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Collected words of wisdom


“[solar powered A/C is] not a lost cause.. we just seem to be at that frustrating cusp where it's technically possible with current technology, just not easy or cheap.” – thatswhatsup1)
Running AC on [an inverter] is rich man's game – HaldorEE2)

alternator charging

With a few basic design considerations, and an alternator design newer than 25 years old, a direct charging system [for LiFePO4]can be safe, effective, and provide significant benefits. - midwestdrifter3)


“Think of the batteries as a bucket of electricity. It's possible to pour water from multiple sources into a bucket at the same time, and also to do that while water is leaking out of the bucket.” – MarkSF4)
“Three stage chargers are easier on your batteries, charge them faster, fuller and help you use less water.“ – handybob5)
“it behooves you to know how to keep the [AGM] princess supermodel working as hard as a thick ankled farmgirl.” – SternWake6)
“I don't think any battery is going to out cycle a 6v flooded golf cart battery. These are simply the most tolerant of the type of usage typically seen in this lifestyle.” – SternWake7)
“While AGMs are considered a no maintenance battery if they were a person… they would be considered high maintenance… and only with a surplus of everything they want could they be kept happy.” – SternWake8)
”[LiFePO4] batteries do not need to get back to 100% SOC, ever“ – MaineSail9)
“Generally, gel and AGM batteries have about 20% less capacity, cost about two times more, and have a shorter cycle life than comparable flooded lead acid batteries.” – Trojan10)
“Manufacturer recommendations are blanket recommendations basically to minimize warranty returns, not an optimized recommendation for a specific usage recharge regimen.” – SternWake11)
“Watching how many amps a charging battery is accepting at absorption voltage, is very indicative of state of charge, the less the amps the more charged.” – sternwake12)
“As long as… you cycle the battery daily, you could set float voltage to [Vabs] too without worry. Only when you stop cycling the battery do you need to return float voltage to more regular 13.2v levels.” – sternwake13)
> Charging lead acid batteries is not something that you decide to do, or start or stop. The old statement, “I need to idle the engine for a few minutes to “top off” the batteries.” is a prescription for turning expensive batteries into paper weights. You want a system that puts the batteries on charge automatically, every time there is even a single ray of sun or that your engine is running – DiploStrat14)
The bottom line is that current simply flows where it is needed, batteries will take what they need when batteries are combined, and the voltage becomes equal among the new combined bank. Unless your charger, alternator or solar/wind system is pumping out an incorrect voltage for you bank you will not over charge using an ACR. - mainesail15)
Bulk charging requires current. Absorption requires relatively high voltage and time at that voltage. - secessus
[lead-chemistry] Batteries must be mildly overcharged often to minimize sulfation spotting. It really turns out to be a race between the disease or the cure, and if mildly overcharged, the cure wins 99% of the time. The “disease” in this case being excessive shedding of positive plate material. The cure being a mild overcharge. - MexicoWanderer16)
Pricing of lithium-ion batteries is slowly changing from obscenely expensive to only moderately unaffordable… – Rob Beckers17)
Bottom line, stay within the [LiFePO4] manufacturer recommended specs, and you should be fine, go beyond that (more conservative) and you should be extra fine. – Dzl
Battery banks with multiple parallel batteries can live a long life if they spend a lot of time in float in order to balance with each other. Battery banks with multiple parallel batteries that have a deep daily DOD and spend very little time in float will die young with big imbalances between strings. Battery banks with multiple parallel batteries that get cycled deeply, but also spend a lot of time in float – will be fine. – Marc Kurth18)
Adding more battery capacity is akin to opening a new bank account without increasing your income. - Peter_n_Margaret19)

consumer culture

“It's so weird, isn't it? We buy the bills of goods society tells us, we work hard, we save, pay our taxes, be good solid citizens; but as we age we look around ourselves and wonder why we did it, to what end. ” - Queen20)
“Intentionally reducing consumption is confusing and subversive…” – John61CT21)


….the solar oven is a very good mimic of a crock pot slow cooker - Bob Wells22)
A microwave oven is rated for 'cooking power', which is always less than the UL rating of wattage on the label. - tx2sturgis23)
Spend the next month at home practicing. Only cook meals that you'll be able to cook on the road. Limit yourself to the cookware you'll have. If you have to ask, I suspect cooking with these limitations is new to you. Best to learn at home so you're prepared. It'll also help you identify cookware essentials. See how much you can do with limited pots/pans/utensils and no appliances. Get used to living without a fridge and microwave for leftovers. It's a steep learning curve. You can make great food on the road with those limitations, but if you're not prepared, you'll come to dread dinnertime. - jimheim24)


Home is where your dog is. – Jora25)


There is a famous saying that “no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy”. A vanlife corallary is ”few vanlife dreams survive first contact with math“ -secessus26)
vandwelling won't solve any issues that lie between your own ears. Van life is just life, in a van. It's not a magical cure for “life”. – lennyflank27)
The road to vandwelling is paved with the shards of crushed and broken dreams. It is a lifestyle that chews the fantasy-prone up and spits them out. Watching it happen all the damn time gets disheartening after a while… But, sadly, some people just HAVE to piss on the electric fence for themselves.28)


I need to remember to stay on topic. It's like laying sod, “green side up, green side up…” – dusty9829)
[You're] adding new constraints to the solution. Be specific, and don't hide information. – jgh30)


“The best way to save anything is to not to waste what you have already.” - jimindenver31)
There is little doubt in my mind that it is possible to live the RV life on the income that you propose. On the other hand, the real question should be, “Can we live the fulltime RV life on $X/year.” Almost as important is the question, if we do choose to do this, will we be able to enjoy our life while doing so? - Kirk W32)
patience is one of the key foundations of frugality – Kaylee_Fawkes33)

getting started

“I'd be leaving planning mode behind and get into doing mode ASAP” - rvpopeye34)
We have a lot of people here who get all excited, move into a van, then quit after just a couple months. The fact that they get disillusioned means they were “illusioned” to begin with. So don't be “illusioned”. – lennyflank35)
Step 1 in any design is to really understand your use.– jracca36)
Vanlife is just camping/glamping perpetually. – tatertom37)
In general, people should FIRST aim for a realistic goal, achieve it, then systematically improve on it, while accepting that 100% perfection/efficiency does not Occur In Nature. – Kaylee38)
Having a van doesn’t make you a different person… – myPCisCursed39)
I would recommend starting with downsizing your material possessions. – undeadtech40)
Spend more on the van, spend less on the build. You'll have more fun in a reliable van with a spartan interior than on a fancy build-out that's broken down on the side of the freeway. – Princess_Fluffypants

helping others

My boot camp means you show up with the tools you want to learn how to use safely and with some degree of control and I will show you how to use them. I am not going to work on your builds or even design them for you. I am not a lady of leisure…. I will empower you just enough to pick up the tools and get some work done. - maki241)


“One can only put so much inverter on so much battery… A lot of people will put a 2KW inverter, or larger, on a single 12v battery, but this can be compared to a 5 second drag car, which uses 5 gallons of gas to run the 1/4 mile, but then only having a 2 gallon gas tank.” – SternWake42)
“Inverters are excellent battery depleters.” – sternwake43)


“What really helps both methods is the clothes I choose to begin with. They're almost exclusively campwear, beach wear, sports wear, that sort of thing. My work outfits are dark, plain-colored board shorts or swim trunks with the webbing cut out, and long-sleeve black ”DriWorks” shirts. My “going out” clothes are just decent looking performance garments meant for camping/hiking/outdoorsy stuff, and a couple decent polos. The only cotton stuff I have anymore are socks, underbritches, and a couple denim jeans that I try not to wear.“ – tatertom44)


If your everyday life, work, hobbies, etc, are fun then moving from an apartment to a van will continue the fun. If your life sucks, relocating won't fix it. In a van you still have to get groceries, shave, brush your teeth and all the other stuff you do every day. The difference is that you fit into 50 square feet instead of 500 and save some on rent. – TreborEnglish45)
That's a lot of money though to throw at something you're having a hard time fully understanding. – elonfutz46)
It always makes me laugh when people idealize vanlife as being “Simple and carefree”, because it makes it immediately clear that they've never actually done it. – Princess_Fluffypants47)


If algebra is going to keep you from making a safe build then you should probably not be taking advice from amateurs on a free forum – LetzterMensch1148)


“Downsizing daily.” – Roberta Garrett49)
”…trying to take the comfort level you had in a house into your mobile life [is] tough to do for a boondocker.“ – akrvbob50)
“Pack as if you're going out for only a week during the summer. Then add what you'd need if you were going out for only a week in winter. That should pretty much cover everything.” MrNoodly51)
“Take what you can't buy when you need it…leave the rest.” – uncledon52)
“I can't be prepared for everything I can possibly imagine, so I prepare for things that are most likely to happen.” – MrNoodly53)
“That little bed there pays for itself, a cooler, and a coleman stove on the first night. You just built yourself a significant pay raise. Congrats!” – Putts54)
You have to be ruthless. Follow the wisdom of the backpacker: “Bring what you need, and need what you bring”. – lenny flank55)
The less you 'need' the easier your van life will be. - mcchairmaster56)
If you're going to live as a nomad, you have to be willing to give up materialism and sentiment; you can't carry everything with you. – cajunwolf57)


[newbies] have no idea what they are doing, and have no way to tell who here knows what they are talking about and who doesn't. So they tend to just accept whatever “advice” tells them what they already want to hear. – lennyflank58)


”…slow may be better in the end, because the most important time is the thinking time, and that's best not rushed.“ – MsNomer59)
Most of these answers have to be provided by you if you want a system that meets your needs. You can't just hand this off without knowing what you want - vanprof60)
The biggest problem you're going to encounter is that very little will go according to plan. You'll think you're going to accomplish a task in one way . . . then you'll get halfway through, realize it won't work at all, and have to start over completely from scratch. Probably multiple times. - Princess_Fluffypants61)


“Putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.” - Seneca


“Check amps drawn over 24 hours, much more important when boondocking than purchase price.” – John62CT62)
Part of managing to lower food costs [without refrigeration] comes by figuring out how to plan meals so that you use up a container or fresh food before it has a chance to go bad. – Almost There63)
…I urban-camp almost exclusively, so I can let the supermarkets store all my groceries and just go pick up what I need as I use it – lenny flank64)


“The most important thing is to be careful, esp when you’re alone… If you can’t recognize danger when you see it, this is not the life for you.” – TrainChaser65)
If you see lizards out, then the snakes are out. – porchlightofdoom66)

social media

“I realized these were all the snapshots which our children would look at someday with wonder, thinking their parents had lived smooth, well-ordered lives and got up in the morning to walk proudly on the sidewalks of life, never dreaming the raggedy madness and riot of our actual lives, our actual night, the hell of it” — Jack Kerouac, On the Road

shore power

”…most people think that to have “RV” type shore power you need those special 30/50 amp plugs. I have a 115v plug. The male end of an extension cord (heavy gauge) that I have cable tied to the inside of my receiver hitch so it’s hidden.” – Captain_Dapper67)


“The short answer is almost anything is possible…. The longer answer is it better to stay with what is “generally done” unless you have very special needs and are into experimentation/DIY electronics.” – BB68)
“Any Solar is better than no solar, but having too much solar is difficult. The best solar systems are those which can keep the batteries the happiest. Happy batteries are those which are recharged quickly after depletion.” – SternWake69)
I'm not sure people always grasp the concept of “minimum” either; they tend to think it means “all that you really need” when it fact it means “the least you can get away with provided everything else goes right”. After all, the sun does not shine brightly every day. – Cariboocoot70)
“I'd say 500 watts is the minimum for the [Pacific Northwest] in winter and you would be better off with [750 watts] if you can get it on the roof.” akrvbob71)
“The difference in bright sunlight between the least efficient and the most is little. What a panel does in cloudy conditions can make or break your system.” – jimindenver72)
“…the person draining their batteries to the 50% range regularly would do much better with a 2 watts to 1Ah ratio, or even 3 to 1.” – SternWake73)
“The advantage of “too much solar” is rainy day support. Most people use generators for that, but if your sun hours stack up, oversized arrays also work. – zoneblue74)
“With a isolator you would run the truck early to get a fair amount of the bulk charging done and let the solar finish it off the rest of the day.” – jimindenver75)
“If you want to see lots more amps coming out of the [charge controller], put on a 5-10A load and drop the battery to 50% depleted in the middle of a sunny day.” – John61CT76)
“It is cheaper and easier to use less power than it is to make more power.” – highdesertranger77)
The Shunted battery monitors are great, when they are wired up properly, set up properly, and rezeroed occassionally. The person who can do this well, can also make an accurate guess as to state of charge, if they are regularly looking at just a voltmeter and an ammeter. – sternwake78)
A [ shore power ] charger is a stiff source with unlimited energy and time. Your solar is a very soft source of unknown power and only a few hours to get the job done. - sunking79)
It's not enough just to have a panel up there, you have to have enough to push the battery around. – jimindenver80)
In theory, Imp * Vmp = panel Watts. There's an awful lot in the real world that can affect that. – Cariboocoot81)
It's your money. If it's your choice to blunder through replacing part after part till you finally get a working system, that's fine. – MichaelK82)
You have to build for winter, and figure out what to do with the extra electricity in summer. – timselectric83)
The best thing is to slow down and actually understand what's going on, then decide where you eventually want to take the system and move deliberately in that direction. It's not a “one weird trick” situation – gertzerlla84)
Always starts off with small lights, charge a cell phone, then “window-unit AC” or “1500 watt space heater”. :) So how much power would it take? LOTS. Get an Kill-o-watt mater and find out the exact number. – porchlightofdoom85)
“Solar Ready” doesn’t mean sh*t. It means there is a plug wired to your battery and oh by the way IT IS WIRED EXACTLY BACKWARDS. The polarity on the Zamp SAE style connector is reversed. – John's Tech Blog86)
This is an easy job for a small portable generator, or a very hard job for solar. – thebemusedmuse87)
If you're getting 75%+ rated power from an array in clear sky and hot conditions, you're winning. – sunshine_eggo88)
It only requires a little math, a little discipline to stick with the math, and the right expectations about solar intake. – CMDR_Schrodinger89)
…running the numbers on worst-case scenarios is the only way to ensure you're covered when you need the juice.– CMDR_Schrodinger90)


“So when your feeling lonely, sit back and eat a cookie and just imagine someone making you feel bad for eating that cookie and making you feel guilty, nag nag nag. Then smile and realize that you dont have to ask anyone or get anyones permission to do whatever you want. Enjoy your cookie!!!” – Durango Dave91)


“Don't do anything that attracts attention to either yourself or your vehicle. People cannot object to your presence if they do not notice that you are there.” – lennyflank92)


“Heat people, not places.”93)
“Fear of propane will be expensive.” – Sternwake94)


“You will know the true value of your time when you look back and see how much of it you have wasted.” jimindenver95)
“You can ALWAYS make more money, you can NEVER make more time.” akrvbob96)
“I am always surprised to see some people demanding the time of others and meeting a most obliging response. Both sides have in view the reason for which the time is asked and neither regards the time itself — as if nothing there is being asked for and nothing given.” - Seneca
“How late it is to begin really to live just when life must end! How stupid to forget our mortality, and put off sensible plans to our fiftieth and sixtieth years, aiming to begin life from a point at which few have arrived!” - Seneca
“the man who … organizes every day as though it were his last, neither longs for nor fears the next day… Nothing can be taken from this life, and you can only add to it” - Seneca


Drink cups never go as low as the floor, pee cups never go above it. – tatertom97)


“If you are towing and don't know the area, drop the trailer and look around.” jimindenver98)


“GET THERE in 2wd and GET BACK with 4wd if needed” -
“By far the best bang for your buck is a 12 volt air compressor and air down your tires. Just airing down your tires to 10 pounds will get you unstuck an amazing amount of times. It should be number one on your list for taking your van in rough country.” – akrvbob99)
“walk it before you drive it” - desert bruce100)
I turn off the traction control for steep hills or loose gravel to allow some tire spin without being hindered or slowed by the traction control kicking in, as momentum is better to maintain than 100% traction. – brownbear101)
In the end, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you are in any way unsure of the way ahead, stop the car and walk the route to determine grade, clearances, and firmness. – USExplorer102)
a locker provides the SUM of the two torques, whereas an open diff provides twice the LOWER torque. Therefore a locker offers a very small advantagee when the traction under both wheels is similar, and a great advantage when there is a big difference in traction condtions. - SandyM103)
Every person reading this should carry a tow strap. - head104)


“The problem is water…” – Mark Watney (while stranded on Mars)
“You can live three weeks without food, three days without water, and three minutes without air.” – anonymous
“If you have water you have 1000 problems. If you don't have water you have 1 problem.” – anonymous
”…you really appreciate every drop of water if you have to schlep it.“ – gcal105)
“You eventually learn to use first ten gallons as carefully as you do the last ten gallons.” - wrongway2106)
in personal correspondence
lifestyle/words_of_wisdom.txt · Last modified: 2024/04/19 20:52 by frater_secessus