Wednesday, October 22, 2014

DYI: RV Alternate Power Souces Including Generators and Solar

We hope to create a live discussion on the different sources of power for your RV/Trailer/Boat, or "off grid" living.

Offered initially to get the discussion going is a simplified block diagram.  This shows the following power sources:

Generator source 110V AC
Shore/RV Park/Commercial Power source 110V AC
Solar Collector source Unregulated DC
Vehicle source 12V DC
Wind/Water Turbine source (are other options not shown)

The diagram also shows the placement of components to produce usable regulated 110V AC, as well as regulated 12V DC.  Some of the components are:

Transfer Switches (Can be manual or automated)
110V AC to 12V DC Converter+Charger
Battery Isolators
Solar Panel Combiner
Solar Controllers
Power Distribution and fuses/breakers
12V DC to 110V AC Inverter 

The rule of thumb in calculating solar requirements is "one 80 Watt panel and one 105 AH rated (or better) battery per person".  This compensates for fact the panels do not always operate at 100% of their rating.  This is overkill for minimalists or frugal power users, but will also be under the requirements of others that have more requirements.  Remember you can only take as much out of a battery, that has been stored into it.

Many devices consume your power.  Propane and CO2 detectors as well as electronic devices, even though turned off, have circuitry still working and consuming power to provide "instant on" or to hold memory.


Another option for about $100 is to use one of the portable jump start units that are starting to show up on the market.  Some now have built in 110V AC inverters.


I used and tested a Schumacher XP2260 portable jump start unit. It has a built in 110V AC Inverter rated at 400watts/1200watt peak surge. It also has a couple 12V DC connectors and a couple USB Charging ports. In addition it has a compressor, emergency LED white light, and digital monitoring of the power.  Not to mention its main purpose of being able to jump start a vehicle (If the charge is full)

The XP2260 is rated at 22 AH (Amp hours) which is about one forth the rule of thumb for a 80 watt panel and one battery solar set up. While this device can't power a microwave it can do many other things. I recently ran my laptop playing a DVD. It played the whole movie. The meter said I had 54% of a charge left. I am not sure it was fully charged when I started so more testing is needed. This device easily charges off a 400Watt inverter I have plugged into the cigarette lighter of my tow vehicle while I am driving. I am thinking this XP2260 could probably power a DVD and a newer Flat screen TV (they use less power) through at least one movie. I am planning on testing this theory out on one of my next outings in which I am unable to sit around a campfire.  

Another fun test on the XP2260 would be to connect a solar panel and controller that outputs 12V DC to the input of an inverter, say a cheap 400 Watt type.  That also might require a battery in between the solar controller and the inverter input?  Then plug the XP2260 into the inverter 110V AC output to charge the XP2260?   You then have portable power to use through the night to charge up digital devices via its USB ports, use the 12V sockets to power those types of devices, and with the built in 400 Watt inverter also have 110V AC for lower load type household devices.  

TESTING OF THE XP2269   10/24/14 

We performed a Test of the XP2260 in powering a 110V AC TV, and a 110V AC DVD player.  The XP2260 was fully charged (13.6 Volts) just prior to commencing with the test.  We wanted to prove the XP2260 would power both devices that are normal household voltage (110V AC).  The XP2260 was used in the “Inverter” mode and not connected to any other power source during testing.  We took the ratings off the sticker on the back of both the TV and the DVD player.

32 inch Flat Screen rated at           1 AMP
Blue Ray DVD Player rated at         3 AMP
Total Calculated AMPs per hours     4 AMP

Estimate length of Play time         3 hours

We ran the TV and DVD continuously to watch a movie for 3 hours.  We found an Actual AMP meter fluctuated between 2.8 and 3.4 AMPs during play.  Our findings are the actual AMP hours used, was more like an average of 3 AMPs per hour.  Not at the sticker rated values that indicated it would be 4 AMPs per hour.   We were pleased with that fact.  

We further calculate the numbers for the 3 hours of play time

Calculated AMP usage for 3 hours X 4 AMPs = 12 AMPs
Actual AMP usage for 3 hours X 3 AMPS       =   9 AMPS

After disconnecting all load devices from the XP2260 at the end of the 3 hour movie play, the XP2260 meter indicated there was still an 80% charge. The fully charged voltage of 13.6 volts was now down to 12.5 volts. Since the XP2260 is rated at a maximum storage of 22 AMPs, we were surprised the reading wasn’t closer to 50%.  It is quite possible the depletion rate when using the built in inverter, under load, accelerates faster toward the end of discharge?   We plan further testing on a longer duration to provide those results as well.

The conclusion of the test we set out to satisfy is this.  The XP2260 is quite capable of providing enough stored energy to power both the TV and DVD we used, play for 3 hours, and have plenty of power left over.

Our next test will be to play two movies, back to back, to test the endurance for that length of play.  


Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Cuisinart LP Grill : Model  CGG-200

Cuisinart Grill - Model CGG-200 (Folding base stand not shown)

After putting this grill to the test for several years we offer the following unbiased evaluation.


Depending on your shopping abilities you should be able to buy one of these in the $150 to $199 range.


We rate this high for portability and more than adequate as a grilling surface for 4 to 6 people.  This is our choice for RVers, weekend campers. tailgaters. and picnic goers .  While it might not be recommended or intended for use on a plastic surface, we have used this on top of folding plastic tables without damage to the tables. Metal picnic table tops, the folding metal grill base, or even cooking on the ground would avoid any danger of damage.  There are even folding tables on the market now with one side having metal mesh for camp stoves.  Seems these hybrid camping tables might be ideal for the grill, but we have not tried these tables out. (Readers that have, please send us photos and info).


Our unit was purchased with a folding/collapsible  base stand.  We have never used it.  We find this grill convenient to carry in our RV.  Just the grill section for use on folding tables or available picnic tables.  We place the grill on a large cookie sheet during storage to avoid grease drips damaging wood or carpeting.  We have used this grill with the small disposable screw on green 16 oz LP tanks. While it works great this way, connection to a 20lb is our preferred method.

Optional LP Hose for use with 20lb BBQ size tank

An optional hose can be purchased at most hardware, camping,  or sporting goods stores.  Make sure you get the correct extension hose with the proper connectors to attach to the grill and the larger LP tanks.  The LP Pressure regulator is built into the grill at the control valve.  You will not need the type of extension hose that has a regulator attached.  The common Coleman brand hoses work just fine.  Using a 20lb tank is much more economical and also prevents running out of LP during cooking.





This model of grill heats up faster than most cheaper portable grills.  Believe us when we say we have tried other table top versions.  The cheaper ones are difficult to generate enough heat to cook properly with, especially in any type of wind.  Also don't take any of this as meaning this grill is only for portable use.  It would also provide great service at home on the patio.  It is just smaller than a traditional patio grill, and the CGG-200 only has one burner.  That one burner is able to adjust to different cooking temperatures. 


The grilling surface is approximately 13X17 inches.  It has two swing out side table surfaces that lock into place.  One adjustable 12,000 BTU burner, Temperature gauge, ignition start, and a removable drip catcher.  The housing and swing out side tables are stainless steel. 


After several years of service we did start having trouble with the regulator.  While researching the issue we ran into a couple negative comments concerning Cuisinarts customer service.  We were pleasantly surprised to find we received excellent customer service once we made contact.  We were attempting to find out if there had been a recall on the regulator/valve assembly.  There had not....but their customer service had a new part shipped to my front door in 5 days.  The part came at no charge and I was more than happy to swap out the parts.  It quickly fixed my problem and we hope to enjoy more years of use.


We rate the CGG-200 with the highest marks for the years of service we had without problems.  When you get great customer service standing behind the just made us want to pass the word.


We did find out the proper place to go for customer service on this product is not directly to Cuisinart, but to: 

The Fulman Group

Cuisinart Grilling



We intend to also update this article with photos and tips on the reassembly of the ignitor, should you take that apart.  There is a definite learning curve.  Especially if you remove the cover and the spring and parts all go flying!  Ask me how I know that.  LOL


Sunday, October 12, 2014


RECIPE: Pumpkin Biscuits
Recipe and Photo Submitted by Rick Beach

Also see our variation of this as Sweet Potato Biscuits


1 15 oz can       Canned Pumpkin
3/4 Cup            Dry powdered milk
Water (Add enough water to the 3/4 cup powdered milk to equal 1 cup of liquid milk
5 Tbsp              Agave Sweetener
1/8 tsp              Ground Nutmeg
1/8 tsp              Ground Clove
1 tsp                 Cinnamon

3 Cups Flour
3 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
3/4 tsp Salt
3/4 Cup Crisco or cold butter diced in 1/4 inch cubes

In a mixing combine the pumpkin, dry milk, agave, and water together, then whisk together.  Add the Nutmeg, Cloves, Cinnamon..  Whisk well.  This should be a wet pasty mixture.  About the consistency of cake batter.  Set aside

In another mixing bowl make basic biscuit mix by adding the Flour, Baking Powder, Baking Soda, and salt.  Whisk or sift these dry ingredients.  Next "cut in" the Crisco until the mixture is crumbly.

Next scrape the wet pumpkin mixture in on top the the biscuit mix.  Stir and fold until combined.  Do not over mix.  Adjust flour or water to get to biscuit dough to correct consistency (Just beyond the sticky stage) Roll out about 1 inch thick on a floured bread board.  Cut biscuits 2 1/2 to 2/3/4 inch diameter (Biscuit cutter or top of a drinking glass works fine)  Once the biscuits are all cut (this size makes about 10-15) cover them on the floured bread board with a towel and let them set at room temperature for about 15 minutes.

Preheat oven or Dutch Oven to 400° 

Place cut biscuits in a well greased Dutch Oven and bake at 400° for about 20 minutes.  I tested these in the kitchen oven using a cast iron "chicken fryer" with no lid.  I also did two of them on a cookie sheet.  The cookie sheet biscuits were starting to burn on the bottom, at 15 minutes.  The cast iron cooked great at 20 minutes. Adjust your baking time accordingly.

We served these hot with butter along with a bowl of Chicken soup.  We used the Chicken soup recipe found on this blog.