Mobile office anyone.....

Discussion in 'Solar Power' started by FuglybusII, Sep 6, 2013.

  1. FuglybusII

    FuglybusII Read Only Funster

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    Dear Funsters,

    Well here is my first question of many on the topic of SOLAR POWER.

    I am hoping someone has already been using a similar setup to the one I am about to install and can give me a few pointers suggestions on weather I'm going to fit the right most efficent solar sytem to FUGLYBUS II..

    A little background, I have decided to take the foot of the accelorator and escape the rat race for at least a year! However, it is still important that I have a say in the future of my business as a founding partner that I started so will have to do the occassional piece of work and e-mailing of clients to do from time to time. My business does not require me to be stuck behind a desk as most of the work is done online. It will all be PC based CAD modelling and Post production type work. A powerful WIFI connection is vital which is why I'm talking to the motorhomewifi people.

    The system I want to instal must be able to power the following items when off grid or electric hook up:

    PC
    Laptop
    Ipad
    Mini projector
    Storage drives
    Sound system
    WACOM pad
    Chargers
    Fridge
    Microwave oven
    Water pumps
    Heating
    Truman boiler
    LED lights

    Can anyone recommend a solar system that might be a good configuration to run a mobile office from the back of my motorhome?

    Has anyone or is anyone running a solar system that is already supplying the power needs of thier business from the back of the motor home?

    Can anyone recommend a company that will help me choose and install the perfect system to meet my requirements?

    Any help and advice from any experienced funsters who are using solar systems would be of great help before I shell out on a suitable solar system.

    Many thanks...

    Chris & Claire
    FUGLYBUS II
     
  2. WynandJean

    WynandJean Funster

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    Not sure about running a PC without mains.

    Wyn
     
  3. thehutchies

    thehutchies Funster

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    For the last 11 years, I have been running my mobile office from two 110Ah leisure batteries and an inverter.
    Laptop, PC, lights, Eberspacher heater or big fan (depending upon the weather :Smile: ), various pieces of medical equipment, laminator and so on.

    But, I drive stupid distances when I'm working so it is very rare that the batteries are not sufficiently charged by the alternator when I need to use them.

    Occasionally, I will need to stay in the same place for a full day and then, if it's winter, I will probably need to run the engine for a little while when everything is on at once.

    You really need to estimate how much power you will be taking from the batteries and how you are going to replace it each day.

    It's very unlikely that you will be able to do that just with solar in this country.
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2013
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  4. hilldweller

    hilldweller Funster Life Member

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    The most important consideration is how little it works in northern Europe. In the winter you aren't going to get a whole lot.

    That is one massive list. One microwave meal could totally drain your batteries and it might take a week of winter solar to charge them, maybe more.

    This week I've done a trial. Charge two electric bikes. Now the two bikes are similar in capacity to my storage battery ( 110Ah ) so starting about 16:00 one battery charged, then got half way through the second and had to abandon it 'till daylight. By the end of the next day the leisure battery was not full. 100W panel and English autumn sun was not fit for purpose.

    Heat something - use gas.

    The rest of the list is meaningless without putting numbers on each item, watts + hours.

    Looks like you need the dreaded Generator to be sure.

    And your next problem - how to get a guaranteed broadband connection.
     
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  5. Gromett

    Gromett Funster

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    From practical experience. ie I do this now and have done for the last 4 and a half years.

    The PC is a no no if you are not on hookup. That is a definite.
    I did try but the combination of monitor and base unit sucks too much power.

    I would recommend a decent and recent laptop preferably with a Haswell processor to keep power usage down. Using an old laptop may save you money now but it does suck power. I have 2 laptops one a core2 duo and an i5 haswell (on loan)
    The core2 duo sucks 5Amps and the haswell takes just over 2 Amps. That is one hell of a difference. A big part of that will be the fact that one has an LED backlit display and the other has the old CCFL backlight. The both have SSD's which believe it or not makes a difference. Unless you play games don't get one with a separate graphics card. The one built into the haswell cpu is extremely power efficient and is up to most jobs. You mention CAD so I would check this out if I were you. GFX cards do suck some juice.

    For the storage side I have some 4TB hard drives in my main PC for when on hookup and a couple of very low power 2.5" hard disks for when off hookup. The main system is a rackmount system with hot swap hard drive bays. Handy in that I can take them out and put in the safe if I am leaving the van unattended for a period of time. It also allows me to plug an extra hdd in and backup the data which I can then leave in a safe location.

    I copy data from the main system to the small USB drives before coming off hookup. If I find I need other data I fire up the genny for a few minutes to get the data. This doesn't happen much these days as I am better organised.

    You are on the right tracks with the motorhomewifi router/repeater system. Works a treat. I am currently 400+ meters from my access point which is inside a steel constructed factory and I am getting fully speed on it.

    For solar power as much as you can fit on the roof and can afford.
    I personally recommend at trying to have as many AH in batteries as Watts of solar. I am a bit behind on the solar side due to roof space. I have 500AH battery and 240Watt solar. In the winter I can manage a week easily on this. However I don't like taking the batteries this low. This summer I have gone 5+ months without any hookup at all.

    Ideally I would love to have 1000AH battery and 400+ Watts of solar.

    In the winter forget solar in the UK. It is still producing decent power this week but not enough to be fully self sufficient. However it is not a waste as it still extends the time I can go without going on hookup or starting the generator.

    For charging gadgets/devices look for DC/DC converters rather than using an inverter.
    If your device uses for example 15V mains charger.
    The losses incurred by going from 12VDC battery up to 240VAC then back down to 15V DC is massive in comparison to a 12VDC - 15VDC converter.

    I have survived for 4+ years without an inverter and run a small hosting company which requires me to have power and internet access 24/7.. essential...

    Be parsimonious with your power and you shouldn't get caught out.

    All the usual tips about LED bulbs, turning stuff off etc etc all become second nature.

    Sorry for the ramble.
     
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  6. Snowbird

    Snowbird Funster Life Member

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    If you are relying on solar power to still earn a living then you will eventually go hungry.
    If you do absolutely need uninterrupted battery power then there is only one way to go and that is an Efoy fuel cell. Unfortunately its not cheap, but if your future business and livelihood relies on a fully charged battery bank then you have no choice but to bite the bullet. http://www.efoy.com/
     
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  7. FuglybusII

    FuglybusII Read Only Funster

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    Solar office

    A massive thanks to you all for your respose to my questions, especially gromet who is the only oerson I have met who has real life experience of what I'm trying to accomplish.

    It's looking more likely that I will have to manage my workflow around reliable sources of energy or hook ups. Unless I make the leap of faith to expesive energy cell options. Perhaps the saving I will make on not having an office in Wimbledon might make this option realistic!

    Untill then I have opted for :

    180W AKT Solar Panel Kit with 20A charge controller and solar cables - Complete kit for a 12V system
    £270 all in.

    Leisure Battery 12v-110Ah Numax XV31
    MF
    £75

    Will give regular reports on how I'll be doing with this set up.

    Cheers All...

    Chris & Claire
     
  8. Wissel

    Wissel Read Only Funster

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    Just seen this thread and I'm installing a system like you want. I work online but I'm fed up with being stuck in the office - much rather be at the beach :Smile:

    First the PC - this is not a problem. I have built a PC that can run off any voltage from 6-24v and consumes 17w per hour. And its fast. This is coupled with the 24" LED screen which consumes about 20w. If your interested in the PC side I have a blog post on it here: http://myselfbuildcamper.co.uk/the-van-pc/
    It's not completely up to date but shows the PC and the 3G aerial, I've since added a high gain WiFi antenna (amazingly good) and a few other bits and pieces. Once the van gets a WiFi signal it turns into a hot-spot to allow all other devices near the van internet access. I built a TV tuner into it as well (well - not always working :BigGrin:)

    12v Power - I did a massive amount of research on this. In the end I went with 2 x 100w solar panels, 4 x 100ah batteries and a CTEK D250S Dual with Smartpass. Again I have a blog post here if your interested: http://myselfbuildcamper.co.uk/new-12v-electrics-total-charging-solution/
    My system will power everything on in the van for 3 days (PC on for 15 hours a day, 5 hours with the stereo on, water pump, heating etc) without any charging at all. Realistically, during the summer, the van is totally self sufficient as long as I'm not working for more than 8hrs a day. During the winter I have 3 days before I need to start the engine to charge.

    Hope this helps,
    David
     
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  9. vwalan

    vwalan Funster

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    more solar more batteries .use gas lights . ,cook on gas ,heat the vehicle on gas . only have leccy pump and 240v fridge . mind if you arent going to be moving have a gas fridge .
    in uk it will soon be not enough sun .
    but get about 6-8 80-100w panels and a huge battery bank . you can cope i would say in spring ,summer and the start of autumn .
    then get off to the sun . many do . it makes sense . see you there .
     
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  10. FuglybusII

    FuglybusII Read Only Funster

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    Man knows his stuff....

    Wissel,

    Excellent Blog!

    I wish I had the time to fully understand what it all means!!! And the time to fit it all together. I would like to fit and forget if at all possible!

    What I really want is to take my motorhome some where leave it for a week and get it all sorted as you have, to run my workstation from it without the worry of weather I have researched or bought the right equipment for the uses I want...

    Can you recommend anyone in the Surrey area that would fit a system of similar spec as yours? Or even recommend anyone who would be able to fit a system in my motorhome. in or arounf the M25 area....please!!

    Cheers,

    Chris & Claire.. CXX
     
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  11. Wissel

    Wissel Read Only Funster

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    Hi again and cheers, glad you like my blog.

    I'm afraid I don't know anyone in your area that could fit the 12v system, its not a difficult job though and I'd be happy to talk you through it.

    With regards to the PC, the critical part is the Pico PSU (and using low power components). If your happy to build a PC yourself I'd be happy to let you know what you need to buy.

    I just re-read your OP and it mentions CAD. Are you working with rendered 3d images mostly or line drawing? This would make a difference on graphics capabilities.

    Happy to help as much as you need on this subject,

    David
     
  12. Minxy Girl

    Minxy Girl Funster Life Member

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    I think you ought to get at least another 110ah battery so that when you solar panel is really kicking out the power (ie on good sunny days) you can store it to see you through the dull days.

    Reading between the lines of your original posting, I assume that you don't expect to work every day however you don't say whether you intend to use any camp sites, smaller CL/CS sites, or just go wild! :RollEyes:

    If you do intend to use some sort of site, then that could solve your need for more power on your 'work' days but obviously you'd need to stay there, or at least ensure that you 'power up' your batteries to the max before you leave.

    One other thing as an aside to all of this, just in case you haven't covered it before/thought of it - have you checked out what your insurance will be for having a mobile office?
     
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  13. Wissel

    Wissel Read Only Funster

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    I checked on this with Insurance Choice, explained that I would be working from my van and they had no problem at all with it.

    As long as I wasn't using the van to go to or from meetings and it was just me using a PC in the van to work while I was away in it, it was fine with them.

    As Minx said though, its worth checking first.
     
  14. Carol

    Carol Funster Life Member

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    Told you it was worth joining Chris :Smile:

    Glad you are getting it together , Carol, x
     
  15. jb0371

    jb0371 Read Only Funster

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    DO NOT BUY LEUSURE BATTERIES. Buy TRACTION BATTERIES. Also get a sterling battrey to battery chartger (or alternator to battery charger)

    There are lot more more experianced people to explain the reasons, just keep away from so called leuisre batteies, I did have a link to where i was advised to get mine from, butr new l;aptop and forgotr to copy the website across.
     
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  16. thehutchies

    thehutchies Funster

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    Many of us have real life experience of what you need.

    I'm sure that we will all agree that you have no chance with solar power alone.

    My mobile office is mains-free all year.

    My wheeled home, with similar power demands to yours, is mains-free for about 6 months each year.

    In Winter, find a cheap hook-up.

    :Smile:
     
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  17. motorhomelover

    motorhomelover

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    Forget the idea of running all that from solar
    It's not possible
    A good panel will give you 220w 1.5A
    Heating. Will have to be from gas.
    I would suggest two battery banks. Run through a marine switch. So you can run one bank at a time so as not to replete every thing at once

    You'll need about 4 or better 6. 120Ah batteries
    3 in each bank

    Also upgrade your Altinator to 180-240 Ah
    For recharging

    Also consider a marine three way 45 Amp charger system to run off a genny

    Solar will top up. But will not recharge a dead battery

    Good luck

    If you go on RVOC and pm Smudger
    He knows more about power needed as he lives in his RV full time and has all the items I list on other post

    Might look as I am taking the piss
    But it is funny. And I do want to help
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2013
  18. motorhomelover

    motorhomelover

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    Add up the wattage of each item you list
    Then multiply by 100.
    Will give you the Kw

    For every Kw you will need 1 Kw of charge power just to keep topped up

    As I said not possible on solar alone


    :Doh:


    Ps you do not list a TV. Recorder, printer
    Tooth brush, razor hair dryer. Curling tongs straighteners
    Vibrator. Washing machine. Tumble dryer


    Pmsl

    Now I am getting silly.
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2013
  19. Gromett

    Gromett Funster

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    It is possible on solar alone but only in the summer and you have to spec the gear you are using correctly. I have been off hookup since March and survived quite nicely thank you :Wink:
    Got a hookup last week as I needed to power up the main computer and solar has pretty much given up providing full power now. It would however still extend my off hookup time from about 6 days to 8 days at this time of year.

    I have 2 x 250AH batteries and 3 x 80Watt solar panels. This gives me a week off hookup in so so weather.

    Winter however forget it. Find a decent CL for £8-£10 a night once you have been there for 2 weeks see if you can negotiate a discount for a big stay. (with breaks every 28 days obviously)

    I avoid anything that says Marine in the title as it is a marketing term that means really expensive with respect to motorhoming.

    I don't bother with multiple battery banks either. I prefer it have one massive one. However in my previous vehicle I did have a separate 110AH normal car battery in the back which just powered the boiler and lights. This had a tiny charger and a separate small solar panel. This was totally independent of the main battery bank (which was 1000AH). This meant that if I had an important job on I could run the batteries into the ground without risking losing my heating, water pump and lights. I don't bother now.

    I would recommend getting at least another battery. If space/weight allows take it up to 4.

    Another useful gadget I would recommend getting is a Victron Battery monitor.

    Anyway, enough for now :thumb:

    PS: get yourself two gasit refillable gas cylinders as well. Never run your fridge off batteries (unless driving).
     
  20. motorhomelover

    motorhomelover

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    If you read the original post you will see he wants to run heating and others electrical items from solar.

    This is possible if he's in a small van box maybe. Not possible in a standard four berth 18/20 motor home

    With respect Grommet you do not have a conventional motor home
    So you may scrap through for your personal needs

    He wants a lot more from his system

    I have a 5 KVA generator to run my systems if I want to run every thing
    You will not get anywhere near 5 KV with solar power

    If it that was possible we would all have it fitted to our houses never mind motorhomes

    Simples :Eek!::Eek!:Eeek:

    The last twice I have seen you at a meet. You have had problems starting your engine due battery problems
    Not a good sign that it is up to the job
    May be a rethink is needed
    To resolve that particular issue you have on your outfit


    I have started my motor home after running the leisure batts to dead. And main cranking battery to 9.5volts

    The good old Marine charger did what it is there to do as it takes less to start the generator. Than the main engine
    Up and away in less than three minuets


    Just watch me brake down at the next meet with a flat battery's
    Now I have put this on forum

    Sod's law. He he he
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2013
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