Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Unleashing the Sprinter...Season 2 Unplugged

Just when we all thought Heather and I's "Ultimate Multisport Van" couldn't be improved, we found a way just in time for UMV Season 2 with the addition of a self sustaining solar power system that allows for perpetual Hybridliving. We all ask ourselves how we can give more back the earth than we take? How can we tread lighter yet live life to the fullest? How much electricity do we actually consume per hour? If I can pay for electricity by burning coal cheaper than other energy sources, why does it matter?

For about $500 for a 135 watt PV (photo voltaic) panel and an additional $400 for charge controller and installation, $300 for 2 440amp/hour deep cycle batteries, $1000 for a Xantrex AC inverter/DC converter, and $200 for Hell Roaring battery isolater, we have perpetual power to operate our minimalist design multisport van's refrigerator, lighting, TV/DVD, water pumps, and heater for up to 7 days without starting the engine. Our system including the panel, charge controller, batteries, inverters, and installation was approximately $2500. This setup on a larger scale would absolutely work for your home however your average consumption per hour is closer to 800 watts at any given moment. A typical solar panel has a 12-15% efficiency rate providing 100% return on investment in 10 years and a lifespan of 15-20 years (except $300 batteries have a 5 year life span). Once solar panels hit 20% efficiency this year, ROI will be accomplished in 3 years!

As you may know, solar panels require an amperage charge controller device to keep the batteries from being overcharged and they are also only as good as the ability to store DC power. Going back to physics 101, a 100 watt appliance uses 100 watts  or 11 amperes per hour on a 10-12 volt system .(Power = Amperes x Voltage). This would exhaust a 440 ampHour battery in 40 hours without replenishment. It takes about a 150 watt solar panel (producing 10-11 amps)  to offset this 100 watt consumption due to inefficiencies in conversion of solar energy to electrical energy/less than perfect sunlight/limited number of hours of sunlight exposure, etc. Additionally, it takes a reservoir aka batteries to store energy when possible because it's impossible to match electrical needs with sunlight availability.

Overkill perhaps but most importantly it's symbolic of our commitment to treading lightly in our surroundings and detaching ourselves from the traditional life of decadence "living on the grid". The Sprinter is just the earliest phases of living a simpler life off the grid as the cards play out. Until then, we look forward to spending time on the grid plugged into our favorite travel destinations.

We also added a wireless Roku modem to the van this year to stream Netflix movies to less remote locations.No more repeats of the movie 300... just name your request and we can stream it!

For a complete summary of the Sprinter's unleashing.... Season 1

See you all on the trails and rivers!

Heather and Jeremy


  1. Jeremy, Sounds like a sweet system! I hope all of this stuff makes up for the Macy Family's environmental impact...we're going through about 12 diapers per day, and I think it only increases from here!

    Happy travels,


  2. That's pretty impressive. I've looked into solar power for the home a bit, but am way too uninformed to pull the switch.