The Solar Skoolie - Tiny House Blog

The Solar Skoolie

Skoolie in front of house

When we decided to convert our school bus into our future home on wheels, we knew we wanted the ability to live off grid. In order to do that we needed power, and what better power than the sun itself?

We researched extensively online, asked people directly on the Instagram and Facebook community pages, and, of course,  lots and lots of YouTube videos. and are great resources as well, we found out. Looking back, the best resource is to talk to multiple people who have done it, weigh out all the options, and see which route is best for you. Our friend, Will from Number Juan Bus was an invaluable help to us for getting our system diagramed and up and running!

skoolie and couple

This install was a first for us. Scott has previously done residential electrical, but truth be told, solar is a completely different ball game. There was a lot to learn along the way!

It’s important to note that we didn’t have a predetermined budget going in to the project. However, we knew we wanted to keep it affordable without cutting any corners yet still making sure the system would be more than adequate to do what we needed it to do. We initially thought we were going to do gel batteries but changed our minds to do lithium batteries after a number of conversations with long time nomads. That decision alone brought along a higher price tag but we ultimately went with Dakota batteries. They are some of the more affordable, quality lithium batteries on the market! As for solar panels, we went with Renogy and chose MPPT Renogy for the charge controllers.

solar electrical

Before we installed anything we weighed up all of our power draws: appliances, outlets, etc. and did research on each item’s initial and constant draw while also doing the math of approximately how many hours a day we will likely run each item. We then figured out the amp hours and wattage needed and overshot to have our system more powerful to withstand our needs. You could obviously always do more power and solar but bus life is all about choosing to do life intentionally in every aspect, so we looked at our daily life usage of items for comfortability, had some wiggle room, and worked from there!


Going into the install we really wanted to have our electrical closet accessible so we built it inside of our bus for easy access as well as on top of the wheel well since that space was already shortened. To have everything together would give us an invaluable ease of access. We also went with 100W panels because it fit the layout and footprint of our bus the best since we were attaching them directly to the roof.

solar on skoolie roof

The first time having our solar system connect was truly an incredible moment, no lie.

Ash even teared up a bit. To know that we essentially have infinite power with our own little off-grid electrical station is the raddest thing ever. It was such a long-awaited moment, and is completely worth all of the hours of research, install, and work that goes into it!

The Hive Drive logo

Our bus is capable of being fully off-grid now thanks to our set up. The goal is to predominantly be and stay off-grid comfortably, for as long as we’d like. However, we will still likely plug in at certain places (certain parks or family’s houses) or when parked in less sunny spots, but the goal is to just be able to stay off-grid for as long as our water supply lasts. We do have a DC-DC charger for less sunny days to help top off our power, as well as a 3500W generator in case of emergencies or if we happen to need to run our AC for a longer amount of time than typical on super hot days.

Written by: Scott and Ashley Mason of the Hive Drive Bus.

This article was originally published in the Tiny House Magazine Issue 108. Purchase the complete issue here.

Tiny House Magazine Issue 108 cover

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