Living off grid
Freedom!!! Freedom from bills and freedom from consumption.
To live off-grid full time requires good investment, time and money. My solar system is 720w with 460AMH of leisure battery. This system is much larger than most camper-style homes, as I live in the lorry full time, summer and winter. One of the largest consumers of energy I have is my 12v fridge. I have a compressor fridge, like those commonly used on boats, as opposed to a 3 way gas/12v/240v fridge, because these can be very dangerous when used on unlevelled ground. Other uses of power are the lights, water pumps and phone chargers.
We also have a rain water harvesting system. When it come to rain water collection, it’s important to choose a roofing material that will no contaminate the water - I’ve used zintec steel. The water collected is then filtered though sediment and charcoal filters which makes it clean enough to shower and wash up in. To take it that step further and be able to drink the water, you need to add a third UV filter.
As I live in the lorry full-time, I didn’t want to run the risk of my water tank or pipes freezing in the winter, so whilst designing the lorry I made sure the water tank was inside. I decided the best place for the water tank to go was under the sofa, but this turned out to be a lot harder than I originally thought as I couldn’t find a water tank that was low enough and big enough. So, inevitably, as with most of the lorry, I ended up making the water tank myself, out of stainless steel. The water tank is 360L, and when full this will last about a week with with showers everyday. Normally, the delightful British weather keeps the tanks topped up, but sometimes during really dry summers, we have had to top up the tank with an external water source. Predicting this problem, I included a hose inlet on the outside of the lorry to allow the tank to be filled up with a hose pipe.
Living off-grid is definitely challenging at times, for example having to be mindful of your water consumption, but the financial rewards are worth it. It is not just about money but about tying to limit the impact we have on the environment.
The power of the sun
The water tank build
^ The water tank is a stainless steel tank with baffles and a sight gauge. The tank is made so it will fit just under the sofa. The baffles are riveted with copper rivets and the base outlets are also riveted in. Then, all the rivets and outlets are soft solider together. The ends and the top of the tank are TIG welded together. I am a metal worker and on the weekends and evenings I have been able to do a lot of work for the lorry. This has been useful for the house and for my career as I would not have had the opportunity to learn to TIG weld stainless steel or soft solder.
< The solar panels went on the roof just before the snow came down at the start of the year (2018). It was cold and dark and I was moving from my first parking space outside work to my current home - a beautiful farm, only 2 miles from work but really nicely out of the way. Even with the snow and the dark nights, we had enough power coming in to keep us going though winter.