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Off Grid Resource Conservation

It’s been a week since we rolled out of the Wallowas, and have been off grid since then. That means we haven’t been connected to shore power or water.

The key to successful bus life is knowing your resources and being adaptable. Sometimes resources are plentiful and sometimes they are not. When times are plentiful there is no need to conserve. With shore power, we use a space heater, cook with the Instant Pot and can run the vacuum. With shore water we can shower frequently and wash dishes without concern. When we are without, conservation techniques kick in.


When we know we will be off grid we buy drinking water in jugs so we don’t have to use water from the tank for cooking, drinking and making coffee. This has allowed us to stretch the tank water so much more.

Washing dishes generally uses the most water. I’ve developed a technique that uses very little and doesn’t waste. With the biggest pot in the bottom of the sink and the smaller dishes inside of it, any water that is used collects in the big pot, which is usually the greasiest and is washed last. Our faucet has a spray option also, which uses less water.

Little things like not running water while brushing teeth also makes a difference. To shower, we use enough water to get wet then turn it back off while soaping up and washing hair, then turn the water back on to rinse. Sponge baths and hair washing in the sink also works really well in between showers.

Where normally we would refill the tank every two to three days, by using conservation we’ve gone a week and still have half a tank left.


Conserving power just means that we use alternate energy sources for cooking and heating. The wood burner heats this place up crazy well (almost too well, sometimes it gets too hot and we have to open the door or a window). We can cook on the top of the wood burner, or with our propane cook top.

Making coffee, watching movies on the projector, running the fridge, and powering our laptops / phones still uses electricity. How much power we have depends on how much solar we can get from the sun, which varies with light conditions. On a dark, rainy week like this week has been, that’s precious little.

When power reserves get low we start up the bus for ten minutes or so and turn on the isolator switch. This was an awesome redundancy that we built in, using overflow from the isolator to charge the batteries while we are driving (or in this case when we need an extra boost).


This summer we are going to work on expanding our off grid capabilities so we can last much longer at one time. Doubling our battery bank, adding a standalone solar panel that can be pointed to the sun, and having a backup generator will expand our capabilities and redundancies quite a lot. We’ve also been designing a gravity filtering system so that we can refill our fresh water tank from lakes and streams, similar to what we do when we are backpacking, but on a larger scale.

With better off grid capabilities, our options for where we can go and places we can explore will open up even more. I’m looking forward to that!



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