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Motorhomes, generators and solar panels

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GSD4ME | 13:28 Fri 06th Aug 2010 | Other Vehicles
8 Answers
Dear all,

My wife and I will be living in a mobile home for about 6 months whilst our conversion is being done.
We need to be able to boil a kettle, run lights and a laptop. (Note- there won't be a television)
WIth the motorhome only being driven every few days (just to charge the batteries 'normally') we would like a backup system to do the kettle etc.
Several people have different views on different generators (pros and cons) and some people have tried solar panels, available for motorhomes and caravans.
Q: Kettles, laptops etc work on 240v but the main system in caravans etc seem to be 12v. How does this work? Do I need to do anything to the kettle, laptop etc to make them work 'properly'?
I have read that there are some generators that provide 'clean' sine wave voltage to prevent surges and dips in the supply current but generators *can* be noisy (we live in the peace and quiet in the middle of nowehere and don't want to upset the nosey neighbours)
Anyone any definitive views on generator versus solar panel? I am looking at a 2K or 3K generator but am unsure as to what sort of and type and output for solar panels would be needed?
Sorry - not much of a physicist so not really sure about wattages, amps and voltages!

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If you want boil a kettle (of water) you can give up on the solar panel idea as if you had photovoltaic panel you wouln need enough to cover a small field (costing tens of thousand of pounds) and the sun would have to shine some of the time. Hot water solar panels cannot produce wter hotter than about 80C on the sunniest of days. You can get a quiet mains voltage generator of adequate size for several hundred pounds and surround it with straw bales as you are in the country.You could also use it to charge up your battery as some have a 12 volt output too. I would go for a gas ring, you can get little camping stoves for £20 that run of a disposable canister which are available allmost everywhere, by far the cheapest option, and you can use it for picnics and it is nearly silent.
You can run a laptop off an inverter that you can plug in a car cigar lighter. One of an adequate size for a laptop can be got for under £50 from Maplin or CPC online. Dont try running your kettle off it though 'cos you will end up with no tea and no inverter.
If you are going to locate the motorhome on your property – then your best bet would be to ensure that you can run an extension lead from the house to the motorhome. Even the largest house conversions should not need to disconnect the mains power for an extended period. 13A from a single lead should suffice for all your needs.

If the electrics from the fuse-box (consumer unit) to the house needs to be isolated (for an extended period) – then you could have an electrician hook up power from the fuse-box to your motorhome – ensuring all is safe and legit.
You can use a solar panel to keep the leisure battery(ies) topped up. If you have 2 x110 batteries you should be ok to use your tv, lappy, etc.
Anything that produces heat ie cooker, heating (water or space) or fridge should be run on gas.
However, if you are going to use the MH as a vehicle every couple of days or so you won't need a solar panel.
It is not a good idea to use ordinary vehicle starting batteries in applications where they become significantly discharged ie to less than 80% of their capacity. They are designed to give a high current for a short time and repeated deep discharge will render them useless after a dozen or so cycles. Deep discharge batteries are designed to give a relatively low current for a long time and are the kind used in mobility scooters and golf buggies. They are also better at coping with repeated discharge without losing capacity.
Lucky you GSD4ME: I'd die for a motor home. Well not actually die ...but... you know lol :-)
Generators supply electrical power by running a gas-powered engine. That transforms an onboard generator to produce electrical power. Power electrical outlets on the system permit you to connect expansion cables, electric-powered devices as well as home appliances right into it.
Disposible cannisters of gas are very expensive. If you are going to be as long as 6 months I would recommend that you buy a proper gas stove and use refillable Calor cylinders (Calor is cheaper than Camping Gaz). If you are going to use it through the winter think about propane instead of butane, as butane can get too cold to be usable if it gets frosty; propane has a lower boiling point.

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