How to Prepare for Alternative Sustainable Energy (Aka: Extreme Ways to Save on Electric!)

by Merissa on August 2, 2013

in Fulltime RV Living

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When I lasted checked in with you on our Fulltime RV Living journey, you read about some struggles we'd been having and our decision to move to a more reliable source of power for the rv.

We had no intention of doing this for at least a year since we won't be on our own land and unable to do everything we want to do but we made the decision to start working on it earlier than we expected.

This will allow us to learn more about the process and to have it a little more perfected before we truly go off the grid in our rv, which hopefully we be sometime next year.

Before we even got started on our alternative sustainable energy or started working on adding that into our rv, we did many things to prep for this next step. Below you will find the things that we did as part of this experience. You might be wondering what this has to do with you, if you have no intention of going off the grid you may think this doesn't pertain. But most of this tips are EXCELLENT ways to save even more money off your electric bills and they are most likely things you've never thought of doing before!


Reflective Bubble Insulation

This stuff is awesome. You just cut to fit to the size of your windows and stick in. We didn't have to use any adhesives because they fit in the little creases around the windows. This Bubble Insulation is to keep the heat from coming in during the summer and the heat from escaping in the winter. We did lose some natural lighting from the windows but we have skylights in the ceiling that still let plenty in. I'm impressed with this so far and happy that we made the inexpensive investment.

Become Very Conscientious of Energy Usage

Once we made our decision to work towards the alternative sustainable energy, we became very conscientious of how much energy we were using, how many lights were left on, what used power and what used propane, and more. Spend a couple days without any power at all and you will know exactly what you use!

Invest in LED Bulbs

Did you know the average lifespan of an LED bulb is 22 years? And that's if you use it for 5 hours per day! We have 2 table lamps and then of course tiny lights throughout the camper. We purchased two 40 watt LED bulbs for the lamps (they actually use 7 watts of energy), the estimated cost to use the 40 watt bulbs per year is $0.72 (if you use them for 3 hours per day). And yes that's the YEARLY cost! We also replaced the tiny light bulbs in our rv factory installed lights, these run around a single watt for each bulb.


Discover LED Nightlights

I tried out a few nights without any night lights at all but it seems like with a little one we just really need them. Amazon sells all kind of neat little LED night lights for only a few dollars each. (I found mine at Walmart but I like THESE a little better.) Our wattage meter tells us they use 0.0 watts (aka nothing!) to run. Speaking of which...


Kill A Watt

We also purchased a Kill A Watt meter so we can learn what our various devices were using for amperage and wattage. I wish we would have gotten it sooner, it's pretty neat and you really have no idea what something uses until you test it! It will be very handy to know how many things we can use at once with how much solar power we are pulling in. All you do is simply plug any device with a cord into the Kill A Watt and it will tell you how many amps, watts, kilowatts, or volts that an item uses.

Stop Using the Microwave

This one wasn't really too hard but you do miss the convenience of it...especially when you have a fussy toddler and just want to get supper ready. But did you know that the average microwave runs at 1400 watts? That's a lot.

Took Turns Using Things

And by this I don't mean that in our family we took turns. It means I only ran one thing at a time if I knew it would draw more power. So for example, I run the washer at night when we don't have the air on. (We never run the air at night, we switch to fan power instead.)

Learned About Solar Items

We've been doing our research on smaller solar items and what is worth a purchase and what's not. To create a decent lighting system over our dining table are would cost about $300. That's a little much at the moment. We got one of these d.light Solar Lanterns to try and I seriously think it's the coolest thing. You just put it in the sun during the day and it produces a very nice bright light for up to 8 hours! I think we will pick up a couple more to have them around the camper and maybe string a few up. I might pick up one or two of these d.light Task Lights as well for setting on my dresser.

Become a Better Cook

Not that I was a bad cook before, but going from all electric appliances and cookware to all propane takes a little bit of getting used to! I cook in a propane stove that is not even 1/3 of the size of my regular stove so things cook completely differently. I also decided to invest in a Thermal Cooker. This thing is pretty cool. Just cook the contents on the stove for 10 minutes, replace the inner chamber inside the cooker, seal, and let it keep on cooking for up to 6 hours without any electricity at all. How neat is that? (Note, I would not cook meat in this, but it works great for soups, baked potatoes, ect.)

So those are the basics, that's how we started seriously conserving energy to get ready to be more off the grid and prepare for alternative sustainable energy.

Are you just trying to save money on your electric bill? I have more tips HERE!

Have you done any of these things? Which of these could you do in your own home to make it more efficient?


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9:00 am

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kalyn Brooke | Creative Savings August 2, 2013 at 5:47 pm

I’ve never heard of a Kill-a-Watt before, but it sounds like something my husband would like. He’s always concerned about how many things we have on one outlet or surge protector. ๐Ÿ™‚


2 Michaelann Dahlman August 2, 2013 at 7:47 pm

You mentioned LED bulbs that are the equivilant to a 40 watt bulb. Seriously, how can you see with 40 watt bulbs? I can’t see well using 60 watt bulbs. I need at least 2- 100 watt bulbs in an average sized living room.


3 Merissa August 3, 2013 at 12:18 pm

We’ve found the 40 watts to be incredibly bright. I think it just depends on the light bulb and the brand used.


4 The Smelly Lady August 3, 2013 at 7:57 am

How interesting. I keep trying to talk hubby into seriously downsizing our living quarters. I’ve obsessed about RV living and renovating a van and living in it. Right now we still have 2 teen boys at home, so yes it could be a big challenge, but hubby isn’t convinced that he could live in such a small space. I know we could do it. LOL! I just keep thinking the “what ifs?” like what if we loose our jobs, then we would probably be homeless. Thanks for sharing. Now something more to obsess over (in a good way). ๐Ÿ™‚


5 lavone August 4, 2013 at 6:25 pm

Love your web site! My son bought a used camper and is thinking about living in it to save money to buy a house. Thanks for all the helpful info!


6 Pamela August 5, 2013 at 5:18 pm

I believe in living simply. We currently live in a 1060 sq. foot ranch home. We also have two teen sons. I would not consider RV living right now. However, we have made interesting decsions in furnishing our place lately. We have decided to get rid of any couches in our home. No overstuffed chairs either. We use fancy lawnchairs. Some of the newer ones are quite comfortable! They also stack easily. We have so much more space, visually and otherwise. We also use a lot of collapsible tables. If we want to entertain, we have plenty. We have one Amish made oak wood bench, a lifetime piece of furniture. You can sit on it with enough room for the dog,
lift the lid and find beneath a lot of storage for hats and gloves.


7 Mie August 7, 2013 at 5:31 am

Hi Merissa
The “thermal cooker” you mention sounds just like an old trick they used in the 1940s during the war – and later too – when there wasn’t much fuel of any kind: A box filled with hay would allow the porridge, potatoes, soup or … to continue cooking in the pot though off the wood-burning stove. Cover with tea towels if necessary. In other words, you can make a thermal cooker very cheap
Just a Fun fact from Denmark


8 Khaleelah August 10, 2013 at 6:24 pm

I thoroughly enjoy the tips that you post. We are in the beginning planning stages of moving into an RV full-time. There’s a road ahead of us, but these energy tips you posted can be quite useful. I’ll have to see what my hun would like to do, as you said, even around our place now. Thanks!


9 synergyge August 14, 2013 at 3:49 am

After geting the knowlegde I begin using the energy saving devices such as LEDs ,various solar energy devices such as solar panel ,solar heater and solar cookers.because of only this i have saved alot of electric bills and made our earth our earth environment friendly.We all should take step to come forward inorder to save various energy resources for our future generation.


10 Heather Ash August 16, 2013 at 12:40 pm

I LOVE my thermal cooker. I don’t know what brand you have purchased, but I have the Saratoga Jacks thermal cooker. I have cooked chicken and meatloaf in mine with no worries. I tested the meatloaf with a meat thermometer to make sure it was cooked thoroughly and it was!


11 Loran Polder August 16, 2013 at 6:18 pm

Thanks for sharing this info, Merissa! I plan to live off the grid one day when I have my own farmhouse, and a lot of these tips were new and very interesting to me!


12 Angela August 16, 2013 at 6:21 pm

We have been preparing to live off the grid for some time. We are preparing to buy property and will build our own home. We are considering having the living area’s using an alternative energy source and the sleeping area’s powered by nothing except having some solar lights similar to the one’s you spoke of. Electricity on the grid is a burden for people who are trying to live simply. We are trying to learn how to be self-sustainable with the Lord’s help. It’s a whole change in lifestyle. It has been a challenge to do this with a 14 person family. We have to do everything several times over than the average size family. Would not trade the experience of learning how to live REAL for anything. We are so much more content as a family than we have ever been.


13 sedonagirl October 6, 2013 at 11:55 am

Hi Merissa
I’ll be moving into my TT fulltime near years end and am very excited!! I am glad to hear the reflectix works well- I have purchased enough to use in my bedroom at night and also the jalousie windows in the LR come winter time. Like the idea of the Kill-a-watt!! Will have to get one of those and do some experimenting. I will be sizing my power needs for adding solar if it is in the budget eventually… Oh! I LOVE my D-lights too!! The task lights came with me on safari in Africa and I gave one to my guide as electricity is scarce and it can recharge during each day. I kept the lantern/charger for charging my phone off-grid. (I also like that they donate a light for every $50 you spend. Cool.) I’m really enjoying reading your blog.Thanks for sharing ๐Ÿ™‚ Cheers!


14 Robert October 31, 2013 at 12:34 pm

Try using a solar oven. We have cooked bread, pork roast. stew & chili in ours.
They have them for sale on several web sites as well as instructions to build your own.


15 Tammy January 2, 2014 at 9:19 am

I LOVE our LED bulbs. They are pricey, so I buy them to replace what we have as we can. Sam’s Club has had the best selection in the past, though the last time I went to buy some, I could not find the aisle they moved them to. They last longer by far than either standard bulbs or than fluorescent bulbs. Furthermore, they come on promptly, can be dimmed, and they have no harmful mercury in them that could be damaging if dropped and potentially damage water sources by breaking in landfills and leaching into water supplies.

Also, another item that people may not have considered when going to solar or other forms of alternate energy for power is to use a convection microwave oven. They use FAR less electricity than a standard oven or microwave use. They have also really dropped in price (50% less) over the past year alone. An acquaintance of mine has an off-grid solar set up and is able to use her convection microwave successfully on solar-generated power from their battery storage. Here are a selection from Also, here is a web site from e-How about them:

Finally, another note to consider when going off-grid and wanting to reduce your electricity consumption is to use a non-frost-free refrigerator. The function a frost-free refrigerator has of turning on and off causes energy spikes that are too much for a solar powered system. The non-frost-free refrigerators use less energy, believe it or not, than the newer frost-free models. I learned this, also, from the above acquaintance.


16 Merissa January 2, 2014 at 8:13 pm

I agree, we LOVE our LED bulbs! We’ve been able to find them on sale for around $7 lately and are stocking up for the new house. You can hardly tell any difference with them than with incandescent lights.

A convection oven is a great idea. We had one when we lived in a camper previously and used it for everythign a normal oven would be good for.


17 JEnifer September 29, 2014 at 11:53 am

We just moved into our “tiny house”. One of the things we are considering is using a propane fridge. Did you have one and if so, how much propane did it use? Our electric company wanted to charge us over 12,000 to bring power to us.. so we have elected to go off grid.
Thanks so much!


18 Merissa September 29, 2014 at 4:12 pm

We had a propane fridge in our camper but don’t have in our house yet since they are fairly expensive. The propane fridge we had in our camper used very little propane although I’m not sure on an exact amount since we were also using propane for our water heater as well.


19 Jenna McCullough March 22, 2015 at 2:33 pm

Hi Merissa,
We are in Pennsylvania and my husband and I are doing our research preparing to buy a school bus to convert. There are many campgrounds around but only a few have “annual” stay. We have one in mind but they shut off the water during the months of November to March with the exception of electric and sewage. Did you have this dilemma? Do you have suggestions on what to do with water? Thanks.


20 Merissa March 22, 2015 at 8:40 pm

The campground that we used left the water on certain hydrants (with heaters) for just a few spots in the park. A couple of the other places that we talked to would not allow you to be hooked up to water all of the time but you could fill you tank and then unhook. Of course it would still have to be a fairly decent day for that otherwise it would just freeze while it’s filling! I would ask that campground if they have other fulltimers that stay during the months when the water is off and what they do.


21 Glenn July 8, 2015 at 8:06 am

You said, “It means I only ran one thing at a time if I knew it would draw more power. So for example, I run the washer at night when we don’t have the air on.”
I’m not sure what you meant by that because running two appliances at the same time doesn’t cost more in the long run than running each separately, assuming both are run for same length of time at the same wattage in both instances.
It’s like turning on water tap in bathroom and kitchen at same time and thinking that costs more than turning them on a separate times, again assuming both are run for the same amount of time at same water flow.


22 Merissa July 8, 2015 at 8:46 am

Yes, running things at different times doesn’t have anything to do with saving money in this case but rather drawing power since we had limited electricity at the time this article was written.


23 Merissa July 8, 2015 at 8:48 am

I will also add that running one thing at a time makes you much more conscious about your energy usage and you realize just how many things you can turn on at one time without realizing what you are using.


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