Can I use my CPAP machine when I boondock? Yes, here’s how

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By Nanci Dixon
One of RV Travel’s past surveys told us that 61 percent of readers use, or their partner uses, a CPAP machine. If you’re one of those people and struggle with where to keep your machine at night or while in transit, or don’t know how to use your machine when you boondock, this is for you.

We needed a small stand to put my husband’s CPAP machine on in our motorhome and an easy way to transport it while we traveled. We didn’t want to have to take the machine apart every night or have to empty out the water chamber.

We found a simple wooden box that fit the small sliver of space next to the bed to put it on at night, sort of like a table. Then, while in transit, we can fit the machine inside the sturdy box for storage.

When we wanted to boondock, we needed to find a way to run his CPAP machine all night. We found a great lithium battery pack specifically suggested for CPAP machines. The dual batteries provide enough power for several nights – as long as we’re using it without the heated water setting. The batteries are rechargeable with 120-volt power, which works perfectly with our solar panels recharging our house batteries during the day. It can be recharged by 12-volt power by running a car or RV engine. The battery kit also has some handy adapters to run small appliances, charge phones or other devices.

##RVT986

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Frank R
3 months ago

I keep one of my older CPAP’s in the motorhome. I was able to find the 12VDC power adapter on Amazon. I plug into the motorhome batteries. An inverter plugged into the house batteries is just another source of power loss. I bought a long DC power extension cord to get to the night stand area. If I am boon docking for an extended period of time, I turn off the humidifier.

Solar Steve
3 months ago

Many CPAP machines, like one my wife uses, have a power supply in the cord that plug into 120 volt AC but gives the machine 12 volt DC ro run on, In that case it will run on your RV battery system, same as your lights run on, if you make a cord to directly connect to a 12 volt outlet, and it uses far less power than on AC or than charging separate batteries. But some accessories like air drier attachments will need too much power. But the CPAP itself does not use too much. Warning — check the label on your CPAP power cord to see that it does use 12 volts, some use 24 volts. And be darn sure you get the DC + and- polarity correct, just like the power supply cord that came with it.

Bagman
3 months ago

I learned to shutoff the heater in the CPAP machine. You’ll wake up a little drier (I keep a nasal saline solution nearby) but your CPAP will use a lot less power. I even bought a adapter that plugs in the machine instead of a water tub.

billh42
3 months ago

Most CPAP machines have a 12 VDC power cord as an accessory. You probably won’t be able to purchase it from your regular CPAP supplies dealer. Medicare won’t cover this accessory so they don’t want to stock them. Go to your CPAP manufacturers website for information. They will either sell it to you direct or tell you where you can buy it. It’s then an easy job to install a 12 VDC accessory plug nearby and you will be set to go without having to mess with extra batteries and power hungry inverters.

Tom R
3 months ago

Your husband is lucky to have a knowledgable woman like you who cares. Mine says do it your self and I’m not cooking tonight

Richard Mazurek
3 months ago

I have the same CPAP Machine and have been using a goal Zero battery for a few years. I have since added a Solar charger and back up charger to connect to my vehicle to charge my Goal Zero. In seven years I have only missed one night.

Wolfe
3 months ago

The giant lipo battery is ridiculous when you’re sitting on a couple thousand watt hours of house battery. If still concerned for capacity, that $400 lipo would buy FOUR more house batteries.

The lack of cigarette lighters is a problem but easily fixed by tapping a light circuit as shown here:

https://youtu.be/FxfsOv693pI

Thin walls may not have room for flush lighter ports …but surface mount go anywhere.

Wolfe
8 days ago
Reply to  Wolfe

And then, if you’re cursed with the very popular Airsense machines (great machine, but 24V…), you can make your own 24V adapter cord for $6-7. There is more to it than just changing the voltage, but it’s not hard to make from a couple modules if you’ve ever soldered anything:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=br4Eme-TCqI

Gene Bjerke
3 months ago

I take my regular CPAP from home. At night it sits on the counter at the foot of the bed; the hose is long enough to reach my head at the other end of the bed. During the day it sits on he floor under a seat. If we are dry camping it will run all night plugged into the 110V outlet fed by the inverter. I keep the humidity at 1, which goes through 2/3 of the water every night. We are basically road-trippers rather than boondockers, so having enough battery power has not been a problem,

Steve C
3 months ago

All of the discussions have been for 12VDC Cpap machines. I have a small travel-sized Cpap that I travel with both in my RV and also when I travel to other countries. My machine runs on 28VDC, so just plugging it into a 12Volt battery does not work. Also, to take an Li battery onto an airliner, they must be below the 100 amp-hour size. I like to travel with my Cpap running on a battery because I’m often in countries where the power can go out at any time, especially a night.
I solved all the problems by buying the right sized 12V Li battery, a small 150 Watt inverter (that changes 12VDC to 120VAC) Then I plug my Cpap into it. My Cpap has the little black box that changes 120VAC to 28VDC. Bingo, problem solved. I use it every night, as it only draws the battery down to 55% of full charge I then charge it back up during the daytime. It’s saved my bacon many times.

Steve C
3 months ago
Reply to  Steve C

Also, a short funny workaround story: On a long 14-hour flight to Hong Kong one time, I had the unfortunate experience of sitting next to a gentleman that had the worst body order you could imagine. I couldn’t think of how I was going to arrive alive after smelling him for 14 hours, so I set up my Cpap machine, set it on the floor where it could suck in good air, and wore my nose mask during the whole flight breathing non-body-order air! Another problem solved.

Mike Gaskins
3 months ago

Both my wife and I use CPAPs and prefer Boondocking. After trial and error, I think we have arrived at the solution “for our needs”. Each machine draws about 85 watts with heated chambers and hoses. Overnight we seemed to use about 100 amps of battery.
I installed 400 watts of solar panels to charge two 6v golf cart batteries (230 amps) powering a 3000amp Chinese inverter running a dedicated CPAP outlet. The Renogy controller would tell me we were down to 55-65% capacity overnight. On a sunny morning we were back to 100% by 0900 and by noon on cloudy mornings or shady campgrounds.
we remained frugal with other power usages.
But being a guy I wanted more and recently installed two 100amp LiFePO4 Renogy batteries which essentially doubles my useable power.
Now we can run the CPAPs and both fore and aft roof fans for ventilation on hot nights without worrying about power. This is what works for us.

Roy Christensen
3 months ago

I have purchased batteries specifically to run two c-pap machines while not connected to shore power. I have two 6 volt batteries installed to run the class c motorhome. However, the two c-paps use a good portion of their stored energy overnight. If we want to watch TV, use the water pump, run some lights and also run the propane furnace, then we might have a problem. So I bought the lithium batteries for the c-paps. I can also charge two iPhones and iPads using these batteries. As a bonus, when we have lost power at home due to storms, I was able to easily run the c-paps at night. The batteries I bought are very powerful (and expensive) and can run a c-pap for up to 6 days without using the heated hose or humidifier. I can charge them using my two solar panels or top them off during generator use during the daytime. To me it is worth it not to worry about running down the two 6 volt house batteries during the night.

Scott R. Ellis
3 months ago

The “special CPAP batteries” aren’t special in any way except for the price. Power cords are available for every common CPAP machine that allow you to plug it directly into any standard 12-volt “power point” (ie: cigarette lighter socket) and it then runs off of your house batteries–which are much more capable than the tiny specialty CPAP batteries. Depending upon the capacity of your house batteries, you may still want to turn the CPAP’s hose heater off, but other than that, there is simply no great mystery or issue here. Order the 12v adapter and plug it in.

Leanne
3 months ago
Reply to  Scott R. Ellis

My husband has used a cpap for 25 years. We have bought all types of inverters we hoped would allow him to run the machine off of the RV plugs, lighter, etc. He’s had no luck until using the setup the author recommended.

Ken Andrews
3 months ago

I noticed on our CPAC that the cord that goes from the 110 plug to the machine has a unit that converts the A/C to D.C. so we asked the provider for a automobile conversion kit and had i had a
12 volt socket installed near the bed. Then camper’s house battery’s run the CPAC all night. I was surprised the kit to run the DC powered CPAC was over $100. I was earlier disappointed that the 2020 Solitude did not have any 12 volt sockets.

Tommy Molnar
3 months ago
Reply to  Ken Andrews

While I don’t use a CPAP, I have been disappointed in new and newer trailers getting away from 12v outlets and putting in USB ports instead. Our 2012 TT has two (count ’em – TWO!) 12v plugs. One is near where you would put a TV in the bedroom (we don’t have one) and the other is in the living area where the TV was mounted – and IT was a 120v a/c unit, Go figure.

Scott R. Ellis
3 months ago
Reply to  Ken Andrews

Lack of 12v outlets is frustrating, but any RV has 12v wiring to every light fixture. It’s a pretty minor DIY task to tap into some of that wiring and install a plug.

Tommy Molnar
3 months ago
Reply to  Scott R. Ellis

I agree, except that with the foam insulation it’s not as easy to route wires to where you want them to go. Then there’s the issue of ‘carving out’ a spot IN that insulation to insert the plug.

Drew
3 months ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

Tommy,

In most rigs there are 12v lights- usually at each side of the bed or close by. Then it’s just a matter of intercepting the wires and putting in the outlet- not exactly easy but most diy’ers could probably do it.