From our very first conversations about what was needed in the bus and what was merely a luxury item, it was clear that Jen would go anywhere as long a cold beverages were a possibility. Whats not to love about this girl? Being that we also want to be as far away from society as we possible (we aren’t really the KOA type) for as long as possible… solar clearly became our option for staying off-grid and keeping food and bevies cold.
We did a ton of research here and also got a bit of help from a local who had done a few RV and marine installs (last thing we wanted to do after dropping the change for a solar panel and batteries was to hook something up wrong and fry all the components…).
After running calculations for our power draw needs online and taking into account everyone else’s setup and feedback, we ended up going with a Kyocera 135W panel. According to most blogs and posts we’ve read from other VW owners using solar this should be clear overkill for a weekend away, but should allow us to stay gone as long as we want and might even work here in the less-than-sunny pacific northwest.The solar panel feeds two 12 volt batteries running in parallel and stored under one of our seats. Since we didn’t have a method for storing the batteries outside of the bus, we had to go with AGM (sealed) batteries as they don’t off-gas like common batteries and can be used in confined and low ventilation areas (like our bus).For the solar controller we went with a Sunsaver Duo, which seems to be the controller of choice with the added bonus of being very affordable and easy to use. The handy panel tells us how much energy we are pulling off the sun, how much we are drawing at any given time and how much power we have left to draw. We also hooked everything up to the starter battery so that we can track its power level and recharge it from the sun as needed.
An isolator ensures that the starter battery wont draw down and leave us stranded simply because we stay up late and leave the lights on like motel 6.We also installed an inverter to make sure we could convert the DC into AC for an outlet to charge our phones, ipod and other necessities while out and about. This also lets us run a lighting system and we’ve started looking into LED lights that will work for our needs. Everything runs through a fusebox for easy wiring and ease of isolating problems…which tend to happen from time to time.
We purchased a Truckfridge 49 a few months ago and have been dying to use this thing in the bus. (update: the fridge is a bit of an energy hog. It works well for its intent and were we in cooler climates it would be great…but in the scorching heat we would get more days off-grid from the more efficient top-loaders like the ARB or engel).
All works as planned and the system is smooth.