Going Off Grid
As the school holidays are now upon us and as caravanners ourselves I must admit that the appeal of quieter, more tranquil sites has driven us to look closer at what is required to successfully camp off grid i.e. without electric hook up. This was also a golden opportunity to install the required equipment in our own caravan so I could speak with some authority and experience with any customers enquiring about doing the same.
Our Bailey caravan came with a factory fitted 100w solar panel and PWM solar controller and we had the lead acid leisure battery from our previous caravan installed in the floor under the bed. You could argue that we were already set up for off grid camping and I guess to a certain extent we were, if an overnight or at a push a weekend / long weekend stay was all we were hoping to achieve. However our leisure battery was on its last legs as it had unfortunately flattened several times whilst in storage and our gas system was being fed by a small Calor Lite bottle that wasn't really up to the job of keeping up with the demand of the fridge, hot water boiler and cooker so an upgrade to the battery and gas supply was required.
The problem with the gas supply was resolved with the purchase of a refillable light weight Safefill bottle and the battery replaced with an 11kg 100ah LiFePO4 lithium battery with Bluetooth BMS from Roamer Batteries https://roamerbatteries.com/
The factory fitted PWM solar controller was unable to charge a lithium battery so was swapped out for a Victron MPPT Bluetooth controller and remote display and we now have full visibility of the performance of the solar system and condition of the battery via our smartphones.
After years of Caravan Club fully serviced pitches we tried our first off grid excursion to a site near Lyme Regis not knowing how our new set up would perform and I am pleased to announce it worked flawlessly. With the fridge and hot water on gas and a fully charged battery at the start of our first night we were somewhat hesitant in what 12 volt systems we used. The lights used was kept to a minimum, even though they are LED and we watched TV for an hour or so before bed. Add to that minimal draw for water pump use, 12v supply to the fridge and Alde boiler we woke the following morning to a battery still at 95% capacity which far exceeded our expectations. The following night we were less concerned with our energy use and still only managed to drop the battery capacity to 87% which the solar had topped back up to 100% by early afternoon.
There is an obvious cost involved in upgrading a caravan or motorhome to be able to go off grid but the investment has opened new opportunities and we look forward to new adventures.