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Boondocking Basics

Boondocking Basics- Making It Work

by Paul Bernhagen

Part 2

Will We Be Roughing It?

Don’t discharge your battery more than 50% (12.2 volts). Discharging more than this can damage the battery.

Use a digital voltmeter to check battery voltage. To get an accurate reading the battery needs to be at rest (no power draw or input) for at least 2-3 hours. This means the best time to check the battery voltage is the first thing in the morning before you turn on the power and before solar panels or a generator start to charge the batteries.

Check batteries monthly for water usage. If the caps are sealed with a label, cut through the label to access the caps and check the water. This will extend the life of your battery.

Use a digital Volt-Ohm-Amp meter to determine how many amps you are using.

Digital Voltmeter - Click for more information.

Unplug all 120-volt appliances when not in use as even when they are off they draw power. While they may not draw much power, the little bit they do draw adds up. This can have a big impact on how long the energy in your batteries will last.

Using a switch box with surge protection makes it easy to turn things on and off.

Switchbox - Click for more information.

Charge small appliance (cell phone, computer) batteries, using a small (pocket) inverter, while driving around.

Energy labels on appliances generally show a higher power draw than you will have.

Select a quiet generator and size it to fit your needs. Be considerate of your neighbors.

Coffee makers, hair dryers and toasters all put a large drain on your batteries.

Control your phantom loads. These loads put a constant load on your batteries that you may not even be aware of.

Conventional ovens are better suited for boondocking than convection ovens, which require a generator.

Tow vehicles provide minimal battery charging. While the alternator may be rated to put out plenty of power to charge your batteries, the wires coming off the alternator do not carry much load at all.

How to Flip a Switch

Conserve power by removing bulbs from multiple light bulb fixtures or turning on only one light bulb at a time.

Fluorescent lights give more light per Watt.

Turn lights off when not in use.

Bullet style lights pull little power and concentrate light where needed.

Avoid AC lights, which require an inverter to turn on.

Skylights provide lots of light.

Large windows brighten a room.

That’s Entertainment!

Turn the antenna booster off when not in use.

Use a smaller TV to conserve power.

Turn the TV brightness down to conserve power.

Some radios pull power constantly. Install a switch to cut the power.

Laptop computers use less energy than desktop computers. Laptops also have their own batteries to use when you are in a high conservation mode.

Buy appliances based on their energy consumption.

Watch local TV instead of satellite TV. This means only your TV is drawing power instead of both the TV and satellite receiver.

Free Power From the Sun

If you have solar, maximize your power use while the sun is shining.

  • Monitor panels, such as an E-Meter or Link 1000, allow you to monitor amps in and out, amp-hours consumed and battery voltage.
  • You will buy more solar panels, so plan ahead before deciding where to place the first panel or two.
  • Be sure nothing shades the panels (AC, roof vents, pods, antennas, etc.) as even slight shading can shut the power production down.
  • Mount the panels so they can be tilted. This nearly doubles the power output.

Solar Panel - Click for more information.

  • Position panels so they do not shade other panels when tilted.
  • Wind generators produce a lot of power, but they are noisy and you have to like wind.
  • Solar ovens work great. They minimize heat build up inside the rig and save on propane or running the generator.

Solar Oven - Click for more information.

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