Tag Archives: solar

How A Simple Inverter Saved My Day!

I’m just at the beginning of the conversion of my cargo van and the decision about the final design of the electrical system is still a long way off. I had to rethink the design again, as I’m preparing for my first multi-day trip with the van.

The Electrical System

I have long envisioned a basic electrical system, comprised of a few solar panels, lead-acid batteries and a modest inverter, supplemented with some propane for cooking and heating. Continue reading How A Simple Inverter Saved My Day!

It’s My New Ford Transit

I’m pleased to announce the arrival of my little miracle (manufactured today, September 25th, 2015).
My little bundle of joy will come home in a few weeks (by convoy), where I’ll help him to quickly grow up (van conversion). As an adult he’ll be able to travel the country and experience America’s natural beauty.

My Cargo Van

It has been a fairly easy process up till now. I ordered the vehicle at the dealer on July 31st, expecting a 3 month wait. As expected, I received a copy of the ‘Confirmed Order’ less than a week later. This shows what was input at the dealership. If there are errors to the order or delays in a particular option(s), this will Continue reading It’s My New Ford Transit

Lithium Battery Prices Set To Plummet 65%!

Lithium battery prices could fall from $550 per kWh in 2014 to $200 per kWh by 2020. That whopping 65% is one of the results of an energy storage study published by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

This would be a game changer in the RV environment, by making such a battery bank overall much more affordable, with big technological improvements over lead-acid batteries. Such a quick adoption would equal the current implementation of solar energy, which has been the second-largest source of new electricity generating capacity in the US.

Battery prices will be under big pressure starting 2016 when Elon Musk’s monster factories will go on-line and start producing 500,000 Lithium batteries a year in Nevada. May be just in time for my van conversion!

RV Electrical System: My Setup

PREVIOUS: RV Electrical System: Sizing

Now that we have a good understanding of the intricacies of a well-designed electrical/solar system for an RV, it’s time to select the actual components for my upcoming Ford Transit cargo van conversion.


The goal I’m striving for, is a fully electrical, self-sufficient van/RV that can handle a minimum of 5-6 days off the grid. No other power sources such as propane for cooking & heating are considered and average consumption is calculated to be between 80-90 Amps per day.


The heart of the electrical system is the battery bank. Long dominated by lead-acid batteries (first flooded and more recently AGM’s), finally the more appealing Lithium technology is gaining a foothold. With the Continue reading RV Electrical System: My Setup

RV Electrical System: Sizing

PREVIOUS: RV Electrical System: Batteries & Solar Panels


Sizing the electrical system in your RV means choosing the different components and making sure they work well together, while their relationship in terms of quantity, size and number is well proportioned.
Setting up solar is fairly simple, yet involves many interdependent parts and unless done correctly, will heavily influence the final setup. There is a certain order to the chaos:

  1. Sizing solar always starts with establishing demand. This is partly an exact science (add amps from appliances), partly guesswork (how often do you use lights, heater, etc.). But try first to minimize demand by replacing old incandescent or even fluorescent lights with highly efficient LED lights. Continue reading RV Electrical System: Sizing

RV Electrical System: Batteries & Solar Panels

PREVIOUS: RV Electrical System: Design


Central to the system and most visible are the batteries, which have to supply the electricity during the days when a hookup is not available. Two basic types are currently used in RV’s:

  • Lead-Acid Batteries
    Trojan T-105Types:
    • Starting Battery – Use only to start the vehicle; its plates are too thin.
    • RV/Marine Deep Cycle Battery – Used as start and house battery. Don’t use.
    • True Deep Cycle Battery – Has thick plates made to store and hold your power.

    Flooded or AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat)
    Flooded batteries, need regular maintenance, but their price make it the most affordable solution. Continue reading RV Electrical System: Batteries & Solar Panels

RV Electrical System: Design

PREVIOUS: RV Electrical System: History

Two recent developments will change the future of RV living: flexible panels and Lithium batteries. Neither will benefit everybody, as the extra cost tends to favor boondockers, who receive a greater payback on their investment. Lower prices will inevitably lead to wider use and greater implementation by most, if not all, RV’ers.
Flexible solar panels are stealthy and lightweight, while their efficiency is comparable to rigid panels. A more than 75% reduction in weight is significant for cargo van converters, as they always struggle to stay Continue reading RV Electrical System: Design

RV Fridge Checklist: How To Store Your Food On The Road

RV fridges come in all sizes, and more importantly as a single 12V or three-way unit.

For years, the three-way fridge has been the traditional unit for use in RV’s, yet it had two major drawbacks:

  • The absorption type fridge requires leveling of the vehicle.
  • It has complicated power source requirements: 12V + 120V wiring and propane tanks.

That all changed with the advent of the Danfoss compressor. Refrigerators equipped with these compressors are energy efficient, highly reliable and compact. Connected to batteries, as a 12V power source, these fridges can run for days and indefinitely when connected to solar panels. No more restrictions when traveling through tunnels (propane) and more opportunities to build a propane-free conversion van. Continue reading RV Fridge Checklist: How To Store Your Food On The Road

Is The RV At The Forefront Of Low Voltage Home Wiring?

There are many similarities between a solar installation in an RV and a regular single-family home. OK, some differences are quite fundamental, like the total number of available PV panels and their orientation, yet with respect to the system wiring, differences are less apparent.

The RV and the Marine environment have accumulated heaps of solar technical knowhow, that is directly applicable to home construction. And the major increases in efficiency of Photovoltaic panels in recent years, Continue reading Is The RV At The Forefront Of Low Voltage Home Wiring?

“Intel: Little Stick, Big Surprise.” How To Successfully Integrate A Computer In Your RV

Long before I install solar in my RV, I have to think about power use of my electronics, that is the amps and type of voltage (12V/110V). Computer use in a RV has become easier since laptops became available. Battery use is always an issue in a recreational vehicle and certainly with computers that may use little, but are in use a lot. Trying to keep electrical demand to a minimum is always a priority, since it directly translates into a longer boondocking experience.

Intel developed the low energy Atom chip line used in the NUC’s (Next Unit of Computing) small form factor PC’s with a similar technology as what’s used in the so popular tablets. Continue reading “Intel: Little Stick, Big Surprise.” How To Successfully Integrate A Computer In Your RV