Three years ago, Kylie and I decided we would sell our house and everything we own and go and live in our caravan for at least a year, possibly longer. We wanted to go out and explore this beautiful country in our own time and with the ability to go just about anywhere we could go with a large caravan in tow. That included many desert tracks and remote free camping along the way.
The home away from home for RVeeThereYet
Our caravan is a 2015 Roadstar Safari Tamer 20' full off-road van and we tow it with a 2015 Toyota Landcruiser 200 V8 diesel. While both are excellent vehicles for the job as they come from their respective factories, we did need to make some modifications to bring them up to spec.
The Landcruiser had already been given the good gear from REDARC, including a dual battery isolator, Tow-Pro Elite electric brake controller and a 115 watt folding solar blanket and controller. Having had incredible success with this gear, we elected to fit the caravan with REDARC kit as well.
Struggling to maintain charge
The caravan came with the usual combination of 240v battery charger, solar regulator and a direct connection from the car alternator via a traditional Anderson plug. We had 2 x 120ah AGM batteries and 450 watts of solar panels on the roof. In anyone's language, this setup would be ideal, however as it turned out, we struggled at times to keep our batteries charged.
The problem was that, as good as our setup was, we had a pretty hefty draw on power. Our fridge is a 240 litre compressor model, I run a CPAP machine all night, we like using the TV and DVD player and we use our lights a fair bit too. If we camped in sheltered areas or in winter months, we simply didn't get sufficient solar during the day to fully recharge the batteries. And recharging from the car wasn't helping much either. If we were going to spend extended time away from mains power and without compromising our lifestyle, we needed to improve the system.
The trusty LandCruiser tops up with a REDARC solar blanket
Installing the Manager30 into a caravan
We installed a new 200ah ProPower Lithium battery and a REDARC Manager30 Battery Management System. We chose the The Manager30 because we were confident in REDARC’s technology but also because it is a totally integrated system that can accept power from multiple sources at once, including additional external solar panels, to charge the battery at up to 30 amps. It had a lithium charging profile and the external display panel gives all the information necessary to know about how the system is performing and how much time is remaining in the battery before it goes flat.
I particularly like the solar information screen that tells us how many watts our solar panels are actually producing at any one time and how many watt-hours we've generated for the day. It’s a great way to ensure we have positioned our external panels to maximum effect.
The Manager30 offering a full insight into battery status
To date, The Manager30 has performed faultlessly, to the point we never worry about our battery power reserves at all.
We are now 3 months into our journey and we have given the new battery and Manager30 a thorough workout with lots of free camping in remote areas. We recently spent 7 nights at a remote free camp outside Longreach, QLD. Being winter, the sun was at the worst possible angle for the panels on the roof and the area was partially shaded with trees. Despite this, we never once looked like challenging the system. Our battery never fell below 75% state of charge. We didn't skimp on power drain either, utilising our water pumps, watching movies and recharging mobile phones and notepads each night. We could easily have stayed longer but we ran out of water!
Off the grid living powered by solar add-ons
The REDARC Manager30 is a fantastic piece of equipment. It takes away all the worry about maintaining your RV batteries to the point you never have to worry about them again. It gives you heaps of useful information about your power generation and usage, while efficiently utilising all of the power available and keeping your expensive batteries in top condition. It’s compatible with the latest Lithium technology and is backed up by the best after-sales service in the business.
Designed for Australian conditions and Australian made, buying a REDARC Battery Management System supports local manufacturing and jobs. It’s well worth the investment.
Visit RVeeThereYet’s website to follow their adventures, read their reviews, vehicle build info and view their growing photo gallery.