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Justin

What kind of power capability to expect?

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So my goal is to pretty much permanently live in an Ollie in a couple of years. I'll spend a week at home base so I can work and earn income, and I'll have the Ollie at a friend's place. Then I'll spend a week traveling or camping. Rinse and repeat! I plan to run primarily on solar and propane. I guess I just want to make sure I'm not overreaching when I think I'm going to be able to live fully in my trailer. So what kind of power capabilities should I expect? What kinds of appliances can I run, for how long, etc.? Thanks!

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Justin - I really don't know just how to start to answer your question.  I've been in my Elite II for as long as four weeks without plugging into shore power and the batteries never went below 95% capacity.  But, the answer to your question lies in just how YOU want to live and use the resources that are available to you.  I'd suggest that you become familiar with a little electrical knowledge in that assuming that you will have 400 amp hours of battery capacity (which equates to about 200 usable since you never want to go much less than 1/2 of your total or you'll risk damaging your batteries)  you have to manage that capacity in such a way as to not run out - so, total usable capacity minus what you use plus what you put back in via solar or generator give you what is available to you for any usage that you may desire.  And, remember that if you are not on shore power and not running a generator (of sufficient size) you can not use you air conditioner.

 

Hope this gives you a start - Bill

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2017 Ford F150 Lariat 3.5EB FX4 Max Towing 2016 Oliver Elite II - Hull #117 "Twist"

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Justin take a look at this post, which has a brief discussion on how we determined our battery and solar needs.  If the 70-80Ah number I mentioned there for average use doesn't seem to apply to you, then you'll need to calculate for yourself your battery and solar needs.

 

To do that, you should start with an idea of how much electricity you think you need per day, in amp hours (Ah).   You can research power requirements for what you'll be using, or purchase an inexpensive watt meter off of Amazon to see exactly what you use.  Double that number to account for cloudy days, miscalculation, heavy use days, etc.  Then size the battery bank to give you that much useable Ah, which as Bill said is 50% of the total Ah for standard batteries, or 80% for lithium (LiFePo).  Then size your solar array to the battery bank per the rules of thumb given in that post.  Of course, you can work backwards to decide if the standard Oliver kit works for you.  Keep in mind that the larger array that's discussed in that thread isn't being offered at this time by Oliver, but you could add the extra panels yourself.

 

And there are always generators...

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Snowball • 256 • 2018 Ford Raptor

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Very helpful information, thank you both! A bit overwhelming, though. The only thing I know for sure is that my laptop, which I'd use anywhere between 3 and 5 hours a day, is 200W. Is there a place I can find information about exactly how much energy the appliances in the Ollie consume (microwave, fridge, using the stove once or twice a day, LED lighting, etc.) so I can add that to my laptop wattage and try to figure out how many AH I'd need? Under specifications, the upgraded Ollie battery is 450AH which would mean 225AH usable. Plus solar, which I am hoping there will be a 640W option as mentioned in the linked post by the time I am able to get a trailer. Plus propane. Does any electricity run on propane or only certain things? And how could I calculate how much propane I'd use/need? Am I unable to use the A/C due to power consumption issues, or does it have to do with the build of an Oliver trailer? And I don't know much about generators - do they hook up to the truck I'd be using, or how does that work? And are there such things as quiet ones or are they all loud? Regarding shore power - do regular homes (like my friend's home I'd be camping at during the workweek) have connections or are they special connections only found at RV sites?

 

I very much appreciate any answers, guidances, tips, etc.! This is all new to me, but I'm trying to make sure living full time in an Oliver trailer isn't some pipe dream that I've been dreaming for almost a year now. :P This whole "accumulate loads of crap and move into a bigger house and keep running the rat race" nonsense is getting to me, and I'm only 26! As a massage therapist I have lots of work schedule flexibility for this kind of lifestyle, and I really want to live small, low-ish impact, and see lots of places, at least in North America.

 

My energy goal is this: Cook once or twice a day, have a fridge, use a microwave once or twice a day, run at least a lukewarm shower daily that I turn off during lathering, have a reading nightlight, and be able to still play games on my laptop since I'm a gamer. And write on it, since I am a writer. Have reasonable A/C in the summer and reasonable heat in the winter.

 

And as a side note, I plan on trying to use some wind power (I've seen some cool things that attach to the top of the trailer when camped) in addition to solar, propane, and maybe a generator.

 

EDIT: I just realized this may should have been placed in General. I didn't see that forum earlier, and posted this under Boondocking since I would like to live without connecting to shore power. Sorry if this is posted in the wrong spot! :)

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I'd say you're in the right spot.

You could pay to have a suitable outlet installed for your trailer, and not worry too much about the power. It would be a useful exercise to estimate your consumption, so you could reimburse your friend properly. Unless you're in a climate zone where you need ac or electric heat, you won't use much. Especially if you install solar, and use that source first.

You will also need a place to dump grey and black water. We do this at home in a sewer clean out.

Wind generators can be very noisy. Solar is silent. What's your climate zone?

Frankly, kudos on building a minimalist lifestyle. Check out the blog of technomadia. They worked out of an Oliver for several years. Now they travel and work via vintage bus and boat. They're very interesting, smart young people, who have made the minimal lifestyle work for over a decade.

Sherry

 

 

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2008 Ram 1500 4 × 4

2008 Oliver Elite, Hull #12
 

 

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Justin - Looks like you have got a bit of a learning curve thing going on here.  The whole deal really isn't that difficult, but, it would be best to try to take it one step at a time and understand just how the various systems in your camper work - separately and together.

 

I'll try taking a stab at answering some of your questions above.

 

1.  the 450 ah batter(ies) that you mention are really four Trojan T-105's.  These are lead acid batteries.  I mention this just so you don't get confused with either the standard batteries that come with an Oliver or with the "AGM" batteries that have 400ah.

 

2. I would not place a strong bet on the 640W option but you could always add "portable" solar panels if you needed them.

 

3.  Propane - your fridge, cook stove, water heater and furnace all can run on propane.  With the standard two 20 pound propane tanks on my Oliver I can go as long as just about two months running the fridge, cooking meals, and heating water for showers on a single tank.  Be a bit careful with this information in that I do run the fridge virtually all the time on propane, BUT, I use very little heating water for showers (I use a sun shower most of the time) and almost never use the furnace.

 

4.  A/C - Simply put - even with the four batteries there is simply not enough power to run your a/c.  Of course you could always add more batteries, but where would you store them and batteries are very heavy to be hauling around.  The problem really circles back to how much energy do you have and how much energy are you using.  An A/C uses way too much energy for typical camper batteries to support.  Therefore, you either need what is called "shore" power (regular electricity like you use in your house) or "generated" power using a generator.  There are some fairly quiet generators on the market and virtually any generator can be made to plug directly into your camper just like one does with regular "shore" power.

 

5.  Electrical power (shore power) - yes, assuming that there is an available outlet, you can plug directly into your friend's house.  The only "problem" here is that most campers use what is called 30 amp service and have a 30 amp service electric cord and plug.  Most of the circuits on most homes are wired for 15 to 20 amp connections - therefore, any single line (circuit) from the house will not supply enough power for you to use ALL of the things inside the camper that you might want to use (say, both the a/c and the microwave) and the design of the plug will not match.  While you can easily get around the design of the plug (adapters are sold for this purpose), you can not get around the power issue without tripping circuit breakers, blowing fuses, or simply reducing the amount of power you use at any given moment.

 

6.  Wind power is a great idea, but, there are reasons why one does not see more of this in use on campers - noise, lack of wind, size of equipment, weight of equipment, etc.

 

Hope this gives you a start on your camper education road.  However, only you can get the information you need regarding how much power you will use.  Again, it appears to me that one of the first things you should do is educate yourself on a bit of electrical knowledge - the relationship between amps, watts, volts, etc.

 

Good luck!

 

Bill

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2017 Ford F150 Lariat 3.5EB FX4 Max Towing 2016 Oliver Elite II - Hull #117 "Twist"

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I'll second Sherry's advice to take a look at Technomadia's website.  The system that we're retrofitting is largely influenced by their recommendations.

 

Computer aside, it sounds like your usage is fairly normal.  I would get a watt meter like this one and measure your laptop's consumption over the course of a week or two.  Then add that number to the 70-80Ah average and see where that puts you.  200W is 16.7 amps on 12 volts (V x A = W).  That seems very high, so its normal draw is probably well below that.  Maybe I'm misinterpreting what you said.  I have written in my notes that a typical laptop will take ~10Ah to recharge from zero, though I don't remember where I got that info.  edit: even that number is high - I just checked and a new 15" MacBook Pro would need 6.3Ah to recharge from zero.

 

AC is out of the question without a generator except for short periods, and even then not that often unless you get some lithium batteries.  Lead acid batteries don't like heavy draws like that.  You can do it on occasion, but when you do you will get far fewer Ah out of them for that charge cycle, and if you do it often you will shorten the life of the batteries.

 

Like Bill said, if you're planning on borrowing electricity from a friend's house, don't plan on anything more than a 15A circuit.  That's 1800W so you will have to keep your usage below that point - probably well below that, since there will surely be things inside the house running off that circuit as well.  You would definitely need to buy the soft-start option for your AC unit, and you'd probably be on the verge of tripping their breaker anyway.  The ultimate solution to that is to get a hybrid inverter/charger that has a power assist feature, allowing it to draw both from batteries and shore power at the same time.  With that, you can limit the amps that the charger is allowed to draw from your shore connection.  You'll find a good discussion of that at Technomadia.  BTW, to connect at your friend's house, you just use a simple adapter on your trailer outlet that will plug into a standard extension cord.

 

I know that it all seems confusing at first, but there's really nothing that's inherently difficult about it.  Over time, you'll learn the lingo and the basic principals, and after that it's all pretty simple.

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Snowball • 256 • 2018 Ford Raptor

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I agree with others that Justin should check out Technomadia. I particularly recommend their post on Conducting an Energy Audit.

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David Stillman, Salt Lake City, Utah

2016 Oliver Elite II  Hull 164    |    2017 Audi Q7 tow vehicle. 

Travel and Photography Blog: http://davidstravels.net

 

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BTW, our local library has a lending program on overland's recommended killawatt. Yours might, too.its a great way to track your useage, one device at a time.

We retrofitted a 30 amp plug in our garage wall for the trailer in our old house, but, we had space in the box for it. In the new house, it was part of the plan, along with a sewer clean out by its parking place.

Good luck with your research. The Oliver, like many small trailers, is a true tiny house on wheels. You can learn a lot from tiny house blogs, too, though most of them are far less portable, and often more expensive, than an Oliver.

Sherry

 

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2008 Ram 1500 4 × 4

2008 Oliver Elite, Hull #12
 

 

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