There are typically three ways to get power into an RV or Tiny Home.
First, there’s “shore power,” or power from a pole, an outlet, or some other grid tied source. This is how most RVers and tiny housers power their homes. You simply plug in the vehicle and use the power. Shore power is also often used with a “Charger” that will convert the 120v power to 12v to charge the house batteries.
Second is a generator. Instead of plugging into the grid, you fire up a generator and the power it provides replaces all of (or most of) the power that shore power provides. It can be more, it can be less, but the mechanics are the same. You plug the generator into the same place you would shore power, and you’re good to go. This is a truly simple way to enter the world of boondocking as most can afford a small generator.
Generators vary greatly, from construction grade (loud, not welcomed by most anyone in the boondocking community) to super quiet 2,200 watts, to built-in 6,000 watt diesel powered units. They each have their advantages, and it’s worth studying them in detail to see which suits your needs.
For our first foray into the generator world, I chose the “Ryobi Bluetooth 2,300-Watt Super Quiet Gasoline Powered Digital Inverter Generator.” It was inexpensive ($599) and has been perfect for our needs. You can bundle two of them together to create up to 30 amps of 120v AC power (the same as plugging into a 30 amp shore power connection – the same plug, too). We haven’t had the need to do that, well, because of the third type.
Third, and my favorite, is solar. The sun is free, and quiet.
We spent a good amount of money last year on the solar setup (about $7,500 all in). It’s 1,800 watts on the roof, with two Tesla lithium battery modules in the electronics bay. This setup means we should never need to be connected to a thing or place to power our home. If things get really weird/cloudy, we can always plug in the generator and burn a gallon of gas per day.
The system I built centers around the Victron MultiPlus 24/3000/70 (don’t worry if you don’t know what that means) – which will use its “hybrid” functionality to combine the generator, solar, and power from the battery at the same time to run heavy duty appliances – like the air conditioner, microwave, and a small space heater.
Most of the time, the solar power is more than enough though. We’ve been off grid for 39 out of 53 days so far this year, and we’ve only had to top off the batteries for 7 or so days. Those were generally for about 4 or 5 hours or less, and that got us to 80 to 90% full, allowing us to wake up with around 60% charge.
Another neat feature of our electrical system is that it can use power from the truck’s alternator to drive a 1,500 watt 12v inverter. The only thing that’s used for is as a 120v input to the Victron MultiPlus. It’s like using a generator really, that allows us to charge the batteries with extra juice on cloudy days (we run the refrigerator on AC while driving) or on days we start below 50% charge.
Using the microwave in the middle of the desert was weird at first (it’s 1,800 watts on high) but we’ve been reducing it to 70 ro 80% power and it’s been fine. The ladies have used the curling and flat irons, and the toaster works great!
Here are some photos of the setup. Feel free to ask questions in the comments, or find us on social media. Links are in the header, and we’re everywhere as EpicMiniLife!
This post is part of a larger series called: “Epic Mini Life 2.0: Our outrageous plan to live off-grid in 2019, with every modern convenience.“