You don’t need electric hook-up to enjoy a good holiday. In fact, equipping your van to survive without it gives you greater freedom and access to ‘hideaway’ sites.
Get a good leisure battery
With no mains, it’s essential to have a good battery. Car batteries are not really suitable, so choose a good leisure battery. Most are rated at 85 Amps per hour (Ah), but you’d be better with a 120Ah version. This will add another 420 Watt hours (Wh) to your load – another six hours of TV time.
Keeping your battery charged
There are four main ways to keep your battery charged:
Many modern generators are almost silent, but all produce some fumes. High fuel costs mean that they can be dear to run, and they’re all expensive to buy, but they do provide reliable power for as long as they have fuel. Although many are rated at 1600-2000W, we’d recommend a 400W rating to get an optimum output.
2. Fuel Cells
These are increasingly common, especially in motorhomes. A fuel cell cartridge will cost around £22 and last, at full running, for about seven and a half days. EFOY is the main manufacturer – see the website www.efoy.de. A 600W model costs £1499 plus £100 for fitting.
3. Solar panels
These are a good, ‘green’, free way of topping up your battery. How much power you get depends on the size and type of panel – the more you spend, the more you get.
The main problem with solar panels is that the amount of power you can use in a day depends on the level of sunlight. On average, the UK gets about three hours’ uninterrupted sunshine a day, so a 100W panel will generate 300W. If you tour the UK during spring and autumn, or abroad, solar power is useful.
4. Engine charging
For motorhomes, a battery-to-battery charger is an option. It works by allowing the engine battery to charge up to its required voltage, and then takes power from there to the leisure battery (while the alternator keeps the engine battery topped up).
Mains power away from hook-up points
To use mains power when there’s no hook-up, you’ll need an inverter. Essentially, these convert 12V DC (direct current) battery power to 240V AC (alternating current) mains power.
All inverters have a maximum output, so you can’t power items that use more Watts than this output. Good examples are the 75W Ring MP75 Mininverter (£20, 0113 213 7390, www.ringautomotive.co.uk) and the 150W Laser 4190 (£43, 01926 815 000, www.lasertools.co.uk).
There are many other good, affordable examples out there, too.