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Author Topic: Van Building  (Read 2191 times)


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Van Building
« on: January 18, 2017, 02:35:50 PM »
Hello everyone,

I'm new to the van game and I'm beginning to convert my 1997 E350 Cutaway Shuttle Van into an RV. I've got all the blueprints of the architechtural design finished, next is the planning phase for what my source of energy will be, this is the area I'm only familiar with from what I've read online.

My goal is to have 1 or 2 solar panels on top of the van that are constantly charging 2-4? deep cycle batteries, however, this will not be my only source of electricity. The deep cycle batteries will only function to power small floor standing portable ac/heat unit if needed, possibly TV as well, but mainly just for lights and charging an occasional laptop or something but only while we are off grid. We also plan to have a small generator to crank if needed.

Basically, I'm wondering if anyone out there knows exactly how many deep cycle batteries I will need to run the simple function of a small ac/heat unit for multiple hours. I know it all depends on size of the AC unit etc. but I'm curious to know if anyone has had experience with running one in conjuction with deep cycle batteries. ANY info is greatly appreciated.



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Re: Van Building
« Reply #1 on: January 19, 2017, 06:45:02 AM »
Battery power, with or without solar, are not a good choice for heating, cooling, or cooking.

Kerosene or propane are the best option for heating and cooking.  For cooling you have  the choice of either shore power or a generator to run a typical A/C unit, or you can buy or build a very efficient 12 volt water or water/ice powered air cooler.  These will draw very minimal power, some no more than just a 12 volt fan by itself.

Most full timers I know have been very unhappy with solar panels, but happy with some individual solar powered items like lanterns, fans, radios, and bug zappers.  Charging your house battery(s) while driving, and then having a generator seems to be what most full timers are happiest with.  In the words of other full timers "Never be caught dead without a generator, because solar just don't cut it".

Size your battery bank to have at least a weeks worth of power between charges.  This will extend your batteries life by 7x.  Cheap junk yard batteries work just as good as expensive ones too. 

I use my single 105ah house battery for very little, charging my laptop, phone etc; my 12 volt electric blanket,  and my 12 volt air cooler.  All of the lights/lanterns I use on a regular basis are individually solar powered, or battery powered, then I have a stand alone solar powered battery charger that sits in a window and will charge AA, AAA, C, D, and maybe even 9 volt batteries.  All my lights are portable rather than built in, so I can take them to where I want the light, including outdoors.  I find head lamps to be a great option for hands free lighting too.

Too many people seem to build their systems depending too much on solar & battery power.  Personally I think building a system that is only a minor inconvenience if you have NO power, is a better choice.  For instance I have kerosene lanterns, heater, and stove, so I can heat, cook, and have lighting with no battery or other power required.  In a pinch, I can run diesel in all of these if kerosene is hard to find.  You could do it with propane too, although it is much more dangerous, costly, and it produces much more moisture, but it is still better than relying on a lot of battery powered stuff.

If you want powered refrigeration, I would recommend kerosene or propane for that as well.  Don't get sucked into one of those 12 volt compressor fridges, they're all cheap chinese junk these days and just don't last long enough to justify the price.

Holler if you need more...
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