Can I Install My Off Grid Solar Power System for Van Conversion?
Have you ever felt like you needed to reboot life and go off-grid? Maybe a bus conversion is in your near future. Karma and Scott decided to dream big and live small, moving into a converted bus and documenting their adventure over on Reboot Life. Our GridFree Bach Kit is the off grid solar system for van conversion that is powering their new lifestyle in their 1984 Isuzu bus, which they have converted themselves over the last year! Listen into our Q&A with them and see which of our DIY solar kits is the right fit for you.
How did you set up your kit, and where have you got it installed?
We installed it in our converted bus, and we live in it full time. We used the tilt mount for the panels on the roof and installed the batteries and hybrid inverter in an outside side cabinet during the bus conversion. We did most of the installation work ourselves, then got a licensed electrician to hook it up and connect the system.
What are you running on your kit? What are you not running?
We have a 48V system. We run our power outlets (standard plugs and USB charging ports) and a standard apartment size 255L Samsung fridge/freezer on 230v. We mainly plug in 2 phones, a Nutribullet, a small battery-charged handheld vacuum, a front load washing machine, and a power hungry apple laptop. Then step down power to 12v to run 11 small LED spotlights in 4 different zones, a water pump, a computer fan for the composting toilet, and a few tank sensors.
We run hot water and cooking on gas and use a wood burner for heating.
What was it that appealed to you about living off-grid? Why did you choose this lifestyle?
Self sufficiency. Independence. Freedom.
Why did you choose this bus conversion, as opposed to a newer vehicle or traditional motorhome?
We think it is a lot more fun to build something ourselves from scratch than buying a pre-built motorhome. Our converted bus is custom built to our needs and our taste and feels like a real home rather than a camper. It has personality. A bus is much safer than a light weight RV too. An older bus was a more affordable option for us and has much more charm and quirks than a newer vehicle. It is also less complicated to work on/maintain ourselves over time.
What challenges have you faced along the way?
We received a damaged panel and had to buy a new one from you since the courier would not own up to the damage. It was clearly a forklift damage, which happened in transit and out of our control, but we did not file the claim in time and we were left with the bill. We did not unpack the panels right away, since we were in the middle of building and not ready to install them just yet. By the time we opened the box it was too late. Very upsetting and a very expensive lesson. :(
Why did you choose solar over a generator or something else?
Not even comparable... we wanted to be self sufficient whenever wherever, so only plugging in at campsites was never an option. Generators are just too noisy. We are already burning fossil fuels to drive, so generating our own clean power for everything else offsets that carbon footprint somewhat.
Why did you choose GridFree over another company? How did you find us?
Found you online. The Bach kit was exactly what we wanted, good quality components, upgradable. Since we could not source the kit cheaper ourselves, we prefer to create a relationship with a small NZ company with a vision. Of course it also simplified things for us.
What’s been the best part of going solar?
Clean free energy!!! Morally in line with our personal values.
What’s been the best part of being off-grid in general?
No power bill!!! We are independent and free!
Do you have any advice to other people that are planning to go off-grid or build a house bus, NZ?
JUST DO IT!!
To see more of Karma and Scott's bus conversion journey, check out their blog Reboot Life. You'll also find the start of their journey to building a homestead on the West Coast!