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Post Info TOPIC: Power source for in-van living


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Power source for in-van living


I am about to buy a van and outfit it to live in. The writings on this site have helped me to make the decision to spend the extra for an Engel refrigerator, and now I seek advice about power for it and other appliances. I am not an electrical engineer, nor fancy becoming one, so I mean to buy a battery-in-a-box type power station. I hope that the folks here can give me the benefit of their experience as to brands and maybe specific models to seek out or avoid.

My wattage needs are not very great. The Engel fridge is energy-efficient. I do not anticipate cooling beyond a fan, or heating beyond a well-insulated sleeping arrangement. I may want to use my laptop for 10+ hours in a day, while using wi-fi to watch netflix or play online games. I will install solar panels on my roof. Not sure yet about cooking. I hope to spend less than $1500 on a power station.

 

 



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What size Engel? Can you provide a link to one you are thinking of.

You need to plan for days of wet overcast weather. How many days do you want to plan for before you need to charge the battery and how will you do that?

Not sure yet about cooking? If you are planning to cook using electricity that puts much more demand on the system. Most vans will have LPG stoves, and frequently with a single electric element for when you are connected to power.


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The MD14 seems adequate for my needs.

 

EDIT: Oh, noes, it seems they are no longer selling that model. Need another $300 to go up to larger size than I need :(



-- Edited by ProspectiveNomad on Tuesday 14th of May 2024 03:36:15 PM

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Are We Lost wrote:

Most vans will have LPG stoves, and frequently with a single electric element for when you are connected to power.


 

I am not going that far, I intend stealth urban camping. If worse comes to worst I can drive to my sister's house and plug in my battery pack.



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The "power stations" you talk about are an unknown (cheap and nasty?) battery in an expensive box with a pile of mostly not needed plugs and sockets attached.
You are much better deciding exactly what your energy needs are and buying better quality gear that actually meets those needs.

You will find that while the Engle is well regarded it has very poor efficiency compared with modern domestic fridges. And it is hugely expensive by comparison too.
Consider a 4 star domestic fridge/freezer about 200L plus a small 12/240V inverter plus a pile of solar (you can not have too much) and a decent quality Li battery.

Engle $1200, "power station" $1500. Domestic fridge $600, inverter under $300, ....................

Do your research. Do not rush into this.
Cheers,
Peter

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You mean Dometic? My research suggests that a high percentage of their units are returned for warranty, and warranty claims are frequently rejected.

Also, without other power storage won't that kill my starter battery? My medicine must be kept chilled-but-not-frozen.



-- Edited by ProspectiveNomad on Tuesday 14th of May 2024 03:34:22 PM

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No, I mean domestic = household fridge.
Nothing to do with your starter battery. You need a seperate battery to run your van accessories, but the "power station" you propose is a very poor and expensive choice.
You also need a reliable and adequate method(s) of charging this battery on a daily basis.
Cheers,
Peter

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ProspectiveNomad. I think it would be a good idea if you said what size van you are thinking of. Do you mean a motorised van or something you tow? The fridge you mentioned is a 14 litre portable fridge ..... very different from what I was thinking and what Peter proposed.

What does "urban stealth camping" mean? Living in the van on someone's property?

 



-- Edited by Are We Lost on Tuesday 14th of May 2024 06:28:45 PM

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Are We Lost wrote:

ProspectiveNomad. I think it would be a good idea if you said what size van you are thinking of. Do you mean a motorised van or something you tow? The fridge you mentioned is a 14 litre portable fridge ..... very different from what I was thinking and what Peter proposed.

What does "urban stealth camping" mean? Living in the van on someone's property.



-- Edited by Are We Lost on Tuesday 14th of May 2024 06:28:45 PM


 

My way of thinking "urban stealth camping" means parking in a suburban street, carpark or park somewhere so interested in what that means as well.



-- Edited by Corndoggy on Tuesday 14th of May 2024 06:36:51 PM

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I have a fridge (chest type) located in the canopy, powered by a 115-amp battery (not connected to tugs electrical system) charged from a 160-watt solar panel mounted on the roof of canopy all supplied by 4x4 super center, total cost not much over $500. has worked for me for a number of years almost non stop no problems

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Corndoggy wrote:
Are We Lost wrote:

ProspectiveNomad. I think it would be a good idea if you said what size van you are thinking of. Do you mean a motorised van or something you tow? The fridge you mentioned is a 14 litre portable fridge ..... very different from what I was thinking and what Peter proposed.

What does "urban stealth camping" mean? Living in the van on someone's property.


My way of thinking "urban stealth camping" means parking in a suburban street, carpark or park somewhere, so interested in what that means as well.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Yes that is what  it  means, often  using  a  commercial  type panel  van or similar.  They seem obsessed with the idea in America  !! I have  done something  similar  in  my Sprinter bus  when  it suited me even in inner city Sydney suburbs  when  visiting  people but hardly consider it a  way of life.  

But getting to  the  real  question  of  power  for a  small  Engel  MD14F  which  is what the  OP was  talking  about for his medicine  and running a laptop for 10hrs  a  day.  

You  do  need to  have real storage for  electricity  to  run those things for long hrs.  And  a few lights also. The  easiest way  is  to buy  a decent  storage battery and some way to  charge  it and  set up some basic connections. Solar is good and so  also is  connecting to the vehicle battery alternator  which is an excellent source of power when driving and for emergency  if raining  etc. 

A power station as they are called is an expensive way  to get a deep cycle  battery of limited capacity, but may be covenient to use.  I might be temped by a larger one in some circumstances. However this person does not seem to be going to use the other features much. These  power  stations are flavor of the month in  the  USA too but the name  is misleading as  they are  just a battery in a box with integrated support functions. They do  not make  any power  at all just store  it and provide ways to use it.

Good luck. Give it more thought is my suggestion. Jaahn

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-- Edited by Jaahn on Tuesday 14th of May 2024 07:41:43 PM



-- Edited by Jaahn on Tuesday 14th of May 2024 07:48:32 PM

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The van I am about to buy is a Honda Odyssey. The previous owner already built a bed in the back with storage bins underneath.

A top-opening fridge does not dump all the cold air onto the floor when opened. The contents do not fall out when opened after they shift around during driving.
The nomads on this forum attest to Engel drawing low power and lasting forever.

"urban stealth camping" means parking on a street, or in a carpark and looking like some random vehicle parked, not a nomad.



-- Edited by ProspectiveNomad on Wednesday 15th of May 2024 12:37:13 AM

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That particular "power station" I referenced above has this spec if you click on the learn more. $1100 Seems a lot of money for a heap of small round cells of only 45Ahr capacity @25.6V. But your choice. It is hard to see that lasting a day supporting a small Engle and 10hrs using a laptop. Check it out before putting out the money is my advice.

Jaahn

SPECIFICATIONS 

Capacity:1152Wh (25.6V/45Ah)
Battery Type:LiFePo4  
 a_pstb-1200-1152-oc_prb.jpg?refrish0229
  

 

 



-- Edited by Jaahn on Wednesday 15th of May 2024 08:56:31 AM

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I'm sorry stealth camping (where people use other people's power, toileting & showers, public BBQs for cooking, etc), or in American terminology "Boondocking" should be called what it is, "Stealing".

This is the type of traveler that causes Freedom and donation camping to be closed down - If you cannot afford or won't pay your way, don't bludge on society.

There are many Nomads out there that are basically living week to week, but not rorting the system, they volunteer as camp hosts, house sit minding pets, pick-up confetti and other rubbish at genuine freedom/donation camps.

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All we have is a Gel battery, actually 4 x 26AH (redundancy) due to limited space being able to fit around the car, would be cheaper to have one large battery. DC-DC charger for charging while the engine is running.

 

Portable solar panels, which were not used once in 3 months travelling because the battery capacity & DC-DC charger were large enough for the fridge. We moved every 4 days, technically 7 days reserve battery capacity for inclement weather.

 

 

Power boxes all in one are of no use unless you can charge them up.  

 

You need need to be able to charge things & have enough capacity for inclement weather which could go for week or more. But let's say a week for most situations.

 

Buy a quality battery & Victron MPPT controller, & solar panels. You will have a better system that you can actually charge & cheaper!

 

Being for medicine, obviously you require redundancy, so factor in duplicates within your set-up, which can be divided if there is a failure somewhere.

 

2 controllers, 2 batteries, 2 or 4 or more solar panels.

 

Extra insulation on the fridge can reduce power consumption considerably & a lot lighter & cheaper than twice the battery capacity.

https://thegreynomads.activeboard.com/t65059593/extra-fridge-insulation-wattage-test/



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Possum3 wrote:

I'm sorry stealth camping (where people use other people's power, toileting & showers, public BBQs for cooking, etc), or in American terminology "Boondocking" should be called what it is, "Stealing".

This is the type of traveler that causes Freedom and donation camping to be closed down - If you cannot afford or won't pay your way, don't bludge on society.

There are many Nomads out there that are basically living week to week, but not rorting the system, they volunteer as camp hosts, house sit minding pets, pick-up confetti and other rubbish at genuine freedom/donation camps.


 Well said Possum.



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My understanding of "stealth camping", at least in AU, is that it's parking overnight in areas where you shouldn't. Typically arrive late and leave early. But otherwise doing no harm. I didn't interpret it as using water, power or faciities which you weren't supposed to or dodgng paying a fee. Anyone who uses a donation camp and doesn't make a donatipn would be guilty of that. (For the record, I don't stealth camp - even if I was tempted to it's not really an option with my rig, it would be too darn obvious,)

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I've seen small vans, large vans and caravans doing what is obviously overnight "stealth" camping up the end of my street in the carpark of the park numerous times. Also seen it done in a carpark at a river near me. Some people will just do anything for a free night stay. They might even turn the carpark into a caravan park if enough use it like one.

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Interesting.
The mentality of how RV travelling is treated in Australia is quite different to that in most of Europe.
We spent a night in a fast food shop car park. There was a section set aside for RVs. It had free WiFi.
Another was the car park in a university in a German town. It was available free to RVs after 5pm. It had a dump point and water available in one corner.
Most towns had a free spot for RVs within walking distance of the town centre. Mind you, EVERY vehicle is FULLY self contained and motorhomes outnumber caravans by 10 to 1. So maybe it is a caravan problem? In England, where there are lots of caravans, there is almost no free camping.

This was the car park of a ski resort in the French alps.
The sign translates to "Reserved for motorhomes".
P1040724c1E.jpg

Cheers,

Peter



-- Edited by Peter_n_Margaret on Thursday 16th of May 2024 11:14:39 AM

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See it looks like someone is in the carpark for tonight. Its an old Highlux with a built on camper. Looks it has seen better days. It looks full of crap. Park has a public toilet open all the time and electric BBQ under cover with table and seats. What more could a stealth camper want. Well maybe a shower, but beggars can't be choosers.

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bristte wrote:

My understanding of "stealth camping", at least in AU, is that it's parking overnight in areas where you shouldn't. Typically arrive late and leave early. But otherwise doing no harm. I didn't interpret it as using water, power or faciities which you weren't supposed to or dodgng paying a fee. Anyone who uses a donation camp and doesn't make a donatipn would be guilty of that. (For the record, I don't stealth camp - even if I was tempted to it's not really an option with my rig, it would be too darn obvious,)


 We have done it a few times due to being in town too late at restaurants etc.

 

Also did it to go on the Spirit of Tasmania, in a state suite at the pointy end, it's not money. Just poor associated services.

 

Campgrounds were full. Not driving to the outback in kangaroo carnage times. Every party suffers.

 

We use toiletmap.gov.au as required around the country. My Council on Sydney Northern Beaches has more toilets than a Blind Mullet would have issues finding!

 

All paid by us ratepayers. We have no issues paying for toilets facilities is our area for blowins etc. Swings & roundabouts.



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bristte wrote:  

My understanding of "stealth camping", at least in AU, is that it's parking overnight in areas where you shouldn't. Typically arrive late and leave early. But otherwise doing no harm. I didn't interpret it as using water, power or faciities which you weren't supposed to or dodgng paying a fee. Anyone who uses a donation camp and doesn't make a donatipn would be guilty of that. (For the record, I don't stealth camp - even if I was tempted to it's not really an option with my rig, it would be too darn obvious,)


 Yes that's the way I read it. ProspectiveNomad I use an Engel 17ltr fridge, also charge laptop, phone etc. 2x100amph AGM batteries with 100w solar and also charge from alternator with Redarc controller.                                                                                                                                                                                      



-- Edited by peter67 on Friday 17th of May 2024 06:48:13 PM

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peter67 wrote:
with 100amp solar                                                                                                                                                                    

 I always say you can not have too much solar. We have 1160W, but we can not match 100A. confuse

Cheers,

Peter



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With the solar on our rig, combined with our Honda Generator, we can match anything. Power never an issue. Well, not for us anyway.

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Peter_n_Margaret wrote:
peter67 wrote:
with 100amp solar                                                                                                                                                                    

 I always say you can not have too much solar. We have 1160W, but we can not match 100A. confuse

Cheers,

Peter


 Corrected sir.



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Aussie1 wrote:

With the solar on our rig, combined with our Honda Generator, we can match anything. Power never an issue. Well, not for us anyway.


 I just knew you were the kind hearted sorta bloke who would be considerate and take extra power along for others at the campsite. I'd favour the Tim Taylor approach and mount the genny on it's own tandem trailer powered by one of Honda's F1 racing engines...gennies gotta sound good too.



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peter67 wrote:

 Corrected sir.


 Good job. smile

Cheers,

Peter



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We have a 28L fridge (top opening). Insulated it properly, within reason. It uses 15AH per 24 hours.

 

Probably could get is down to 10AH per 24 hours with Aerogel. 

 

More insulation under the fridge will also help. It is currently too thin.

 

The fridge lid is hollow, so more can be done there.



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Hi ProspectiveNomad,
I know there are homeless people here in Townsville who are living in cars, tents because of the extreme shortage of rental houses - are you in that situation? If so your needs are far different to most members of this forum. True, many have sold up & are living in their caravans, some on pensions, travelling around & enjoying life as it comes.

To live in a Honda Odyssey, it's not going to be really comfortable unless it's fitted with a tent that can attach to the vehicle. You don't mention toileting - that will be an issue. And another is your security - there are some fairly unsavory types around these days.
And to live "stealthily", you'll find that councils, roadhouses are clamping down on those people who have abused the facilities in the recent past. We all have to pay something to live & it should be comfortable & enjoyable at the same time.

Along with the others above, I suggest that you do some thinking about your future "mobile home" & what you are going to need - without bludging on the rest of society.

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Does this forum offer a way to close a discussion thread? Delete? Archive?

The conversation that has developed is not helpful or relevant to the OP.

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