We’ve moved! Or at least our vans have. Over the summer we realised we needed a bit more space where we can park the vans. We also wanted somewhere that was in slightly nicer surroundings than our yard near Bournemouth Airport, as much as we like the howl of a jet engine.

We were fortunate enough to find a lovely field, right outside Bournemouth on the A31, and have spent the last couple of months getting it ready and moving everything across. And we sure love it out here – look at the vans all nice and cosy in their new spot.

As we try and offset our campervans’ carbon footprints as much as possible, this was also the perfect opportunity for us to try and see if we can run this HQ “off-grid”. We now only use harvested rain water (plus cleaning products) to clean the vans both inside and out. Solar power meets all of our electrical needs for the pressure washer, lighting, CCTV and security, and laptop. We’ve even put second-hand conveyor belts and old rubber stable mats to use as flooring to park the campervans on so that they are not sitting on damp grass over the colder months.

Getting ready - used conveyor belts ready to go down

Read on for the full geeky details of how we’ve made it work!

Requirements

Our first step was to look at all our requirements to determine if this would even be possible.

Water requirements

Our water requirements are fairly low. Although we give each van a thorough wash after every hire, and sometimes again before it goes out, we very rarely use water for this and tend to use a waterless wash and wax product. We only use water on the outside of the vans when they come back with lots of dirt or mud. We do use some water on the inside to wash the floor etc but again this is very little. Finally, on the odd occasion that our hirers bring back dirty cutlery/crockery we need water to wash the dishes.

Electricity requirements

Starting with cleaning the vans, we give them all a proper vacuum after each hire so need power for that. Then we also occasionally need to use a pressure washer for the outside. We also need to have lighting around the parking area and storage, especially going into winter. And we spend a fair bit of time at the field so need power to run a laptop with some internet for when we’re out there. And, last but certainly not least, there is the CCTV system for security.

Just finished building the shed

The plan

With these basic requirements we were confident we could do it all off-grid, or at least mostly off-grid. We would gather rain water that gets filtered a couple of times to be used for washing the vehicles. For what little fresh water we need we simply have a 10l water container that we refill from a tap at home when required. Electricity will be provided with solar panels that can trickle charge a battery onto which we can have an inverter to provide power. Our campervans have 12v leisure batteries and we can use these to run a handheld vacuum for cleaning.

The rain water harvesting system

To harvest rainwater we have the guttering of our storage shed feed the water into a Guttermate downpipe diverter that has a built in filter. The built-in filter has a second fine mesh which blocks out anything larger than 800 microns (about 0.8mm). This water is then fed into a primary water but which overflows into the secondary water butt. By utilising two water butts in this way it means any fine sediment that does make it through the filter settles at the bottom of the first water butt with nice clean water overflowing to the second water butt. Now I wouldn’t recommend drinking this water, but it’s certainly clean enough to wash vans with! As a further filtering system our pressure washer has a built-in filter on its feeding hose too.

The solar battery charging system

The first step was getting the right battery/inverter solution. This was found in the form of an all-in-one solar battery generator. It’s a little portable unit that has a battery, solar charger and inverter all in one unit. It has a 240v plug output, a few 12V outputs and even a few USB ports. Just perfect for our needs. This is connected to a 100w solar panel that is mounted to the roof of our shed. The angle of the roof isn’t ideal for sunlight, especially in the winter but it’s slowly trickle charging the battery which is sufficient. The roof mount is removable so on the very sunny days we can take it off and lay it on the ground for a better angle.

The pressure washer we use is a Worx battery operated pressure washer. We’ve got a few spare batteries for this unit so we simply plug the battery charger into the solar battery until they are fully charged and then they can be used as and when required.

Lighting is provided in the form of 12v LED strips, laid out all along the roof of our marquees. These in turn are connected to the solar battery generator. We then have motion sensitive lights in the shed, with rechargeable batteries connected to USB ports in our battery unit. We won’t go into too much detail for the security side of things, but we have a completely separate solar panel and charging solution that powers the CCTV cameras and provides 24/7 internet access for full remote monitoring and security alerting.

Finally, when we do need to plug a laptop in for a few hours, again we have a 240v plug on the solar battery.

Building the first marquee

Reducing our carbon footprint

So far on our busiest day we’ve only ever been down to about 75% capacity on the battery, we’ll be keeping an eye on the charging levels over winter but we won’t be using nearly as much power so it should even itself out. The beauty of this setup is we can simply add another solar panel into the mix to provide extra charging capacity if required.

We’re pleased to be self-sufficient and running completely off-grid, and able to offer people a campervan hire experience that aims to reduce and offset as much of our carbon footprint as possible.

The neighbours

As we were including links to the products we have used, we thought we might as well use affiliate links. This means that when you click on a link, if you were to purchase something subsequently from Amazon, we may earn some pennies (literally!) for directing you there. This does not affect the direct cost of your purchase or mean you pay extra.

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