How to power your home on the road.
One of the most popular questions is how do we power all our electronics while living in our van. While there's a few ways to have a power source in your vehicle, it all boils down to your individual needs.
Auxiliary batteries - Deep cycle batteries are definitely your best bet to have a legitimate power source. There are various sizes of batteries depending on amp hours. The higher the amp hour the longer the battery will hold a charge, as well as, the longer it will take to charge. If your going to be serious about living in your vehicle, you're going to want at least one auxiliary battery.
Charging your Aux Batteries
Isolator - An isolator will charge your battery while you are driving. This is a good option for those who are continuously driving everyday. What this will do is charge your aux battery while driving after it has charged your car battery. Basically, after your car battery is charged all the alternator's power goes to waste so you may as well have that power go to your aux battery. When we first began our life on the road, we just used an isolator until we were posted up somewhere for 4 days with our Waeco fridge drawing power all day. eventually, the aux battery was drained. Depending on the size of your aux battery, it can take up to 8 hours of driving to recharge it. so, we switched to a dual system of both solar and an isolator.
Solar Power - With technology increasing every year for solar panels, they just keep getting better and better and the prices continue to drop. You can get an incredible deal on solar panels on eBay or even second hand from internet classifieds (cragislist/Gumtree/TradeMe). Also there are heaps of solar shops popping up all over the place. We got a 180W panel for $200 from Supercheap with a built-in regulator in Australia. I highly recommend solar if you are in an area that receives plenty of sun. The ideal solar set up will continuously charge your aux battery so you can basically have unlimited power. We had never once lost power with our set up of 180W Solar on a 75amp Deep Cycle battery that was charged by both the panel and the alternator via an isolator.
Power inverters - Power inverters can be a great way to power anything that isn't 12 volt. Such as, laptops or anything you would plug into a wall at home. This is a great convenience so you don't have to buy additional 12 volt chargers for all your electronics like camera battery chargers and computer chargers. I highly recommend setting up the inverter to work with your solar system. Then, you'll feel like you never left home with infinite charging.
12 volt USB ports - These days so many things charge via USB. What we do is buy an outlet for the car that plugs into the cigarette lighter and wire it straight to the aux battery. That way, you can use it when the car is off. With multiple 12 volt ports installed, we plug in the dual USB 12 volt power points; so, we can have up to 6 accessories charging at once.
Portable solar chargers - With the demand for solar increasing everyday, companies like GoalZero and Anker make incredibly convenient portable fold out solar chargers. We currently use a 20 watt Anker fold-out solar charger to charge phones/camera batters while we are posted up chillin at the beach. We even take it with us on hikes so we can always capture the moment and never worry about our devices dying. It can charge two iPhones in about 40 minutes in full sun.
Low Budget? - Another option is to go old school. Currently, as I write this from the passenger seat in the North Island of New Zealand, an aux battery, solar panel, isolator, and inverter isn't in our budget. So what we did is we went to the auto store bought a 12 volt outlet with 2 USB ports and 3 additional 12 volt ports for $25NZD. We plug in 2 additional Dual USB plugs turning the traditional 12 volt sockets into USB plugs for phones and iPads and we use our remaining 12 volt plugs for camera chargers. Although we can only charge while driving, sometimes we have to be those people at the library/cafe with the surge protector charging 5 different devices.
While powering your home on the road is totally up to your budget and needs, you do need some way to power those devices and keep the beers cold.