Van Life

Goal Zero Yeti 1250 – I Generate My Own Electricity!

I use the Goal Zero Yeti 1250 to generate my own power.

With the Goal Zero (or any solar option) there’s no monthly electricity charge. No extra fees, surcharges, upcharges, whatevercharges from the electric company.

As long as the sun comes out I have free electricity.

Why I Chose The Goal Zero Yeti 1250

I understand more than I used to but the whole solar power concept tends to go right over my head. Grasping the difference between watts vs amps vs the other stuff is just mind boggling to me.

So, rather than try and do it myself – risking electrocution – I decided to have someone set up my solar system for me.

Sadly, no one in my area would do a traditional solar setup.

Traditional Solar Set Up

Many Nomad’s use the traditional solar power setup. By traditional I mean they buy all the components separately, piece it all together, wire their van, and set their electrical power system up from scratch.

The traditional method is often cheaper but, in order to set it up, you have to understand what you’re doing. You’re working with electrical stuff, after all!

The Goal Zero Yeti 1250

I’m not a quitter and the fact that no one could help wasn’t going to stop me!

As I searched, I came across a company called Goal Zero.

Goal Zero has many solar options and they are all plug-n-play. There’s no need to figure out what the heck an inverter or charge controller is or does and how to hook it all together. And, there are no worries about doing it wrong and potentially electrocuting myself.

Once I decided to go with Goal Zero my next step was figuring out what my power needs were and what my budget would allow.

The budget part was easy but never having been nomadic I had no bloomin’ clue what my electrical needs would be!

The Deciding Factor

Every blog I read and YouTube channel I subscribed to that talked about solar all gave the same advice… get as much solar as you can afford.

Not a single one of them ever wished they had less solar power and it’s better to have more than needed than not enough.

With that in mind, I went with the big-boy… the Goal Zero Yeti 1250.

The Yeti 1250 is the biggest system Goal Zero makes.

I believe Goal Zero has a new model that does more but, when I bought the 1250, it was the biggest system they had.

Since I was going to be a full-time Nomad I figured I may as well get the most I can.

How Solar Works

Here’s the simple version of how I collect, store and use my electrical solar power.

Collecting Solar Power

Solar panels on the roof of my van collect power from the sun.

Naturally, in order for this to work the sun has to be out. Even partial sun works.

If needed, I can collect power by plugging the van in at a campground, someone’s house or anywhere there’s an electrical outlet with a power supply. I rarely need to do this to charge the Yeti.

Storing Power

The collected power runs through an electrical cable and in to the Goal Zero.

Inside the Goal Zero is a 100-amp hour battery that stores the power that was collected from the sun.

The power is stored until I use it.

Using The Stored Electricity

When I need to use the electricity that’s stored in the Goal Zero battery I simply use one of the plug-in outlets on the front of the Goal Zero.

The Goal Zero Yeti 1250 comes with the following outlets:

  • 12-volt (like the car cigarette lighter)
  • USB (for charging phone, laptop, etc) 
  • AC (the typical household 3-prong outlet) 

Wiring The Van

To use the power stored in the Goal Zero you have to plug your device into the Goal Zero itself.

The problem with that is, the Goal Zero is towards the back of the van and I sometimes need electricity when I’m sitting in the front of the van working on my laptop.

I also have an electric lamp sitting on the counter (towards the front of the van).

To bring electricity to the front of my van I decided to wire it myself.

Well, sort of…

Wiring my van was fairly simple.

Here’s how I did it step-by-step:

  • Bought a 25 foot, heavy duty electrical power strip.
  • Attached the power strip portion to the side of the counter for easy access. 
  • Strung the cord behind the counter, along the side of the van (securing it here and there with zip-ties), around the back of the van, under my bed and over to the Goal Zero where I plugged it in to the Goal Zero unit. 

Now my van is wired and I have electricity where I need it, when I need it.

Where there’s a will, there’s always a way! 

What I Use My Goal Zero Yeti 1205 For

The Yeti 1250 meets all of my power needs other than electric heat.

I don’t have an air conditioning unit but, if I did, the Yeti 1250 wouldn’t work for AC either. My destinations are based on the weather and I have no need for AC. If there’s more than a couple days of hot-n-humid weather I’m outta there!

A Word About Electric Heat

Electric heat (and AC) takes more power than the Goal Zero Yeti 1250 can support.

To use electric heat I need to have the van plugged in where there’s a power source capable of handling the load.

Many nomads use a Mr Buddy heater but, being chemically sensitive, I’m unable to use a propane heater in my van. I tried, got very sick, returned the Mr Buddy and got my money back. End of story.
Actually, I sleep quite well in 30 or 40 degree temperatures. I’m nice and toasty in my cozy little bed.

The only downside to 30 and 40 degree temperatures with no heat is getting out of my cozy, toasty bed to use the porta-potti during the night.

Why Not Use A Portable Generator?

An alternative power source for heat would be a portable generator. These generators are powered by gas and could potentially cause problems for me with my chemical sensitivities.

I have reactions when I’m parked next to a car or truck idling their engine for too long and I’m concerned that a gas generator would cause a similar reaction.

I’d also need to store the generator and gas inside the van and that would add to the problem.

My need for a generator isn’t as pressing as my need to keep breathing so I haven’t given this option any further thought.

My Power Needs

My Goal Zero Yeti 1250 does more than I imagined it would. I’m happy I got it!

Here’s what I power with my Goal Zero Yeti 1250:

  • Dometic 12-volt refrigerator (always plugged in – it only runs when it needs to cool)
  • Phone (when charging) 
  • CPAP (runs all night, every night) 
  • Laptop (when charging) 
  • Printer (used for business purposes) 
  • Lamp (I rarely use it but it’s nice to have when I need it) 
  • Fantastic roof vent fan (this is a 12-volt fan) 
  • Portable fan (I use rechargeable batteries but I can also plug it in for a stronger breeze) 
  • Rechargeable batteries (charging them for the fan) 

A 100-amp hour battery isn’t a huge amount of storage in terms of power but I rarely have a problem with it.

My problem occurs when the sun goes undercover for more than a couple of days or when I’m somewhere hot and humid.

  • No sun = No free and easy power to collect. 
  • Hot and Humid = The fridge runs more, I run the fans more which drains my power quicker. 

I only have 100-amp hours. When it’s gone, it’s gone – unless there’s a way to replenish it.

Options When My Power Storage Is Low

The issues I face are few but there are always options.

  • Go to a campground or other power source and plug in. I can use all of my appliances via the power source and charge the Yeti at the same time.
  • Add a second battery to the Goal Zero Yeti 1250 and double my electrical storage. 

I enjoy being off-grid and prefer to go to campgrounds when I’m in the mood for one – not because I need it to charge the Yeti. I’m considering adding a second battery when the budget allows.

A Quick Look At My Solar Panels

I got my AllPowers bendable flexible solar panels on Amazon.

My next challenge was finding someone who could attach them to the roof for me and bring the electrical cable inside. I had the panels and the cable but I wasn’t comfortable getting on the roof, attaching the panels and putting a hole in the roof for the cable.

As you can see in the picture below… mission accomplished!

allpowers solar panel

From the street, you can’t tell there are two solar panels on the roof.

In my travels, people ask me about the van and when I tell them I have 2 solar panels on the roof they back up, look and squint to try to find them.

They always say they’d never have known they were there if I hadn’t told them.

mobile solar power

Final Thoughts

One of the many lesson’s I’ve learned on the road is how much electricity I don’t need.

There’s nothing wrong with modern conveniences. I have several!

But, in the grand scheme of things, any one of us can live without most of them.

I don’t need an electric coffee maker, electric coffee grinder, electric washer, dryer, dishwasher and so on.

Heck, I don’t even need that electric blow dryer I just remembered I had (lurking somewhere under my bed gathering dust).

Trade-Off

Anything we choose to DO or DO WITHOUT all boils down to a trade-off.

I simply traded several modern conveniences for more freedom to travel with the option of being off-grid.

My dream is to be wild and free.

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