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How we used solar power to stay off the grid for six months

How we used solar power to stay off the grid for six months

Dean and Shay are The Gathering Folk, a young family who are on a journey around Australia to discover ways to live a sustainable, community-focused life with an emphasis on learning and having fun. After winning the TV show The Block they decided to sell their house and hit the road.

REDARC helped to set them up with a number of products that would ensure they could acheive all of their power needs in order to stay unplugged from the grid as long as possible. So naturally we were interested in how they faired on their journey and what they managed to learn about sustainable living on and off the road along the way.

 

How we used solar power to stay off the grid for six months

 

Travelling is all about freedom. The freedom to go where you want, when you want, and for however long you want. This kind of freedom comes with some preparation and knowing the right gear to have on board. Touring Australia, for us, was a chance to get away from it all, a chance to get ‘off the grid’, and that we did. We managed to travel over 20,000km around Australia, in 5 months, without once ‘plugging in’.

Our trip came from a desire for us to learn more about sustainability and it was a great chance for us to get to know a bit more about portable solar panels. We made it one of our goals to create a setup that really allowed us to be powered by the sun. If you have seen any of our web series, ‘The Gathering Folk’, you might know that we had quite a bit of gear that needed to be powered. We always had something charging, cameras, laptops, phones, and so we had to really be prepared and be smart about our energy usage.

 Topping up the batteries with a solar blanket has never been so quick and easy

 

Our Gear

 

  • Two MacBooks for editing
  • Four Phones and a Sat Sleeve (two phones used for sound recording)
  • A Canon SLR
  • GoPro
  • Osmo Gimbal Camera
  • DJI Drone
  • Battery Drill/Driver
  • Battery Flood Light
  • Led Portable lights
  • Fixed LED lights on the canopy of the Hilux
  • Fixed LED lights inside the Camper
  • Evakool TMX55 Travel Mate Fridge

 

Our Usage

 

To ensure we could meet our goal we had to create an easy to use a setup that allowed us to capture energy from the sun, monitor our usage, and deliver it efficiently to power our gear. We used The Manager30 battery management system, 190w REDARC solar blanket, BCDC1225D In-vehicle charger, and 700W Pure Sine Wave Inverter (for more details on these products see our blog here). This gear allowed us to charge our 300-amp hour battery bank, 200 in the camper and 100 in the Hilux. To ensure the longevity of your battery life, they shouldn’t be run down to any more than 50%; meaning, we could use up to 150-amp hours. With the Skamper Dingo, in a 24-hour period, we would use around 10% of our stored capacity. What that means is that we could last around 5 days without the need to capture more energy. We didn’t ever run it that fine, but it shows the setups potential.

 

The REDARC solar blanket in all its pride and glory

 

Tips to stay Powered by the Sun

 

  • Do some test runs with your gear so you know how to monitor your energy use and what really uses up the energy.
  • Make sure all electrical cables installed are the correct size to allow for safe and efficient power delivery.
  • Capture energy when you can. If you know you will be stationary for a period, place the solar blanket out and chase the sun with it throughout the day.
  • Try to charge phones and other electrical items while you are driving. We also had a setup in the canopy of the Hilux that allowed us to charge our 240V gear while we were driving.
  • Only use what you have to when you have to. Keep the lights off, limit the times you wash the dishes and enjoy the bush TV.
  • Keep solar panels clean, a good wipe with a damp soft and clean cloth works well.
  • Keep the fridge storage area out of the sun or slide it out to reduce the ambient temperature as much as possible. The cooler the fridge stays the less energy it uses.
  • Have fun with saving energy and make the most of it. We loved making a campfire to cook our meals and to use as a light source in the evenings.

 Having the right 12v system allows you to spend that extra night in beautiful locations like these

 

We are really proud of what we achieved with our trip and our off-grid experience. It taught us so much about the way we use energy and how to ensure we use it wisely. Using a portable solar setup also gave us a great opportunity to teach our daughter about energy saving, why it’s important, and allowed us to chat with her about other sustainable ideas. If you have any questions about our setup or our trip feel free to get in touch via Facebook or our website

  

 Watch the final episode of The Gathering Folk's web series to find out all of the tips and tricks of their epic adventure.

 

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