Sunday, August 2, 2009

My Burning Question Answered

Thanks to some help from my wonderful Dad, I have gotten my question answered. My parents travel much of the year in an Eagle Bus (that's a big bus) that my Dad has built. They visit various bus rallies and both of them do seminars; my Mom does Stampin' Up! and my Dad has engineered an ingenious fire suppression system for the buses that most of these people call home and spend sometimes 100's of thousands of dollars on.

In his travels my Dad has made friends with a lot of really nice people that are extremely proud of the way that they live, many of them being "green" even as they roll along in a diesel guzzling bus. Dad put me in touch with one of his friends that is very environmentally conscious and has written some very informative articles about life on the road and living green at . Thanks, Sean!

I must say that both of these guys are experts in their fields and have very analytical minds, they have done a wonderful job of keeping it down to earth so regular people like myself can understand.

Here is what Dad had to say:

We need to put radios and cell phone chargers into context with other power users in a car. By far, the biggest power consumer in a car is the headlight. I guess the exception would be the huge stereo systems that some kids put in their cars.

Each headlight is between 50 and 100 watts, or about 5 to 8 amps, so the power draw could be 10 to 16 amps for two headlights. That does not include the parking and taillights which don't draw much current.

I have the old Sportster Sirius receiver which is a power hog. The manual says the it should have a 3 amp fuse in the line, which would suggest it takes about 2 amps. I did not look at some of the more modern receivers, but I would guess they would be about half that amount.I could not find a lot on cell phone chargers, but what I did find was they would be less than 1 amp draw.

Now, lets look at how much power it takes for the engine to provide that power. One horsepower is 746 watts or about 62 amps. If you overcompensate for all the efficiency losses, you could say that one horsepower from the engine would produce 30 amps. Thus for your two units, you would be using about one tenth of a horsepower. You could not begin to measure the impact on fuel usage as it would be minuscule.

And this is what his friend Sean Welsh had to say on the subject:

With regard to cigar-lighter style DC chargers, a great deal of energy
is wasted in the form of heat, and, as you have already noted, the
charger continues to generate heat (and thus use electrical power) even
when the device it is supposed to be charging is disconnected. So it is
best to always disconnect the charger from the power outlet as well.

Again, thanks to my Dad, Jim Shepherd and Sean Welsh for keeping it real! Today's picture is of my parents part time home! He's got a great website at

Hi Again! I got an e-mail from my Dad that I thought was an important update to add:

Judy, you mention our "diesel guzzling bus". That statement is basically true, but needs to be put into context. We only get about 7.7 miles per gallon (I think Sean gets a bit less, because of his type of engine). I sometimes rationalize that it is not as bad as some folks would think. For one thing, while we are "out" for a month or two, we are not pounding the road all day every day. Secondly, we are not driving our cars like we would do when we are home. For the most part, we only make very short, infrequent, trips in the truck. We often stay overnight in Wal Mart, so we don't have to drive to the store {grin}. We still use more fuel that we probably should, but we try to be careful. In Sean and Louise's case, they have very fuel efficient scooters in the bay of their bus. Also, they frequently take public transportation when it works out.Unlike Sean, our impact on the environment is greater since we maintain a house and that takes energy. However, we make sure the heat is turned as low as possible and we are not using much electricity.One of the most frustrating things about our travel is the lack of ability to recycle. It is hard enough to do that at the house, since we don't have good access to recycle facilities. However, it is virtually impossible to do anything on the road. For the most part, we have given up drinking soda, so we do not have to worry about the cans. Paper is our biggest issue.

Thanks again Dad, for the input! It brings up an issue I plan to cover on a future blog, reccycling and the difficulties of doing so in remote areas.

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