By Mike Sokol – RVelectricity and the No~Shock~Zone
Brought to you by CarGenerator.com
I believe that as we move forward through the COVID-19 pandemic over the next few years (until an effective vaccine is developed and widely distributed), traditional camping as we know it is going to change radically. This prediction is based on two factors on a collision course.
#1) RV sales right now are going through the roof. The manufacturers are back in the RV building business and the RV dealers are selling them like hotcakes. The RV Industry Association reports an increase of 175% in sales at some dealerships compared to the same time last year. This is likely due to the pandemic problems associated with airline travel and cruise ship bookings.
#2) Many campgrounds have not fully opened to the public due to the pandemic, and many may close forever due to the loss of funds this season. And I don’t see a lot of new campgrounds being built right now simply because the capital investment is far too great for the returns.
You don’t have to be Carnac the Magnificent to predict there will be a shortage of viable camping spots over the next few seasons. Many of my readers already report that the halcyon days of the early 2000s, when you could find a great camping spot on a whim, are largely gone. You’re reporting the need to book a great campground spot a year in advance! Yikes!!!
NEW! 2020 edition is here!
Learn what’s along the Interstate
Never take a wrong exit off an Interstate. The brand-new 2020 Next Exit lists every exit along every Interstate and lists what you’ll find: gas stations (including those with diesel), campgrounds, truck stops, casinos, retail stores (by name), malls, factory outlets, drug stores, hospitals, rest areas & more. Very helpful even if you have a GPS. Learn more or order.
What’s a family with a camper to do? Well, I think it’s time to seriously look at boondocking as the next big camping thing. While other writers are more equipped to discuss the water and sewage issues, and nobody ever accused me of being a master chef in a tiny RV kitchen, I am well versed in all things electrical, which we’ll discuss here.
Unlike my first boondocking days in a Cox pop-up camper in the ‘60s, when the only things electrical were the batteries in my portable AM radio, most everyone needs some kind of power for camping. And with that fact the need for a generator of some sort rears its ugly head.
If you already have a generator in your coach, or take along a portable generator of some kind for your 5th wheel or tag trailer, then perhaps you’re already set for boondocking. However, if you’re trying to get by with batteries alone, or solar panels and a bank of house batteries and you’ve occasionally run out of power, then the rest of this first boondocking article is for you.
In Boondocking parts 2 through 4 we’ll also explore the use of a Danfoss 12-volt DC refrigerator in place of a propane or residential unit, how to run your air conditioner from house batteries for small lengths of time for a sleepy-time cool down, DC to DC charging of your towable’s house batteries while driving to your next camping spot, and solar panel basics with how to calculate charging times and battery capacity of flooded cell, AGM and lithium technologies.
All four of these boondocking articles are sponsored by CarGenerator™, the makers of the backup generator solution that doesn’t need a separate gasoline engine and fuel tank. It connects directly to your vehicle’s charging system to provide up to 1,000 watts of 120-volt pure sine wave power that can be tucked away in your RV storage compartment for years if need be, but ready to use in minutes to charge your house batteries, run your microwave oven or even provide backup power for your RV or home refrigerator in the event of lost grid power from a hurricane, tornado or wildfires. I tend to plan for the worst and hope for the best.
Part I: What is a CarGenerator™ and why is it useful for boondocking?
CarGenerator™ is essentially the final output portion of an inverter generator. As you’re probably aware, all inverter generators have four major parts: A tank to store gasoline, an engine to convert the gasoline into rotary power, and alternator to change that rotary power into 12-volts DC, and an inverter to convert the 12-volts DC into 120-volts AC of high quality.
CarGenerator™ relies on the fact that your car or truck has the first three parts of this. That is, you have a large fuel tank in your vehicle, there’s obviously an engine that can makes hundreds of horsepower, and it includes an alternator that can make 100 to 200 amps of 12-volt DC power. The only thing missing is the final DC to AC inverter with a way to connect it, and most importantly a weatherproof housing to protect it from the elements.
CarGenerator™ comes in a number of sizes (wattages), but I think the 1,000 watt version is most usable for many readers. As you can see from the picture, you can connect it to your car battery with large alligator clips (optional 30-amp outlet shown), or see the picture below for the optional battery quick-disconnect that allows you to hook it up to your vehicle’s electrical system in seconds. Then just plug in your shore power cord to charge the RV batteries at full speed (generally however fast you charged your batteries on shore or generator power), and it can easily provide enough extra power for your microwave, induction cooktop or coffeemaker. However, this is not enough power to run your rooftop air conditioner full time, although it can certainly recharge your lithium batteries quickly if that’s your intent.
While that will indeed draw around 70 or 80 amps from your car’s alternator, most vehicles will have little trouble outputting that amount of power even at engine idle. And that 1,000 watts of power can do a lot of things for you. For example, the latest version of CarGenerator has an optional TT-30 outlet in the picture above that allows you to plug your RV’s 30 amp shore power cord directly into it. Just remember you only have 1,000 wats of power to work with.
Also note that it’s built into a 11-pound weather resistant housing that’s easy to lift out of your storage bin and hang on the front grill of your parked car, there’s no gasoline involved so you don’t have to haul around a smelly gas can, and it requires zero maintenance unlike all portable generators that should be run at least every few months so you’re sure they’ll start when you need them. As long as you have gas in the tank of your vehicle and the engine starts, CarGenerator™ will make 1,000 watts of pure sine wave power for your RV’s electrical system. And if you’re a frequent user of CarGenerator™ there’s an optional quick disconnect plug available).
CarGenerator™ Facts and Fiction
1. No, CarGenerator™ does not use a lot of gasoline. In fact, it uses about the same amount of gasoline per hour as a portable inverter generator.
2. Yes, CarGenerator™ is as quiet as any inverter generator. I’ve only done casual testing so far, but it appears that a normal vehicle at idle is quieter than any of my Honda inverter generators. I’ll publish a full study on this later.
3. No, CarGenerator™ is not a good choice or substitute for a portable dedicated generator if you want to run your RV air conditioner continuously. To do so would require the 2,000-watt version of CarGenerator, a heavy-duty alternator in your car, and a high-idle controller. However, if you have a pair of lithium batteries and a 2,000-watt inverter in your RV, you just might be able to run your air conditioner for a few hours in the evening to cool down your bedroom before going to sleep, and then use CarGenerator to recharge your house batteries in an hour or two of running. Watch for another report on this later.
Read more or purchase a CarGenerator™ HERE.
Brought to you by CarGenerator.com
Let’s play safe out there….
Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 50+ years in the industry. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at Amazon.com. For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.
For information on how to support RVelectricity and No~Shock~Zone articles, seminars and videos, please click the I Like Mike Campaign.