If you have a more robust car camping or RV setup then chances are you’ve probably considered upgrading your power system. There are a lot of choices out there and it can sometimes be hard to determine what system will work best for you. The last thing you want to have happen is that you’re off the grid and run out of power. Before getting into the nitty gritty, it’s important to consider what type of camping you like to do and what you consider a necessity.
Before we get into logistics, I’d like to touch on the main system components that you see. Most power systems consist of energy storage in the form of either lead acid or lithium batteries. These power banks are what your components will actually draw the power from unless you are directly connected to the grid. You also need something that will charge the batteries such as a generator, alternator charger setup, or solar panels and potentially an inverter to convert your DC battery power to AC power.
First, let’s consider the power storage options. Lead acid is very common in factory systems, but this doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best. Lead acid is much heavier than lithium and typically does not last as long. Most 12V 100Ah lithium batteries weight around 30-40 lbs whereas an equivalent lead acid battery can be upwards of 150 lbs. with lithium, if you want to expand your system you are able to add additional batteries over the course of 2-3 years without sacrificing capacity. On the other hand, lead acid needs to be added to your system at the same time otherwise you won’t see a dramatic increase in power and will waste a majority of your new battery. Lead acid can be much cheaper than lithium with upfront costs, but once you consider life span and maintenance the lithium tends to be a bit cheaper.
Now let’s consider the various options you can use to charge your batteries. If you’re looking at a smaller battery system you may not want a huge, permanent charging setup. In this case, a simple converter charger which takes your wall power and chargers up your batteries before you go on trips may be your best bet. If you are interested in incorporating an additional charging component I highly recommend looking into alternator chargers and solar panel setups. The alternator charging systems are a great way to charge up your batteries while you drive. As you drive, some of the charge that is typically sent to power onboard components like your radio or lights will be sent to your batteries to top them up. Solar panel setups are great because they will charge your batteries up while your driving or while your camped out and using your setup. They also can be built out to your liking. With solar panels, you will also need a solar charge controller which will regulate the voltage from your solar panels so that your batteries will accept a charge from them.
The final component to consider is an inverter. These will take your DC power from your batteries, also known as direct current, and convert it into AC power (alternating current) which is used by most household appliances such as microwaves, hot plates, etc. When incorporating an inverter into your system, you will need to make sure that your inverter can support the loads that you intend to draw from your batteries at a given time. You also will need to make sure you have enough batteries to support your inverter surge capability.
In next week’s blog, we will dive into properly sizing these components for your system. These topics can be convoluted at times and there are so many items to cover so don’t get discouraged! If there is something that you would like to know more about please drop it in the comment section below. Until next week!