Hello from Texas!

Hey y’all!

I’m Ashley and currently my husband and I are just starting on our Ford E350 XLT build. We have stripped the van and have our solar panels, our killmat, and our MaxxAir Fan 7500k. Seat Swivels are on the way and next up is figuring out our Electrical needs with the 630w worth of solar panels we have as well as our subfloor and roof layout plans with the panels and fan. Hoping to pick some brains here and get some help with some of the systems as this is our first build out. We would be categorized as weekend warriors I suppose but our plans include 2-3 week trips living out of the van so we do intend to make it as comfortable as possible.

Anywho… I hope all of y’all are having a fantastic day and I’m happy to be here!

I had 250 watts of solar on my other van and that worked great, 2 batteries, I had a bar fridge and a microwave, the fridge I turned off at night, so not to drain batteries, it still kept things cold, hook up your batteries to the van so while you drive it still charges the batteries, I also had a switch to shut off the panel while I drove so not to overcharge, this time it does this automatically, with a charge controller, I had all my solar system done by an RV guy that does solar stuff, I can also plug into electric anywhere, that will also keep batteries topped up, I am able to live off-grid forever, my backup power is a little Honda generator if I ever need it. I pull a 6x12 trailer, with 400 watts of panels so in total I have 650 watts of panels and 4 batteries, my RV guy says I never have to worry about running out of power, yawho,


I think the biggest mistake people make is wanting or thinking that they have an apartment on wheels. Well… No we don’t… It’s much more like camping without hookups. We must create our own power, carry our own water, deal with our own waste water and sewage, provide our own climate control, and the list goes on and on.

What we really have is a metal tent on wheels, and if we start with that realization, we’ll have a much better time.

For power, it’s much easier to conserve power usage than to create more of it. Solar and batteries only go so far, before we need additional charging options. Charging via an isolator while driving is the cheapest option, better & faster solar, but only works while driving. Solar only works part time at best, never at night when you need it most, and only when the weather is being agreeable. Remember, batteries only store power, they don’t generate it, and they must be recharged regularly.

While shore power is always a viable option, but it isn’t always handy, and we can’t take it with us, unless we opt for a generator. Generators are good… Generators are GREAT, and many of us feel that no set up is complete without one. BUT… They require fuel, maintenance, and they can be noisy, and possibly annoy others.

No power option is perfect for us. They all have their strengths and weaknesses. So that’s another good reason to minimize our power consumption.

I’m not running roof top solar, instead I chose to stick with the top 3 choices, alternator, generator, or shore power. I rarely have shore power, but it’s still a good option to have, and it really doesn’t cost anything extra. I need my extension cord for my generator anyway… Charging while driving supplies almost all of my power, and my generator takes up any slack.

I grew up off the grid, with no power, and we camped with no power. Everything was fuel powered, heating, cooking, lighting, hot water, refrigeration, etc. We had everything we needed without power. Even our washing machine had a gas engine. Well… Times have changed, A LITTLE. Today I need power for my phone, and for my laptop to make money. That’s it! Nothing else essential requires power. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy many luxuries that require power, but the bottom line is that I can live well without power.

I think that’s important, even if it’s just your backup plan. Hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst. We’re camping, and power or not, we’ll enjoy ourselves, and stay as long as we like. That’s my wish for everyone reading this.


"Be the reason someone smiles today!" ~ Van_Dweller

Do you have a specific question? Is it “what size battery bank do you need?”

The panels will produce the rated watts times 4 each sunny day. The batteries must only by drawn down 50% of their capacity unless you get LiFPO4 then they can go a little further.

You have to add up all your expected wattage usage for a 24 hour period. If your going to use 2,000 watts per day, then you need at least 4,000 watts of batteries when new. Better to leave a little room for aging of the battery. 4,000 watts of battery power is approximately 333ah.

I just used example watts as I do not know how much daily usage your appliances will have. You can usually get that info from the manual or just take the wattage and times how many hours you will use it. If it’s a coffee maker and draws 800watts, that’s 400 watts per pot as it only takes less than 30 minutes to brew a pot. Just an example of how to figure out your usage. If it is a 12v fridge, they turn on and off and you need to look for it’s daily rated wattage usage.

Nice to meet you! It’s an exciting time isn’t it? Also it can be very overwhelming.
I encourage you to check out some of the courses Project Van Life offers on building. They have excellent information and about the most comprehensive I’ve seen on the internet. The blogs tell people’s stories and quite often is a good way to figure out your own direction. Going through old posts in The Build Forum is a great way to figure out answers to some of your questions as well!
Safe travels! :smiley:

Thanks everybody!! We are just working away on the build where we can right now… about to finish the subfloor this weekend then start with running wires, installing solar panels and the fan up top, and order some components with the solar and battery systems… I’ll definitely check out the Project threads! Hoping to be finished up by May!


Looking forward to seeing updates :wink: