We hoped that we had a fully off-grid power solution with 200 watts of solar panels fixed on our roof charging our second battery during daylight hours. However, for the first time in 80 days away from home we experienced power issues. Behind out front passenger seat we have a 28 litre capacity Waeco compressor fridge – sufficient for milk, butter, a few yoghurts, cheese, salami and a couple of beers. Last night, soon after the compressor came on, it would cut out.
After seeking the advice of fellow members of the VW California forum, it seems the issue is one of low voltage from our leisure (as opposed to starter) battery. This is probably because our leisure battery isn’t fully charging.
i checked the solar charger in the boot, it was showing the leisure battery charged to 2 bars out of 5 (30% to 50%), and 12.5 volts. The panels were generating 0.4 amps at 14 volts, a tiny 5 or 6 watts. The campsite is well-shaded by mature trees, and we are parked directly under a tree:
When the voltage to the fridge drops, the fridge cuts out to avoid draining a car’s starter battery. The bods at Waeco know that some cars have leisure batteries, and that running them down to low voltage is not such a problem, and the fridge has a setting “hi”, “nd”, or “lo” referring to the voltage cutout point. I knew all this after reading the manual when I first bought the fridge, but over time the knowledge had evaporated from my head.
I set the fridge to “lo”, and it worked again. Before we left for the beach, soon after midday, some sun was filtering through the trees to the panels giving 5.6 amps and 17 volts. The battery was showing 4 out of 5 bars (70% to 90%) and over 13 volts.
While daylight lasted for between 18 and 24 hours in murky Scandinavia, we can expect it to drop below 10 hours in Southern Europe, 9h 31mn in Palermo on Ben’s birthday (the shortest day of the year, north of the tropics, falls either on my birthday or Ben’s birthday each year).
The lesson for us is to camp somewhere where the panels will get direct daylight at some point in the day.
We had another lovely day paddling on the beach, marred only by a Frenchman whipping Meg with his dog’s lead after Meg had a minor fracas with his dog. I might have understood if it had been during the argument that he attacked Meg, but his attack came after I had recalled her from the other dog and she was submitting to me. I wanted to retaliate against him with our dog’s lead, but Clare wouldn’t let me. She was probably right: it would make me no better than him.