Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Some RVing updates

After researching and posting the depressing, infuriating GYN cancer statistics yesterday, I think it’s time for a day off from #GynCAN to get back to happier stuff we’d much rather post and read about…pretty pictures and RV mods!

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I’m preparing to shove off today from my summertime roost in Chicago and start my journey West.  When fog starts covering the prairie at night, it’s a sure sign that cooler temperatures are on their way.

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So it’s time to start flapping my wings to head to warmer temps to maintain my year-round “80 degree sunny” days!  I sure will miss this prairie…

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The past week has been filled with finishing up some final projects and updates to the RV.  First, my sister Holley delivered my fabulous new dinette cushions!

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She basically took the old J-bed foam, striped fabric, and zippers and we added some new monotone fabric for the seats.  Ever wonder what the original J-bed “frame within the mattress” looked like?  Well here it is:

frame inside old mattressframe removed from old mattress

Once Holley wrangled the frame out, she was able to reuse the foam for the new dinette seat cushions.  In addition to thicker foam, the new dinette benches also now have some “spring” to them rather than just the OEM solid piece of plywood. 

I bought a set of Luroy twin bed slats from IKEA (for a measly $30!), divided them in half so I’d have slats for each bench, and then had Mike cut me 4 small boards from 1/2” plywood (as the original Winnie framing did not cover each corner of the dinette and was not quite wide enough for the slats).

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When the slats are laid out over the base, I now have a dinette cushion with some “spring” to it.  It’s a definite improvement in comfort!

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The next project was to replace my “Skinnie Solar” rooftop panels.  While the 300-watt Renogy bendable system had started out so good last September, and did great over the Winter and into the Spring….

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Once my RV sat in storage for June and July under the hot Chicago sun (with the panels not having much to charge each day), the 90-degree heat got the best of them.  Even though I had installed them to allow for some airflow underneath each panel, the rear panel backing just was not thick enough to deal with the summertime heat buildup from the solar cells.  Thankfully, I had used 3M ClickLock (rather than glue and caulk), so that de-installation was a fast and easy job.  But, wow, what a mess underneath (where the panels actually burned some “shadows” onto my fiberglass roof).

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I still had one unused bendable panel in my cargo bay, so it was easy to test each rooftop panel against a “norm.”  The rooftop panels (one on the left) showed some graying of its top plastic cover after a year, but the biggest culprit was that they no longer generated any amps or maintained a consistent voltage (readings on the failed panels would vary wildly from 5 to 11 volts in full sun, whereas the unused panel generated 20 volts consistently).

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So, I hoped for the best as I called Renogy to request a warranty claim.  To my great relief and delight, their Tech Support and Customer Service folks were all outstanding.

They admitted that they were now hearing of many bendable panel failures from this past summer, and they even had now stopped selling them temporarily until a revised design can be completed and tested in the coming months.

As they had no current bendable replacement panels to ship me, Customer Service offered to give me a 100% refund of my purchase price, or ship me replacement “traditional” panels.  They also sent boxes and a shipping label to return the old panels back to them.  Impressive! Way beyond my expectations!

I decided to have them send me 2 traditional panels and refund me the balance.  Since traditional panels weigh about 18 lbs each (with mounting hardware) vs. the 4 lbs each for bendables, I didn’t want to add any more weight to my rig than I had to.

So, I decided to buy the pricey AM Solar mounts and tilt bars to make these 200 rooftop watts as efficient as possible, and if they’d still ever even more of a boost at times, I’d add my remaining 100-watt bendable panel to the mix as a portable.

I’ve now updated My Solar page to show the new panel installation and new AM Solar mounts.  Hoping this “Version 2.0” will now last me a good long time!

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23 comments:

  1. How wonderful to get a complete refund - what a quality company. I love my solar panels - I wouldn't want to travel in an RV without them. Safe travels to you. :)

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    1. Yes, even though most of their reps sound fresh out of high school, they've always been very customer-oriented and excellent to work with. I' still highly recommend Renogy.

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  2. Thanks for sharing the info on the Renogy Flexible panels. I have one of their flexible and one rigid panel in my portable setup. I've used it about 4 times so far. The flexible is so much lighter and easier to store. Will keep an eye on my output to see if I end up with the same problem. Thanks for sharing.
    J. Dawg

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    1. As long as you're just using as a portable, and being sure to not put it on a flat hard surface during a hot day, you should be fine

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  3. Woah.. thanks so much for sharing about the untimely demise of your Renogy panels (and super impressed with their customer support around the issue). Since we opted to go with the AMSolar glass panels & mounts instead of flexible, it's great to get some first hand reports from someone who tried the flexible on their roof. We've added a link to this article in our solar round-up at www.technomadia.com/solar.

    We continue to use our flexibles for ground deployment and will continue testing over time.

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    1. Yes, you certainly made the right decision to opt out of bendables for your roof and go with glass. Even though they cost a small fortune, I'm really liking the AM Solar mounts and tilt bars-- really nice quality!

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  4. That is amazing customer service, can't beat that.

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    1. It's nice to know there are some companies still out there who value their customers!

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  5. Amazing improvement to the dinette cushions - your sister is a very good seamstress - very good match of fabric at the seams. The two of you work well together with the help of you brother-in-law - that sure is a win for you.

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    1. Holley & Mike did all the work for these home improvements. I sure am grateful for the comfy digs!

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  6. Interesting problem on the flexible panels. I would love to think we can stay out of 90 degree heat, but this makes me question the lighter and flexible is better assumption I've been making. Have to rethink this. Thank you for sharing. The cancer stats are depressing, but so important to share, understand and advocate for research. Keep up the great job on keeping us informed my hystersister.

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    1. Thanks Karen. Yes, Renogy has now pulled the flex panels off their website, and likely won't rush to sell them again until they can have great confidence that the technology will hold up to hot summers and traveling down US highways atop an RV at 70 mph. In the meantime, using a flex panel as a portable (and stowing it out of the elements when not in use) seems to be working for many, but these panels only came w/5 yr warranties, so time will tell.

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  7. Wow your RV is really getting pimped up. Great news on the solar panel situation. We don't have the tilt bars, you are top notch. Lovethe photos of your camping area views.

    FYI, I finally posted and did share a link to your site re the cancer stats and what it is all about.

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    1. Thanks for spreading the word about #GynCAN on your blog. The more we can share the info, the more women it can help!

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  8. Its nice to see this company has such great customer service, not something you find around much these days.
    I love the new cushions and the fact that the back ones have a rounded shape instead of the flat you usually get which is so hard on a back. Safe travels

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    1. Yes, they now fit the curve of my back perfectly! Of course, it means the dinette now makes for a bit lumpier bed at one end, but the dinette is only 67" wide, so very useful as a bed anyway!

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  9. That's a great idea … the slats. I'll have to copy that for my dinette this winter. Thanks!

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    1. No permanent changes required, so you can always revert back to OEM if desired. While the IKEA slats are an improvement, I'm eager to try the new Froli OnTo seat springs that will be coming to the U.S. later this year. If they do for seat cushions what their sleep springs do for beds, it will be a heavenly solution!

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  10. Some god work was done over the last few weeks. Are you using the lights on the ground around the roof as a critter deterrent?

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    1. Ha ha--- good eye! I was just testing that out in Illinois. It had not gotten cold enough there for critters to start seeking shelter in RVs. But when I'm at Bosque this Fall, pack rats can be a problem, so I've now got a dusk/dawn switch

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  11. I still wonder - what if the panels were flat mounted onto a thin piece of plexi or similar. Some thin firm surface.

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