Australian Nomads

Australian nomads 1

What’s better than waking-up by the Kookaburra’s laughing call in the morning?!

An Itinerant-Nomadic Life Style

Australia is a unique country with a lot of space to travel. One can live whole life in this country and never get bored with travelling her from one end to the other, which is quite a few thousand kilometres.

Itinerants, otherwise called wayfarers or nomads are people who chose the travelling life-style travelling and working seasonal jobs – like fruit picking, for example. Jobs ideally suiting those people and their lifestyle, as they like to “follow the sun” countrywide, in chase of changing seasons.

This requires, of course, appropriate living arrangements.
For short-term tents or swags are frequently used, as they are cheap in comparison with caravan, easily replaceable and don’t require registration, towing and other related costs. Most of the time, though, it is a caravan or a motor-home. This days the motor-home is often a veritable road-mansion (like for example: a huge fifth-wheeler road-home, 35 or even 38 feet caravan, and/or similar monsters).

Most of the time, though, people are quite happy with an old bus, transformed into the motor-home, which is often, by the way, quite a bit more roomy and comfortable than average one bedroom flat, with built-in wardrobes in its tiny bedroom, micro kitchen with hardly enough room to move in, most of the time having been practically part of a slightly bigger sitting room.

All such travelling accommodation arrangements, have, of course appropriate installations with power and gas fitted, and all amenities, in various arrangements, inside and outside, depending of the size and capacity of the user’s pocket.

All over Australia are often visible even very old caravans, fairly cheaply available these days, but fitted by their present owners with solar panels 12V, 24V, or 32V DC installations, often with quite big battery bank on-board, and most of the time this days, double-system electric installations, with 12V 24V (sometime, but rarely rather 32V) alongside with 240V system. The most prevalent, though is the 12VDC, for the easiness of getting appliances for both, 12V and 240V, having been the cheapest and so far very efficient.

The modern power inverters of present times transform 12V/DC or 24V/DC power into 240V/AC power (or 110V/AC in USA) very efficiently this days, with just a tiny power loss, but saving on the cost of expensive 12V cable installations, which have to be heavy and thick to be safe and efficient. And besides that, in any case of need for more power, there is a matter of just a cost of one more panel that will cover those losses with extra charge bonus. And these panels are this days quite cheap, far from the absolute an-affordability by average person like just a few years ago…

Today, one can buy solar panels on E-bay very cheap in comparison with the retail pricing – I suspect this days it is so all over the world – and batteries also fall significantly in the price. One can buy now a solar panel at the price of about A$1.00/Watt. And in some cases even below that. And batteries can be more and more often gotten for about the same price, if one can exercise some patience and checks on e-bay often… Therefore. For about 2000 $A one can fit ones caravan, camper-van or motor-home into very efficient power system using nothing but the average household electric appliances – which is a lot cheaper than what one can get in the average retail tourist applications market if one wished to use a 12 or 24V/DC applications, of whatever kind.

In case of having to use DC appliances, for whatever reason, the best is therefore to look for those at e-bay, where their prices are usually numerous times better than the retail price in Australia.

When using the newest LED light-globes – where one light-globe of some 60 to 80 LEDs gives more light than old 75-100W incandescent light-globe used to give – one uses some 4W to 5W of power, DC or AC, as they are available at almost the same price through e-bay.
At the price of 17.95.00 $A, I got 5 of them on e-bay. This is true, that I had to wait for a few weeks for the delivery, but this will serve me well for years to come, and is really, very, very cheap. The lite spectrum is identical with the traditional incandescent globe, and they use so little power that I am not worried to live them on when I leave my caravan for a few hours, as the lightning give deterrent factor to eventual amateurs of other people properties.

So far this works fine with me, and I never ever have over-drained my batteries.

I use two 205 Amperhours AGM batteries for my main power needs:
This is for lights installation which are made of 5m stripe of 12V/DC warm light LEDs, with the light spectrum of an incandescent globe that is the most agreeable with eyes, and two 4W/240V LED bulbs (also warm light spectrum) in both my caravan rooms.

As my caravan was striped of 12V installation, but is an oldie but a goodie, I installed the LED strip for lights, and extra connectors for the rest of my electric 12V/DC voltage needs. I realise my power requirements by using a 1500W / 3000W surge, pure sine wave inverter, connected to my two batteries (205 amp/h each) battery bank. Normally I always use a fan (about 45W), lights (18/20W), laptop (30.00W), and occasionally TV (40W) to watch movie or two. With 210 a/h power bank, I never run in trouble with batteries by running out of power. And I like often staying long nights, writing and/or browsing Internet or otherwise working with my laptop. The laptop uses only 30W of power, though, which is less than the LED TV I have.

I have also separate 100amp/h battery dedicated to my 98 litre capacity fridge/freezer working of 12W installation direct from the battery. This has its own 120W solar panel to keep topping up the battery. At present I use two 120W fold-able solar panels for my main power bank, and so far this is working just perfect, with enough power for all my needs most of the time.

So far, I never run out of power in either my main installation or the fridge set-up at normally always good, sunny weather where I live most of the time, with the only exception of, very rare, few consecutive cloudy days and sometime rain, when after couple of days I had to run my 1.00 KVA inverter generator to run appliances, and top up batteries by my 240W/30Amp battery charger.

Normally, I cook on camping LPG gas stove, with inbuilt grill and baking facilities purchased on E-bay for just around 260.00 $A. Much cheaper than the home mains-gas stove, slightly smaller to fit caravans, but just as good, if not even better, and I found it to be a lot more efficient and economical, too.

I inbuilt into the wall inside the caravan my shower heater, that is working from the same installation as the stove. But since my caravan is only 16 feet long, I decided on installing my shower as the quickly mountable installation outside the caravan – at its wall. Each time when I stay camping for more than one day I fit it there, as it is just a hang-up, and connect water and gas fittings installation.

Instead of an annex, quite troublesome to erect, and heavy, too, I use quickly set and folded 3m/3m gazebo, which work just as fine, and I paid for it just $A165.00, together with postage and handling costs.

I decided, that it is better solution and investment for an extra mountable sheltered room, comparing to nearly 2000 dollars, or even more, needed to spend for the roll-out annex, or just slightly less for traditional one, with all troublesome fittings that so often get broken and/or damaged by the wind, rains, sun, etc. this gazebo appeared to be cheap, light, quickly set by just one person, and just as quickly mountable at the moving time.
I have small 850W (1000kva) inverter/generator, for heavier electric jobs, like using small, old type washing machine, and/or some other electric tools when I need it sometime, but rarely. So far, I used it only twice in nearly 4 years, for recharging my battery bank, as it was for over two weeks very cloudy and raining, and for running all my appliances.

The generator used just 2.1 litres of petrol (the tank capacity) for nearly 6 hours of uninterrupted running to power battery charger, fridge my computer and lights.
Running just my computer and at later time TV instead, with lights on, I had run it ones for almost 9 hours on its 2.1 litre petrol tank. This is quite cheap I reckon…

Besides this, I use the generator very rare, only occasionally when I do some work with power tools, or when I need to do washing while far from some local laundry, which is not so very often.

After doing my calculations, that what I had to spend in power and gas while living on the Grid in Adelaide in one year (and with very heavy efforts to save the power and gas) easily covers all my installation costs, and with the additional advantage not to have to care so hard any more on saving on power and gas. This investment, together with the change of my life style into the itinerant-nomadic, paid for itself and started saving me money within less than one year.

Of course. I did all installation myself, as electricians tend to charge usually quite a lot, and it is just a very basic installation, easy to make by anyone. Even a 10-year-old kid could do it…

As the final outcome, I landed up with old, but comfortable caravan. But above all – with ability to use all amenities that I feared to use while living in the city for the huge – simply not affordable any more to the pensioner – cost of power in the city’s Power and Gas Grid.
I have no more problems now, and I live by practically all means a lot more comfortable and healthier, with fewer worries and problems, much healthier and a lot happier.

And… I think, my life is worth it, even if sometime it can be a bit less comfortable otherwise… All it is about really, is the fact that this is a bit different lifestyle, but overall it is a lot healthier, more enjoyable and quite more sensible, than wasting ones time, money and health in the City Rat Race. Country life is a lot more enjoyable after one gets used to it, and it makes hell of a lot more sense than living in the crippling struggle for survival in some city concrete jungle. I can assure you that I certainly enjoy much more to be waken up in the morning by the Kurrawong’s or Butcher Bird’s singing, or the Kookaburra’s laugh in some country site, than by the Crow’s call in a city.

By: Zbigniew Wybraniec

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