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Thread: Initial Off Grid Electricity

  1. #1

    Initial Off Grid Electricity

    Just about the make the move to an off grid caravan. Its in a wooded area so i cant do solar yet. Im taking the plunge on a 3KW inverter genny to give me power at the start. I was going to use it to charge a battery initially as we will have very minimal power requirements.

    Do I need anything else appart from the battery (leisure battery, maybe 80 - 120 Ah), battery charger (230v) and genny. How often will I need to do a top up on the battery with very minimal power usage (laptop, LED lights, phone etc.)

    Thanks


  2. #2
    I would get a small LED volt meter about 2 on ebay. Put it accross the battery and you can check and turn the genny on as and when you need to.

    I have a direct link to my starter battery via a 100amp switch on my van. So when my voltage is getting low I can flip the switch once the vans running and give it a boost when I driving somewhere.


  3. #3
    Love's the shire Offgrid hero's Avatar
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    Sounds good,I would get a small solar setup with a LCD screen/battery monitor straight away the sooner you buy it the sooner it pays for itself, you don't need a big generator small and quiet is the answer and a nice Victorian paraffin lamp for evenings,it gets dark early in the woods.
    just a simple guy
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  4. #4
    Heavenly Creature
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    Would love to live off the grid, might do it someday.

  5. #5
    Me gone,bye bye.. NomadicRT's Avatar
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    If youre going to use a 3,kw inverter that will suck power out of your battery pretty fast.I assume you want that for the laptop ? Its not very efficient converting 12v via an inverter to run a 240v power supply for a low voltage DC laptop...You might be better off getting a DC voltage converter to up the 12v DC to whatever your laptop is.
    My two laptops are 18v and 20v DC.You can get voltage converters for pretty much any voltage difference off ebay relatively cheaply.
    A laptop will draw between 2 and 4 amps a hour on average.If its an old one probably more.A single fluorescent strip will use 2 or 3 amps an hour or LED strip will use 1 amp an hour.Phone depending on use will need an amp or two for an hour or two to charge fully.Its pretty easy with minimal use to extract 10amps an hour from your battery.Use an inverter it will be flat in no time.
    Whatever your AH capacity of your battery you can forget at least half of that as useable as you should not run your battery lower than 50-60% of its AH capacity ideally so you need to look at a battery with a good AH capacity for your intended use...120AH at least.
    Ive got 3 125AH batts but ive got solar and wind turbine and a genny and in the winter months i scrape by with enough power. I rarely use my inverter as they drain the battery too fast.Youll need a pure sine invertor if you intend using it for computer.
    My generator is only 1kvh and only just adequate for charging batteries and expect to run it for 3 to 6 hours a day if you want to keep your battery in good order via a charger if youre using.all the yhings you mention.
    Some gennys have a 12v output but ive personally found that inadequate for charging batteries.
    If youre running a genny for 6 hours it will see off a fivers worth of petrol.
    If youre lucky enough to afford a diesel one id do that as you can run it on red.
    If youre going to have to get a genny buy one with a decent output 2kva min as the smaller ones just arent really adequate,theyre ok for camping but not long term living and depending on them.Theyre not that expensive.
    If you get a genny with a honda engine there are kits around to adapt them to run on propane which can work out cheaper to run.
    You really need to look very carefully at your power useage in minute detail and screw it down to the bare minimum and be very miserly about how you use it because you will get through what you have very quickly if you dont pay attention...fall asleep with the lights on and wake up in the morning with a flat battery..its easy done..and flatting a battery will kill them.Buy two batteries youll never be in the situation that youve no power
    Id definitely invest in a solar panel battery charger even if it means carrying the battery to a sunny spot outside of where your caravan will be as it will save you a lot of money on fuel.

    I guarantee someone will be slong to contradict whst ive said but thats my experience and i lived most of the last 10 years with no mains electricity.Most of the year i rely entirely on solar panels and i get by pretty well despite having a high power demand because of the electronics and their batterypacks i have.


    You could also look at your electrical equipment you currently have and consider changing them.A tablet will use a lot less power than a laptop and do pretty much the same things.A handheld battery LED strip light will light a caravan for a week on 4 AA batteries.Change your phone for one with a better battery life...all those kind of things make a big difference to electricity use and how much you spend on equipment like generators inverters solar panels etc and fuel to feed that use.

    One question...does your caravan have any electrics and hookup option fitted ?
    Hebridean at heart..everywhere else is just somewhere on the way back there...
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  6. #6
    Transcending wobblyjim's Avatar
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    Haven’t seen it mentioned yet,
    a fridge. you need to figure how to keep your food fresh.

    then you'll need to decide what type,
    it'll have a big influence on your choices.

    I've tried a std domestic fridge at 220v in a caravan, running through an invertor, this really drained the leisure batteries toot sweet.
    most miserly is a proper 3 way caravan fridge, they can run on lpg and only draw minimum 12v for the lights and control board.

    I run my laptop off a small gadget that plugs into the cigar socket and delivers 19.5v for the HP.
    I've got a small invertor that plugs into the cigar socket and gives me 220v at about 1 amp.
    This is used for charging the toothbrush, shaver etc.

    The engine's alternator can be used instead of a genny. At tickover, mine sends the maximum of 20A to the batteries, an hour will boost your power.
    I frequently have to resort to this if I've depleted my leisure batteries.

    james
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  7. #7
    Heavenly Creature
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    Wobblyjim I can't believe you are off grid and use power for a toothbrush and shaver!! Why would you do that if there are electricity free options? I realise they don't use very much power, but if it's a choice between a power toothbrush and sitting in the dark I know what I would do.

  8. #8
    Love's the shire Offgrid hero's Avatar
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    Li-on ceramic rechargeable hair trimmer is the answer for me,in the summer I don't like hair so I shave my beard off and continue over my entire head much cooler
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    just a simple guy

  9. #9
    lone wolf survivalist.
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    I've lived off grid and I didn't need electric.

  10. #10
    Comfortably Numb Rick69's Avatar
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    If you only want to charge a battery forget the genny. Scrap lawnmower, remove engine. Couple to a car alternator. Connect to battery, start engine and its charging. If you womble some scrap exhaust parts from a tyre place you can make it pretty quiet as well.
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  11. #11
    Me gone,bye bye.. NomadicRT's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by hagrid
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    I've lived off grid and I didn't need electric.
    So have most of us here,the point is he wants it thsts why hes asking
    Hebridean at heart..everywhere else is just somewhere on the way back there...

  12. #12
    lone wolf survivalist.
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    Originally Posted by NomadicRT
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    So have most of us here,the point is he wants it thsts why hes asking
    ok mate, I see, is there much call for electric in a van?

  13. #13
    Love's the shire Offgrid hero's Avatar
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    I can recommend a cheap suitcase generator for clean power,an impax im800i 700w I've been running mine for 3 winters with no problems and @190 from screwfix I'm amazed.
    just a simple guy
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  14. #14

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    Originally Posted by NomadicRT
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    does your caravan have any electrics and hookup option fitted ?
    Thanks for the details. This is great info. The genny is a yahamma, SMDO I think, yamaha engine. 3kW. Its got the converter built in, 240v. SO I was going to use it to charge the battery. Was going to buy one battery, might get two on your advice. Also got the genny with gas conversion straight away (Gas is way cheaper).

    The battery will be going into a caravan. Havent bought one yet, just going for something cheap to start as we have a yurt arriving in the summer and wish to move into that. I though that the caravan might have a invertor in it, as they all seem to but I may have to buy one if it doesnt. Will have to when we move into the yurt anyway. Will probably be able to use 12v for many things, but will need a laptop from time to time for work. Got used to living last year in a tent with two battery packs (USB) and was able to run a business online from them. Used AA battery LED's candles etc. So getting used to the downgrade already and I like it.

    Thanks for the help

  15. #15

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    Originally Posted by wobblyjim
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    3 way caravan fridge, they can run on lpg
    Looking at small caravans to start and run it on the same LPG as the fridge. Then we plan on moving to a yurt and going to just get another caravan fridge to use there. I have no experience with them though so will have to see how it goes.

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    Originally Posted by Rick69
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    If you only want to charge a battery forget the genny. Scrap lawnmower, remove engine. Couple to a car alternator. Connect to battery, start engine and its charging. If you womble some scrap exhaust parts from a tyre place you can make it pretty quiet as well.
    Good idea, might use this in future, cheers. Will need a genny anyway for initial building works. Want to use some wood to build extra spaces, platforms etc.

  17. #17
    Hiya inverters just suck energy

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    Last edited by treestump; 22-02--2017 at 07:25 PM.
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  18. #18
    Heavenly Creature
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    Originally Posted by treestump
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    Hiya inverters just suck energy

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    I'm having trouble with that link, my browser and Acrobat agree that the file format is wrong.

    *** It's OK now. Must be connection. ***
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  19. #19
    Heavenly Creature
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    Also the power curve for inverters shows that at low loads they become much less efficient. They really are to avoid if possible.

  20. #20
    Me gone,bye bye.. NomadicRT's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by treestump
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    Hiya inverters just suck energy

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    Theyre also not terribly reliable.I bought two 'cheap'ish Chinese inverters and they packed up and too uneconomical to send back to manufacturers with no absolute guarantee theyd replace them.I bought an American Plessy instead,more expensive but it works properly and still is and a long decent no quibble warrsnty like most American stuff.
    Hebridean at heart..everywhere else is just somewhere on the way back there...
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  21. #21
    Me gone,bye bye.. NomadicRT's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by multihippie
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    Looking at small caravans to start and run it on the same LPG as the fridge. Then we plan on moving to a yurt and going to just get another caravan fridge to use there. I have no experience with them though so will have to see how it goes.
    Most caravan fridges are made by Electrolux/Dometic (same company) - at least the affordable ones are - and even then theyre not cheap.400 ish for a new one...the advantage though is they have no compressor or moving parts and last forever.The parts that fail ususlly are the electric heater coil used for 12/240v operation and thats around 40 but you dont need it if you have gas.Theyre much more efficient running on gas.Most decent caravan manufscturers like Abbey Swift Bailey Avondale Eldis and a few others wil have an ElectroluxDometic fridge built in at least from late 90's on and caravans of that ilk well equiped can be picked up cheaply if all youre needing is a temporary base,though thryre well sought after.Youll find plenty on ebay.
    Theres a much better option if youre moving into a yurt and thats converting a normal small domestic chest freezer into a fridge.Chest freezers are more efficient (the cold doesnt fall out when you open the door) and easily converted by changing the thermostst module.Theres a company in Australia makes the modules for most makes of freezer about 24 .Once converted they run very well on a solar/bsttery/inverter arrangement.An option you might want to consider when you get your yurt.
    Hebridean at heart..everywhere else is just somewhere on the way back there...
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    Me gone,bye bye.. NomadicRT's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by multihippie
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    Thanks for the details. This is great info. The genny is a yahamma, SMDO I think, yamaha engine. 3kW. Its got the converter built in, 240v. SO I was going to use it to charge the battery. Was going to buy one battery, might get two on your advice. Also got the genny with gas conversion straight away (Gas is way cheaper).

    The battery will be going into a caravan. Havent bought one yet, just going for something cheap to start as we have a yurt arriving in the summer and wish to move into that. I though that the caravan might have a invertor in it, as they all seem to but I may have to buy one if it doesnt. Will have to when we move into the yurt anyway. Will probably be able to use 12v for many things, but will need a laptop from time to time for work. Got used to living last year in a tent with two battery packs (USB) and was able to run a business online from them. Used AA battery LED's candles etc. So getting used to the downgrade already and I like it.

    Thanks for the help
    As i said in previous post the caravans of manufacturers i mentioned will have electrics fitted if theyre late 90's onward..some earlier will have but definitely late 90's or later and can be found cheaply.
    They will usually have an electric hookup,battery charger ,water pumps,battery compartment,240v lights and 3pin sockets,12v lights and maybe a socket.They dont often have an inverter.Only top end later caravans have inverters and if theyre well used the inverters probably no good anyway.
    To be honest if you have a decent generator you shouldnt need to worry too much about inverters unless you want to run 240v equipment without the noise.Ive loads of electronics and a 5kw inverter but i rarely use 240v ...to be honest you dont need it.I run most things off the 12v side including my wifi and network drive and laptop.I think the only thing i need 240v for is my printer or any power tools.
    If your caravan doesnt have electrics or you want a simple hookup for your yurt when you get it then you could just get one of these for about 35 plug into your generator when required.


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    Hebridean at heart..everywhere else is just somewhere on the way back there...

  23. #23
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    I'd get as much storage as you could afford, I've been off grid for 4 years now and having a big (ish) battery bank has been amazing I'm at 24v though. I use 12v g4 cob leds and they draw such a tiny amount of power (1.9w) but are a warm light .
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  24. #24
    Me gone,bye bye.. NomadicRT's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by hagrid
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    ok mate, I see, is there much call for electric in a van?
    I guess that really depends on your chosen lifestyle and what you need around you to make your life how you want it or if you need to make money and run an online business.
    Like you i grew up with no technology worth talking about so living very basically with no electric or running water has never been a hardship just an.inconvenience sometimes.
    These days im more dependent on the internet for various reasons so i like to have electric to power or charge gadgets that i have and for access the internet but i dont bother about not having a running water supply..i can cope without that.If i have to and if id no electricity for any reason id cope without thst too.

    I think you only really need electric in a van for lights because its safer thsn a flamed light but you can quite easily just use a torch.
    At the end of the day non of its absolutely essential its just adapting to make your life as comfortable and conveient as you want it.
    Theres no real reason with the affordable technology that we have available these days to have to slum it in a van or trailer or bender.
    You can have most of the conveniences of a modern house in whatever you live in, or you can live very primitively if you wish...,at least you have a choice now whereas years ago the more basic you lived the fewer conveniences and choices you had.
    Last edited by NomadicRT; 23-02--2017 at 09:02 AM.
    Hebridean at heart..everywhere else is just somewhere on the way back there...

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