Stacey's running our Weekend Warrior Kit in his converted ambulance.
How did you set up your kit, and where have you got it installed?
I installed the kit myself. It was my first effort with all things solar, but the kit was quite straight forward to put together (and the guys were only a txt away if had a query). Most of the head scratching related to where I was trying to fit it…in a 2010 Mercedes ambulance. As luck would have it the inverter and both batteries fit in the existing oxygen/extinguisher cabinet with room for the 1000W charger that I added later on.
What are you running on your kit? What are you not running?
The kit runs a bunch of internal led lights and the 5 external scene lamps. The Engel fridge/freezer runs 24/7 as does the little bar fridge (1 1/2 star energy rating but it was free and the kit can cope fine ). We use an 800W air fryer for most of the cooking. We have a small induction hot plate that we use interchangeably with a couple of gas cookers. Movies get streamed on the PC via a hotspot from one of our cell phones. Heating is provided by a 3lt V6 turbo and we can run an electric blanket if the bed gets chilly…like at the foot of Aoraki/Mt Cook mid winter for example (minus 5 INSIDE!). The charger has been a great addition for overcast weeks during winter. We’re pretty power hungry and we do run out of grunt if the sun is absent for a few winter days.
What was it that appealed to you about living off-grid? Why did you choose this lifestyle?
We liked the idea of a lot of land which was going to mean very little house. And the idea of a camping type vehicle was also in our minds to enable us to get up and go when the spirit moved us. So we were looking at a small solar setup in something static on some land…and I liked the idea of going solar in a camper too. So we hit on the idea of going medium size and putting it all into the camper. That way when we leave the property we take our expensive power kit with us for safe keeping. We’ll, we haven’t quite made out onto the land yet. But we’re ready for it.
Why did you choose to have an ex-ambulance? Did you convert it yourself or buy it complete?
We grabbed the ambulance from the fellow who got it from St Johns as a decommissioned unit in 2017. We inherited all the built-in storage standard in an ambulance so it was just a matter of building on that. As she sits now we have a camper customised for our specific wants for roughly 1/2 of a 2nd hand factory built unit.
What challenges have you faced along the way?
When St Johns decommission their vehicles some lunatic runs wild through the vehicle with a set of wire cutters and just hacks out anything and everything that had an emergency flavour to it. So I had kilometres of random wires hanging, dangling and entwined all over the place. Working out what went where was a challenge!
Why did you choose solar over a generator or mains power?
We added in the 1000W charger to give us the option of topping up the batteries from a domestic supply or off the generator we carry as part of the ambo kit. Going solar means we can roll up to unpowered camp sites, pay lower fees and still enjoy all our gadgets.
Why did you choose GridFree over another company? How did you find us?
After we bought the ambulance there was almost a year where we were waiting on funds to start the kit out. So we had plenty of time to use the vehicle (air bed and chilly bin was all we started with) and get a feel for what we actually wanted and how we’d use it. An internet search brought up Grid Free and the website was super straight forward and easy to assess power needs, then match that data to a kit. I wanted to do the install myself so buying a package with all the bits and bobs already matched up was a very attractive option. I’m sure I could have found individual components at cheaper prices…if I’d known where to look and how to check compatibility. But that just seemed like asking for trouble especially since my electrical experience is limited. (1990s NZ Post Office telephone technician working with 50V DC).
What’s been the best part of going solar?
‘Free’ power everywhere we go.
What’s the next step in your off-grid journey?
Buy a few hectares, drop some cabins onto it and powering them off the camper.
Do you have any advice to other people that are planning to go off-grid?
Work out how much power all your gadgets need, work out which GridFree kit matches that usage…and then buy the next kit up from that. I don’t think you’ll ever regret having extra capacity available.
Check out the Weekend Warrior Kit here and enjoy the freedom of off-grid solar!