VAN CONVERSION PT. 2: ELECTRIC & SOLAR
So, because we are working on the go, power was our #1 priority for our van. We wanted to be able to be off the grid with power for multiple days at a time and be able to charge our cameras, laptops, and run everything needed to get the job done. The first step to the process? Buy a battery and hook it up to our van.
At first it was confusing, how are we going to make all of this work? We aren't electricians so we pretty much are going into this blindly. We definitely did a TON of research and talked to many people before deciding on what to purchase. Now, were not really going to go into extreme details about how we figured it all out, but if you have questions feel free to shoot us an email or leave a comment below!
The first step in figuring this all out was purchasing all of the materials needed to make it happen. So here is a detailed list of the things we bought. There are so many options out there for batteries, but we chose to go with the lifeline battery. First off, this battery is used by the US Air Force in their planes. If the air force trusts these batteries to keep all of their stuff working in the air, then it must be a good battery. Another great thing is that it has a large battery bank, so we can be somewhere with no sun and still be OK. One of the cons about this battery, is it is not budget friendly. Meaning its a little on the expensive side, but this is what we do for work so its important that we have constant power.
We went with grape solar panels because we heard great reviews about them. One issue with these is that they are HUGE and we definitely had an interesting time trying to figure out how to mount them to the roof. They came with no mounting supplies so we had to order some brackets and supplies. We also didn't want to drill a ton of holes into the roof to attach them, and didn't trust the 3M tape to hold it to the roof. So we used our roof rails by placing a piece underneath and bolting those to Z brackets which we attached to the solar panels by drilling holes into the sides of them.
They hang over the sides a little, which doesn't allow us to have an awning, but we figured eventually we would purchase an Alumines roof rack and remount the panels to that, which WOULD allow the awning. That's a purchase for later down the road. For now this works for us!
These solar panels are also enough to recharge our massive battery bank. We don't really know how to explain how all of this works, but we figured we would share the materials we bought to make it happen.
- Lifeline AGM Battery 255AH
- Nature Power Inverter 2000W Pure Sign Wave
- Trimetric Battery Monitor, Shunt
- Trimetric 230SC Solar Charger
- 2 160W Grape Solar Panels 320W total
- Fuse Box, Fuses, Wiring
- We used Z brackets and mounted them to our rails drilled holes into the sides solar panels
It definitely took a long time to really figure this out and learn how to wire everything up, especially because we have no idea how to do any of this. But, good news. It's completely figureoutable if you spend time researching and learning how to do it. We recommend consulting or chatting with someone that knows a little about electricity that way you can be sure you are doing it correctly. Also, reach out to other people in the van life community. That's what we did.
If you have any questions on figuring out how we hooked everything up we would be more than happy to help you out. Please leave a comment below and we will get back to you soon!
After cody hooked everything up and became an electrician in the process we tested everything out. We ran a hair dryer, hair straghtener, power drill, fantastic fan, and a phone charger at the same time and the charge didn't even run down past 98%. So far its looking good.
We also are making sure to purchase items that do not use a lot of power, like a Nova Kool Marine refrigerator, low watt LED lights, and more. That way we use less power and don't run our batteries down too much when we go off grid for days at a time. All in all..we're happy with our decisions and feel that we will have more than enough power to run a studio off the grid.
Now figuring out wifi? That's a whole different story. If you have any tips let us know!