I’ve started planning this move a few months back, and after a lot of research, and time, and late nights wondering what I’m doing with my life, I have narrowed down a few things. Now, some of my decisions are for personal reasons, and I’ll explain that as well. But for now, Let me show you guys what my cart looks like, with the things I WILL be getting.
EdgeStar Compact Fridge/Freezer
I chose this Fridge/Freezer for a few reasons. For one, I liked the fact it’s a separate fridge/freezer. That’s pretty important to me, since I’ve had experience with the combined kind, and things were either frozen in the fridge, or thawed in the freezer. Now, granted that was in my barracks, so they weren’t top of the line, but I didn’t want to chance it. The energy consumption is also a major factor. This unit takes 0.64 Amps to run on a 120 volt line. Now, in the RV that is a bit different, especially because I’ll be using battery power for everything. I’m going with a 12 volt power system setup, to there is a bit of math involved in figuring out how much power that will take from the battery bank. I suck at math, so I found a few sites that are life savers for me. They are listed below.
Eva-dry Electric Petite Dehumidifier
I chose this dehumidifier due to the high reviews in the RV groups on Facebook, and the minimal amount of power it uses. Normally I don’t want to dry out the air (my ac would be fine for that) But when it cold, and you have the doors closed, your breath will fog up the windows, much like in a car. However unlike a car, it can cause mold in places you may not see or look at often. This helps with keeping that moisture down to a minimum, and preventing those issues. This unit is perfectly fine for an RV less than 30 feet. If you are going higher than that, or you do a lot of work that puts moisture in the air, you may want to upgrade to the next level up in this series.
Express Water Reverse Osmosis/Ultra Violet Water Filter
This water filter was decided upon after literally months of research. Ok, so maybe only like a month an a half, but that’s still a long time. I chose this filter above all else because it filters pretty much everything except water. With filters you always want to go reverse osmosis. That will take out pretty much and dissolved solids, prevent build up in the pipes, and be much cleaner for you, and your family. I went one step higher with a Ultra Violet filter as well. This kills 99.9% of all germs, bacteria, viruses, fungi, and a slew of other bad biological things. There is a downside to all this filtration, it takes out all the minerals that you would normally get through water. You can remineralize you’re water fairly easily. They have after filter fixtures you can use, or with a bit of looking, you can find certain salts will add the minerals you need. I went with the salts, because most of my water will be used for dishes and showers, so mineralizing that water just seems like a waste. The decision is up to you of course.
Ecosmart 120V Electric Minitank Water Heater
If you’re going pure solar, no propane, no generator, you’re going to want to change your water heater. Many people chose tank-less heaters, which act as on demand heating, warming the water as it goes to you. I chose a mini tank heater instead, which will store hot water, just on a much smaller scale. I selected this because I like to take hot showers, and I don’t want it to become lukewarm water in the winter. The one I chose is a 6 gallon capacity, so I can use it for a decently long shower, and I can wash dishes, without too much worry. You may not need a 6 gallon heater, and they come in much smaller sizes. Any way you go, I recommend finding the minimal power consumption, to save you’re batteries for important things. Like music and stuff.
Nature’s Head Dry Composting Toilet
Now we’ll get to the poop. I know, I know, it’s a gross subject but it needs discussed. Now, if you’re looking to stay off grid, you’re going to want to get rid of that black tank hanging on your RV. I chose a composting toilet for a few reasons. Firstly, I plan on having a garden, and if I can make something grow better by doing what happens naturally, then why not? Also, many people don’t know, you can legally dump compost into trashcans. So, if you wanted to go that route, you could bag it up after it’s full, and throw it into a dumpster. Or bury it, and give nature something to work with. It’s much better, and cheaper, than having to dump a black tank. While, were on the subject, you will need to purchase a composting material. Poop doesn’t compost on it’s own, so I recommend the Coconut Coir block to toss in. You basically break a piece off, and sprinkle it into the toilet. Now, this option is not for everyone, but it’s not a bad one. On the Gone with the Wynns blog, they talk about theirs, and the two of them filled up they’re compost box, about every two months. That’s eight weeks, for two people! One person could probably stretch it to four maybe five months. Also, if you go to their blog, and find their coupon code, you can get it cheaper from the manufacturer even with shipping(About 50$ savings) Either way, you will be less likely to end up like Robin Williams in the movie RV.(If you haven’t watched it, I recommend it, it won’t really help you with RVing, but it’s a pretty funny movie.)
Renogy Eclipse 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Panel
Alright, now we get into the real reason you’re here. Panels. I chose the Renogy brand, due to the overwhelmingly positive reviews on the brand itself. That says a lot, and will probably save you a lot of heartache later when you can run your stove or ac, but not both. I went with a bit pricier panel, the Eclipse series, which are about 50$ more than their normal panels. That doesn’t seem like a huge difference, but when you’re buying 4 or more panels, it adds up quickly. However, I went with the eclipses, because they handle better with shade and cloudy days. Now obviously if its cloudy you won’t get the same amount of power as a sunny day. But these will drop a bit less than you’re standard panel, which are just fine as well! My setup, between game consoles, screens, and a gaming rig that could eat all the power in my rv and still be hungry, I knew I needed to get as much power as possible, regardless of weather. You can buy solar panel kits, which will include everything you need. I recommend this for those not quite skilled with wiring and electronics. I have opted to piece meal everything together, from connectors to panels, I’m purchasing everything individually. This takes a bit more research on you’re part, but it’s saving me about 100$. Piece meal accordingly for maximum savings!
Renogy Rover 12V/24V DC Input MPPT Solar Charge Controller
The charge controller if the backbone of you’re setup. If you don’t have one you can’t charge the batteries, and power your things. I went with an MPPT (Maximum power point tracking) charge controller, over a PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) due to the higher efficiency of the charge it puts out. Now again, I’m running a lot of power, you may not need the MPPT, and it WILL save you quite a bit if you use a PWM instead. However, I needed this one, and I needed a 40 amp controller, since my panels will produce 30 amps, in almost perfect conditions, and they don’t make a 30 amp controller in the brand I’d like. Again, I stuck with renogy, good reviews, blah blah. Keep in mind when you’re choosing a charge controller, you’re panels, you’re potential output, you’re batteries, and you’re wire gauge. If you can potentially push 23 amps, aim for a 20 amp controller. Unless you have a sunlight tracking system, in the south, with the sun directly above you, you won’t be hitting that 23 amps. With solar, always underestimate your panels. Again UNDERESTIMATE YOUR PANELS. The biggest issue I see with many people is they get a 200 watt system, and complain because it wont run their 200 watt TV. Solar is not 100% efficient. They’re working on it, we’re just not there yet. Full disclosure, I will be keeping the generator in my RV for the air conditioner on the really hot days when I don’t want my puppy to get overheated. If you have pets, this may be a major thing to consider.
VertaMax Pure Sine Wave 12V Power Inverter
The power inverter converts your 12 volt Direct Current from the batteries, into 120 volt Alternating Current, that your devices know and love, and need. Without the inverter, you will have to try and find everything DC, which is much harder than you think. Don’t try to full time without this, you will not be happy. I chose the VertaMax, again because the brand is highly praised. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the money for trial and error. VertaMax is a brand of WindyNation, which produces many wind turbines and solar panels. I didn’t go with their panels because from reviews, they don’t handle cloudy days very well. However the inverter is very important too. Most things do not work well with a Modified Sine Wave inverter. I don’t remember all the electronic speak about this particular difference, but suffice to say, Pure Sine Wave inverters will run everything as if it was a household outlet. So, when looking, make sure to find Pure Sine Wave, and no this isn’t just a marketing thing. Some people work just fine on Modified Sine Wave, but if their friend comes over, their laptop wont charge, even though it charges some laptops. I find it best to just cover all you’re bases, as you won’t know what doesn’t work with MSW, until it doesn’t. Another key note, do NOT base they wattage off your solar array, base this off what you’re devices will pull. I have a site that will help you, and it will be posted below.
WindyNation 12V 100 Amp-Hour AGM Deep Cycle Battery
Now, this will be a highly contested area, and for good reason. Many people will shout Lithium, which they are right. Lithium will hold the voltage higher for longer, which allows for longer power. I did much research into this, and while the lithium will last longer, they are also much more expensive. I’m talking about 900$ per battery. If you’re going with a 1 battery setup, than this may be for you. However most of us(Myself included) don’t have that luxury. Charge cycle wise, it’s actually more cost effective to buy Absorbent Glass Mat batteries (AGM), than to buy lithum. Unfortunate, I know, but until they can lower the price of lithium, this is what I’ve discovered. Now I thought long and hard about this before making my decision, and I went with the AGM, because I can get the WindyNation 100 Amp Hour batteries for 180$ a piece. That’s five times cheaper, than the lithium. There’s nothing saying you can’t upgrade to Lithium later! But cost wise, this is the best option at this time. Side note, do not mix Lithium batteries with Lead Acid batteries. You will mess one if not both up.
This is my cart in Amazon currently. This all comes to about 3,800, toilet included. Now, there are more cost effective ways to make that toilet, if you’re not shy around some handyman work. I chose this because it is prebuilt, and will be easiest for guests to aclimate to. Again this is a pure personal choice. But I will say this much, I am able to put all this together, along with a used RV, for less than 10k$. For less than 10$, you can have a roof over you’re head, and if you plan it right, you won’t need to pay rent. I will get into that in later posts. Here are the sites I promised you guys.
Battery aH Calculator is where I take all my numbers I do know, and punch in the boxes to get an estimation on what I need to have in a battery bank. Now, as an estimation, this is not going to be the exact number you need. If you’re going with 100% solar, I recommend rounding up to the nearest 50ah or the nearest 100ah, for cost effectiveness and less heartache.
Rapid Tables Watt To Amp is a great way to take your devices and see how many amps you need to run them on different electrical systems. Most devices will have stickers on the back, or printed into the plastic, that tells you the wattage or amperage the device takes. To find all this, you will need to do some research, and some looking. To give you a bit of help, your household power is 120 volt, and your solar panels will likely run 12 volt. That will help you find the amp difference to input into the Battery aH Calculator. The amps for that will be you’re 12v calculation, not you’re 120v.
Gone with the Wynns is a page by a couple who are traveling around without having a central home. They are currently traveling on a boat, but they were in an RV for a long time, and still a great source of reviews, tips, and other cool facts. They are actually what made me want to write this blog, because while their setup is extremely nice, it’s also very expensive. Most of us don’t have that kind of money to spend, so I decided to make a cheaper version, that more people can adapt to. That being said, don’t be afraid to check out their stuff! They have some cool guides to things, and coupon codes on many items.