One of the critical components that make your vehicle into an RV/Adventuremobile is electricity. …No, a cigarette lighter plug to charge your iPhone is NOT enough (ok, maybe it is for YOU, but most of us? We want more!).
I run a power hungry household of one; I have phones, computers, TVs, cameras, kitchen appliances, heaters, fans, Air Conditioning, grooming tools, and other stuff I’m forgetting. In my current RV I’m generally plugged into 50amp shore power and that provides all the power to my outlets so that I can just plug in all my “stuff” which is GREAT! But in the Van, I don’t have that capability… yet!
In previous vehicles, I’ve used the standard 12v inverters to provide a little power to charge things while driving, but I’ve never had much success getting a lot of power… even just trying to charge my MacBook will cause the inverter to scream at me because it can’t either draw enough power from the cigarette adaptor port or the laptop is trying to draw more than the inverter can provide… It would be nice if they had a system for telling what the problem is rather than just a single screaming alert tone!
Also, it is currently the 2018/2019 winter in Kansas and it is COLD… I’m using several electric heaters to minimize amount of diesel I have to burn to keep me nice and warm… but I’m running into problems where I’m having to turn off certain items to run others or risk blowing circuit breakers! ON A 50 AMP SYSTEM! …what is going to happen in the VAN?!?
As an aside, Volts x Amps = Watts is going to be critical to understand… and if we remember some math “Transitive Properties of” … something I should probably google to look smart… but the same math means:
- Watts = Volts x Amps
- Amps = Watts / Volts
- Volts = Watts / Amps
So you take your knowns… a heater that plugs into the wall is a 110v system. The label says it is 1,500watts. And solve for your unknowns… in this example, Amps… So 1,500 / 110 = 13.6 amps.
I have three of those heaters going so 13.6 x 3 = 40.8 amps leaving less than 10 amps to run the fridge, lights, water pump, keep the diesel burner going, etc… So when I forget to turn off one or more of the heaters and try to run the electric kettle, microwave, clothes dryer, and induction stove… POP! Either some “smart” piece of gear installed in the RV turns something off or a breaker blows. You only go out into the sub-freezing, pre-dawn half dressed a couple times in order to finish making your morning coffee before you learn!
Ok, at this point I feel obligated to say YOU SHOULD NOT TRUST ME! I am NOT an electrician! I’m not telling you how to do things or making any guarantees… I’m providing anecdotes of my experiences for your entertainment. Any action you take based on my writing, speech, videos, etc is at your own risk! (I should make some better legalese and put it in the about me section to save time!). Caveat Emptor?
I should also at this point say that I’ve learned a LOT of what I’ve done or plan to do from watching several YouTubers and bloggers. The most detailed and helpful has been Nate from Explorist Life. He has made a tool that is very helpful – https://www.explorist.life/solarwiringdiagrams/. Don’t let the name fool you, Solar is just ONE piece of the amazing wiring diagram(s) he has put together. I’d love to put a picture of his diagrams here, but you should go check them out on his site.
Don’t go adding up the cost… that there is around $6,500… and I don’t have solar panels, second alternator, wire, connections, fuses… Power, done right is expensive and done excessive, like me, is even worse! But I should be able to make coffee in my van and when it is all said and done that is what life is all about right? 🙂
But really, the system above will let me power everything I want (except Air Conditioning) basically all day without running a generator, the engine, having solar, or hooking up to shore power. …Now, the second day I’ll have not much unless I DO do one of the above to recharge.
What I’m looking at now is building out a specific layout for these components to build into some kind of “Box” that I can put in the van to see how they work. I’d LIKE to mount them all on a back board so that I can have room and see everything… but that will take up a lot of space either horizontally or vertically. Most people seem to put it all into a box so that they can use the four walls and floor to mount things and run wire… This is likely what I’ll do… but I’m a little worried about heat and airflow.
Anyway, this post is mostly to say “I Bought lithium and a big ass inverter charger!” “…Before I even bought the van!” “…now what?!?”
If you have a good layout or instructions for building a power box I’d love to see it. I probably won’t use it, but I like to see what others have done and then create something that fits my peculiar (eccentric?) needs.