Jim, May 31:
We were recently invited to the Southwest Teardrop & Vintage Trailer meet-up at Krause Springs and knowing there would be some cool trailers there, I wanted to add something unique to ours. Solar power is that not that common on teardrops yet, so it seemed a possibility. A couple of years ago, we purchased a little solid-state cooler from The Home Depot. It cost less than $30, and was shaped like an old Coca-Cola Machine. A similar product is available from Amazon, but without the Coke branding. Best of all, it could run on 120-volt or 12-volt power. Would our solar panel power it for a day?
We’ve traveled with the little cooler several times, and I routinely use it in my shop. It will hold a 6-pack in cans, or 4 short glass bottles. I’ve always got it filled with “cool ones”. I had never tried it on 12-volt power though. We also have a solid-state ice chest from Igloo, and it’s always in the car — perfect for keeping groceries cool during the hour-long trip out to the ranch. It draws about 6 amps at 13 to 14 volts (car running), so it’s not super power efficient. We once drained the car battery by forgetting to unplug it while the car sat in a parking lot for several hours. I guess that’s why I hadn’t ever tried the beer cooler on solar. Didn’t want to drain the battery.
This was a different situation. Although the rig would be sitting idle for several hours during the meet-up, we would have sun available, and that might make it practical. I designed the solar panel to be removable, so it can be located in full sun while connected to the trailer electrical system (sitting in the shade) via a 20-foot cable. That should be sufficient to power the cooler and a a few other accessories during the day.
Well, long story short, it worked. Since we weren’t staying for the night, the Lady and the Ambassador stayed hitched and I located the solar panel on her windshield. The extension cable just made it to the normal panel connection on the trailer, and the cooler was plugged into the galley. By the afternoon, I had cold beer. The solar panel kept up just fine in spite of the partially cloudy day and occasional rain. Hmmm, now what else might we be able to power?