Setting up your van so you can free camp can be a challenge. Especially if you have large power demands like we do. Here is a run down on our off-grid power set up.
One of the biggest attractions for us when selecting our van was the ability to customise everything to suit our needs. That is really where NextGen Caravans came to the top for us. From the chassis to the solar panels, there really wasn’t anything that seemed to be a problem. This was one of the many reasons why we chose a Nextgen.
As you know, we do a lot on social media, across most platforms. One of our major concerns was having enough off-grid power to charge batteries in cameras, laptops, drones and phones. Then we need power to do all this and more when the sun is gone. Added to that is a 230lt compressor fridge. This would all need to be done indefinitely while being away from a 240v power point. We often get asked questions about our off-grid power set up. Especially by people setting theirs up for the first time or looking to improve their current set up.
How much solar do we need? Most vans as we know come equipped with at least one solar panel. These could be anywhere between 100 and 150 watts. We did the math and thought that we would be right with 2 x 150w panels provided we got a decent amount of sunlight each day. Then we opted for a third panel, just to help on the cloudy days and give it that extra kick when in direct sunlight.
At this point in time, the best way of storing power is Lithium. Lithium batteries let you get power out of them quickly and efficiently. They charge at a far greater rate than AGM batteries, allowing you to get the power back in them easily for the times without the sun. Lithium batteries can weigh less than half of their AGM equivalent and as a general rule, 1 x 100ah Lithium has the same attributes as 2 x 100ah AGM’s. As the house batteries that came installed with our van were sadly lacking, we have just installed two 100 AH batteries from BMPRO. These are certainly doing a great job of supplying our off-grid power. For more information on whether Lithium Batteries are for you, Check out BMPRO’s YouTube series on Lithium Batteries for RV’s.
Battery Management System
This is the centre point of your whole system. You can have terrific solar and batteries, but if you can’t get the best out of them, it’s over before it even starts. NextGen suggested a complete battery management and monitoring system from BMPRO. We haven’t looked back.
So What Is Powering All Around Oz’s Adventures?
- a 30amp battery charger (max 35amp) powered from solar, 240v or a DC to DC aux input. It will blend sources for max charging efficiency.
- a MPPT solar regulator.
- a 12v power supply when connected to 240v if you have battery problems.
- a fused power supply for every electrical component of your van. (to a max 15amp)
- a battery monitor.
- a remote switch to isolate power in your RV.
- complete with electronic fuses for all 14 outlets.
- low voltage aware to preserve your batteries.
- Lithium and Lead Acid compatible.
- complete with can-bus connection for Trek display and complete control.
- Australian made and owned. Now that’s good.
How do I see what’s going on?
That’s easy. With the Trek display connected through the Can-bus system of the BatteryPlus35HA.
This monitor will let you:
- check battery voltage.
- monitor solar and aux input.
- control 2 water pumps
- see how long you can safely use the remaining power for.
- monitor up to 4 water tanks. (set for drinking or grey water)
- see how much power you are using.
- remotely shut down the power in your RV.
A Set and Forget System.
Once this system is set up, you do not have to switch or change anything. It chooses the best charging source from what’s available, automatically switching between sources without you even thinking about it. Pull up at a 240v power source and plug in, it switches automatically. Unplug and it quickly switches to solar to keep the charging process alive. Start your car and it will start to blend the inputs from your car and the solar panels to increase the charging capacity and decrease charging time. You can instantly check battery status, charging status and water tank levels at a glance. Turn your water pump on or off at the same panel. It doesn’t get any easier than that, and again, it’s Australian Made.