Travelling is a way of life, and if you aren't already travelling full time, you wish you were!
You travel as often as you can, for as long as your can. Heading out for weeks or months at a time. You want to take everything with you, because it isn't just camping, it's just living life, but on the move.
You want everything INCLUDING the kitchen sink. TV, internet, fans, laptops, camera's, a couple of fridges, water pumps and even the microwave, coffee machine and kettle.
When you're heading away for an extended period, you need a decent set up that allows you to stay put in one spot and not have to worry about driving around just to keep your batteries topped up or finding a mains power cord, whilst also catering for those times when you hop through a bunch of overnighters with no time to pop out the solar.
The four key items you will need are batteries, solar panels, DCDC charger and an inverter.
To set up a caravan, camper, motor-home or bus which will meet your high power usage, you will need multiple batteries, and if you're running a fridge in your tow vehicle as well, then you'll need a second battery and charging system in there also.
As a serious traveller, the only way to go with batteries is lithium. They are not only a quarter of the weight of AGMs, they last 5-7 times as longer and while the upfront cost is more than an AGM, the cost per amp hour/per cycle is significantly cheaper at above 1/3 cost compared to AGM.
They also have a higher charge efficiency*, meaning you'll need less hours of sunlight per day (or less overall solar) to charge your batteries when compared with AGM, plus they can also be charged at higher currents too.
The ideal set up for your van/camper/motorhome/bus has a minimum of 2 days storage in the batteries, which is a minimum of 300ah if you're running the TV for a few hours a day, making a few cups of coffee and/or boiling the kettle, using the microwave to re-heat a meal for 5 minutes or so, pumping water, charging mobile phones and laptops, running a large fridge and maybe a second smaller fridge/freezer.
Your tow vehicle will need a separate battery, a 100ah lithium with 25A DCDC charger will keep the fridge in here running all year 'round. If you park up and don't drive for days at a time, then a small fixed solar panel or blanket is also needed.
* Lithium batteries have a higher charge efficiency, meaning they store more of the power produced from your panels, thus you need less solar.
From the AllSpark Lithium range, three models will suit your needs.
In your tow vehicle, you can go with the 100ah LiFePO4 battery with 200A/500A BMS, which fits most N70 size battery trays under the hood and can jump start your vehicle should you leave your stereo on for too long, or forget to switch the headlights off. Alternatively, if you don't need to fit it in your engine bay, the 100ah 175/320A model will also suit.
For your caravan/camper/motor-home/bus, three x 100ah or two x 150ah with 175A/320A BMS models will work well, and can be joined in parallel to reach the 300A needed. Parallel connection is suitable up to 600ah (with correctly installed cable connections.
A DCDC charger will keep your batteries charged while you are driving. This ensures that by the time you get to
your camp spot, your batteries will be fully charged and ready to get you through the first night starting at 100% state of charge without the need for solar that day.
For running your smaller fridge and maybe some lights in the tow vehicle, a 25A DCDC will do just fine. But you'll need a minimum 30A charger or ideally 50A for the 300A of batteries in your caravan or camper.
Which one/s you go for depends on where you want it placed, and then your budget.
First, let's look at the DCDC for your tow vehicle.
Your entry level DCDC charger for lithium's is the Projecta IDC25L. This unit can be placed in the engine bay, and comes with a MPPT solar charger for up to 385W of solar. It will charge you tow vehicle aux battery at 25A per hour.
Next up is the Intervolt DCDC, which has unlimited solar input, but is restricted to 25A output, so anything over about 430W will be overkill (not that you will need that much for your tow vehicle). Unlike the IDC25, this unit comes with a remote screen, allowing you to keep an eye on volt and amp output. Australian made and waterproof so is suitable for engine bay installation. The updated model DCC Pro R2-0 is now Lithium Iron Phosphate compatible.
From here you get into the RedArc range, known for their exceptional quality, reliability and performance. The 1225D will more than cover the 100A lithium, or you can go for the Manager 30, which allows you to charge from alternator or solar plus also includes a mains charger (so you can charge your battery up from 240V power) and battery monitor as well.
Now for the van, which needs a seperate DCDC charger setup for the 300Ah lithium battery bank. The three options here are the Enerdrive EN3DC40+, the RedArc 1250D or the Manager 30.
The Enerdrive EN3DC40+ DCDC, which is programmable from 5A to 50A and adjustable voltage from 13.9V to 14.6V and can handle 600W of solar you will need using up to 20Voc panels (or 800W using 43Voc panels). It comes with an LCD screen, showing the amps and volts coming in from the solar and alternator, and what it is sending to the batteries. It also offer's charge profiles for all batteries including lithium. As its not waterproof, it cannot go in engine bays, but is very suitable in wagons or canopies should you wish to use this in both tow vehicle and also in the van.
The RedArc 1250D will also work seamlessly with the 300A of lithium. This charger is a simple plug and play (as opposed to having to program the Enerdrive), and also uses Green Priority, which means it will prioritise charge from your solar first, then draw only what is needed from the alternator when driving to get up to the 50A charge rate.
Unless you're particularly savvy with 12v installations, DCDC chargers need to be installed by an auto-electrician. You're looking at around 3-5 hours labour (depending on where it is to be mounted), with an hourly rate of anywhere between $90 and $140 an hour. Ask questions when choosing an auto sparky, get a recommendation if you can, be sure they understand and install 12 volt gear regularly. Cable sizes (to avoid voltage drop) & circuit protection devices are important considerations with any 12v installation.
Your DCDC charger will ensure your batteries are topped up while you are driving, so when you arrive you are starting at 100% state of charge. However, once you park up for a period of time, solar is needed to keep your batteries topped up as your loads pulls amps out throughout the day and night.
For running everything in the list and keeping your batteries topped up for the 2 days storage, you will need around 600W of solar on the roof. This will ensure you can make it through a few overcast/low sun or super hot days without charge from an alternator or mains power to recharge the batteries.
You will need to park away from shade as much as possible. If there's a chance you will be parked in partial shade, and you don't want to have to worry about reducing your power usage, you will need to carry portable panels equivalent to the amount of shade you are in. If half your van is in shade then you will need to carry an extra 300W of portable solar so you can chase the sun.
If your second fridge is in the tow vehicle rather than the van, you will also need solar which can be hooked up to your tow vehicle to cover the needs of that fridge or other loads. If 40L, go with 120W blanket/flexible panel, for a 60L use a 160W blanket/150W flexible, and for a 90L fridge a 200W blanket or a couple of 120W flexibles will work. Some of this solar input can be deducted from the 600w if used on the tow vehicle and van throughout the day.
Changing the angle/direction your portable panels throughout the day can significantly increase power production.
The AllSpark range of blankets and flexible panels use genuine premium grade SunPower Maxeon Gen III Ultra performance cells, which produce more power than any other cell in all conditions including full sun, low light/overcast conditions, high temperatures and produce power significantly earlier and later in the day than any other cell on the market.
This is particularly important if you are parked up for longer periods of time. Without the DCDC charging your batteries from your alternator as you drive, having your solar working hard, for as long as it can, is essential for keeping up with your high power needs.
Flexible panels will keep your weight to a minimum, and are easily mounted without the need for drilling holes/fixings. Our flexible panels can also be purchased with a pre-fitted backing panel and 3M VHB tape, making installation as simple as clean, peel and stick.
To run your appliances you will need an inverter, which converts the 12V power in your batteries to 240V like mains power.
The AllSpark 2000W Pure Sine Wave Inverter is a true 2000W continuous output inverter, and will run all of your appliances (including your air conditioner - subject to sufficient battery capacity and charge input - for info on how to run aircon off grid check out this article) with ease. It comes with a remote switching panel, allowing you to tuck the unit away, and still turn it on/off as required.
So there you have it, the four things for a 12 volt system that won't let you down. We offer these items at discounts off the regular prices when purchased together and can organise cables and circuit protection devices too. Contact us here to discuss your options if installing yourself, otherwise use the code:
"TRAVELLING" at the checkout for 10% off ANY COMBINATION of all 4 devices including SOLAR, DCDC, LITHIUM BATTERY AND INVERTER.