12V Guru – RV energy saving tips

Question to 12V Guru

How to manage your usage of power in a caravan without extra batteries, storage, solar panels and so on?  We have a 16ft pop-top van that suits our needs very well and we are not inclined to get a larger rig just because it seems very fashionable. But we are always learning and sometimes we do like to go ‘off-grid’ and not stay in powered parks. Looking forward to hearing your tips.

Stan Wallace, via email

12V Guru answers:

Hi Stan, Glad to hear that you and the wife are getting off the beaten track and exploring some of the quieter and more unique campsites.  I agree you don’t need to be acting as a transport company and moving solar panels, batteries etc all around from campsite to campsite.  Carrying excessive 12V gear is a waste of time and space and is additional weight that must be towed and catered for in fuel costs.

As you point out, managing the power usage is one of the keys to keeping the battery and solar panel cartage to a minimum.  A 16ft pop-top should be easily powered from 100Ahr battery and a good set of 100+ Watt panels (prefer moveable folding solar ones). Just use these three RV energy saving tips:

Energy Saving Tip #1 – Change your lights

I would suggest targeting lighting first.  Firstly, make sure that the RV only has LED lights instead of incandescent bulbs as this can save between 1 to 1.5Ah per globe. This adds over the period of one evening. Newer style vans should have this covered but I have seen many older vans still with older incandescent globes. Six of these globes will draw extra 6Ah minimum. Over four hours of the evening they could drain 24A, which is around 25% of your battery. 

Secondly, use zoned lighting if possible.  This enables you to only turn on the lights that you really need for the area of the RV you are using.

Thirdly, I recommend using rechargeable mobile lighting (that is not charged from the batteries but from solar during the day) for around the table outside in the evening instead of lights plugged to 12V DC outputs on the exterior of the RV.

Energy Saving Tip #2 – Pack your fridge

I recommend the 3-way gas/AC/DC fridges.  The LPG (gas) always gets the fridge colder and faster. Remember to cool the fridge first before you leave for a couple of days on AC and pack the fridge tight before leaving.  A full fridge will stay cooler longer as less air of room temperature is exchanged when the door is opened – same goes for the freezer. 

We see the 2-way fridges are becoming popular however these are well known for using between 3-5Ahr or more if the weather is hot and there is regular visitation for more beers.

Energy Saving Tip #3 – Save RV power when cooking

Some RVs have electric cooking facilities, mainly in the form of induction cook tops for 1-2 elements. Whilst they are very efficient in their transfer of heat, they do of course use power (mostly AC through an inverter). Microwaves, coffee machines, kettles or toasters also drain a lot of battery power.  My recommendation is a good BBQ (gas or woodfire) outdoor kitchen.

Plan ahead with your meals so no need to defrost in a microwave. Use a plunger for coffee, boil water on outdoor gas burner. Finally, get back to basics and cook your toast with a toasting fork over the fire. It’s all part of the experience.  If you are still looking for the coffee fix head into the town and support the bush and explore some great cafes and coffee houses.

Hope these three energy saving tips will help you camp off-grid more often!

Of course one of the best ways to monitor your power usage is to grab hold of a power management system such as the BMPRO BatteryPlusP35 or J35 ranges which has individual DC outputs to enable monitoring of each output and then make decisions around which device is consuming the batteries power.

Safe travels – 12V Guru

The article is written for Caravan World Magazine.

Like this Post? Share it!