Van Life Expo – Australia

A Guide to Off Grid Solar System For Your Van

One of the most important aspects of any van build is the off grid solar system. If you want to be able to fully embrace vanlife and head off grid for a few days or longer, then you’ll need a good solar power system in your van.

This will make sure that you’re able to keep your fridge running, lights on, water flowing and phones fully charged, even while spending days camped out on the beach or in the outback. For non-electricians, it can start to become a bit overwhelming with unusual terms you may not be familiar with while researching solar system set-ups. 

With this guide, we delve into everything you need to know about off grid solar systems for your van and what components you need to be able to live vanlife to the fullest.

Basic Electrical Terms to Know

When you start researching off grid power systems for your van, you’ll come across lots of terminology that you may not fully understand. We’re going to break down some of the common terms here, so you’ll be more informed when you start to read further about different electrical components.

  • DC Power: Direct current (DC) is the only type of current that batteries can supply on their own. For van electrical set-ups, you will have a battery that can provide DC power, and anything that you connect to your battery will receive DC power.
  • AC Power: Alternating Current (AC) is the type of electricity that your local power plant supplies to houses and buildings. When you plug anything into an outlet in your house, it receives AC power. If you want to get AC Power while off grid in your van, you’ll need an inverter (more on this below).
  • Amp (short for ampere): A unit of measurement for quantifying the rate of electric current flow.
  • Amp hours (Ah): The amount of charge in a battery that will allow one amp of current to flow for one hour.  Batteries will commonly have this to quantify their power, e.g. 100Ah battery, 200Ah battery etc.
  • Volts/voltage: The “pressure” of an electrical system, caused by electrons’ negative charge repelling each other. Basically, volts are the measure of force of the electric charge. The most common voltage used in van electrical systems is 12 volt direct current (DC), with most batteries used in vans being 12v batteries.
  • Watts/wattage: The total power of electric charge which is calculated by multiplying amps x volts (amps x volts = watts). Solar panels will have this to quantify the maximum power that the panel can deliver at any one time.

Off Grid Solar System Components

If you’re looking to install an off grid solar system in your van, then you’ll want to know what components you’ll need for it to function smoothly. Below, we’re going to break down the components that all work together to provide power to your home on wheels.

1. Solar Panel

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