Friday, July 3, 2015

Beating the Heat Without AC

It's been warmer than usual up here in Northern Idaho. On a couple of days it even hit 95 degrees inside our rig. The hottest time is from about 4pm to 7pm before the nighttime cooling sets in. Fortunately, we have 30-35 degree swings in temperature at night, so we get 14-16 hours a day of cool temperatures even on the hottest days.

We pride ourselves on being able to boondock in conditions most people couldn't handle, but dealing with temperatures in the teens is a lot easier than dealing with temperatures pushing 100 degrees. Now we could fire up the generator and turn on the AC, but that would be admitting defeat! Instead we've chosen to deal with it the old fashioned way.

Our first strategy has been to save the hardest physical activities for the 4-5 hour period in the mornings before the temperature hits 80 degrees. This has been our time for gardening, working on the forest, and hiking. After 80 degrees, it's time to find a shady spot for the day and just relax, or head up to our favorite mountain swimming holes. Fortunately, low humidity and the scarcity of bugs works to our advantage.

One of our favorites is a 20 minute drive away. It's worth the extra drive time. The water is perfect, the setting is private, there's a nice mix of shade and sunny areas, and the creek has a nice diversity of deep pools, sandy shallows, and water chutes among the rocks.

Sometimes you need to be in the sun after swimming in a cold mountain stream.

Jake doesn't really know how to relax. His motto is "I'll sleep when I'm dead".

However, warmer weather does have its benefits. The sweet corn is waist high by July, the squash and raspberries have been coming in regularly, and the heirloom tomatoes are ripening early. There's been very little rain and loads of sun, so we've been able to crank up our refrigerator/freezer on electric during the day to keep the cold beverages and ice flowing. The solar panels easily power it and the batteries fully recharge every day (we never draw down our batteries below 70%).

We're going back to our normal weather in the 80s starting this weekend. Time to get back to work. No more lounging in the shade in a hammock with a cold beverage all afternoon.


  1. No mention of solar cloth on the afternoon side of your trailer..

    What about a "vertical garden" growing up a wooden lattice: roses, hops, vine crawlers.

  2. We have a bunch of big 'ol Douglas Fir, Ponderosa, and Larch trees on that side that give us shade from the western sun starting about 4:00. It just takes some time for the rig and the ambient air temperature to cool off. We do like the solar exposure we get. It's great for the panels and these hot episodes are rare (in our minimal three year experience so far). We'll get back to normal, max out on Sunday at 80 degrees, and then stay in the 80's for the extended forecast. Some rain at this point would be a good thing. July 4th will be the last hot day and we'll spend it with the dogs at a different private swimming spot nearby.

    1. Maybe I overlooked something. Is it actually true that you don't even have electricity from a "grid" coming to your property, and that you are living electrically off of solar panels? If so, I didn't know you guys were such Gandhi wannabees. (grin)

    2. That's right. We live off the solar. No grid for us. We do have a nice deep well that we can pump using the solar panels. We also have a septic system with RV dumps. So we are pretty self-sufficient. It might be interesting to see what it would take to run AC off the solar. It's not wired that way right now and we probably would need more than our 1000 watts of panels to do it. It's probably not worth it considering the AC would only be a nice thing for us to use maybe 4-5 days a year at the most. Even with our week-long heat spell, we probably would have only used it twice. Regular old fans do the trick.

  3. Hi

    I can run a 5000 BTU off of my 750w of solar and the times the sun isn't shining it's 450w draw isn't too harsh on the batteries. It works ok for our 25 ft trailer but has it's limitations. Luckily we camp at 10,000 ft and the need for A/C is rare.

    I would look at a mini split system if I were to get serious about it. They are so much more efficient that I might be able to run twice the BTU on my system.

    1. That's interesting. We have 1000w of solar, but the AC won't run off of solar and the inverter. We have to run the generator for the AC to kick on. So it's not a power availability issue, it's a wiring issue. We need AC so rarely that being able to use the solar/batteries/inverter alone would really be useful. I've never seen a mini split system. Time to consult my friend Google!