Campervan Off-grid Sustainability

Off Grid CamperWhen campfire discussions turn to free-camping – and being able to survive for weeks at a time ‘off the grid’ – most people immediately think of battery capacity, solar panels, and keeping the fridge running.

These days, however, a sustainable off-grid 12V electricity supply is relatively easy to achieve. Modern Lithium batteries and solar panels provide a reliable and renewable energy source that can keep your 12V fridge running, with ice-cold beer and frozen food, for weeks at a time – providing you have enough battery storage and charging capacity (and the sun is shining!).

Resources such as water, and to a lesser extent LPG and diesel fuel for powering cooking appliances, hot water and air heating, are probably a greater issue of concern for off-grid sustainability. Emptying cassette toilets every few days becomes an issue here too, in some circumstances.

Our fridge, water pump, toilet, TV and lights are powered by electricity. Our air heating is powered by diesel. Our van’s cooking and hot water facilities are powered by LPG – a reliable, efficient and readily available fuel.

The recent development and availability of a wider range of diesel-fuelled appliances has provided the opportunity to build vans that have no LPG-fuelled appliances installed, with cooking, air heating and water heating all powered by diesel, supplied from the vehicle’s main fuel tank (example – Trakka Remote Pack). This not only removes reliance on another energy source, but also releases precious space that would have been consumed storing LPG bottles. (There are some cost / performance trade-offs though!)

However, the use of diesel as a replacement energy source for LPG is something of a stop-gap measure – not really a long-term option.

All-electric cooking appliances are becoming a viable option, as battery and solar recharging technologies advance. Induction cooktops, such as the EcoHeat RV Smarttouch Cooktop,  in conjunction with modern power inverters, are becoming a viable alternative to LPG cooktops (albeit with one hot plate rather than two or three burners with LPG cooktops).

Unfortunately, we are not quite there yet – all-electric heating appliances still remain a bridge too far for permanent use in the 12V off-grid Campervan and Motorhome environment (without a generator).

Below is some info relating to our experiences with energy and water supply and sustainability in our Campervan…..

Battery & Sun

Batteries and Solar – We have recently installed LiFePO4 (Lithium) batteries, which are recharged by a roof-top solar panel and/or a portable solar blanket. With good summer weather and sensible use, we are able to power our 12V appliances for weeks at a time – when the sun is shining. With no sun, the vehicle alternator is the fall-back charging option for free-camping.

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Water tap

Water usage and capacity – We have a 75 litre under-floor water tank and 2 x 5 litre ‘reserve’ bottles. Depending on how often we use the shower this water will last us up to 7 days.

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Air Heating – For off-grid heating we use a built-in ducted diesel heater. It is fantastic – uses very little fuel or battery energy. This heater can be used while ever we have fuel in the tank and charge in the batteries.

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Hot water

Hot Water and Cooking – When free-camping, our hot water is heated by LPG. Our three-burner cooktop and Weber oven are also powered by LPG. We can last for a month or two with gas stored in our two gas bottles.

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