Do you own a Jayco caravan and wanna go completely off-grid with your next camping adventure?
In this video, we’re gonna run you through all the possible modifications that you could make to your Jayco caravan to harness the sun and ensure for your next camping trip you don’t have to pay those costly caravan park fees.
How to Upgrade Your Jayco Caravan for Off-Grid Camping
Briohny: Hey, I’m Briohny.
Andrew: And I’m Andrew
B: And we’re from Accelerate. And this is our Jayco Base Station. Prior to owning this, we also had a Jayco Swan. So we’re completely familiar with Jayco’s and what you need to do to them to get them totally set up for off-grid camping.
Okay, so welcome inside our Jayco Base Station. It’s a pretty standard look of a Jayco. Andrew what do they come with from factory?
A: Okay, so most Jaycos from bottom to the top of the range come with what’s called a J35 as standard. So it’s a box about yay big and, it does all the, generally, most of them do the solar regulating. It does the Anderson plug isolating. So isolates your car from your van for the charging of the batteries. It does the 240V charging and it will also do most of the fusing. So all the fuses for your lights your 12 volt outputs and so on.
So that all goes through one. There are a few different versions we’re currently up to. We’ve got an A, B, C and D available at the moment the D is lithium compatible A, B and C aren’t. So they don’t come with the lithium algorithm and to be honest, that’s most of what we see. So they will come paired up standard with an AGM battery. The D generally comes paired up with a lithium battery.
B: So you mentioned AGM batteries there. It’s pretty standard for the Jaycos to come out with AGMs?
A: Yeah, most of the ones we see have always come out, historically have always come out with AGMs. They’re just starting to bring some lithiums out now but it’s still quite new on the market.
B: Okay, so most of these seem to come out with AGM. Do we need to upgrade to lithium?
A: If you want to have a better off-grid experience lithium’s definitely the way to go. It will charge a lot faster, it will be a lot lighter, it will last a lot longer. So, your appliances will work for longer and the batteries will recover a lot quicker and that’ll give you a much better run time on what you’re trying to use.
B: So if you’ve decided to upgrade to lithium what changes do we need to make inside the caravan other than lithium battery?
A: Okay. So, it actually depends whether you come out with a J35 A, B, C or D. If you’ve got a D then that’s a 240V charging taken care of. Depending on the model will depend on how much solar will go in. Quite often, we can get enough solar on the roof to run through the J35. If we wanna go more solar we’ll have to have a lithium specific solar regulator. The other thing, if we’re going lithium we’ll need a DCDC charger. So we’ll have a DCDC that’ll handle the input from the car, also that can run your solar is another way around it. And yeah, the probably the other thing that most people do is an inverter and that’s what we’ve got in this so all our 240V appliances work.
B: So let’s just run through each of those individually. The solar regulator, what is its sole purpose?
A: Regulate the solar. So yeah, it’s a lithium, you need a lithium compatible solar regulator. It takes the high voltage from the panels converts it into the correct voltage to charge the batteries and basically keeps the solar panels humming away and pumping into the battery.
B: A DC to DC charger, what’s its purpose?
A: So that will bring the power basically in simple terms, the power from the alternator on your car through an Anderson plug, then it hits the DCDC charger that modifies the voltage to suit the lithium batteries perfectly and then charges the lithium batteries while you’re driving from your car.
B: So we can, if we’re driving, you can have your Anderson plug plugged in and via the DC to DC charger it can be charging the battery. And then the solar regulators will be charging your battery via the solar panels. So you’re sort of getting the dual input while you drive, is that correct?
A: Certainly, that’s the advantage of running a separate solar regulator and DCDC charger, is you can get maximum current input.
B: Cool. So you mentioned a 240V charger is that correct?
B: What does that do and why do we need it?
A: The 240V charger, really two purposes if you’re sort of at a caravan park and you wanna charge your batteries back up then and so that’s, that’s one reason. If you’ve been off grid for a while especially if it’s cloudy and your solar’s not keeping up you can plug in and that will charge your batteries. It also is great for when your van’s in storage. So you plug in your 240V charger and obviously, that maintains your batteries especially if your van’s undercover. If it’s outside in the sun, totally unnecessary cause your solar will do that job but if your van’s covered up or undercover in a garage or something like that plug in the 240V, batteries stay maintained fully.
B: So the final thing there you mentioned is the inverter. What is an inverter? Why do we use it? And yeah, just tell us about it.
A: Okay. So the inverter’s the final piece of the puzzle. What it does, it’s a big box and it takes the battery power, the 12 volts and turns it into 240V so that all your power points will work and you can use all your appliances you’re used to using at home like toasters and kettles and so on.
B: So that’s the main one that we, I guess use and we upgraded ours just recently to a bigger inverter. And that allows me to, in the morning plug our normal house kettle into a power point in the caravan and I can just turn it on and it boils the water straight away. So I guess talking about the inverter common question, what size inverter do I need?
A: The hardest question to answer. It just depends what you wanna run and what your battery bank, can support. So basically it’s in the middle. You need to have the batteries behind to support it. Obviously going from 12 volts to 240V is quite inefficient. So you need a good battery bank and then you need an inverter sufficiently big enough to run the appliance you’re trying to turn on. Obviously, if you try to make heat or cool or motion so like an air conditioner or something you need a very large inverter supported by a large battery bank. If you’re just trying to charge laptops or something like that, you can go a small little inverter ’cause all you’re really trying to do is charge another battery.
B: So something like power tools or charging batteries as you said, like power tool batteries or camera batteries or laptop batteries we sorta saying a 300, 500 watt inverter, thereabouts? Depending or 1,000, what’s the minimum?
A: Laptops and everything only are 300 – 500 definitely and phones and so on. Power tools some times can need up to 1,000. Some of those big Makita chargers will need 1,000 but yeah in that 700 or probably covered for most things.
B: So, if we wanna run probably the next common thing people wanna run is the microwave that comes standard in your Jayco what inverter do we need for that?
A: We really try and step up to the 2,000. So 2,000 will pretty much cover you from 90% of things in a caravan, excluding the air conditioner. But a 2,000, is quite sufficient for most vans.
B: Toaster, kettle?
A: Good toaster will go under 2,000 some of the cheaper ones tend to go over.
B: And then, air conditioning if you wanna run your air conditioning what size?
A: Yeah. So we usually use 2,600 to 3,000 is kinda where we go and that really will cover you for anything you plug into the van.
B: Now, we’ve got the 12 volt guru here. So our Jayco has had a lot of modifications in it. We currently run a dishwasher. We also sometimes take a thermo mix with this and I have been known to take my hair straightener. What size inverter are we gonna need for those? And also a coffee machine, we don’t take one but a lot of people always ask about a coffee machine. What do you need to run that?
A: Yeah, so we run a 2,600 watt transfer inverter. So, the transfer inverter is sort of the next step up. What it will do is, if you plug the van into 240V it’ll automatically bypass the inverter and light up all the GPOs and everything will work. The minute power gets lost it seamlessly transfers over to the battery power and everything just continues to run. So we can go from, in simple terms an extension lead out the back with the air conditioning running pull the extension lead out and you don’t even notice, everything just keeps working and we run off battery power. Obviously to support that we’ve got a lot of solar going on a lot of batteries, but yeah we run 2,600 and that’s been good for us.
B: Cool. Another common question we get asked is a compressor fridge. So they don’t typically come standard in a Jayco but a lot of other caravan manufacturers will put a compressor fridge in there. Inverter size, batteries bank sizes what do you recommend for that?
A: A compressor fridge runs off 12 volts so it’s not essential inverter, but in our experience, a compressive fridge really needs a 200Ah lithium battery behind it, or two or three AGMs in the 120Ah size. They’re not super hungry but they continuously draw and, yeah compressor fridge 200Ah lithium and you won’t have an issue.
B: Cool. So on that, so lithium batteries typically come in a 100 or 200Ah, is that correct?
A: 100Ah, 125Ah, 200Ah would be, and a 300Ah.
B: So what, how much lithium do I need of Amp Hours?
A: A normal van, if you take air con out of the equation 200Ah is very sufficient. Most people without air conditioning just wanting to run kettles and toasters and things like that, 200Ah with over 600W of solar they are good to go. Air conditioner, we really try and go sort of 400Ah in a minimum and sort of try and get the solar up as much as we can for whatever roof space we’ve got but definitely, over 600W is definitely the goal.
B: Cool. So solar you’ve touched on that a few times you’ve said minimum 600W. I guess it’s depending on the caravan as well on the roof and where everything fits but we ideally try and get how many panels up there and what size?
A: Yes, four 180W’s or four 160W’s depending on how we fit-up there, it’s definitely ideal. It really depends on your hatch spacing and so on. Sometimes it’s a bit of a game of Tetris but the solar’s the key. I’m always getting asked, what size batteries should I need? It’s all cool to have heaps of big batteries but once you discharge them, you can’t recharge them. So a big solar bank is kind of the first place to decide what system you can get is having a look at your roof space. It all starts with the solar.
B: So you mentioned all those parts you need. The first thing I’m thinking of is storage. Where do you fit them all? How big, what size space and yeah am I losing a lot of storage basically?
A: Not too much. That’s generally the negotiation with the customer is this storage space. Lithium batteries are quite flexible we can really stick them anywhere. Quite often, sort of the usual ones in most sort of new age-y style, Jayco style caravans where you’ve got the twin lounge system sort of this style, under the lounges is normally the most unused space. So we can definitely squeeze them under there. Sometimes we use the under bed storage but we’ll push it right up the head of the bed. So we don’t, and that can sort of be mounted on the walls around the bed. We tend not to lose too much storage space. We can still, some vans sort of got the external boxes we can still utilise the boxes on the external and do something there. But normally it’s like this one here obviously we got 400Ah lithium, 2,600W inverter, DCDC, everything and it’s literally contained under me right now. And, it’s a sliding space. We don’t use it very often anyway so we really don’t lose that much.
So down in here is where we’ve managed to squeeze everything in. So when we talk about losing storage even in a monster system like this, this is the footprint of storage we’ve lost. Everything’s tucked away down in here. This is a bit of a continual working progress but forever testing new things.
So yeah, it is held together by straps but we do that on purpose so we can swap things out as we go. So what we’ve here is our 2x 200ah Invicta Lithiums. Tucked away over the back here is our J35 D so that’s all our fusing and our 240V charging. This is the shunt that connects up to our JHub. So this is the shunt that monitors our amperage in and out. This is a control node, it’s part of the setup so the shunt, the BMPRO and the control node. This distributes all the signals basically. So that gives us all our, fridge temperatures and so on. Under here is our big 2,600 watt inverter so that controls all the 240V power. Over there is our DCDC charger so that’s all the power from the alternator to charge up the batteries. Obviously monster leads, big inverter. That’s basically everything we’ve got crammed down in here. That’s the slider mechanism but that’s the bulk of the stuff. We’ve got the solar regulator elsewhere. But when we’re talking about losing storage that’s the size of the footprint that we’ve managed to fit everything in.
B: So with the BMPRO system that’s already in here is there any way we can monitor our batteries?
A: Yeah, so all the Jaycos will all come out with some kind of monitoring even if it’s just a few lights. Like this one actually came standard it just had a few led lights for the water tanks and the battery voltage. Obviously, being here we are we’ve upgraded. So this is the latest one that’s out at the moment. This is the JHub pad. I don’t know how well you can see it and we’ll do another video on it. But basically this gives you full controls. You can turn lights on and off. You can slide the slider in and out, water pump on and off hot, water on and off. It shows you the water in the water tanks. It will show you everything that’s going on with the battery, so how much power’s going in and out. And a new feature they’ve released is tyre pressures, gas bottles and also fridge and freezer temperatures. So this is kinda the flagship at the moment of what’s available in the Jayco’s, but it really needs you’d need a control node that goes with it. But yeah, anything from a couple of blinky lights all the way up to something like this is achievable.
B: Okay, so you’ve mentioned all these different moving parts here. What brand preference do you have with them? Obviously, it’s got the BMPRO already in here and do we keep that system and just add on?
B: Tell us about it.
A: Okay, so, we retain the BMPRO system. It’s obviously all your fusing and all your monitoring. So with the Jaycos, you leave it in there you just sorta go around it when you wanna go big.
So with the solar, we’ve gone around it and we’ve got a separate solar regulator. At the moment we’ve got a Morningstar TriStar in here. And we find them quite good because they’ll go up to 60 amp so we can feed whatever we wanted to them and they’ll take high voltage. I’ve sorta cheated with this one and I’ve actually got house panels on the roof but there are only certain regulators you can use that for and there are some high voltage issues there that we’ve obviously overcome being that this has a bit of a Frankenstein creation I’ve been trying to try different things.
The inverter we’ve used a 2,600 watt Enerdrive inverter. The reason why I used that one is that seamless transfer I was talking about and built-in RCD so it’s quite a good inverter to use in the caravans.
For the batteries, we’ve gone with 2x 200Amp Invictas. Invictas are aligned with BMPRO. They also offer a Zeal range, it’s a bit cheaper. The reason why we went Invictas is the seven-year warranty and also they aligned very well with the BMPRO brand.
DCDC charger in this one is the Enerdrive. To be honest, the reason why I use the Enerdrive one is cause I had one and it was there. The REDARC BCDC1250 would also do the job just as good. So, REDARC, Enerdrive and Invicta are really the brands I prefer. The choices in this van was also a bit of what I had lying around the workshop kinda thing obviously it’s mine, so yeah.
B: Yes, I think the big thing there is you can pretty much use anything you want really and brand preferences if you’ve got a brand preference already, we can work with that. We like the Enerdrive inverter just simply because of the features Andrew mentioned but yeah, all the other bits and pieces it’s really creating a package that suits you and comes in at your price point. There are varying price points in batteries and that sort of thing as well. So if we’ve upgraded to lithium we were already our charging batteries on the car when we drive, do we need to make any changes to our car to be able to charge the lithium system?
A: Yeah, certainly. So normally we will upgrade to a lot heavier lead running down. So I 6 B&S is generally a minimum. Most Anderson plugs historically have been running eight it’s the opposite way around six is bigger than eight. And with AGM battery so it was sufficient but normally if we go into a decent lithium system we’ll run six or bigger.
B: That’s a lot of information for you to take in to get your Jayco off-grid. We, as I said have had a couple of Jaycos so we’re more than happy to answer any questions that you might possibly have about them.
Give us a call, and as always, if you have any questions or comments about How to Upgrade Your Jayco Caravan for Off-Grid Camping or just wanna tell us how amazing we are, comment below.