So, one of the posts that I have been remiss in posting, was that we tested out the Solar System by (drumroll) cooking with the 120v system using the crock pot!  A solar dinner…

While electricity is a poor way to create heat, one of my favorite kitchen “tools” is my old 1980’s crock pot slow cooker.  It has made a metric ton of dinners over the decades, and while I don’t claim to be an expert – I can pretty much whip up a great meal with little to no effort using my handy-dandy ancient crock pot.

We wanted to try something that required the full eight hours of low heat, to see how it impacted our battery bank (200 amp hours) and how long it would take the solar panels (300 watts) to recover that energy during a particularly cloudy period of weather.  That is lots of criteria!  And we stumbled upon the perfect time to test this out… we had a full week of cloudy/rainy weather queued up for the area, which is very rare in Sunny South Texas!

We have a home-mix of something similar to the HamBeens 15-Bean Soup Mix that you can buy in most every grocers.  Its more like a 12-bean mix of whatever I have found on sale lately, all dumped into a 2 gallon bucket and stirred slightly.  My mix is heavy on baby limas and garbanzo beans, with very few lentils because Rock isn’t a huge fan of lentils.

We stumbled upon some smoked pork neck bones and were in business!

We had the exact numbers, written down pretty much hour by hour, for amps used, watts depleted, and percentage left on the battery bank… and have now misplaced the specifics. 🙁 (Have I mentioned that I hate moving?)

Suffice to say that over the nine hours (extremely hard water) that it took to cook the beans, that the battery banks were not being charged (disconnected at the switch) by the solar, and were taken down to about 52% of usable power. Then, it took almost three days of very cloudy light to recharge the system back up to 100%.  At one point of the re-charging, when I looked at the numbers of solar that we were actually collecting during the overcast daylight, we were pulling a paltry 3 watts!

This was a very tough test for our little system.  We generally will have very small power usage, with an even smaller amount using the 120v inverter. Simply, we wanted to truly give the setup a hard workout to see how well it performed and what a Real World recovery of power might look like.

Our first Solar Dinner was actually quite tasty, and we ate on it for a couple days. Combined with a pan of cornbread in the little Coleman fueled oven, and paired with a fresh salad on the side – this would be a very do-able and inexpensive and healthy meal in the Prairie Schooner!

(If I re-find the notes with specific power consumption, I’ll post the chart for the number crunchers.)

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