As I am sitting here in my bus, in the air conditioned bedroom, on my queen mattress, jamming out to Bob Dylan, running my little fridge and charging this laptop, I figured I could write a bit about what it takes to keep the interior of a Skoolie powered along the highways of America.
I quickly came to realize there are a lot of highways throughout America, but I was not able to properly power the bus for many of those miles.
Ill post all the specifics and particulars about all the parts that were used in the conversion in a separate detailed post, but in this article ill try and keep it simple.
To give you a better picture of my electric needs, I consider myself an outdoors-man. Trekking through the Appalachian Mountains, mountaineering, kayaking, camping, those all require very little electricity and power usage. I'm perfectly OK with that environment. Wet wipes. Simple meals. Pooping in interesting places. So in terms of that, I am living luxuriously on the bus. I always have light. Running water (although not usually hot). I am able to charge my Bluetooth speaker, iPod, and other devices. I have a toilet, a camp stove for cooking fabulous meals, and the ability to (sometimes) use my air conditioning.
So clearly, my electricity needs are different from others. I am a single guy, who bends the rules on cleanliness by a few days, so frequent hot showers become unnecessary. I do not bake, or cook fancy meals. I do not use an electric razor, coffee machine, microwave or television.
But even without all those energy suckers, I simply did not have enough power.
The basics of my system:
I have 200 watt solar panels, which charge 4 6-volt golf batteries, which power the interior. These are separate batteries from the 3 that run the motor. I also have an isolator on the alternator, which charges all 7 batteries while the engine is running. I knew that 200 watts would not be enough, and it turned out to be entirely true. Someone told me that as a rule of thumb, you should have one 100 watt panel per battery. I would need at a minimum 200 more watts for my 4 batteries. I definitely need more solar and more batteries.
In short, the batteries drained too fast, and were unable to always be fully charged. What that meant for me was, anything that needed a lot of power really fast, like the space heater, the hot plate, the water heater, I was unable to use those if I was not plugged in at a campground. So anytime I was off-grid, or parked along a street, I would have to take cold water showers, use my gas camp stove instead of my appliance hot plate, and simply put on more clothing to stay warm. The air conditioner has an energy saving mode, and if the batteries were fully charged, I would be able to comfortably use it. Otherwise, I was sweating like a pig in the 100+ degree Nevada/California weather. I usually did not keep anything in my mini fridge, in fear of not having enough power to keep it cold. I mostly snacked and ate less perishable items.
Clearly, this is not reasonable to most people, especially families. When I am plugged in to power at an RV Campsite, the bus is the perfect tiny home. Warm showers, hot cooked meal, the electric fireplace is on. But to have that experience on the road, I would need to make a few changes. I am thinking about buying higher quality batteries. These were on the lower end of the price range. Also, I need a lot more solar power. Serious Skoolie owners, with their job related to their bus, usually have over 1000 watts of solar, and 8 or more batteries. All my appliances are energy efficient, so there is nothing to really change there.
The whole point of this Bus Life is to downsize and live small. In the last few months I have been able to accomplish that. Ive adapted my life to live in a 189sq ft bus. I may not always have enough power, but ill take that any day, in order to be able to call the road my home.
Thanks for stopping by :)