4 Energy Alternatives That Offer Greater Travel and Exploration Opportunities November 7th, 2014 in Caravanning Tips by Danny Smith What do you do when you don’t have power hook-up facilities by which you can run the appliances in your caravan or motorhome? Well, there isn’t much to do if you have not taken the necessary steps to prepare for it. Moreover, you would be confined to limited travelling and exploration as the energy sources in the caravan would not be able to fulfil lengthy usage requirements. Energy alternatives are gradually gaining prominence as well as popularity among caravanners and travellers because they adhere to green standards and are easy enough to manage during a trip. The initial investment may be a little high as compared to conventional energy sources, but in the long term you would be able to see the benefits for yourself. Here are 4 energy alternatives that do not rely on fixed power supply sources such as hook-ups and they allow you to explore remote locations without worrying about the caravan running out of power. Energy Alternative #1: Leisure Batteries These batteries are capable of providing steady power over long durations and are usually coupled with solar panels for maximum benefits. The intervals between recharge for these batteries are long and this is beneficial in terms of the frequency of breaks required in a journey and the need for finding a power source to recharge the batteries. Nonetheless, these are life savers when no other energy source is within your reach. The battery life completely depends on your usage style. You need to evaluate the power requirements for all the appliances in your caravan or motorhome so that you can come up with an estimated battery life or charge interval. You should focus on minimizing consumption of energy by turning the batteries off when not in use. Remember, the leisure batteries should preferably be used for vital appliances and equipment that utilize minimal energy. By not allowing the battery to die out, you can ensure better longevity of its operational life. A good way to do this would be to maintain the battery’s charge above 50% capacity. Energy Alternative #2: LPG LPG is usually associated with cooking but it is also used quite often for heating in caravans. This is a convenient option as it usually comes in the form of propane or butane canisters. The canisters allow easy handling and storage. However, you need to be careful with its usage as excessive pressure or mishandling can cause explosions. With respect to the installation of these canisters in the caravan, you need to attach a low pressure regulator as the canisters have high internal pressure and it would not be possible for the piping system to bear such high pressure. The ideal low pressure value for Butane is 28 mbar and for Propane, the value stands at 37 mbar. You would also have to take care of ventilation. LPG being heavier than air could accumulate over the floor of the caravan (in the case of leakage) and could result in an explosion if not checked in time. Moreover, you need to understand which LPG suits your needs the most. For example, Propane is the best option (often mandatory) when travelling in freezing weather. This is due to the fact that liquid Propane (held within the canister) has a lower boiling point than Butane which allows the gas to flow out in a better manner. Butane has the advantage of being less toxic, possessing more energy per litre of fuel, and the canister comes with convenient connections that facilitate easy handling of the units. Butane is generally favoured owing to its feasibility and easy handling. You would generally find Propane in caravans that are headed off to places having cold or freezing weather. Energy Alternative #3: Generators Generators are basically machines that use fuel to generate electricity and are portable in nature. The major drawback of using generators is that they create a lot of noise and this can be a problem if the site has restrictions on the noise levels. Ideally, the noise levels created by the generator should be less than 70 db. It would be wise to hear the generator in action before you buy it. Just getting a generator isn’t enough. You need to take proper precautions for it. Let the generator warm up before connecting it to the outlets. Moreover, avoid the use of high energy appliances as the resulting spike in power could damage low voltage equipment. You should also consider getting a cover for the generator so that it doesn’t get wet. The weight of the generator also needs to be considered when purchasing one for your caravan. The overall weight can be affected by the addition of the generator. Moreover, the fuel required to run it would also add to the weight. You also have to take appropriate precautions to ensure that the fuel is carefully stored in order to prevent any dire situations. Energy Alternative #4: Solar Panels Image: www.solarcampingaustralia.com.au With solar panels, you get a lot of choice and alternatives where your purchase decision is generally influenced by your budget and the available space on your caravan for installing the panels. This may be a clean source of energy, but it does go a little heavy on your pocket. A 15W-30W panel should suffice for trips that are planned for 2-3 days. But for longer trips, you would need a 60 W panel (at least) to supply the appliances with the required energy. Now the panels themselves do not store the energy. They only convert solar energy into electrical energy and store the same in batteries. So make sure that you do not overcharge the batteries. The best way to ensure this is to use a charge controller which would not allow the battery to accept any charge that is sent beyond its storage capacity. This helps to protect the battery as well as the solar panel. An important aspect of installing solar panels is the calculation of your power consumption requirements. This is usually measured in Amp Hours. In order to calculate this, you would have to multiply the power consumption value with the number of hours of usage. This gives you the requirement. For calculating the power generation abilities of your solar panels, you need to multiply the power consumption requirements with the number of hours of day. The calculated value needs to be multiplied further with a constant (0.85) to factor in natural energy losses during the charging process. The final result is the amount of energy that would be supplied to you by the solar panel. Energy Saving Tips to Minimize Consumption Energy alternatives are good, but it is even better if you manage to reduce your consumption requirements. Avoid using high power consuming appliances and turn the batteries or other reserves off when not in use. Sometimes it is good to experience the outdoors by sleeping in small tents or sleeping bags next to a camp fire to get the warmth. These days, you get modern free standing annexes and roll out awnings for your caravans and motorhomes which provide properly enclosed spaces with the comforts of home. You just need to set it up (should take a few minutes to get it done) and you can relax in your very own personal space. What can be better than this? This is a better alternative to using central heating inside caravans or motorhomes, which just consumes more electricity. Going green would not only help you to lower your energy bills, but it would also make you a contributor towards ecological protection and sustenance. 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