misc: wildfire smoke, rice pudding, neighbor Russell

I thought it looked hazy this morning. I checked the wildfire map and there is a new fire about 20mi SE of here. Leadville is the dot in the center of the map.

The Sylvan fire is to the NW, but hasn’t been much of a smoke problem here so far. Here are the mountains to the south before, and again today:

now you see them now you don't

I wasn’t trying to make a comparison pic so it doesn’t line up that well. The little lean-to is a tarp over my portable water containers, loo, etc. I’m going into town next week for errands (general delivery, etc) and thought I’d leave the stuff out while I do.

solar harvest under the haze

The haze must not be as thick as it looks because I was able to pull 500w from the main array when I cranked up a rice pudding experiment in the rice cooker.

I’ve done it before in the crockpot but cleanup was difficult. The rice cooker has a teflon bowl which should make cleanup easier. I’m a bit worried the ~300w cooker will be too much heat for the dish, though. Right now I have the lid off to keep it from boiing over.

some recent solar numbers

That reminds me, yesterday I saw some new maximum numbers:

  • maxxed out the 50A controller for the first time (698w @ ~14v) briefly. I was cooking in the crockpot when dark clouds came over. When the clouds passed the system came back with a vengeance to recover float voltage. Most of the time in heavy use it hovers around 30A (~425w).
  • later in the afternoon the portables were carrying the background loads and the main array was loafing (3w). It had to go way above Vmp (30.1v for each panel) to reduce current so I saw the highest-yet Vpanel: 37.1v. The panel spec for Voc is 37.6 and ambient temps had to be putting downward pressure on that value, so I think we were right up against Voc under local conditions.


My neighbor Russell is three weeks into vanlife in a early-90s VW Westfalia. It has a pop-top, kitchenette, etc. It’s a foxy little thing, and a Synchro (4wd) VW would be tempting if I won the lottery. A 4wd Transit would make more sense, but the heart wants what it wants. That kind of dreaming probably deserves its own post.

Back to Russell’s van. That vintage was still aircooled but the Previous Owner had done the popular Subaru engine swap. He’s a wise fellow, making incremental changes while he figures out nomadic life.

He was struggling with keeping his Battle Born charged with 200w of portable panel under cloud cover so the haze and partial cloudy conditions today can’t be doing him any favors. He was thinking about adding another BB, but I suspect adding a small DC-DC charger would be better bang-for-buck: $100 for a Renogy 20A vs $1000 for another BB. He mentioned there is a pre-existing isolator for an AGM that hasn’t been removed yet, but I didn’t process the info during our conversation.

I think I’d

  1. sell/donate/recycle the AGM
  2. put the BB in the AGM’s spot
  3. daisy-chain the DC-DC off the isolator (if voltage-sensing) or at off the isolator’s charging and trigger wiring (if a solenoid).

Leaving a voltage-sensing relay in place, if present, would have no downside and would avoid having to run a separate trigger wire. If I were ever to replace my bank with Li and add DC-DC charging I’d leave the Battery Doctor VSR in place for triggering purposes.

I’ll mention this possibility next time we talk.

rice pudding update

The rice cooker shut off after about an hour. It’s still more of a slurry so I will let it coast on the WARM setting it dropped back to. I think the rice needs another half-hour of soaking up the hot milk. But it didn’t scorch, which was my main concern.


twitter comment thread for this post