Camping off grid is one of the most exciting, rewarding and best ways to camp when exploring Australia. Well, that’s life according to Four Hands in a Tin Can who walk REDARC through their recent solar upgrade...
What's waiting for you when you're camp off the grid? Epic beaches, white sand and more often than not, peace and quiet. That's if you are not stressing about keeping your lights on at night, or the food in the fridge cold…
Solar power is one of the easiest and most efficient ways to gather power, however, after over 2 years on the road, and consistent use, our deep cycle AGM batteries had decided that they didn’t want to the play the game any longer. It literally got to the stage where free camping became ‘stressful’ and before long it was generally ‘hard and painful!’ Using torches in a caravan at night and not being able to use the water pumps after midnight made us begin looking for some new options...
What is solar power?
Solar power consists of capturing the suns energy and converting it into power. Yes, it’s that simple for us. Solar power is a very cost-efficient way of travelling. It allows for many awesome camping adventures, without having to live by torch light or most importantly, without a decent coffee in the mornings.
Solar power has become more and more popular in the caravanning and camping world because it’s so easy; whether you have it mounted to the roof of your caravan, camper or car, it is always important to have back up solar for those times you are camped in a shady spot, or for the winter sun. We love our lightweight 115 watt REDARC solar blanket as it is so versatile.
How does it all work?
Simple - energy from the sun hits our solar panels and converts this into power. We absolutely love this power system and it means we can now save on caravan parks and hit those far off places whilst living comfortably. We have around 1000kw of solar panel power which charges the battery super-fast including our REDARC solar blanket.
This system also allows us to use the air compressor, toaster, Thermomix, kettle and televisions plus our washing machine. It’s absolutely awesome! So when your battery runs out of power on those hot summer days you can rely on us to have cold drinks.
Is it really this simple?
We recently had a massive upgrade to our whole solar, battery and power system whilst in Perth thanks to Install ‘a’ Gadget. Whilst not really having any idea about how it all works, let’s face it we are not electricians and don’t have a background in it, so trusting an expert in getting it right for us, and spending the time to educate us, was the most important step in this upgraded setup.
So we are now educated and with all this knowledge fresh in our minds, we thought we would share this information with you. I wish we had known a lot of this three years ago, and even though we did our research then, we never really understood our full solar needs.
This is what we have in and on our van:
- Mounted solar panels to our roof – We have 3 x 150 watt and 4 x 80 watt
- A solar blanket or portable solar panels - We have 115 watt REDARC Solar Blanket
- Lithium battery – We have 400 amp hours
- Inverter – We have a 3000w Inverter
- DCDC Battery charger – Making sure your batteries are full by the time you get to camp this will charge your batteries whilst driving
- Battery monitor
One of the biggest differences in our solar setup was the lithium batteries. We had been living off 440 amp hours of Deep Cycle AGM batteries, and as many of you know, this means we had 220 amp hours to use. As we had two 220 amp hour batteries, they each weighed in at 75 kg, meaning we were carting 150kg of batteries around. Changing out to the Lithium batteries, being 4 x 100 amp hours, gave us the ability to use more power, and they weighed a total of 55kg. That’s right, the whole 400 amp hours of lithium is 95kg lighter.
Now, this setup is quite advanced. A long-lasting setup that may cost a little bit when starting out but will prove to not be a waste of money. This fantastic battery and solar power system effectively gives you unlimited power. iPad, coffee machines, toasters, kettles and laptops can all be charged and run whilst free camping!
Our setup was initially fitted to our van during the build stage, however we originally had AGM deep cycle batteries. meaning we can go out all day and our fridge runs off the sun. We decided not to fit everything out to the car because of the fact that we don’t have a fridge in our vehicle. Meaning the batteries can continue charging as soon as the sun rises and we don’t even need to get out of bed – it’s a win-win!
What we run
Billy is our kettle.... Billy is very loved! Billy is great... Our mini kettle from Anaconda is the perfect example of why we no longer have to waste gas and wait minutes for the jog to boil. Nope, you guessed it instead our REDARC solar blanket charges our batteries from the sun.
Our family is one of those that has toast pretty much every morning for breakfast. Yes you can grill it but we much prefer the good old toaster. Easy. Quick. Simple. This uses around 1.5% of our lithium battery which we think is fantastic considering it is quickly charged back up with the REDARC solar blanket.
This one is quite a big appliance that is 100% needed on a daily basis. Why not just wait until you get to a caravan park? We say ‘Why wait when our batteries can handle it?’ Our washing machine will use more water than power at around 10% of our battery but if you do this in the middle of the day, zero charge difference is noticed!
Where to start and how to achieve this?
This can either be the easiest or trickiest part. Now, it’s not the cheapest exercise but as we said this will last a very long time.
A lithium battery setup can and will take up two full days to install especially if you are getting new equipment from REDARC.
The awesome team from Install ‘a’ Gadget in Perth, Western Australia helped us out with this project. Their fantastic team of experts got the job done super well... So, in saying all this it’s a good idea to write down and research everything you would like before the project.