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Customer Stories: Digital Nomads Work Remotely Using Solar Power

Getting away from the complexity of the traditional American Dream and trying a different approach at life is the desire of many. Trends indicate that Americans are transitioning into smaller homes or taking their life on the road. A couple from Austin TX is living their new dream traveling the USA with no regrets. James and his wife sold their home in Austin to live on the road in their 39’ fifth wheel. Both being able to work remotely gives them the perfect opportunity to travel the country with their three border collies. Their passion is exploring nature and trail running in new locations along their travels.

Being on the road can be difficult without the luxuries people take for granted at home - for instance, electricity that powers your computer, phones and televisions. While those luxuries vary from person to person, James had two requirements before embarking on this new lifestyle. The first requirement was to ensure that they could live “normally” even when unplugged from the grid. The second was to guarantee the ability to have air conditioning to keep their dogs cool in warmer weather.

Traveling the southwest, James and his wife met many campers who had large solar power systems and they envied the freedom solar provides them. They prefer natural settings to most campgrounds and wanted to have a configuration that would allow for them to easily camp on public lands as well as attend rally-style events and driveway camp comfortably without hookups. Solar power was the obvious choice when it comes to boondocking and unplugging from the grid.

James has a long history of DIY projects and a self-taught understanding of electrical systems. He wanted to design and build the solar system himself but needed the eyes of an expert to oversee his project due to the risks involved working with high voltage electrical. James wanted a system that would keep the thermostat powered, run the AC off batteries, then auto-start their gas generator and notify them when it got to that point. They wanted this to supplement a SMS temperature monitor they're already using.

After doing some research, James reached out to Victron Energy and they referred him to Northern Arizona Wind & Sun. James called in and spoke to an engineer which answered many of his questions and helped him refine his design. After collaborating they decided on two Victron Quattro Inverter Chargers and an autotransformer to provide power to the rig. With the autotransformer they can utilize 4.8kW of energy across any combination of breakers in their main panel without worrying about which loads are on which leg. Additionally, since their RV is always fully powered, their thermostat kicks on the AC when necessary and draw from their SimpliPhi battery bank. When the batteries reach a low state of charge, the system kicks on the Onan generator to charge them and sends James an email. How cool is that?

James and his wife walked away extremely happy with their RV solar system and its ability to completely keep their rig powered without worry. Their life on the road continues with a lot more comfort with a few more luxuries, thanks to solar power.

For a more detailed explanation of how their solar power system performs and to see the system itself, check out the interview below. Be sure to subscribe to the Northern Arizona Wind & Sun YouTube Channel to be notified of more videos when we post them.

REC Solar 310 Watt N-Peak Monocrystalline Solar Panels

Victron Energy components inside RV compartment

SimpliPhi Batteries hidden behind false wall

Customer Feedback

It's always great to hear directly from the customer about their experience with our company. Feedback is highly valued, which allows us to deliver an even better product to the next customer.

How was the response time when you submitted an inquiry for a consultation?

I called in after a direct recommendation from Victron - the phone was answered quickly and I was immediately transferred to the engineer they recommended I speak to.

Were our prices competitive compared to other competitors?

I don't believe I could have pieced the system together for the same price I paid - and I know for certain that if I were to consult with an engineer elsewhere, the hourly rates would have added several hundred dollars to the project. I consider this a great deal.

Do you think the free consultation provided value to you?

Absolutely, as said above, I figure the time spent here would have easily cost several hundred dollars if not more in consulting fees. James was easy to work with, provided great assistance and recommendations, and didn't just take over the entire project.

How are our customized solar systems more beneficial than out of the box solutions?

RVs come in so many different configurations, and RVers with so many different requirements, that I don't see how any out of the box solutions could even have a practical market. Any out of the box solution would have been settling for something less than we wanted - and this is a project we didn't just want to settle on.

How would you rate the solar system installation process?

The design process went through several iterations but moved fairly quickly considering everything involved; I believe we went from a first draft to a final design in around a week. Once I had all the parts, I found the installation took a bit longer than I intended because I underestimated the time it would take to make and route all the custom cables, but I was able to complete it in a few long days without issue. For all the complexity involved, the entire process from design to completion went very quickly and smoothly.

Overall, did Northern AZ Wind & Sun meet your expectations?

Yes they did, and I will recommend them to others.

Our Take

James contacted us with the intentions of putting a large scale solar electric power system together for his fifth wheel. He was quite knowledgeable and did a bunch of research as to what he wanted to do but during our conversations it was apparent to meet his goals we were going to have to shift gears and think outside the box. I helped him put together a full power system to power his entire rig. The system utilized two Victron Quattro inverters in a split phase (balanced) configuration. Currently he has nearly 2000W of solar (but this is due to expand in the future), and a 15KWH lithium battery bank. The system is 48V, making it very efficient and versatile to future expansion. He can charge from 50A services, 30A services and from his built-in generator.

Solar Power System Components

Below is a list of components that were used in this system.

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