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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Stretch your watts and amps

Electricity. In this modern age, we take it for granted. Plug in an appliance and turn it on. What could be simpler. But when you take up boondocking, electricity is more like opening the spigot of a water jug. When it all flows out there is no more, and if you want to run something that requires electricity, you are out of luck--unless you can refill the jug.

Your rig's 12-volt electrical system is sufficient for satisfying your boondocking power needs as long as you can avoid excessive use of 120-volt current. If you have an inverter--which converts 12-volt into 120-volt--you will still have to do without your 120-volt air conditioner, toaster oven, and microwave oven, which draw considerable amperes from your batteries. Leave your electric blanket and Mr. Coffee at home for the same reason. An extra blanket and a drip coffee maker will replace these necessities of modern living.

If you and your party also observe a few basic electricity conservation rules, you will be able to get the most out of your available electricity.

• Use lights only when necessary and turn off when not being used--even for a short time.
• Do not leave the porch light on. Carry a flashlight if you are away and returning in the dark.
• Use battery operated reading lights and flashlights.
• Do not leave a radio or TV operating if no one is listening or watching.
• Avoid lengthy use of appliances that require high wattage to operate, even if they are 12-volt, like your water pump.

The amount of 12-volt electricity in your battery/ies available to operate your systems is a limiting factor for your length of stay, or the time between recharging sessions. 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.

Only about half of these amps (about 50) are actually 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 charger/converter off your generator to recharge the battery. 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 system needs rejuvenating.

Check out Bob Difley's Boondocking and Snowbird Guide eBooks at


  1. your battery is half-discharged @ 12.1 volts (full charge about 12.8) - the battery longevity suffers, if drawn lower than 50%, it's life is greatly extended by staying above 12.1 volts - great Blogsite, by the way, you do a fine job

  2. For lights in your RV use LED's. Your batteries will last a lot longer.

  3. Rvers now have the ability to add solar power as a means for charing your batteries. You may also want to consider Wind as well with the Air Breeze generator.
    Cost is still high but may be worth it in the end.
    Saves running unit and generator and using gas/diesel.