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Cover of Caravan and Motorhome Electrics by Collyn RiversCover of Why Caravans Roll Over by Collyn RiversCover of How to Choose and Buy an RV by Collyn RiversCover of The Caravan and Motorhome Book by Collyn RiversCover of Solar That Really Works by Collyn RiversCover of Solar Success by Collyn Rivers

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Between 1959 and 1961 Collyn Rivers and Antony Fleming drove a Bedford QLR off-road truck twice the length and breadth of Africa studying road surface conditions.

A 43 minute film about their adventure, produced and narrated by Antony Fleming, has been viewed on YouTube more than 1,500,000 times!

Picture from Africa journey. Caravan and Motorhome Electrics by Collyn Rivers

To view the film, and also read Collyn's telling of the tale, just click the button below.

Africa 

Cover of the Camper Trailer Book by Collyn Rivers

The Camper Trailer Book.  Free!

Not currently available as an eBook or paperback, RV Books is publishing The Camper Trailer Book on this site.  Every week new sections will be released until the complete, fully revised, version is available.

Read It Here

Solar Success

Cover of Solar Success by Collyn Rivers

Collyn Rivers is the author of Solar Success. Previously only available on a different website (solarbooks.com.au),  you'll now find this book and a large selection of exclusive articles by Collyn Rivers dealing with the intricacies of setting up and using solar power to run your home, cabin, travel trailer or motorhome.  Over the next few weeks all of the content from Collyn's second site will be brought over to RV Books to provide a more comprehensive coverage of a wider range of topics. 

Solar Success

Featured article

Living with solar – how make it all work

by Collyn Rivers - Updated 2020

Living with Solar

Living with solar successfully requires being totally aware of the energy you use. Here's a general guide to how to make it all work.

Minimise energy usage first. You can often slash such usage by half - or even more. This requires you to pay for some changes. Doing this, however, and the cost of solar you need is hugely reduced.

Our first (home) all solar house north of Broome (WA), gave invaluable experience. It's up to 17 kWh/day adequately coped with our under 8 kWh/day usage. Building and living with it for 10 years showed that feasible. Coconut well from air jpg

Our all-solar 10-acre property on the Indian Ocean north of Broome, Western Australia. Pic: rvbooks.com.au

Our major living with solar achievement, however, relates to moving to Sydney. We bought a solidly-built and relatively new house overlooking Pittwater, that was 100% grid supplied. Planning to install solar, we found previous electricity draw was 31 kWh/day. In this and similar situations, do nothing initially solar-wise

We first tracked down and slashed this high usage. An instant-boiling (and ice-cold) water unit used only a few times day drew over 5 kWh hours each day. Six heated towel rails used 3 kW/h a day. Over 80 halogen lights drew 50 watts each. These were replaced by five and seven watts LEDs (that gave much the same light. A 20-year old fridge drew 7 kWh/day was replaced by one that draws 2 kWh/day. The garden lighting was all incandescent (drawing 1.5 kWh each night) was replaced by LEDs that draw only 150 Wh a night.

An extraordinary find was an old electric door-bell. Despite being used only a few times a week (for a second or two each time) the 230-volt transformer driving it drew a constant 40 watts (almost 1 kWh/day). We replaced it by an old-fashioned manual brass bell.

Within a month we slashed usage to 10 kWh/day, then to 7 kWh/day two months later. It cost well under $5000 to do so. Only then did we install grid-connect solar (initially a 2.4 kW system). Without those initial changes, generating over 30 kWh of solar a day was totally non-affordable.

Usage now (2020) is about 11 kWh/day in winter and a mere 4 kWh/day in summer. Our now 6.6 kW solar input hugely exceeds that most of the time. We initially used the grid network as a 'virtual battery'. Since then we have added a 14 kWh Tesla battery and hardly ever draw grid power. In summer we export 30 kW/h a day at a two-year contracted 20 cents per kWh. Our electricity bills rarely exceed the fixed service charge. Mostly, the supplier pays us.

How to slash usage - change usage habits

Turn off all appliances at their wall sockets, never by a remote control alone. This particularly applies to anything made prior to 2014 that has a small power unit built into its plug. It applies also to many electrical appliances bought (or via eBay) from overseas. Unless turned off at the wall switch, each little power unit continues to draw power. Such power varies from a watt or so - to as high as 10 watts. While each may seem trivial, the average home has up 30 or so of these. At even 3 watts each, that's over 2 kWh/day.

Do not leave lights on unnecessarily. Do not leave an un-watched TV with its sound turned down. Turn it off (at the wall!). Use less water when showering. Buy only energy-efficient appliances.

Do not use an instant boiling/cooling water system. Boiling water takes only a minute or two in an electric jug. Have a cooled jug of water in the fridge.

How to slash usage - items to change

Consider selling any fridge made prior to 2014. Replace by one that has a high Energy Star rating. Never have two or more smaller fridges. Have just one of similar overall capacity. A  (say) 750-litre fridge draws about half the power of three (each of 250 litres) fridges. This is because the single large one has far less surface area.

Change all lighting to LED. This is readily done as LEDs are now made to fit existing fittings. Do not buy cheap LEDs. These produce less light per watt than the more costly ones. They also have a much shorter life.

Living with solar - how much do I need

Right now, grid connect solar works best for those working from home. That which comes in during the day is used that day. Some install batteries to feed the home at night. You are unlikely to gain financially by doing so, but it ensures you still have 230 volts during power outages.

Living with solar - maintenance

Solar does not usually require maintenance. The modules may need occasional cleaning in some outback areas. This is particularly so after a long dusty outback summer. Dry winds cause static charges that attract dust. Brief light rain may not, however, wash it off. It may turn the dust into mud that subsequently dries hard.

Fix dust and static issues by washing the modules with water and detergent. Then rinse with a full bucket of clean water to which you have added just one teaspoon of detergent (it has anti-static properties). Use a squeegy to remove surface water - and then let the modules dry naturally.

Never wipe dry solar modules -  let alone polish them. Doing either or both generates dust-attracting static charges. Static build-up can be reduced by earthing the solar module metal frames.

Apart from the above, solar modules need no maintenance. It is difficult to assess their usable life-span, Some, however, made in the 1980s still produce about 80% of their original output. Total failure is very rare.

Reliability when living with solar

A well designed and installed stand-alone system is usually more reliable than the grid network. Furthermore, the output is cleaner, and the voltage barely varies.

Energy monitoring - an essential

Energy monitoring is essential when living with solar. Many new owners maintain a daily log of energy in and energy out, plus the highest and lowest voltage. Most owners (who have a battery-backed system) eventually settle for daily checking the battery bank's percentage charge. The latter is all that is routinely needed. Anything needing attention causes significant variations.
battery_monitor-Xantrex (1)

Easy to install and easy to read. The Xantrex battery monitor. Pic: xantrex.

Solar is not hard to install. Our book Solar Success specifically explains how for homes and properties. Solar That Really Works! does likewise for boats, cabins and RVs. See also the Caravan & Motorhome Book, Caravan & Motorhome Electrics, and the Camper Trailer Book. To know about the author Click on Bio.

Recently updated articles

Electric Vehicle Batteries

The market for quickly-rechargeable, light and compact batteries is huge. One or another battery will eventually evolve. When it does, electric-only vehicles are likely to have a range unthinkable using fossil-fuels. Moreover, in the meantime, hybrids are an excellent compromise. Furthermore, see also Electric Vehicles – Hybrids.

read more

Electric Vehicle Home Charging

Many existing home grid-connect solar systems have excess capacity outside peak periods. Solar energy fed in during the day can be re-drawn during off-peak periods, for much the same price, to charge an electric car. This is because many grid networks have excess capacity outside peak periods. Furthermore, such charging extends battery life: all dislike ongoing deep discharges.

read more

Electric Vehicle Motors

Updated 2020 Electric vehicle motors AC/DC Electric vehicle motors use one or other of the two main kinds of electricity: alternating current and direct current. Both are effective as electric vehicle motors. Alternating Current (AC) is where electric current...

read more

Electric and Hybrid Vehicles

Globally, there is move to electric vehicles. Apart from minor rubber tyre particles they are virtually emission free.They are also about 80% efficient. If, however, their electricity is from fossil-fuelled power stations, their emissions are similar to year 2020 petrol-fuelled (or hybrid) vehicles.

read more

Articles by Category

Electrical (general)
Batteries & Battery Charging
Caravan/Tow Vehicle Behaviour & Suspension
General
Travel
Health & Safety
The Camper Trailer Book

Want to find out more? Our books cover all these topics and a lot more. 

Cover of How to Choose and Buy an RV by Collyn Rivers

Whether you’re buying your first RV or updating to a bigger, more comfortable rig, there are a great many things you need to know and consider. How to Choose and Buy an RV breaks things down so that you can decide what you want and whether or not what you’ve found is right for you.

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Cover of Solar That Really Works by Collyn RiversSolar That Really Works! explains every detail of designing and installing solar in boats, camper trailers, travel trailers and motorhomes.

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Cover of Caravan and Motorhome Electrics by Collyn RiversCaravan & Motorhome Electrics covers every aspect of designing, installing and fault finding of the electrics in fifth wheel and conventional travel trailers, camper trailers and motorhomes.

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Cover of The Caravan and Motorhome Book by Collyn RiversThe Caravan & Motorhome Book covers every conceivable aspect of camper trailer, travel trailer and fifth wheel travel trailer, campervan and motorhome usage.

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Cover of Why Caravans Roll Over by Collyn RiversTravel Trailers and their tow vehicles rarely jack-knife and roll over - but when they do the results are catastrophic. The cause, and how to prevent it, is explained here. Why Caravans Roll Over offers solid advice for keeping yourself safe on the road.
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Cover of Solar Success by Collyn RiversSolar Success explains how to design and build home and property systems that ensures affordable solar success first and every time.

 

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Cover of How to Choose and Buy an RV by Collyn RiversWhether you're buying your first RV or updating to a bigger, more comfortable rig, there are a great many things you need to know and consider.  This book breaks things down so that you can decide what you want and whether or not what you've found is right for you. It's technically sound and comprehensive so that you can proceed with complete confidence.  How to Choose and Buy an RV is the ultimate guide for those times when you want to, well, choose and buy an RV.

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Cover of Why Caravans Roll Over by Collyn RiversTravel Trailers and their tow vehicles rarely jack-knife and roll over - but when they do the results are catastrophic. The cause, and how to prevent it, is explained here.  Why Caravans Roll Over offers solid advice for keeping yourself safe on the road.

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Cover of Caravan and Motorhome Electrics by Collyn RiversCaravan & Motorhome Electrics is the totally rewritten successor to the original globally selling Motorhome Electrics. The book's content now also covers every aspect of designing, installing and fault finding of the electrics in fifth wheel and conventional travel trailers, camper trailers and motorhomes.

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Cover of Solar Success by Collyn RiversSolar Success explains how to design and build home and property systems that ensures affordable solar success first and every time.

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Cover of The Caravan and Motorhome Book by Collyn RiversThe Caravan & Motorhome Book covers every conceivable aspect of camper trailer, travel trailer and fifth wheel travel trailer, campervan and motorhome usage. Like all of Collyn Rivers' books it is technically sound yet written in plain English.

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Cover of Solar That Really Works by Collyn RiversSolar That Really Works! explains, in clear English, every detail of designing and installing solar in boats, camper trailers, travel trailers and motorhomes. It is up-to-date, valid globally and technically accurate. It is clear, concise and easy to follow without sacrificing important detail.

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How to Choose and Buy an RV

This is Collyn Rivers' newest book.  Building on his years of experience and extensive knowledge of engineering and all things travel trailer and RV, this is the book you need with you when shopping for an RV.

Caravan & Motorhome Electrics

Collyn Rivers has done it again! – if you need to know anything about motorhome electrics, then this book is for you... Collyn must be, without doubt, the foremost authority in Australia on this subject.

The Wanderer (Campervan & Motorhome Club of Australia Ltd)

Why Caravans Roll Over....and How to Prevent It​

Should be compulsory reading for everyone involved with Travel Trailers: Design / Engineering, Marketing, Journalism (print & electronic), Regulations, Inspections, Driver-Training, Travel Trailer Clubs, Towing and Modifications.

Colin Young

Founder and CEO, Caravan Council of Australia

Solar that Really Works!

Collyn is an accomplished engineer who knows how to design and build successful systems. It is refreshing to see practical advice written in plain language when there is so little solar information around. . . this is an essential text . . . you won’t find a better guide.

Alan T. Gray

Earth Garden Magazine

The Caravan & Motorhome Book

Without doubt, this is the best book we have ever read . . . it will be treasured, and read on a regular basis.

The Wanderer (Campervan & Motorhome Club of Australia Ltd)