Friday, January 20, 2012

Living Off The Grid

Comforts in the "real world"

We were a little spoiled living in a stick and mortar house; large open spaces, unlimited water supply and electricity on demand, - all without much thought … well except how much the monthly bill would be…LOL!!!

The days of nice long showers or bubble baths, washing your cars in the drive way, using a gallon of water to rinse dishes, or turning on the sprinklers to try and keep the grass green. Oh let’s not forget about the TVs, computers, lights, washer & dryer, plus all the other electrical gadgets that we use each day. 

Living in our “can”, is a bit different, as we choose to live without full hook-ups. Now we must think about everything we do, because there are impacts to all of our actions. 

LARGE – UNLIMITED – ON DEMAND, not so much these days! Our living space is <300 square feet, so buying is limited (really, that hasn’t happen yet ;)), space saving becomes a BIG CHALLENGE, and you MUST REALLY love your spouse and dog. =)   Want water? Great!?! Another workout for Jerry; see what we use we must haul in, so he gets his upper body workout about 2-3 per week.  Electricity needs are a bit more complicated, it has to deal with Amperage / Wattage / Batteries – DC / AC…. Thank goodness Jerry paid attention in his math classes, as this is definitely not Deb’s department.  
Our RV electrical system needs to supply power for cooking, recreation, communication, creature comforts, and other domestic needs when the engine isn’t running, which is a TALL order to fill. Our “house” electrical system comprises both DC (battery supplied – 12v lights, water pump, furnace, etc) and AC (household current – tv, laptop, microwave, small appliances, hair dryer, etc.) appliance. When boondocking; all these appliances are powered by our batteries, either directly through DC outlet or on-board gas generator. However, using the generator has its draw backs – noisy and pricy. Okay, so if you don’t want to use the generator, what other options do we have? There are only three options: gas(stay as we are), wind, or solar. Staying with our current method is running about $150/month and requires a gas station to be close by. Wind, must have sustain winds at 20 mph or better to produce enough power. Solar, the sun is your best friend, and produces the most power.

Jerry had to decided what amps and watts were being used daily, then was there anything we could change to help reduce the usage. We decided it would be wise to replace our light bulbs to LED and TV, which we didn’t realize we purchased a LCD/LED TV this past summer. Of course Jerry received a lot of advice from all the seasoned veterans on what would be best, but most of it was for larger rigs and very expensive. We needed something that would fit our needs and not spend our life savings. We don’t have a lot of real estate on the roof, remember we only live in about 300 sq ft, so where would we put batteries and how could we do solar without mounting them on the roof of the RV? 

After looking at all the options, Jerry decided to go with a portable 120w solar panel to charge our one battery. After sharing the ideal with a couple of friends, they too decided to get them the same panels. Jerry and Ed hopped into Ed’s truck and took a road trip to Surprise, AZ (about a 2 hour drive each way), to save the taxes (10% in AZ) plus shipping on the three panels.  We were so excited to get the solar hooked-up and get away from running the generator so much.  All set now….

Nope, quickly we realized that one solar panel and one battery was not really going to help much, so we decided to go a little deeper.  Jerry made a phone call to order yet another 120w solar panel with four AGM batteries, since Deb was willing to give up some space under the couch to house the new batteries.   ROAD TRIP – our friends Jim & Barb are always ready for a road trip, so we asked them if they would like to go along and we take their truck (as the toy, wouldn’t like this type of road trip) – of course we would pay for the fuel.   They were game, and we had a FUN FILLED DAY in the Phoenix area shopping and purchasing other thing to modify our rigs (more on that later). 

Batteries all hooked-up

Now, the batteries are installed, solar is out and batteries charging, and inverter hooked up (Jerry purchased before leaving), we are all setup – ready live off the grid.   So we though – now the inverter isn’t working!  

Stay tune – maybe the third time will be the charm!


  1. Congrats on the panels and the AGM batteries. You made great decision and they will pay for themselves in no time. Welcome to the world of boondocking!

  2. Diana,this has been the best decision we've made so far. Enjoying the quietness...LOL

  3. Sounds like you guys are making some wise choices - batteries, wattages, etc....I'm right there with you Deb, not my area of expertise either! Hope all works out for you guys. ~Holly

  4. LOL Holly, think it's mostly a man thing. So glad not having to hear the generator running hours on in anymore.