Your 12-volt electrical system is sufficient for satisfying your power needs for a couple days of boondocking provided you can get along without 120-volt AC current. Beyond that you will need to make some equipment purchases or changes. If you have an inverter that converts 12-volt into 120-volt, you will still have to do without your air conditioner and microwave oven, which draw considerable amperes from your batteries. And leave your electric blanket and Mr. Coffee at home for the same reason. An extra blanket and a French Press or Melita – or similar coffee maker – will replace these necessities of modern living.
However, If you observe a few basic electricity conservation rules, you will be able to get the most out of your boondocking trip.
• Use lights only when necessary and turn off lights that are not being used.
• Do not leave the outside porch light on
.• Use AA or AAA battery operated reading lights for reading in bed.
• Do not leave a radio or TV operating if no one is listening or watching.
• Avoid using appliances that require high wattage to operate, or appliances that require long running time.
Run your amp-hungry equipment (water heater, water pump [when showering and washing dishes], microwave, furnace, air conditioner, power tools, etc.) all in the same time frame while running your generator, which will provide the electricity needed, rather than pulling it from your batteries.
Buy a catalytic heater to heat your RV. No electricity required. Works off your built in propane tank. Add a solar panel. Even a small starter panel cranking out amps while sitting all day in the sun will add a lot of oomph to your batteries. And if you like it, a solar system is ideal for adding onto until you get the combination that works for you. Prices are dropping rapidly for solar panels, so shop around for the best deal.
The amount of 12-volt battery electricity available to operate your systems limits your length of stay without an efficient way to recharge. A single deep cycle 12-volt house battery will produce about 105 ampere-hours of electricity. By calculating the number of amps each of your electrical appliances draws multiplied by the hours in use you can make an educated guess at when you need to recharge by subtracting the ampere-hours used each day from the total available. But only about half of these amps (about 50) are available to run your electrical equipment. Take voltage readings at the battery terminals with a hand-held
But only about half of these amps (about 50) are available to run your electrical equipment. Take voltage readings at the battery terminals with a hand-held multi-meter and when the voltage drops to 11.5 volts, start your engine or run your generator to recharge the battery – though this is a slow and inefficient way to charge your batteries. Installing a second house battery or switching to a pair of 6-volt golf cart batteries will increase the total number of available amps.
Practice. Take notes. Keep a log. Soon you’ll be able to accurately judge how long you can go before your systems need attending. After you get a bit more comfortable with boondocking, try camping in more remote locations. Listen to the quiet. Gaze at the scenery. Take bird and wildlife watching walks. There’s a big, beautiful country out there just waiting for you to go boondocking and backroads exploring.