We’re back to the camping life after a nice break over the holidays. Today I installed a deep cycle battery in the camper to help us get more off the grid – everything seems to be working too!
We have been saying that we want to do more dry camping (boondocking, dispersed camping, sleeping in the woods like a hobo, whatever you want to call it). However, up until now the trailer hasn’t had a battery set up to let us bring electricity with us.
Our computers only last a few hours – once they die, so does our ability to keep working. We then start drinking too much beer, watching too much nature, and having way too much fun… we can’t be doing that! I did some research, bought a few things, and got a system in place and all hooked up – it was electrifying!
Here is the basic wiring diagram:
I have tried to keep the set up simple – my goal is to be able to charge the laptops a few times, run a little 12V fan, and run a few other small things like a work light or drill if needed. I am not looking to run the fridge, water heater, space heater, or anything else like that. The cost of batteries and electrical components definitely skyrockets as the capacity need grows.
I went with a big size 31 AC Delco Voyager deep-cycle battery. This thing cost about $100, but has an 18 month warranty – and I can take it in anywhere AC Delco is sold (ie. any GM dealership). It has a 210 amp hour reserve, so I can get 105AH before needing to charge it up.
I went with a relatively cheap 400watt inverter from Wal-mart, but opted for a slightly more expensive battery charger. The research I did said that charging these big batteries properly is a huge factor in how long they last. I bought the Deltran Battery Tender Plus. It says it goes through 4 modes of charging, with the last being a maintenance mode. It automatically adjusts for temperature, and that last mode will ensure that I never overcharge the battery.
I also wired in a 12V outlet with inline fuse. My plan is to plug our little Road Pro fan into this thing. If I ever need to swap that out for something else that runs off 12V, I can easily do it without needing to rewire.
I’ll have to post a follow-up on how effective this whole thing actually is, but my math would suggest that we can get about 20 full charges for the laptops (the computers draw 1.5AH, and take around 3 hours to charge), or I could run the fan for like 80 hours (1.3AH). I’m not counting efficiency loss, so reality will probably be worse – but as long as we can go at least a couple days on the battery I’ll be happy!
The battery cost a little over $100 with no core, the inverter was $30, the charger was $45, and the other few odds and ends made the total cost around $200. We average around $25 a night at a campground (or trailer park…), so it will take about 8 nights of sleeping out in the woods to make this worth it.
I’m pretty happy with the installation. It took me a few hours to get everything set up (along with the obligatory two trips to the hardware store). When we want to charge the battery, we just plug the Deltran charger into “shore power”. When we want to charge the laptops, we just flip the switch on the inverter.
Everything seems to be working perfectly – now we just need to get off the grid, and see how long it lasts!