HOW TO CHARGE YOUR VAN & RV DEVICES WITH PORTABLE OFF-GRID POWER
Having a source of electricity is a big part of what sets van life apart from camping.
The ability to charge devices, power lights, and even heat your camper van or recreational van (RV) on cold nights is all made possible by the van’s electrical system. Unlike the electricity in your house, van electricity has some limitations. Your van’s off-grid electrical system is not connected to a constant and limitless power source and needs to depend on portable off-grid power.
THE BASICS OF VAN & RV ELECTRIC SYSTEMS
The van and RV systems have three main parts: the power source, the charging source, and the loads and devices. Below we will break down the power source and charging source components and the limitations of the van’s electrical system.
Camper van electrical systems are almost always 12-volt DC systems because they use 12-volt DC batteries as their power source. The “leisure batteries” used to provide electricity in your van are similar to the car “starter batteries” but specifically designed for the type of use common in camper vans.
There are different types of batteries used in vans, such as lithium, GEL and AGM batteries (lead acid). Each type of battery has pros and cons, but lithium batteries are widely considered the best option as they have a longer lifespan and the largest capacity. Lithium batteries are also the most expensive.
Batteries vary in how much electricity they can store, and it is common for camper vans to use more than one battery, depending on its size. Storage in camper van batteries is measured in “amp hours”. The larger the battery capacity you have, the longer you can use the electricity in your van before you have to recharge the battery.
Your batteries will become depleted as it powers all the loads and devices in your camper van, and you will need to recharge the batteries for continuous usage. The most common ways to charge van batteries are with portable off-grid power such as solar panels and portable wind turbines.
Limitations on Electrical Systems
As a camper van owner, you need to understand the limitations of your van’s house battery and ensure that you do not damage it or run out of electricity. Common mistakes that camper van owners make are draining their batteries completely and using plug-in household appliances that require too much electricity.
You can avoid issues in your camper van's electrical system by monitoring the charge state of your batteries and avoiding the usage of large electrical appliances and devices.
THREE WAYS TO CHARGE YOUR DEVICES WITH PORTABLE OFF-GRID POWER
Running out of electricity in your van can be a scary thought, but, thankfully, there are plenty of ways to keep your devices going when a power outage strikes. With these three options to charge your batteries, you will never be caught without charge.
Charge Devices with the Vehicle's Battery
You can pull power from your engine if you are camping or travelling in a van or RV. There are two ways you can draw power from your vehicle.
Getting Power Through the Vehicle's Cigarette Lighter
You can plug a 12V inverter into your cigarette lighter and charge your devices while your vehicle is running. This inverter can charge devices such as your laptop and mobile phone.
Getting Power Directly Through the Vehicle's Battery
You can connect your 12V inverter directly to your vehicle battery with battery inverter cables. This method is great when you need hefty power in a pinch.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Charging Your Devices with Vehicle's Battery
You can get instant power when you charge your devices with the vehicle’s battery. However, charging your devices in your vehicle could potentially do more harm than good. You can damage the charger and drain the vehicle’s battery. You will also need to keep the engine running when you connect your inverter directly to your vehicle, causing the engine to consume more fuel.
Charge Devices with Solar Power
Harnessing the power of the sun to meet your off-grid power needs is a great solution in many cases. The solar panel is one of the best and cheapest options to convert sunlight into electricity. No fuel is required, unlike charging with the vehicle’s battery. Portable off-grid power like solar power can be harnessed through portable solar panels.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Charging Your Devices with Solar Power
The benefit of solar panels is that they are environmentally friendly, do not require an electricity source to function and are very handy when you suddenly run out of electricity in your van. Solar panels can be a great way to power your devices. However, it is not always practical. While they can be quite effective at generating electricity, they only work during the day and when the sun is visible. This means that you will not be able to use them at night or on cloudy days, and you will have to use an alternate form of energy.
Charge Devices with Wind Power
Portable off-grid power such as wind power can be generated with portable wind turbines. It should be used in areas where the wind is predictable and constant. The portable wind turbine is practical when you need access to energy during a power outage.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Charging Your Devices with Wind PowerUnlike energy produced by fossil fuels, wind power is completely clean and eco-friendly. You will not have to worry about polluting the environment with carbon emissions. Wind power is free to harness and 100% renewable. However, wind energy cannot be produced consistently. It may not generate as much power as you need depending on the weather conditions
TEXENERGY'S PORTABLE WIND POWER GENERATOR
A portable wind turbine would be an excellent option for charging your devices during a power outage in your van and RV. The energy harvested from the portable wind turbine can also be stored in a portable power station for future use.
A wind turbine such as Infinite Air 5T can be used to charge small devices such as phones and portable power banks as it has a maximum power of 5V. Portable wind turbines such as the Infinite Air 12 (discontinued; upgraded to Infinite Air 18) and Infinite Air 18 can be used to charge large devices and portable power stations as they have a maximum power of 18W and 27W, respectively.
With a portable wind turbine, you would not need to depend on charging your devices through a vehicle battery. Texenergy's portable wind turbine can also be paired with portable compact solar panels as a complementing kit to harvest more energy.