We’ve owned our 1988 Tiffin Allegro for two years now. We moved in over a year and a half ago and have plenty of issues. Our journey took us from Wisconsin to Florida, back north to Kentucky and again south to Florida where we are now. While we are currently stationary, we do not always plan to be. We could either travel again in the future or find somewhere we can purchase land and move there to build our off grid homestead. To get there though, we have to plan, prepare, and develop things to make the transition as easy as possible.
I do not want to take our Allegro wherever we end up. We have had so many issues with the engine that I really don’t want to risk driving somewhere and have something go wrong yet again. Instead, I’d like to get a trailer we can customize to our needs, then get a vehicle that can tow it, and drop it where we buy land.
The process to do that is a difficult one. First, we have to have somewhere to go. Second, we have to be able to afford a new trailer. Third, we have to be able to afford a vehicle. And fourth, we have to be able to afford to upgrade it to be off grid.
Somewhere to Go
There are a few places we can go, but I’ve focused on the central part of the country. Missouri, Kentucky, or Tennessee. Maybe northern Alabama or Arkansas. It all depends on what is available when we can afford it and what the land is like. There are places that have owner financed land that are not too bad. We’d like 10-20 acres, forested at least partially, and it would be nice to find something with running water. Now, getting all of that in one package is difficult, but not impossible. We could go farther west, but then we have a big issue with lack of water.
Of course, we also need internet access so anywhere we go has to have decent cell coverage. Power is not an issue as we’d like to build a solar system and have our own power supply. Water can be fresh water from a creek or well, though wells cost more money. For waste, I want a composting toilet so we should not need a septic system for that, but will still have to deal with grey water. It’ll take some work, but not impossible.
A fifth wheel would be great for more space and slide outs would be incredible. So much more space to work with and more space on the roof to add solar panels. It would also add removable propane tanks which would be much easier to fill. And if we make the fifth wheel a permanent structure, we can add a larger, external tank to have it refilled less frequently.
For power, if we can setup the solar system on the roof to power all the electronics inside (aside from the air conditioner), then when we move it, it’ll all still function. I’d like to be able to run AC and DC power lines and have as much as possible run off of DC power to reduce the loss from inverting power to AC, then back to DC for the electronics. With a blank slate, I can also run as much ethernet and coax as I want, connect everything together, and have it all networked properly.
I can also set it up so that when we are fully setup, it is easier to add solar panels. The more we add to the ground system, the more power we have. We also then have the option of either building separate structures for other things or build a cabin to live in permanently. I’m not sure which way we will go yet, but either way, we will have some sort of permanent structure.
With the solar system, we need batteries. While we can setup the RV to run off solar completely, I’d also like to have a separate building for batteries and inverters. We can insulate it well and have some kind of heat system to keep it from getting below freezing so as to not damage the batteries. That also expands our available space since batteries take up space and are heavy, so having them in a separate building means we can have more batteries. It always us to set somewhere else on the remote chance of a fire in the batteries.
The other problem is fresh water, but if we have a source of water, we can set it up to be permanently attached as well as the grey water outlet. I have not yet figured out the grey water system though, but we can either recycle it for irrigation or just into a processing system to drain into the ground safely.
We do need a vehicle. First, we can get a small car just to get us places while we are at this campground. Then we need something that can either tow a trailer or a truck with a bed so we can get stuff from the store for projects. Some of those things will be large or heavy. To not have to have everything delivered would be helpful. The more we can get ourselves, the less we spend on delivery fees. If we can make our vehicle now something that we can use and not have to spend a lot on it, then we do not need to get a second vehicle or replace that one if we keep it in good condition.
For upgrades, we have the solar system which can easily be in the thousands of dollars. I want the RV to be off grid even before we leave this campground. That means power, water and waste. If we can take advantage of making those work before hand, we can just go there, set up, and live on our own and off grid.
For solar, we need panels, charge controller, inverters and batteries. I have not figured out how much power we need to maintain our system, but we have to figure that out before. I can set up the solar panels to work together and have one massive battery bank. Then I think I can have multiple inverters and separate electrical systems off of each inverter. I’m not sure how many we need, but the math will be done before we get too far into it.
For water, we should be able to have that ready to go shortly after getting to the final location in our journey. And if not, at least we can have everything mostly in place. We will have an external water tank. We will have to buy that right away or have it delivered before we get there, then just connect everything. We may have to do some work to get it all done, but that should be the first thing we work on. Since we will have some sort of water tank, we can get it filled until everything is in place for our own, free water supply. Whether we do rain catchment, well, or pumped from a stream will depend on the lay of the land.
For waste, we obviously will have some things that get thrown away but we can hopefully reduce and limit that. For black water, we will convert the RV over to a composting toilet well before leave, so we will not have any black water. That also means we can use the black tank as a backup grey tank and have more there if needed. A good composting toilet is nearly $1,000 though, so that will be an expense when we can afford it.
The journey ahead
If we can make all this happen, it’s going to take awhile. But since I feel like we jumped into this RV without doing enough research, I hope we can avoid that in the next step of our journey and have as much prepared as possible.