George's Housebus in Dunedin

George's Housebus in Dunedin

After much online research I decided the guys at Gridfree NZ were my best choice so I called them up to discuss my project and decided the Bach Kit with Lithium upgrade would be the best fit for my needs.
Pete's Converted Shed in Raglan Reading George's Housebus in Dunedin 9 minutes

Vehicle is a 1992 MAN 10-180 housebus with large main cabin and double bed in the rear. Is fitted with full size shower cubicle, mascerating toilet, infinity gas hot water system, gas cooker, full size 230v fridge, 24 LED lights throughout, microwave, air fryer, projector with portable 55” screen, Bluetooth speaker system, Airtonic D2 diesel heater and heaps of storage cupboards.

The following is where I fitted the Gridfree Bach Kit Solar system to make the bus 100% independent for power generation for all my needs while on the road. Note it is just myself and Mags (a 5 month old Jack Russel) travelling together and based out of Dunedin.

Prior to this build there was a 24 v house battery system which was linked into the main bus battery charging system using the alternator for charging. The main drawback being you need to run the engine to charge the batteries, an expensive and noisy system especially if located on one place for any length of time. I also had it drain my main house batteries at one stage so had to get a jump start for the entire bus! What a pain in the neck that was. So I decided I need an independent power system from that of the actual bus systems. After much online research I decided the guys at Gridfree were my best choice so I called them up to discuss my project and decided the Bach Kit with Lithium upgrade would be the best fit for my needs. At NZ$13k it was not a cheap option but was a complete kit so was essentially a plug-and-play system with everything needed to fit it into my bus.

So the kit was ordered and arrived on a pallet within a week direct to my door in Dunedin, great service indeed, so far I was impressed. Then I set too preparing the bus, firstly was to remove the old house battery system, disconnected from the bus charging system and remove old wiring throughout, this took about a day.

Once completed then the first item to be fitted was were the 4 solar panels, each 395 Watts. Because of the nature of the curved roof it was a bit of a challenge to get them all leveled up but the brackets make this real easy as they are height adjustable so can take account of the curvature.

One issue I did have was I hade three different skylights fitted so had to split the panels into two banks of 2 each (see pictures below) this was OK as there was enough rail space to do this although I was short 4 end brackets for locking the panels in place so gave the guys at Gridfree NZ a call and they came to the party by couriering down the additional items I needed at half price, thanks guys you were great.

Needed a friend to help me lift the panels onto roof and hold in place while I fitted the brackets and screwed them down, I also used good old NO MORE NAILS to glue them in place to ensure any vibration would not loosen the screws.

Then it was linking them all up with the cable spaghetti I had! Fortunately the instructions are pretty well laid out and easy to follow, note I am an electrical & mechanical engineer of many years so although I found this straightforward I would recommend getting a professional to assist if not sure yourself. Once this was done then the two power cables were slotted through the roof and down the inside of the wall to the location where the other system components were to be fitted in one of the side bins.

Once all the panels were fitted and locked in place then it was back to ground level to fit the batteries, hybrid inverter and relevant breakers and wiring. This required some specific tools so again if you are not that confident with electrical engineering then get a professional to fit it for you.

So the first things to get fitted were the batteries, because I had limited space I stacked them together on the provided base then using one of the brackets supplied in the kit secured them to the internal wall so they are fitted securely and won’t move whilst driving. Then fitted the breaker between them and the Hybrid inverter.

Then I fitted the inverter, it was quite a tight squeeze due to the size of it but managed it OK with a little ingenuity. Once this was in then linked up the relevant cables from the batteries, via the breaker box.

The data cable went direct from the batteries to the Hybrid inverter. Then it was time to link up the PV array via its own breaker, note I made sure to have the main link cables disconnected on the roof whilst fitting the breaker otherwise 4 panels producing 395 Watts each will certainly make your hair stand on end! Once breaker fitted and wired into the Hybrid inverter then it was time to switch everything on. Very important to follow instructions here to turn things on in the correct order. The VOILA…… I had power generation happening and battery charging going on.

I also purchased the WiFi dongle which would enable me to monitor the whole system from my phone or tablet at anytime.

I would say this is essential to keep track of your power generation and consumption on a regular basis. It also keeps a good history so you can see the highs and lows. For instance I know my fridge uses about 53 watts for about 15 mins every 3 hours whilst running.

Once I had everything working then it was time to wire up to the main circuit breakers in the main cabin, important note here TURN EVERYTHING OFF AND ISOLATE THE INVERTER !! Otherwise you’ll be making a great YouTube video of ‘Idiots at work’…….

I had to drill through the side of the cabinet and run the wires through the wall, under the floor and up the main pantry cupboard to reach the main circuit breakers which were situated in the top of the pantry.

All new breakers were fitted ensuring I had enough amperage too handle the relevant items, which should be done by a professional. I had to get mine certified with an electrician in order to get an electrical cert for the bus. Once this was done I also fitted a 230v to 24v AC to DC converter and also individual switches for the toilet, water pump and LED lighting system.

At the same time I fitted two double sockets with USB charging ports, this provides me with enough outlets needed for any appliances I am running. The fridge is permanently running through one of these sockets.

Then the big moment, turn the power back on to hybrid inverter from both batteries and solar array, then switch on main circuit breakers in the cabin and check all lights and sockets were working, including toilet and water pump.

I also use a portable Bluetooth speaker which is charged via USB and also a XGIMI projector which is also battery powered but charged via 230v or run on 230v whilst in use. I have this fitted to the roof but it can be removed easily and mounted on a tripod and moved outside (or anywhere else). It can project up to 200” if needed but I made a 55” screen from a flyscreen kit I bought from Mitre 10 and some special projector materiel courtesy of Ali Express.

It all works pretty well as the projector runs Android TV so all the usual apps are available as long as you have a WiFi connection. I also fit a 2TB SSD loaded with movies so can watch these at anytime without WiFi. With sound from the Bluetooth speaker it makes a pretty good portable entertainment system.

By using mainly low power appliances (24v lights, toilet and water pump) and rechargeable devices such as the projector and Bluetooth speaker I am able to ensure there is always enough power to keep me off grid 100% of the time. Cooking and hot water heating by gas also helps, I also have an Ozpig BBQ cooker for those cold outdoor nights.

I have an external 230v socket which has yet to be fitted and linked into the hybrid inverter to provide an input from the mains but to be honest not sure if I need it so still sitting in a box.

All this wrapped up in a housebus means I have a different view every few days in the most remote locations. Mags and I have already had some adventures and plan on many more in the future.

I’m working on my next project to fit a bike lift to rear of the bus so I can take my KTM 790 with me as well so we can park up and go riding (Mags has her own special motorcycle dog carrier).

Thanks to the folks at Gridfree for the help and advice, they have a great FB Page which I recommend visiting or just give them a call.

Thank you to George Tweedy for supplying these images and details of his installation! Anyone interested is welcome to contact him through Facebook.