How to Power Your Appliances While Camping
Powering your appliances while camping is not as challenging as you may think. While some people may choose to stay at a caravan park to use mains power, others may prefer to enjoy a more quiet and remote location. In these situations, you will be unable to run your gear through the grid and will have to set up your own system. How can you accomplish this? Three main ways to power your appliances away from mains are: solar panels, generators, and deep cycle batteries.
Power your appliances with solar panels
Solar panels are becoming more popular amongst camping lovers and for good reasons. Although there are initial set up costs, once you use solar panels you’ll be enjoying free power almost anywhere. With solar panels you can travel to remote locations away from mains power and still use 240V appliances. They require very little maintenance and are environmentally friendly as they use clean energy.
There are two types of solar panels: mounted and portable solar panels. Mounted solar panels are placed on top of your caravan or mobile home which allows you to, for instance, charge batteries while you’re on the road. You don’t have the hassle of packing and unpacking your panels every time you set up. However, mounted solar panels don’t allow you to chase the sun. This means you’ll have to park your vehicle in the sun to have a higher amount of sun rays hitting your panels. Portable solar panels can be positioned in the sun while your caravan is parked in the shade. Because you can make them face any direction, they give you the ability to follow the sunlight. A disadvantage can be that you’ll need to pack and unpack them and that you may need a long cable to connect your solar panels with your batteries.
If you decide to power your appliances with solar panels, you’ll need a few more devices. Solar panels also require a solar regulator, deep cycle battery and possibly an inverter. A solar regulator is also known as a solar charge controller and is an essential part of your solar system. It is positioned between the solar panel and the battery, and as such controls the incoming charge to the battery. This is an important task as solar panels generate more than 12V and will overcharge and damage your battery without a solar regulator. A deep cycle battery is needed to store the energy collected by your solar panel. They are perfect to use as solar batteries as they allow regular charging and discharging without damaging the battery. Inverters are necessary if you’d like to run 240V appliances. Have a look at our previous blog post to find out which size inverter you need.
Power your appliances with a generator
If you don’t have solar panels, or the weather simply does not allow you to generate enough power from your panels, a generator offers another easy way to power your appliances. Old generators used to be fairly noisy and heavy, but the latest versions of recreational generators have become quieter and lighter.
Generators are handy for your power hungry appliances, such as kettles, washing machines, and air cons. You can run your appliances directly from the generator or charge your deep cycle batteries. They are portable, easy to use, and suitable as your main power source or as a backup in case of power outages. However, although the modern versions are less noisy, you’ll still be able to hear them humming in silent environments. They also require maintenance and regular re-fills of fuel.
If you’re uncertain which generator to get, simply calculate the total amount of watts for the appliances you want to power. The generator will need to have a higher amount of watts than your calculated total. For example, if you only want to run your fridge in case of an emergency power outage, a 1KVA generator will be enough. If your generator will be your main power source and you want to run your fridge, TV, laptop and lights all at the same time, your power usage may add up to more than 1KVA. In this case, you’ll probably need a generator of at least 2KVA. If you power too many appliances for the size of your generator, you may overload it and damage both the generator and your appliances.
Before you leave on your trip and settle into the camping park, make sure the use of a generator is allowed. Some caravan parks and national parks do not tolerate them.
Power your appliances with AGM deep cycle batteries
If you don’t have solar panels or a generator, you can use deep cycle batteries to power your appliances. Deep cycle batteries are ideal as they can be discharged and charged on a regular basis. One way to power your appliances with deep cycle batteries is by setting up a dual battery system. If you want to know more about dual battery systems, you can have a look at our Beginner’s Guide to Vehicle Chargers.
One thing to remember: although AGM deep cycle batteries can be discharged heavily without getting damaged, doing so frequently will increase the wear on the battery and will shorten its life span. If you go camping only a few times a year, it can be okay to drain the battery low. For example, you could drain your battery down to 20% of its capacity, provided you recharge it soon after usage (leaving it discharged for some time causes damage). If you go camping on a regular basis, it is recommended not to drain it as far and preferably charge it again after reaching 70% of its capacity (draining 30%).February 9, 2015 | By Nathan Gathercole| Comments
Nathan is the owner of Aussie Batteries & Solar, and has been immersed in the battery industry for many years. Growing up on the Sunshine Coast, he enjoyed taking full advantage of the spectacular outdoors on offer, and has turned this passion into a thriving business. As the saying goes, "Find a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life".