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Friday, March 23, 2007 by Herb
Dry Camping Power Sources
We like to dry camp as much as possible - or rather, it seems that most of the best, scenic, and isolated camping spots do not have hookups. As such, and with the preponderance of low power stuff (video and still cameras, cell phones, laptop PCs, PS2, GPS, etc) a steady supply of both 12v and 120v at low power levels is greatly appreciated.
Statpower Portawatz 300 Watt Inverters
I opted for 2 smallish inverters from Statpower. I got them refurbished from the manufacturer in 2000 when I learned that they generated a more reasonable approximation of a 120v sine wave than some of the cheaper sets which look more like square waves. (I now think they may have been taken over and possibly cheapened somewhat, so make sure that whatever you get will work with your loads.)
One inverter is mounted towards the front of the right side in the over dinette storage compartment. It has a regular house switch controlling two 120v outlets. (Purists might complain about the use of a 120v AC switch to control 12v of DC, but I've not noticed any problems to date)
There is also an extra 12v receptacle mounted there to provide the GPS with its power. The invertered AC outlets are almost always in use powering the laptop, and/or someone's battery charger for camera or cell phone. I cut off the inverters 12v cigarette lighter adapter, and wired it directly to the 12v power line with an appropriate fuse on the positive voltage side.
Another inverter lives in the rear compartment, powered from the 12v receptacle that also powers the TV. This one powers the PS2 game, as well as small battery chargers. I should probably wire this directly to the 12 volt power line too, as the 12v receptacle has limited current capacity, (probably on the order of 150 watts max)
The use of two smaller inverters avoids complicated wiring to get power to the front and rear of the coach, as well as providing for a measure of redundancy. Should one unit go belly-up, we still have the second as a spare.
Extra 12v Cigarette Lighter Adaptor
One of the options that we ordered with the coach was an additional 12v Cigarette Lighter Adaptor above the dinette table. The intent was to power the laptop from this connection, but we never really wound up using it in that mode. The wiring would dangle in front of the window, and it wasn't really a clean appearance.
However, I'm glad I requested the adaptor because Lazy Daze did a fantastic job of running the high gage 12 volt wiring directly from the battery to the outlet, so that I could later install the inverter on the left inside panel of the overhead compartment.