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Old 01-01-2022, 05:58 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Living on the road questions

Hello everyone,

I'm thinking of taking a leave from work and finishing one of my bus conversions.

I did have a few questions for those of you that have been at this for a while,

1. Where do you guys park?

2. How do you guys deal with power consumption, especially in the head or the cold. I like to have everything powered like my TV, computer & A/C, but I can't keep the bus running for long periods of time. I was thinking of switching to solar panels but those are weak.

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Old 01-01-2022, 07:20 PM   #2
Mini-Skoolie
 
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A 40ft bus can fit 4000w of solar easy. 40x80in 400w panels exist. Your normal watt needs should be much lower. Take your surplus and charge your battery bank and you can run your TV and AC 24/7. Not cheap though. That system might cost you around 5-10k
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Old 01-01-2022, 09:59 PM   #3
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fo4imtippin View Post
A 40ft bus can fit 4000w of solar easy. 40x80in 400w panels exist. Your normal watt needs should be much lower. Take your surplus and charge your battery bank and you can run your TV and AC 24/7. Not cheap though. That system might cost you around 5-10k
So what do you guys do to not have an expensive power system?
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Old 01-01-2022, 10:10 PM   #4
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Use less power, follow the weather to not run heat or air as much. Or find shore power somewhere you can hook up.
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Old 01-01-2022, 10:59 PM   #5
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Originally Posted by fo4imtippin View Post
Use less power, follow the weather to not run heat or air as much. Or find shore power somewhere you can hook up.
Thanks. Do you know of a site I can use to find places with shore power?
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Old 01-02-2022, 09:31 AM   #6
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You can save a lot of money by buying used. I found a electronics recycler in Houston that sells used panels that they get from returns, upgrades, warranty work, etc... It's easy to test a panel. Two tests is all you need. VOC and ISC (YouTube is your friend). I bought (4) 245w Bosch panels for $300 total. Hunting Craigslist nationwide using www.searchtempest.com found me a Midnite Solar Classic 200 and distribution panel for $425 shipped. A used Xantrex Freedom 458 of a boat was another $125. The only pricey component I haven't purchased yet are the batteries. When I'm ready I'll probably end up with 12v 400ah of lithium or 800ah of lead acid.
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Old 01-02-2022, 10:40 AM   #7
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Laptop computers and electronics like tablets and phones are easy because they already have batteries and don't require much lower to recharge. I can alternate which is being charged while I drive using a small 100W inverter that plugs into a lighter socket.

Desktop PCs and TVs can be relative energy hogs because they're not designed to be highly efficient enough for mobile installations versus household power usage expectations. Even worse is heavy-load appliances like microwave ovens which demand high power even if just for short periods.

Air conditioning probably won't even run on battery power or <20amp shore power. I ran one rooftop unit on 30amp shore power but two units required a 50amp shore power hook-up. Heating is easier because it usually uses enough power just to run a circulating fan but the heat itself is fueled by combustion of some sort. The same goes for water heating, all electric can be offset with a switch to fossil fuel.

If you go with 12V or multi-mode refrigerator then you have flexibility but if you insist on a residential grade fridge then again you're adding a huge power load requirement.

Everyone thinks adding solar solves much of this electrical dependency but the effectiveness and reliability of solar is quite vulnerable and unreliable. Shore power is likely still a necessity unless you're on the road many hours a day during which you can fully recharge the house batteries. If you're parked more than overnight chances are you'll be idling or plugging in to replenish the house batteries.

As a trucker, I plug in on the weekends so I don't have to clean out my fridge and also in winter keeping the batteries on charge prolongs their longevity. During the week when I'm on the road I do 9-11 hrs of driving per day which is more than enough to replenish the house batteries. This gives me sufficient capacity for 10-12 hrs of idle-free lighting, 12v fridge, and climate comfort. In summer the 12v AC unit barely keeps up with cooling the sleeper bunk so expecting a bus-sized space to stay comfortable multiplies the power demands. Heating isn't quite as bad but still demanding because the battery longevity is reduced in colder weather.

Balancing energy requirements versus energy luxuries and real world expectations can get highly customized.
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Old 01-02-2022, 06:54 PM   #8
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An inverter generator could work in places where there is no place to plug the bus into, IF you can't make solar work for what you're looking to power up.
There are several sizes and manufacturers of inverter generators, depending on your needs.
Inverter types are highly recommended as your computer and any other sensitive electronics need "clean" power to live long lives.

You will need to get a calculated figure to determine your electrical needs.

Since you've been a member on the site for awhile I assume you'll likely know that there is much discussion on here on how to calculate your elec. needs. I nor anyone else can determine the exact draw you'll be taking when powering your appliances and/or devices, unfortunately.
We can guess, but you don't really want to overspend on equipment that you don't need.

Good luck, and hopefully you can get what you need on the threads here to figure it out...
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Old 01-03-2022, 01:28 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sehnsucht View Post
Air conditioning probably won't even run on battery power or <20amp shore power. I ran one rooftop unit on 30amp shore power but two units required a 50amp shore power hook-up.
Those were highly inefficient AC units then. TWO 9000 BTU mini splits will only pull 13.4 amps when both are running full tilt. Once cooled down and just maintaining (assuming decent insulation), power requirement should drop at least 50%.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Sehnsucht View Post
If you go with 12V or multi-mode refrigerator then you have flexibility but if you insist on a residential grade fridge then again you're adding a huge power load requirement.
A full sized (21 cu ft) residential refrigerator freezer pulls just under 1kW per 24 hours. In a van that would probably be significant. On a 30' plus bus with a decent solar and battery system, it's practically nothing as long as it was designed in.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Sehnsucht View Post
Everyone thinks adding solar solves much of this electrical dependency but the effectiveness and reliability of solar is quite vulnerable and unreliable. Shore power is likely still a necessity unless you're on the road many hours a day during which you can fully recharge the house batteries. If you're parked more than overnight chances are you'll be idling or plugging in to replenish the house batteries.
Solar does solve much of the energy dependency on the grid but nothing is perfect. That's why redundant systems should be designed in. System design elements such as:
2,500 Watts plus solar panel system (we will likely have 3-4,000).
Large USEABLE battery capacity (ours will be 10.24kWh)

Charging off the engine when it's running (ours will likely have a second alternator just for that).
A deployable wind generator for all those dark but often windy winter days. (we like coastal areas and those are quite often overcast for days on end but almost always have a steady wind, we will have a deployable wind generator to supplement any solar we do manage to pull from overcast day)
A small generator capable of charging the battery bank while also supporting normal loads.
And of course there's plugging in to the grid.....hack, choke, cough



Remember in the design phase though that those overcast winter days that produce less solar, won't be using a lot of power to run air conditioning so if heat isn't electric (yikes) there's a lot less draw. And if it's hot enough to need air conditioning its likely good solar collecting weather unless you're in a humid area. So design your system according to your planned needs.









Quote:
Originally Posted by Sehnsucht View Post
As a trucker,
You have massive space and weight constraints. Skoolies aren't nearly as limited. With a decent lithium bank (10kWh or more), solar panels, and inverter, all the comforts of home are at our finger tips if we design properly and have the funding for the build.
Try to go cheap and ammenities will suffer.
Fail to plan for various conditions and comfort will suffer.
Smaller units (van's, short buses, condo tractors) have less capability



Quote:
Originally Posted by Sehnsucht View Post
Balancing energy requirements versus energy luxuries and real world expectations can get highly customized.
EXACTLY
Prior Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.
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Old 01-08-2022, 06:00 PM   #10
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This is the best purchase I made for my bus.

Like others have said, it depends on your lifestyle. My wife and I donít stay in one place 2 nights in a row. I probably donít need my solar panels, but Iím glad I have em.

I have 400w of panels on the roof and a 450ah battery bank. I run a 10cu ft apartment fridge, washer, & toaster, but no TV. I have plenty of power bc when Iím driving Iím charging.

Rooftop A/C only runs on shore or onan rv genset.

I used the iOverlander app this summer to find overnight parking.

Peace
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Old 01-08-2022, 10:04 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HamSkoolie View Post
A deployable wind generator for all those dark but often windy winter days. (we like coastal areas and those are quite often overcast for days on end but almost always have a steady wind, we will have a deployable wind generator to supplement any solar we do manage to pull from overcast day)
The typical small 400W wind generators may provide some additional power, but it's unlikely to make much difference overall. For those generators to work even moderately effectively they need to be quite high off the ground, and it would get old really quickly if you had to assemble and guy out a 30-feet high mast every time you wanted to use it. A wind generator would be the lowest-ranked item on a list of power sources. Read what the gurus on the Northern Arizona Wind and Sun forum have to say about them before you invest money and effort in them.

John

PS - they're also quite noisy, and being mechanical means it's just something else to need PM and repair work.
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Old 01-08-2022, 11:09 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by the7exp View Post
Hello everyone,

I'm thinking of taking a leave from work and finishing one of my bus conversions.

I did have a few questions for those of you that have been at this for a while,

1. Where do you guys park?

When we are on the road in unfamiliar territory, we tend to utilize, truck stops, rest stops, big box stores, Wal Marts, and state parks.


2. How do you guys deal with power consumption, especially in the head or the cold. I like to have everything powered like my TV, computer & A/C, but I can't keep the bus running for long periods of time. I was thinking of switching to solar panels but those are weak.


Solar Weak? Really? Ruth and I live off grid full Tim 8n a 40 foot RE School Bus. We have two refrigerators, 1 deep freeze, 1 compressor cooler, 12,000 btu mini split heat pump, 50" TV, oxygen concentrator, under battery heat, microwave, convection oven and an instant pot.

In 2021, we only had to run the generator for a total of 72 hours for the whole year.

We have 12 Sun Power 327W panels on the roof and 1200WH of BYD 24V LiFeP04 batteries connected to an 8000W Powerjack split phase inverter.

We spend most of our time in New Mexico, but you can meet us at the Skoolie Palooza later this month if ya like.
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Old 01-09-2022, 03:51 PM   #13
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I tend to agree with Rock and Ruth. Thereís a YT video showing how to run two air conditioners on 1350 watts of solar. The right 5000 btu air conditioners needed to be purchased that are efficient enough to run on 1350 watts. They cooled a 26 foot trailer but gives one a idea what can be done with 4000 watts. Usually only one 5000btu u it was required unless it was extra hot. I have a small system so always plan on leaving if air conditioning is needed. Thatís my strategy. I hope I donít get stuck somewhere hot.
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Old 01-09-2022, 06:22 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Iceni John View Post
The typical small 400W wind generators may provide some additional power, but it's unlikely to make much difference overall. For those generators to work even moderately effectively they need to be quite high off the ground, and it would get old really quickly if you had to assemble and guy out a 30-feet high mast every time you wanted to use it. A wind generator would be the lowest-ranked item on a list of power sources. Read what the gurus on the Northern Arizona Wind and Sun forum have to say about them before you invest money and effort in them.

John

PS - they're also quite noisy, and being mechanical means it's just something else to need PM and repair work.

Even with only a 200W/hr average output that would be 4.8kW in a 24 hour period. It won't be guyed, 30' in the air, nor any more complicated than running up a mast for my HAM radio antenna or the cell booster. It's not intended for full time use, just for when we're sitting in a windy but low PV site for more than a few days.
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Old 01-09-2022, 10:28 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HamSkoolie View Post
Even with only a 200W/hr average output that would be 4.8kW in a 24 hour period. It won't be guyed, 30' in the air, nor any more complicated than running up a mast for my HAM radio antenna or the cell booster. It's not intended for full time use, just for when we're sitting in a windy but low PV site for more than a few days.
I have a wind turbine Iíve been waiting to use when I find a perfect site for it on top of a mountain or on a windy plain in Wyoming. The other crazy idea Iíve had is to mount it on front of the bus and charge my house batteries when Iím driving. Iíd rather do that than try to install a second alternator which looks very difficult and expensive on my bus. I think Iíd need to install smaller blades on the turbine however so it doesnít wear itself out when Iím driving 65 mph. Or cut the existing blades down. And have a cover so it looks like a spare tire when Iím not needing it. Solar and the small dc-dc charger work fine most of the time.
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Old 01-10-2022, 06:54 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Doktari View Post
I have a wind turbine Iíve been waiting to use when I find a perfect site for it on top of a mountain or on a windy plain in Wyoming. The other crazy idea Iíve had is to mount it on front of the bus and charge my house batteries when Iím driving. Iíd rather do that than try to install a second alternator which looks very difficult and expensive on my bus. I think Iíd need to install smaller blades on the turbine however so it doesnít wear itself out when Iím driving 65 mph. Or cut the existing blades down. And have a cover so it looks like a spare tire when Iím not needing it. Solar and the small dc-dc charger work fine most of the time.
Well it's certainly doable (wind power while driving) as there have been numerous aircraft including commercial airliners and military fighters that have had a deployable ram air turbine (RAT) to supply electrical power in emergency situations. However, I don't think it would be very practical and the induced drag would likely be counter productive by reducing fuel economy sufficiently to negate the benefit. Also, making it look like a spare tire when covered would probably require mounting in a not very efficient location.
Adding an aux alternator is likely to be less complex, far more efficient, and shouldn't be that expensive. A bracket, an alternator, and a means to pull rotational energy from the engine such as a small V belt pulley attached to an existing accessory and then driving the alternator.
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Old 01-11-2022, 12:35 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by the7exp View Post
So what do you guys do to not have an expensive power system?
.
Excellent q!
.
Our hx -- nearly two decades full-time live-aboard in our rig.
We initiated this winding journey by eliminating everything... not just 'stuff we rarely use', we dumped everything.
We walked away from TheAmericanDream© by selling everything, then giving away anything remaining.
.
The instigator?
My Very Significant Other got sick.
Here is my lesson in focusing:
* a diagnosis with lethal implications tends to shove everything else into the 'not important' category.
.
With our heads cleared of needing to 'plan for our retirement' during our 'golden years', we started our next stage with a clean slate.
For us, this was a brown-paper grocery-bag... a place to scribble our RequirementsStatement.
.
Our start position in our RequirementsStatement was along the lines of:
* what if we did a 'Kyle Reese' in the flick TERMINATOR, dropping into this century with nothing, not even fresh bloomers [cue -- aghast mothers everyplace].
* What are our short-term goals?
* Where do we start?
* What do we need for chow, security, comfort, tribe?
.
After these are reasonably secure, we can shift our focus to longer-term:
* Income
* Entertainment
* Sharing, Mentoring... and the toughy -- Seeing Through The Eyes Of A Beginner.
.
With nothing, especially no need to re-create a stand-still house inside a mobile dwelling, we could re-invent our environment 'from the ground up'.
.
Would I recommend this for everybody?
We -- our species -- have a lot of fears acting as anchors, those 'speed limit' signs warning of dire consequences if we push too hard against the edges of our comfort-zone.
.
If I was me, I would go slow -- baby-steps -- so those uncomfortable feelings can be handled within my existing knowledge without getting overwhelmed.
Then, as I gain experience, as my skills become second-nature, I can comfortably tread closer to my comfort-zone boundaries.
.
As I mentioned earlier, I had an advantage... I was thrown -- head-first into the deep end -- through my comfort-zone boundaries.
Instantly, the big light-bulb over my head flashed flashed flashed:
* "Nothing is important compared to enjoying these moments of companionship!"
Exclamation mark... oh, yes, I had a lot of those, sometimes dozens an hour.
.
Oops.
I got off on a tangent (story of my life).
If I was me, I would eliminate the need for an extensive electric system by reducing my reliance on appliances... the 'comforting' attempt to re-create a stand-still house.
.
If I worshed ashore on a deserted island, what would bring me joy?
Standing on the edge of the opportunity to build a new 'me', did I really need those fresh bloomers?
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Old 01-11-2022, 03:33 PM   #18
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Attachment 63188
This is the best purchase I made for my bus.
(pic of DC DC charger)
Like others have said, it depends on your lifestyle. My wife and I donít stay in one place 2 nights in a row. I probably donít need my solar panels, but Iím glad I have em.

<snip>
I totally agree, though I haven't been able to exercise mine yet (still doing the build).

How to you turn it on? Do you just let it run when the engine's running, or do you have an on/off switch, or something else?

Have you worried at all about engine overheating due to the extra load when you're in traffic or idling?
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Old 01-12-2022, 10:04 AM   #19
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Quote:
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I totally agree, though I haven't been able to exercise mine yet (still doing the build).

How to you turn it on? Do you just let it run when the engine's running, or do you have an on/off switch, or something else?

Have you worried at all about engine overheating due to the extra load when you're in traffic or idling?


No I donít worry about the engine.
Itís wired between the two battery banks and is supposed to only send electricity to the house that the bus battery doesnít use.

Dip switches for battery type(s)

It is designed for you to wire it directly to your ignition switch. Has green indicator light to let you know on/off.

Yeah. You wouldnít want it on any other time. The batteries would try to equalize themselvesÖ..

Peace
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