Ever wonder how to build an off grid solar setup? Living off grid is a great way to save on energy costs and to be more environmentally friendly. My solar system allows me to charge up my electronics and run a small fridge to keep food and drinks cold. It is a simple and effective way for providing electricity in my camper van.

So, what do you need to build a simple off grid power system? I've placed a list with some Amazon links below detailing what I use to create off grid solar power.

  • 100W Flexible Solar Panel
    I currently use this 100 watt panel for my solar system. I love that it is flexible and conforms easily to the roof of the Element. I tape it to the roof using 3M VHB Tape. By doing this instead of mounting a traditional panel on top of the roof rack, it makes the panel much less visible. This increases the "stealthiness" of my Element Camper!
  • 35AH Deep Cycle Battery
    This is an AGM maintenance free battery. At some point, I will likely upgrade to the 70AH Version. With the 35AH version, I can easily run the fridge overnight without using more than 50% of the battery's capacity. It is often recommended to avoid depleting deep cycle batteries below 50% of their charge capacities.
  • Solar Charge Controller
    This has been an excellent charge controller for my system. The charge controller is designed to prevent the battery from becoming overcharged. It is a necessary component to almost any solar system.
  • 12v Adapter with Alligator Clamps
    I attached this to the battery terminals so that I can use the power from the system. It is a simple 12v outlet that attaches via alligator clamps.
  • Twin USB/DC Socket Adapter
    I use this to provide extra outlets so that I can charge multiple items while also running my fridge. This device has two USB ports and 2 12v (cigarette lighter) outlets.

The system is entirely 12v DC. I do not currently use an AC inverter. All of my electronics charge via USB. For my laptop, I have a Pwr+ 12V Charger, which works great for charging up the PC while I'm working in the Element.

The primary purpose of my solar system is to run my Dometic CF-018. This refrigerator is a compressor fridge that I use for food and drink storage. It is very efficient, and my system offers just enough to keep it running smoothly. The 35AH battery is good for keeping it running overnight when the sun is down.

This all being said, I also use a battery isolator switch which allows the Element's alternator to charge the house battery when I am driving. I paid an audio shop $100 to install the simple rocker switch. When activated, it opens the connection between my car battery and deep cycle battery. This allows the alternator to equalize the charge between the two batteries.

This switch has been incredibly useful this winter. During the winter months, peak solar hours are limited and the weather is often cloudier than it is in the summer. The switch helps supplement the lack of available solar power to keep my battery charged even on the darkest and cloudiest of days.