A Guide to Modern Towing Ep. 9: Caravan Power Sources
With so many improvements in technology in recent years, we’re now able to access the latest ways to power our caravans and appliances. From booking a powered site to installing solar panel system, we have a huge range of options to available to us. The method you choose depends on the travel you do – but if you’re feeling overwhelmed, then we can help you make the right choice for your van.
240 Vault AC Power
Choosing a powered site is the easiest way to keep your van powered. You simply turn up at the site, plug yourself in, and you’re ready to go. You’ll be able to run everything from lights to air conditioners. Whilst caravans are designed with 15-amp circuits (ideal for the caravan park), if you’re planning on plugging in at home you’ll find mains power is set up at 10-amps. The best way around this is to have a 15-amp supply set up by a licensed electrician, or use a 10 to 15-amp converter.
12 Vault On-Board Batteries
12 vault batteries come in ‘starting’ and ‘deep cycle’ – the former has the power to start a vehicle, as long as it remains above 80%, meaning it isn’t a great choice for your RV. The later have options for every budget:
- Wet Cell deep cycle battery is the most affordable, though it vents gas into the atmosphere and needs to be kept upright in a well-ventilated area.
- The Absorbed Glass Matt (AGM) is a lead acid battery, and absorbs gas in its fibreglass matting, meaning there is no gas being vented into the atmosphere. It charges quickly and performs well under heavy load conditions.
- Similar to the AGM, the Gel Lead Acid battery suspends the electrolytes in a gel paste, avoiding any venting in the atmosphere and requiring no maintenance.
- At the top of the market sits the Lithium battery. Able to release high levels of energy at the same voltage, it’s perfect for running 240V appliances – but bear in mind that it is the most expensive of your options.
Running 12V appliances off your 12V batteries is easy, but if you want to power your 240V appliances, you’ll need an inverter. Choose a pure sine wave inverter for your caravan – they smooth out your voltage output, and allow you to run sensitive electronics like laptops without hassle.
For bush camping, generators have always been the first choice. They come in a range of outputs, so it’s important to choose the one that matches your needs. They are rated in kilovolt amps, but you’ll need to translate this into watts to properly asses their ability to power your van. If you plan on powering big ticket items, like your AC or fridge, you’ll need a much more powerful generator to get them started. Whatever model you ultimately choose, ensure that they operate with sine waves – this will ensure a smoother output that won’t damage your delicate electronics. You’ll also want to be respectful when using your generator. Keep it close to your caravan so you’re not effecting other campers, and if you’re staying in a national park, make sure you’re actually allowed to use them!
We’ve spoken about solar panels in our blogs before, and it’s easy to see why we love them so much. Once they’re installed, you won’t be paying to run them! What you might not know is that there are three different cell options to choose from:
- Polycrystalline Cells are less efficient to run than Monocrystalline Cells, needing more surface area for the same output! However, they both need to be as perpendicular to the sun as possible, meaning the sun’s rays are hitting them at a right angle.
- Amorphous Panels on the other hand, are the most efficient option on the market, though they need twice the surface area of monocrystalline cells. However, they are lighter and more flexible, and able to handle higher temperatures without output being affected.
To choose the best power source for your caravan, you’ll need to run some calculations to find out how many amp hours your appliances use per day. This can be a bit technical, so it may be wise to get in touch with the experts.