Originally Posted by jazty
Alleycat, for what you're doing you could easily get away with solar and propane. Skip the gennie. They're loud and obnoxious.
The three big typical electrical draws for any house are the water heater, electrical range and air conditioning. The only one of those that makes sense to run off of a generator is the AC, which you didn't list as a load.
Running a water heater or range from a generator is a silly affair. You get this great fuel (gasoline or propane) that creates loads of heat, then you waste 90% of the heat to produce a bit of electricity, then you send it across wires that waste more energy (line loss) to produce more heat at the end... Same thing with a water heater. Just burn some propane for gosh sake!
A reasonable solar system would suit you well. I run my small fridge year-round off of 600w of solar panels and a 455Ah battery bank. Both have paid themselves off several times over compared to the cost of a generator and the required fuels. My lights always work, my pumps always work, my fans always work, my stereo always works. I can run a miter saw off of my 2000w inverter. Heck, I even ran a cement mixer off of the inverter! Mind you, it was a beautiful sunny day which helped keep things running along.
Despite what naysayers be sayin', the cost of solar has come down to an incredibly reasonable price. It took 1.5 years for my solar to make sense over a generator. That ain't bad. By no means do I have endless energy, but even living up north there is ample sun to make it worthwhile. I dunno.. it was an easy choice for me.
Yes! Well written!
I also have a small catalytic propane heater for chilly mornings. Forget electric heat. Even a small electric heater will sap your battery bank.
I have run a Wally World 5000 btu ac during the day, positioned over the sleeping quarters. You're right. It's not enough for the entire bus but drawing a curtain across the sleeping quarters could give you a nice daytime siesta. The ac pulled about 440 watts. But 350 watts was provided by solar! So a 100 watt load on my batteries for a couple of hours was no big deal easily made up by afternoon sunshine.
I could run my ac through the night but it would probably deplete my batteries to maybe 50% charge or thereabouts. You can do that occasionally but it will shorten your battery life. If you can work with 20 - 30% of your battery's total Ah's between solar charges you can get 6 - 8 years out of your battery bank!
I haven't completed my bus conversion yet. Working on it daily. It's a five window short bus with room for only two 96 cell panels comfortably. Maybe three if I hadn't put in the rooftop vent. But my solar has been up and running for three months. I have four 230 Ah batteries for 460 Ah at 12 volts. I'm comfortably running power tools plugged into my bus including a portable air compressor.
Just remember... Even the smallest bit of shading on your panels will significantly reduce their output. Shadow from a rooftop ac or vent or wifi antenna is a no no. Two playing cards placed over a single cell on my panel will essentially shut it off to a trickle. I've watched the charge rate drop as a wispy cloud passed in front of the sun. I noticed only the slightest decrease in light outside the bus while there was a 200 watt drop in charge rate. It is all fascinating to watch and learn.
500 - 600 watts of solar, four deep cell 6 volt golfcart batteries, a programmable MPPT charge controller, 2000 watt inverter (I went with pure sine), BIG (appropriately sized) wire to connect it all, proper placement of panels to eliminate shadowing and a good battery monitor to KNOW what is going on. That's a good place to start (and maybe finish!).
Welcome to quiet, renewable energy!