complicated?  There’s calculations, wires to be run, holes to be drilled – wouldn’t it be great if someone just came up with a plug and play for the Sun???

If you’ve answered “yes”, then this is the review for you… Keep reading and learn how easy solar can be and start scouting out your next off grid location!

THE DETAILS

Northern Arizona Wind & Sun has joined forces  Fulltime Families to design a solar package that fits the unique needs of RVing families.  This article will cover the parts needed and a overview on how to install the components provided by Northern Arizona Wind & Sun.  There is also a video tutorial to go along with the blog post that provides a step by step installation instructions on your RV below.

At the end of the article, look for information on how you can place your order for this Fulltime Families Solar Package Powered by Northern Arizona Wind & Sun.

The Hardware

To produce power from the sun and turn it into electricity, there are 4 major components needed.

  • Solar panels: collect rays from the sun and turn them into DC electricity. This electricity then needs to be sent somewhere to be used or stored for later use.
  • Wires are the transportation method for this electricity to travel on.
  • Solar Charge Controller which takes the electricity and turns the voltage coming down the wire from the solar panels to 12 volts and sends it to our next component…
  • Batteries, where the electricity is going to be stored so that we can keep them charged throughout the day for use in your RV.

What can I do with all this electricity that I have harnessed from the Sun?

With the electricity stored into your batteries, you then need an inverter that converts DC power to AC power to make the appliances in your RV work.  That is not going to be covered as part of this article as we are only covering the solar aspect of the install and wiring to the batteries to charge them, but inverters are included in the Fulltime Families Solar Package Powered by Northern Arizona Wind & Sun

Hardware List:

  1. (1) Midnite Solar Classic 150 Charge Controller
  2. (1) Midnite Solar Big Baby breaker box.
  3. (4) Kyocera 270 WATT solar panel with H4 connection cables.
  4. (4) Stainless steel Z-brackets and stainless steel hardware
  5. (1) Amphenol H4 branch connector. Two female, one male.
  6. (1) Amphenol H4 branch connector. Two male, one female.
  7. (1) 50 foot Amphenol H4 extender cable. Male to female. 10
  8. (2) 50 foot Amphenol H4 extender cable. Male to female. 10 AWG, 2kV double jacket PV wire, black. 1kV rated AWG, 2kV double jacket PV wire, black. 1kV rated connectors
  1. (1) PV Array Breaker, 30 Amp 150 VDC DIN rail mount for Midnite or Outback Combiners.
  1. (1) MidNite Solar 100 Amp, 150 VDC DIN rail mount circuit breaker
  2. (1) MidNite Solar MNPV3 Breaker Bus Bar
  3. (1) Midnite Solar terminal bus bar short-black
  4. (4) Nylon Strain Relief Liquid Tight Connector and Locknut for 1/2″ Knock Out
  1. (1) #4 XLP Wire, Black
  2. (1) #4 XLP Wire, Red
  3. (2) #4 x 3/8″ Stud Ring Connector, Yellow Insulated, Crimp type.

Fulltime Families and Northern Arizona Wind & Solar have joined forces to bring you easy solar solutions at exclusive prices.  For more information, or to place your order visit the Fulltime Families Members Only Area.

Installation Overview

Now that we have our hardware, let’s get started on the installation.  The first thing we need to do is run the main wire from the roof down to where we are mounting our breaker box and charge controller.  On this RV, we choose to drill a hole in the roof above the TV cabinet in the living room and run our wire down the entertainment cabinet into the basement of the RV.  We then ran the wire inside the rafters of the basement over to the wall that is between the batteries and the basement storage.

Once we have the main wire run, we need to mount our breaker box with the 30 Amp and 100 Amp Breaker in it.  At the same time, we mounted our Midnite Solar charge controller as well.   We wired both the breaker box and the charge controller while these were in place so that we could then run our positive and negative wires to the batteries.  We used ring terminals on the end of the wires and then connected them to the batteries.

The next step is to mount the combiner box on the roof.  This is where your wires from the solar panel will meet your main wire that you ran down the roof of the RV to the breaker box and charge controller.

We took a standard sealed combiner box from our local hardware store and drilled 4 holes in the sides and one on the bottom where the wire runs through the roof.  We connected our positive and negative lines and sealed the combiner box to the room using screws and Dicor roof sealant.

We then used our Z brackets and mounted them to the solar panels so we could mount them to the roof of the RV.  Once we did that, we were able to plug the wires into the wire we ran to our combiner box.  Note:  This makes electricity run through the wire, so plug the wires in on the last step so you do not electrocute yourself.

At this point, we screwed the solar panels to the roof and covered the entire Z bracket with Dicor to make sure we do not have any water leaks.

Now the system is done and ready to make solar electricity.  We turned on our breakers for the solar panels and for the charge controller.  We then went into the setup of the charge controller and set it to “solar”.  Immediately we started charging our batteries from the sun.

As you can see from the picture above, we are putting 39.1 amps into the batteries and making 496 Watts of electricity at the solar panels.  The time was about 3:00 PM in the afternoon.  We would expect to see this around this time of day as if it were noon, we would see almost 750 Watts at around 70 amps of charge to the batteries.

Fulltime Families and Northern Arizona Wind & Solar have joined forces to bring you easy solar solutions at exclusive prices.  For more information, or to place your order visit the Fulltime Families Members Only Area.

Air Lift Review and Installation

chrisadmin No Comments

Have you ever been towing your trailer, at night, and noticed your headlights were pointing up at the trees?

Have you ever noticed your truck’s back-end “squatting” when it’s attached to your towable?

Would you classify your ride as bouncy, feeling the suspension bottom out, or bumpy?

All these circumstances could be indications that your tow vehicle could use a set of spring assist airbags.

WHAT TO DO

bagWe decided to contact Air Lift to see how they could help us and the other Fulltime Family members resolve this issue. The

solution was the Load Lifter 5000 Ultimate. The product is top of the line and includes the exclusive design of a jounce bumper inside of the air spring providing the ultimate in ride comfort and safety and towing performance.

Now to install it! I recruited a friend to help.  I hate getting under the truck hence the help. We laid everything out to make sure we had all the parts that were required and got to work.

I definitely love the fact that there was no drilling!

AirLift_AirCell_GuaranteeWarrantyNoDrill_th

Each kit includes everything you need, easily installed in 2 hours or less. Most popular kits require no drilling into the frame.

Step 1:  Read over the entire installation manual so you know what to expect.  This is very important with any type of installation.  You want to make sure you understand what you are going to do before you dive into the project.

Step 2:  In this kit, you’ll start by removing the factory installed vehicles jounce bumpers.  This is also known as bump stops.  This equipment stops the suspension from hitting the frame of the vehicle in the event of overloading or too much suspension movement.

Step 3:  Install the upper (side) bracket. The instructions requested us to lower the suspension. Neither I nor my friend wanted to go through the trouble, so we left it and our installation was successful without the need to lower the suspension. Be sure you don’t tighten the big bolt on the frame in this step since you’ll want some wiggle as you piece everything else together.

bag2Step 4:  Attach the lower bracket. Be careful of the brake lines and any other lines. You may need to un-attach the lines to keep them out of the way of the install. Our air spring was attached to the bottom bracket, so we had to squeeze it together to get it in place. During this step we decided to invert the long lag bolts so that the nut would attach above the air spring. Since the instructions suggested this we were able to avoid any contact with the sway bar under the axel.

Time to repeat these steps on the driver’s side.  Everything is very similar to the passenger side, but make sure you read the instructions and check for what hardware you will be using.

Step 5:  It’s time to run the airlines.  Take the full length of the air tubing and gently fold it over not allowing the link to kink.  Find the middle and cut the tubing with a straight razor.  Run your airlines from the airbags to the rear of the vehicle on each side zip tying them up as you go.  Where the airline might be exposed to heat, use the provided heat shielding to protect the airline from melting.  Once you have the airlines run, drill two holes in the plastic bumper step. Just find a convenient place, but think of where you may be stepping. Then attach the hardware for the hose fittings.

Step 6:  It’s time to get pumped!  Inflate those airbags to 30 PSI and leak test the airbags air valves and inflation valves with soapy water.  Let the air back out to about 10 PSI.  This is a good setting when you’re not towing or have a heavy load on the vehicle.

That’s it, you’re ready to tow at the proper height!

We left Orlando and headed to Indianapolis with our new set up. We couldn’t be happier with how the product has performed. In the 1000 mile journey we hit huge bumps and made sharp turns coming down 5% grades in the mountains. Knowing we had this set up gave us peace of mind. The ride felt like we were on clouds and no one felt nauseous and no one was jarred. Now if Air Lift could figure out how to silence the kids we’d be golden!

Where can I get a set of these for my vehicle?

Step1: Go to https://www.airliftcompany.com/products/air-springs/loadlifter-5000-ultimate/ and find the proper part number for your vehicle.
Step2:  Go to Amazon using this link and search for the part number of your Air Lift System

Last Chance for Legoland Tickets

chrisadmin No Comments

sold-out-banner

The 4th Annual FtF Roadschool Fieldtrip to Legoland, Florida is Officially SOLD OUT!

If you have pre-purchased your tickets from Fulltime Families, please check your PayPal Email for a confirmation from us.  If you have not received a confirmation email, please email kimberly@fulltimefamiles.com

Here is some info you need to know if you are joining us on Feb. 12th, 2016.

IMPORTANT INFO:
 
Please arrive at the main gate of Legoland by 9:15am. 
  • If you are attending the Tampa Rally: The Legoland caravan will leave LazyDays, from the front gate, by the office at 8am SHARP.
  • If you are planning on going to Legoland separately, be sure to be on-site by 9:15am
  • Legoland charges for parking and this is not included in your pre-paid tickets.
  • We will take a Group Photo at 9:30am
  • The Flash Mob Dance (see details below) will take place at the front gate.
  • The FtF Group must enter the park as a group so it’s important that everyone is on time.
  • You are welcome to pack a lunch!  If you have a cooler and/or lunch sack, you will be able to take those to a location for storage until needed for lunch.
  • This part of the day is time sensitive.  The rest of the day you’ll be free to enjoy the part at your leisure.
  • If you have a rally t-shirt, please wear it to Legoland.
  • FtF Bracelets will be passed out to all so that we can identify each other inside Legoland.
Be a part of FtF History!  Legoland Flash Mob Info:  Please start practicing this dance.  All roadschooler participants will be receiving a limited edition Lego Minifig for doing their part!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HoTV0NGtrrM
We are sorry, but no refunds can be processed at this time and tickets are non-transferable.

Additional Fees for Parking apply.
You can bring your own lunch into the park. Legoland supplies a group lunch locker and covered picnic tables for our group.
This field trip is rain or shine.

Cancellation and Refund Policy:

We are sorry, but no refunds can be processed at this time and tickets are non-transferable.

 

This Groundhog’s Day – Free Webinar on RV Inspections

chrisadmin No Comments

Don’t let costly RV repairs and potential pitfalls lurk in the shadows of your new RV.  Join us this Groundhog’s Day, Feb. 2nd, 2016 for a free webinar hosted by Terry Cooper, co-founder of the National RV Inspection Association.

During this free webinar you’ll learn:

  • The importance of an independent RV Inspection
  • How to find an RV Inspector in your area
  • How to weed out RVs that are money pits
  • How you can fund your travels as a certified RV Inspector
  • and so much more!

reserve1

Space is limited, so click here to reserve your spot today: https://nrviatoday.leadpages.co/ftfinspectionwebinar/

What: Free Webinar about RV Inspections

Where: Your Computer / Mobile Device

Who: Hosted by Terry Cooper – co-founder of the NRVIA and sponsored by Fulltime Families

When: Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016 (Groundhog’s Day) at 8pm EST

reserve1

Fulltime RV Solar Setup for a Family of 6

chrisadmin No Comments

SolarPic2

We started full-time Rving 6 years ago from South Florida.  We had not know what to expect other then we would be living in our 5th wheel RV full-time driving from campgrounds to campgrounds and touring the most beautiful places on the planet.  Electricity was never a concern or a thought at this point.  I just assumed that we would always be plugged into shore power just as if we were living in our house.  Once I realized that sometimes campgrounds are not always an option when traveling, we started overnighting in Walmart parking lots, as we would travel from one place to another.  Our (2) 12-volt DC batteries would do fine until the one night we camped in a Walmart in Northern Florida where we had to run our furnace to keep warm.  Our batteries down to about 50% at 11:00 PM, we went to sleep.  At around 3:30 AM I was woken from the camper shaking violently back and forth.  I naturally got up to see what was happening and discovered that it was 40 degrees in the RV.  My wife and kids being so cold caused the shaking of the RV from their teeth chattering and shivering!  I attempted to turn on the furnace when I discovered that our batteries were dead!  None of the lights, refrigerator, or furnace would run.  I covered everyone up nice and tight and we made it through the night.

The next day, I went to our local hardware store and purchased a generator.  I thought this would ultimately solve our problems with our batteries being dead when not being plugged into shore power.  This did help, but we were lacking on battery amp hours.  I could charge those batteries to 90%, turn off the generator and by 4:00 AM, the batteries were dead again.  At this point, I went out and purchased (4) 6-volt golf cart batteries and wired them in series parallel.  This setup would last us through the night and we were satisfied with that.

After using the system this way for about 1 year, we got the idea to spend 5 nights dry camping in Quartzsite Arizona attending the RV show they do every year.   We were going to be off grid and for the first time for so many nights.  At this point, I was introduced to solar power.  I purchased my first 2 Kyocera 80 Watt solar panels, a cheap solar charge controller, wiring, and a small inverter.   I had planned on powering our 110-volt residential refrigerator with that system and charge our batteries.  I remember telling a solar expert what I was going to do with the system and him telling me, “That is not enough solar power to run what you are trying to accomplish.”  Being on a budget and not totally believing the experts, I purchased the system anyway.  This system did work great but would not keep my batteries charged enough to make it through the night.  I would have to run the generator for 4 hours every night and wake up to batteries that were about 25% full.  We lived with this system for about 3 years where decided as a family that we wanted to do lots more boondocking and less campground camping.  We wanted to save money and park in the most amazing places on the planet.

Boondocking opens up so many opportunities as you can get the best views, places for the kids to run and be loud without campgrounds getting upset, being remote and alone so you have time to enjoy the landscape around you.  In order to accomplish this, I knew that we needed a much larger solar setup.  I started researching the best hardware options and configurations available for RV’ers.

Hardware list:

(4) 260 Watt Canadian Solar Panels wired in series parallel

Midnight Solar breaker box and breakers

2 Gauge wire from roof to batteries and solar controller

Morningstar TriStar MPPT 60 solar controller

(6) Full-River 105 Amp Hour 12-volt AGM batteries

Xantrex PROsign 2.0 2000-Watt Inverter wired with 2/0 Wire

Sirus Solar DS-201 Network Enabled Monitor

With this system, we are able to run (2) residential refrigerators, all the electrical outlets in the RV, charge our batteries, and make it through the night in any environment.  The item’s we cannot run is our air conditioners, electric heaters, and central vacuum.   These items have too much of a load and either our batteries would drain to quickly or the inverter would overload and shut off to prevent damage.  If we need to run these items, we can run our generator.  We also substitute the solar with the generator on cloudy days where the sun is not producing enough electricity to charge our batteries.

After owning a Morningstar TriStar MPPT 60 solar controller for about a year now, the one thing that the device is lacking frommpptcontroller the controller is reporting and monitoring.  Yes, the Morningstar has a built in webserver and does have reporting features but it is very hard to get any useable reports and graphs from the device.  The Morningstar has 2 ways to communicate with it.  You can connect to it by RS232 serial connection or you can use the built in LAN adapter.  Most computers today do not have RS232 serial ports on them, so you will need a serial to USB device to connect to the unit if you choose this method.  LAN is much easier but you will need a Windows computer with the MSView software you can download from Morningstar’s website.  The software is not supported on any other platform but Windows Operating Systems.  If you are not familiar with the software, you will find it very difficult to configure and run reports, graphs, and other data metrics that you may be wanting.

sirussolarIn order to combat this issue, I found a 3rd party add-on piece.  The Sirus Solar DS-201 Network Enabled Monitor.  Sirus Solar also has a DS-202 model for those using 2 Morningstar solar controllers.  This device connects to the RS232 serial port on the Morningstar solar controller, an AC adapter or DC hardwire connection for power, and an Ethernet cable for network communication.  Setup on the monitor is quick and simple.  After you have all the wires connected, you go to a computer or mobile device to access the webserver.  You will find the setup tab where you then can either choose DHCP or static IP addressing, serial port configuration, device user name and password setup, time and time zone / NTP configuration, and email setup for system reports and alerts to your inbox.

SetupSS

After your configuration is complete, you can start having fun with the DS-201.  As you can see from the image below, you have all your important views on the “Main” tab.  This included battery charge status, solar charging amps, AMP hours, kilowatt hours, and it even reports as to how much avoided CO2 emissions you did not generate due to using your solar system for charging batteries.  Also important elements are the status of your solar controller and a graph overview of kilowatt-hours and emissions avoided.  All this data is reported to you in real-time as well as the “monitor” tab discussed below.

mainSS

If you click on the “Monitor” tab, a small meter comes up with battery charge status, battery volts, battery temp, array volts, and charge amps.  This is the amp’s going into your batteries from your solar controller.  You also have total watt-hours for the day, amps hours, controller state, and if the controller has any faults going on.

monitorSS

In my opinion, the strongest feature that the Sirus DS-201 has is the graphing capabilities.  This was my biggest complaint with the Morningstar MSView software and Sirus Solar has nailed this!  As you can see from the screen capture below, you get a 7-day to 5-year overview all in one spot with an easy to understand output.  You get battery status, array current and avoided emissions on one simple page.

GraphSS

The one thing that the DS-201 I feel is missing that is important is how many watts your solar panels are generating.  I know that I have 1040 watt max solar array system and I would like to know how much watts are being sent down to the controller in real-time without having to do the math converting amps to watts.  I have contacted Sirus Solar on this and they are open to the possible of adding this feature in the future with a simple software upgrade.

Steps For Version Upgrade when available by Sirus Solar:

1 – Download and unzip Autoupdate program.
2 – Download and unzip file version Sirussolar_vX_X.zip
3 – Export graph data before upgrading. ALL DATA WILL BE RESET ON UPGRADE.
4 – Document all setup configuration data as THIS SETUP DATA WILL BE DEFAULTED.
5 – Run Autoupdate program. Click find to find your DS-201 on the network.
6 – Click browse to find the upgrade file you downloaded, SirusSolar_vX_X_APP.s19
7 – Click the checkbox  “Reboot when complete”
8 – Click the Update button. DO NOT TURN OFF POWER while uploading.
9 – Your web server will reboot after upgrading is complete.

SSDevice

I would recommend the DS-201 to anyone with the Morningstar solar controllers due to its robust features, the ability the view your solar system from a network device LAN or from the Internet.  The support team at Sirus Solar is top notch and if you feel an add-on to the software should be made, they are willing to listen and possible add this in their enhancements list.  At a price of $269.00 without a monthly subscription fee, this monitoring device is a solid investment and compliment to your solar monitoring system.

(Example of MSView Software and webserver)

MSViewEx1


MSViewEX2FtF Solar Setup Pictures:

SolarPic1

The Road to Hell, has rusty king pins

chrisadmin No Comments

They say, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” and we totally agree – having driven down that road one too many times.

Today we ALMOST got a truck stuck to a 5th wheel.  Well, that’s not exactly true… Chris totally got a truck stuck to a 5th wheel.  Mind you, it wasn’t his truck OR his fifth wheel.

It was the McCloskey’s “new to them” set up.  But before we get into the whole, “oh shot, it’s totally stuck” part, I want to talk a bit about their story – which I find both interesting and inspirational.

The McCloskey’s have been in Menifee, CA for a few months.  They were fulltiming in a Class A, but they really didn’t want embark on their “big trip” until they found a 5th wheel with just the right layout for their family of 5.

I had been Facebook Friends with Margie McCloskey for a while, but we hadn’t actually met in person until we pulled into the Wilderness Lakes TT in Menifee.

It was a serendipitous meeting, as the Coast to Coast Trips pulled in on the same day.

Margie told us that they had actually bought a Rear Kitchen 5th wheel through a repo auction and they were looking to flip it to get a bunkhouse.

After touring the Trips camper (which originally was a rear living room) Margie, and her husband Sean, were inspired to keep the rear kitchen and redesign the living space.

So began demolition (Chris’ contribution) and construction (Allen and Margie Lundy’s contribution) on the 5th wheel.

The McCloskey’s added two bunks in the main living area, tore out the majority of the carpeting and replaced the flooring with vinyl tiles, and painted.

Looking at it makes me feel that our long hard search for a bunkhouse was in vain.

Although we like our bunkhouse, being in the Trips or the McCloskey families’ rvs feels so much cozier (ug – did I really just say that?  how could living in 350 sq ft no matter what the configuration, not be cozy?)

So back to getting it stuck.  Well, after we ripped out all the resale value of their camper, we quickly pulled up the stabilizers and headed out of town for what was supposed to be 6 months.

We made it a month before the moving bug got the best of us, and we pulled back into Menifee – helping the McCloskeys tie up the loose ends of their remodel and also fortunate to have the company of the “other Margie” and her Lundy 5.

In anticipation of their eminent departure, the McCloskey’s bought a 350 dually that came equipped with a king pin, brake controller, and a fuzzy carpet on the dashboard.

The king pin was just on the verge of the privileged title of “antique” but the men (Allen, Chris, and Sean) went with – “they don’t make ‘em like this anymore” and hooked up the fiver.   Did they need to move the camper? No.  Where they going to pull it out of the spot? No.  Back up a bit? No.

Just like the little boys sleeping peacefully in my bunkhouse right now – It was a toy the big boys (ok- Chris) couldn’t resist.

All was going well, until… it came time to detach the truck from the camper.  That’s when they realized the enormous collection of rust on the BOTTOM of the hitch.

There was much, pulling, tugging, gnashing of teeth – but the two would not come apart.  So more pulling ensued followed by tools with other intended uses… that were employed to “gain leverage” and “pry them apart”.

Eventually (after 15 minutes or so) they were able to free the truck from the grips of the hitch – but not before they considered unbolting the king pin from the truck bed.

Tonight’s lesson – don’t let your good intentions cause your friends grief.

Kimberly Travaglino is the author of “How to Hit the Road”, a comprehensive step-by-step guide for making your family’s full time RV dreams a reality.  She also serves as the Editor of Fulltime Families Magazine, a company that supports risk takers, pioneers, and enlightened families blazing their own path across the country.

Keeping House

chrisadmin No Comments

When you live in an rv full time with kids, things get messy, all the time.

I know I shouldn’t complain, since in reality it takes me about 30 minutes to clean the entire camper – but sometimes I wonder if in reality, I am spending more 30 minute cleaning increments than I did in my sticks and bricks.

How could that be?  Well, when everything you own has to always be put up for you to have room to walk, you notice immediately when ANYTHING is left out.

Tonight for instance, as I type, there is a beach bag and a pool float on the floor (it’s November), the toys boxes are out, there are computers all over the kitchen table and dishes in the sink.

It probably doesn’t sound like a big deal – but in 350 sq feet of living space, clutter has a way of building up FAST.

So, tomorrow morning will be spent, putting everything away, only to have it all pulled out again in 5 minutes.

Such is the life of fulltiming with kids.  It’s a constant ebb and flow of stuff in and out.

I find the camper looks the best right before we pull out the chucks and head to greener pastures.  That’s when everything has finally made it to its special spot, and the counters are empty enough to be wiped down.

I only have a minute or two to enjoy the “wide open space” before the outside stuff has to come in and take up any available room.

Living in an rv full time with kids means straightening up full time.  If you maintain a rapid travel pace, it means, packing and unpacking, a lot.

If your kids are old enough to help out, putting them in charge of cleaning up their toys does help to reduce some of the chaos – but only partially.

Kimberly Travaglino is the author of “How to Hit the Road”, a comprehensive step-by-step guide for making your family’s full time RV dreams a reality.  She also serves as the Editor of Fulltime Families Magazine, a company that supports risk takers, pioneers, and enlightened families blazing their own path across the country.

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