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Old 06-06-2021, 02:37 AM   #1
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Smile Newbie general electrical help??

Hi guys! My names Bay and I'm relatively new to the bus life,, well er, the idea of it. I haven't gone about buying a bus yet (still looking), but in the meantime I'm spending my time between classes doing LOTS and LOTS of research.


I've bought a few things and made a good old fashioned finance list for everything else I have yet to buy (appliances, important miscellaneous things, plumbing etc) and ultimately I've gotten everything in order but any of the electrical. So far I have 800Ah of batteries (4 200Ah lithium phosphate batteries) as well as 1,500W of solar pannels (4 375W panels). But anything else pretty much has me stumped.


I get the idea that I'll need a pure sine wave inverter, battery charger, some sort of breaker box??, and a battery monitor but I'm not clear on any of it.


I'm also struggling to properly calculate my amp and watt consumption. Every time I think I'm doing it correctly, something just doesn't make sense.


For further context, I am a full time student and will be for the next few years so having a proper pc computer set up will be key. I also plan to include an apartment sized fridge, washer/dryer combo, wall heater, and a small window unit ac. Other minor large outputs would possibly be a spare 28" monitor/tv and a PlayStation. Of course these wont be used as much as everything else but still thought I'd note it.


For a majority of the time I will be plugged in to shore power so almost all of these wont be that much of an issue but i do plan to off grid here and there between term breaks and don't want everything to randomly shut down on me. In the case of off gridding, general power (lights, charging phones), the fridge, and depending on the season, a/c or heating will be the most important.


I swear this is going somewhere, once again, very uneducated on the topic so bear with me.


If my terrible calculations are correct, I'd need a 3000w or 4000w inverter, 60A charge controller, and 2? 500ah battery monitors (i was really confused on this because it says 0-500Ah battery but since i have 800Ah, i think i would get two and just hookup one each to two batteries), and outside of that i have no clue. Would I need a converter?


I was also considering an alternator for charging my batteries while i drive but i don't know how any of that works either and if that would just be an overkill.


I think so far you guys may or may not have gotten the point of was trying to convey but if you have any suggestions, any good threads close to my situation and or wiring diagrams n such, please point me in the right direction, please and thank you!

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Old 06-06-2021, 09:53 AM   #2
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Hi Bay

Welcome! All of this electric stuff has been discussed many times at length, including during the last week. Your needs are very very mainstream.

The dryer wonít work. Makes no sense. A washer is already crazy, although I have one. Since you will be plugged in most of the time, youíre good there.

If you are missing basic electric safety knowledge, you should not attempt this yourself, at least not until you have educated much more.

It is not hard, but potentially lethal.
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Old 06-06-2021, 03:29 PM   #3
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Hi Bay

Welcome! All of this electric stuff has been discussed many times at length, including during the last week. Your needs are very very mainstream.

The dryer wonít work. Makes no sense. A washer is already crazy, although I have one. Since you will be plugged in most of the time, youíre good there.

If you are missing basic electric safety knowledge, you should not attempt this yourself, at least not until you have educated much more.

It is not hard, but potentially lethal.
Thanks for the reply!

I don't plan to do this myself and more so concerned with what I have to buy. Also the washer dryer combo is not a separate washer and a dryer, its a two in one and I've seen a few in bus builds. Either way I don't plan to use that specifically off grid.

I've been through a couple threads and I guess I'm just missing and or just don't understand. I'll keep looking though, thank you!
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Old 06-06-2021, 04:39 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bert06840 View Post
Hi Bay

Welcome! All of this electric stuff has been discussed many times at length, including during the last week. Your needs are very very mainstream.

The dryer won’t work. Makes no sense. A washer is already crazy, although I have one. Since you will be plugged in most of the time, you’re good there.

If you are missing basic electric safety knowledge, you should not attempt this yourself, at least not until you have educated much more.

It is not hard, but potentially lethal.

Well stated, Bert. My words are not always as tactful. There is no secret matetial list which replaces an education and a license. Keep reading, when it makes sense, you will know. If it doesn't, hire a licensed electrician.
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Old 06-06-2021, 08:29 PM   #5
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I'm going to rephrase with some different questions in a deeper complexity for anyone else that may wish to help me, even a tiny bit. I attached below my calculations sheet for watts, amps, and volts of everything (to the best of my knowledge) that will be on my bus. All of which correspond to their own times via either daily hour consumption or to daily, weekly, or monthly usage probability (ex., washer being used sparingly). I did not calculate for any possible leeway but i still take that into consideration.

On my sheet, in between the different sections there are two distinct sections: left side is all electrical and their possible daily hours usage, and right side is strictly off grid electrical usage (more so planned off grinding, this doesn't account for emergency off grinding if I cant make it to a hook up for whatever reason).

To this I ask, should I base my electrical set up solely on the off grinding section or should I account for majority if not all of my possible electrical consumption?

keep in mind I already own 1,500w of solar and 800ah of batteries. I do intent to purchase a 60a charge controller and that's rather final, if someone doesn't convince me why i shouldnt.

Off grinding: if this is the case, with a 1,900 possible watt consumption, a little over a thousand of that strictly being 120v AC, should I simply get a 2000w inverter? Or should I get a 3,000w for even more leeway for any other emergency charging i might potentially need? (I'm excluding the A/C unit from this but would hope i could squeeze it in just to regulate hot temps here and there during summer off grinding)

Entirety: If I base my electrical system on all potential electrical output, i think i would need at minimum a 7,000w worth of inverting so the possibility of needing 2 4,000w inverters would, I think, be best? (calculating all my 120v appliances together including the washer ill only use like once in a blue moon = about 6,400w).

More on a simpler note, i have 800ah of batteries, and i cant find anywhere if i need more than one battery monitor. i see that the highest they go is 0-500Ah, so wouldn't i technically need 2? to monitor the battery life of all 800ah worth of batteries?
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Old 06-07-2021, 01:06 PM   #6
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You bought 800Ah (12V) of batteries? Lead Acid? Sorry for the way this comes across, butÖ why?
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Old 06-07-2021, 01:13 PM   #7
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Hereís a bit more infoÖ

The water heater, space heater, and dryer will never work on solar, unless you go overboard and invest a ton in panels. That makes no sense if you boondock only occasionally.

Even if you do invest in a lot of solar, they wonít help you with heat. When you need a heater, your panels will only produce a few percent of their rating, a few hours a day, best case.

A 500W A/C? They donít exist and if they do they wonít have much capacity.

On shore power all this can be done without issues.

About the charge monitor. Ampere and Ampere-hours arenít the same thing. Charge monitors are rated in Amps.
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Old 06-07-2021, 01:15 PM   #8
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One more thing. A recent-era dorm fridge uses 1kWh per day. Everything else (no heaters, washers, A/C) is another kWh per day.

Thereís not much more to it.
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Old 06-07-2021, 02:56 PM   #9
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800Ah of lithium batteries, because i would like extra power for any reason since I will be living in my bus.

i don't intend to use the heater at all of grid since during the colder months I will be stationed to on shore power due to schooling, so that's not my concern. the A/C on the other hand i'd like to use intermittently since I would like to travel during warmer weather, nothing like being on for 24 hours on end but just to help regulate the temperature inside the bus here and there since I don't intend to keep half of the original bus windows. 500W is what the box says and it is a window A/C meant for small rooms since I am aiming for a 28' dognose bus.

also for the clarification on the charge monitor, that makes a lot more sense. Thank you.
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Old 06-07-2021, 04:16 PM   #10
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So you already spent $10k on batteriesÖ ?Seems budget is not an issue - simply fill up the roof with the best solar money can buy. Itís a better investment than overdoing it on batteries, especially since you plan on using shore power most of the time - and comparatively close to free.

How long you want to be off-grid?
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Old 06-07-2021, 06:43 PM   #11
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10k$ is a stretch.. 4 200ah lithium batteries would be about 3.5k$ on standard retail value if you look in the right places...

Either way I actually got my solar, windows, and batteries second hand "cheap" (compared to retail price anyways) through locals here that wanted to start similar off grid projects but had to give up on the idea. I'm still on a budget, aiming to keep it below 15k$.

When it comes to time, in a perfect world I'd aim for a month but more realistically it'll most likely be between a weekend trip to maybe up to 2-3 weeks before having to get more water or waste dump. Ive got 200 gallons of fresh water but out of practice i don't know how long that lasts on average. I'll spend more colder weather on shore, leaving me about 3-4 months to do as i please when it comes to off grinding and meandering through the states on school breaks and summer.

I'm also aiming to try to give myself enough energy to make it from the east coast to the west coast without having to make too many rv stops. Family lives all over the country and I've grown sick of flying so its another reason I've chosen the bus life.
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Old 06-07-2021, 07:18 PM   #12
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200 gallons is a crazy amount for a single person. You can shower daily for two months on that. How are you going to heat that water?

Also, you really donít want to drive 3000 miles cross country with literally a metric ton of water you donít need, because itíll
cost you MUCH more in fuel than it would cost you to fill up twice along the way.
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Old 06-07-2021, 07:35 PM   #13
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And I really donít want to be a party pooper, butÖ bus life is not what you turn to even when you and the TSA agents do thanksgiving dinners together. The actual ending up elsewhere from where you started is a side effect of this whole bus thing.

If you need to get across the country, a bus is ten times more expensive, twenty times slower, infinitely more trouble, exhausting, risky, and so on.

In my twenties I also happily drove five thousand miles in three weeks, and I would do it again.

But the middle seat on a Spirit Airlines redeye is infinitely preferable over chasing a fuel leak under your bus in the middle of nowhere, at 2 in the morning, in freezing rain.
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Old 06-07-2021, 07:35 PM   #14
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Congrats on taking the plunge. It'll be a journey.

Also, congrats on putting together the details and doing design. DESIGN! You'll go far, then get stuck, then learn, then go further. So right way to approach it.

Couple of notes on your chart of usage:
  • Roof Fan-likely to draw up to 6A at full speed, check your product specifications;
  • Fridge will draw a minimum 3-4A when running, and will run at least a couple of hours a day, more with heat and heavy usage;
  • Toaster-rethink how you cook in a skoolie. It's not a house. Others have more elegantly stated this, that to live in a skoolie is a lifestyle change and some things don't translate directly.

As you point out some devices may need to run off grid, like the space heater and A/C. Consider diesel heater or propane heater to minimize electrical usage. You will definitely want A/C off grid, but the systems I've seen need a minimum of 12-15A AC to run, so up to 1500-2000 watts of inversion.

Looks like you have a pretty good battery bank and solar. I like the 60A MPPT charge controller, given your solar bank.

Having said all that, I got scared at the cost of purchase AND the cost of replacement for such large systems. Let's say you buy a couple of 4K inverters because you can. All the connections, cables, lugs, wire sizes, circuit breakers and fuses become more expensive the larger the system. I'm amazed at how little power people can get away with on some conversions, like just a Jackery. Same for shore power. I opted for 30A because all the infrastructure for 60A was easily twice the cost.

Check out Will Prowse on YouTube for batteries and solar systems, he rocks it and makes it look simple. I did a 450 watt solar system, but will repurpose the 40A MPPT controller for an outbuilding if/when I upgrade to a 60A system. Solar panels are a dime a dozen, go buy some locally off Craigslist.

A lot of folks start with a simple electrical system and build it out in phases, you may want to keep it relatively simple, get some mileage, then adjust from there. Smaller systems are cheaper and many of the component devices are reusable. For instance, I started with a 1200 watt inverter, then stepped up to a 2000 watt device, and have repurposed the smaller one as a dedicated fridge inverter for my dorm style fridge.
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Old 06-07-2021, 08:13 PM   #15
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I get that and I'm ready for that. I want to live on the road, and be off grid, and adventure without a care in the world besides the possibility of per say my bus engine running out on me. I would be a lot more on the road and off grid if it weren't for my reach for a bachelors degree.

And there's more to my desire for bus life than just wanting to avoid sitting in between two stinky old dudes on a 7+ hour flight across country that will also inevitably cost me between 300-600$ each time. Let alone the costs of just driving a normal car by yourself and having to get a who-knows-how-much hotel room every night because no sane person should drive more than 12 hours a day in a cramped car alone. I also have a large dog that I want to continue living with that i cant fly or frieght across in a plane every where i go. And leaving him behind is equally as expensive when it comes to dog sitters or dog boarding on this side of the country. Equally, it costs 16k$ A YEAR to dorm at my university that i have zero privacy in nor the ability to keep my dog with. I'm also constrained to a property that will inevitably kick me out every summer or else i pay twice as much to stay on campus. Single room or studio apartments near the university are charging almost 2k a month, most not pet friendly and if they are require a 500$ pet deposit as well as extra per month with a pet fee.

With the water I've taken in multiple considerations. For one I drink a gallon or so a day, a thorough shower, and whatever else that might entail. I have a kayak to clean before restoring, a dog to wash because he loves mud, wet suits, the possibility of doubling this because i have friends who definitely want to off grid and camp with me etc etc. Sure, I might inevitably drop a tank and just stick to 100g but still water is a big part of everything i do as well.

All in all, either way its going to be expensive to live life. I might as well enjoy it and do it the way i dreamed, via living in a skoolie. Though I do thank you for the consideration you've put into this so far.
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Old 06-07-2021, 08:26 PM   #16
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@Rucker

Thank you!!! This is really helpful!!

A majority of the reason I'm so conflicted with the inverter is that despite reading about them i ultimately don't know what they do besides 12v-120v. With the amount of solar I have to the larger appliances, i didn't want to end up getting something that would burn out accidentally. And I'm a big person on "rather safe than sorry"... I have a tendency to over do it... I don't intend to run the heater off grid but who knows what types of situations i might get in (once again, better safe than sorry). And so far my philosophy is that i can dress up when I'm cold but i can only remove so much when I'm hot.

When it comes to the water heater, i wanted a gas one but i cant really find a good gas one. I already have a gas stove so propane will be on my system i just didn't ultimately know between gas and electric which one to go for. My thoughts being, propane would be great for off gridding but electric would be good for during school. However i haven't found one that takes both so i have to pick and choose.

Also the toaster will be for on shore. I just like toast and don't know how to cook it in an oven. I will definitely reconsider it though and I will be updating my chart with your suggestions.

Towards the diesel heater, i really want one, however i don't think i have the space. Supposedly, not confirmed, i would be getting a 28' dognose through a family friend so I'm limited to about 20' of workable space and i just don't have the space to safely install one. If that bus specifically falls through i am aiming for a larger bus and will definitely opt out of an electric heater and going for a diesel one.

Just making a final clarification, you think a 60a MPPT and about 2000w inverter would be fine?
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Old 06-07-2021, 09:58 PM   #17
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It starts to make a lot more sense already. You have a reason to travel by bus (including the dog), a reason to have a lot of water (dog, kayak), etc.

Four pieces of info that Iím convinced will be good advice:

- ditch 12V. Please. Go for 24V. Seriously. You donít have a charge controller or an inverter yet - you can still make wise choices without sunk cost problems.
- buy a high quality, such as Victron branded, charge controller. The $200 that you spend extra you will absolutely make your life easier down the road.
- buy a single oversized 24V pure sine wave inverter, and spend the money.
- hot water will be your bottleneck. If you have pets and boats and showers

And this is FYI: we donít drink our own fresh water from the tank. The sanitation (filtering, germicidal treatment, de-chlorination) is definitely possible but we havenít fine tuned that yet. For food prep and drinking, we just buy $20 worth of water in jugs until further notice. Pathogens love warm tanks devoid of oxygen. You may want to consider this approach too.
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Old 06-08-2021, 06:33 AM   #18
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We use a 6gal RV water heater that works on both electric and propane. They make a 9gal version as well. For one person I don't think you'd run out of hot water. Your bus will be smaller than ours so you might have a problem squeezing everything you want into it (esp. the washer/dryer). As for the diesel heater, ours is mounted under the bus and, even with a wood stove, we couldn't have overwintered without the diesel heater.
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Old 06-08-2021, 11:16 AM   #19
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[QUOTE=Also the toaster will be for on shore. I just like toast and don't know how to cook it in an oven.[/QUOTE]

Here is what I use. It can be used over a campfire or a propane stove!!

https://www.amazon.com/Stansport-Fol...95852150&psc=1
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Old 06-08-2021, 01:19 PM   #20
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Here is what I use. It can be used over a campfire or a propane stove!!

https://www.amazon.com/Stansport-Fol...95852150&psc=1
I was going to mention those. I like a well done english muffin from time to time and don't plan on designing my electrical system around a toaster. They've been around for a hundred years or better, largely unchanged
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