Power Source for electronics

Livingduckman

New member
New to overlanding and looking for some recommendations for power supplies for remote working.

I want to take advantage of the few months left before I have to teach in person again, so here we go! I’d be powering a wireless hotspot, then charging other small electronics (cell phone, iPad, chromebook, speaker, etc). Looking for something independent of the car’s system, so no 12V inverter.

For reference, I‘ll be in a 2011 GMC Canyon Crew Cab with canopy and RTT, so there’s secure storage in the bed.
Thanks all.
 

Chris Boyd

Explorer
You’d probably be good with one of the battery power boxes like the jackery or eccoflow delta, or even goal zero lithium yeti marketed under the “solar generator” names. You didn’t mention if some your electronic require AC, so figuring the chrome book might. Most of these have an inverter function. Also look for ones with regulated DC output.

You can rig it to charge up from a cig jack, or better, run an Anderson plug from the main battery under the vehicle to charge from the alternator when driving or for a quick top off. Plenty of threads on Anderson plugs and appropriate fusing on here. Most of the boxes have an MPPT port which can be used for the alternator input (check the max voltage and amps input) and some have dedicated Anderson inputs.

Can also be used with solar panels, but really not too practical unless In full sun with all day to charge.

I built my own power box for my needs, but 50Ah lithium on up is good for a weekender or 100Ah or more for continuous on the road duty for charging in between points. YMMV, so size your loads and do the math for your needs.
 

Livingduckman

New member
You’d probably be good with one of the battery power boxes like the jackery or eccoflow delta, or even goal zero lithium yeti marketed under the “solar generator” names. You didn’t mention if some your electronic require AC, so figuring the chrome book might. Most of these have an inverter function. Also look for ones with regulated DC output.

You can rig it to charge up from a cig jack, or better, run an Anderson plug from the main battery under the vehicle to charge from the alternator when driving or for a quick top off. Plenty of threads on Anderson plugs and appropriate fusing on here. Most of the boxes have an MPPT port which can be used for the alternator input (check the max voltage and amps input) and some have dedicated Anderson inputs.

Can also be used with solar panels, but really not too practical unless In full sun with all day to charge.

I built my own power box for my needs, but 50Ah lithium on up is good for a weekender or 100Ah or more for continuous on the road duty for charging in between points. YMMV, so size your loads and do the math for your needs.
Appreciate the input! The jackery 160 or 240 look like they’d do the job. I’m not familiar with Anderson plugs but I’ll do some research and see what I can find. I like the idea of running it off the battery.

Probably going to stay away from solar, at least for now. Especially if the Anderson enables me to charge while driving.
Thanks!
 

Chris Boyd

Explorer
The jackery 240 looks to be pretty small at 240 WattHr or 16Ahr. I’d at least size up to twice what you’re think your needs will be to account for use and recharge rimes. The 500 is 518 WattHr or 24 AHr.

The latter is what I’d consider the minimum size for a long weekend of charging devices, especially with an inverter feeding a laptop. Bare minimum If adding a fridge to the equation.

They quote the 12v cig charging at 12hrs, so seems like they are limiting that port to 12v at 10Amps so as to not blow a vehicle factory cig port. Another reason to up the capacity, so you don’t run low. They don’t say on their technical specs what the maximum solar voltage and amperage is, so you might have to finagle a way to charge it from the alternator using a DC-DC Charger into the solar port.
 

axlesandantennas

Approved Vendor
A few considerations:

Find out how much power you actually need and then double that, at least I would. Modern electronics seem to be fairly efficient, so they likely will not need much, but I like to double, just in case.

Normally you will find the power requirements either on in the technical manual or on line for the product somewhere. Add all that up and then double it.

You should also consider power discipline. What I mean by that is that you should turn off what you are not using, not just simply putting it on standby. For instance, if you are not listening to your speaker, turn it off. Same for your computers, ipads, etc. This will save a lot of reserve power. When I'm out in the forests, I will turn my iphone on lower power mode. Things like that. It seems common sense, but it's something that I like to point out.
 

Livingduckman

New member
Turning off electronics makes sense. Something I do already out in the wilds but still true.

This will be my first time going off grid to work remote, and while I don’t need power for a full 8hrs each day, there will be times when I have my laptop and mobile hotspot + cell booster running for few hours a day. Obviously I’ll be confined to areas that have decent cell service for video meetings, but I don’t know too much about calculating power use for, for example, charging my chromebook or iPad or running those internet connections. Small devices I can handle with jump chargers or the cig lighter when I drive. Doubling is good, I agree. But I need to do some research on how to calculate power usage.
 

Herbie

Rendezvous Conspirator
hen charging other small electronics (cell phone, iPad, chromebook, speaker, etc)
Depending on the vintage of your chromebook, you may very well be able to charge this via USB-C. If it's an older one, it may have a more traditional power supply, but there may still be a DC-input charger available for it. (These are often called "travel chargers" and are intended to be used on airplanes, etc.)

You'll absolutely want to keep everything DC if you can. Mostly for efficiency's sake (using an inverter to convert DC->AC, then using a cheap switching power supply to convert it back to DC is incredibly wasteful), but also for the health of your electronics. Power supplies for laptops are notorious for being one of the devices that really want to see "pure sine" input signals - these are the things that get unhappy if you feed them a choppy sawtooth AC from a cheap inverter. Keeping your chromebook and other devices charging only on DC eliminates this issue.

I've run the house power system in my van for nearly 10 years WITHOUT any inverter. I own a small one, but I've literally never installed it in the van, because I've been able to keep everything running DC.
 

Livingduckman

New member
Depending on the vintage of your chromebook, you may very well be able to charge this via USB-C. If it's an older one, it may have a more traditional power supply, but there may still be a DC-input charger available for it. (These are often called "travel chargers" and are intended to be used on airplanes, etc.)

You'll absolutely want to keep everything DC if you can. Mostly for efficiency's sake (using an inverter to convert DC->AC, then using a cheap switching power supply to convert it back to DC is incredibly wasteful), but also for the health of your electronics. Power supplies for laptops are notorious for being one of the devices that really want to see "pure sine" input signals - these are the things that get unhappy if you feed them a choppy sawtooth AC from a cheap inverter. Keeping your chromebook and other devices charging only on DC eliminates this issue.

I've run the house power system in my van for nearly 10 years WITHOUT any inverter. I own a small one, but I've literally never installed it in the van, because I've been able to keep everything running DC.
Sorry you’re going to have to break this down. This is all new to me. So, would a supply like the Jackery 500 for example be able to charge something like my chrombook or my iPad, which have USB C, via direct DC? Or run a hotspot off the 110 plug port? Or is that the example of a cheap inverter? I see it has DC output.

How are you running the power system in your van?
 

Herbie

Rendezvous Conspirator
Yes, the Jackery 500 has DC outputs (both 12v and USB) , and an AC output.

Jackery claims the AC output is "500w Pure-Sine", however given the size and cost of the device, I would be skeptical of the quality of the AC power output if I were going to connect expensive equipment to it. Even if the waveform is good, 500w is a relatively small power output, though it might be enough for a small laptop power supply. (One of the advantages of Chromebooks over PC/MAC laptops is they often have reduced power needs.) However, plugging an AC wall-wart into the Jackery just to charge a laptop is the exact thing I was saying to avoid.

Instead:
If you have a USB-A to USB-C cable that supports higher currents, the Jackery should be able to push 2.4A from the USB ports, which is generally enough for most USB-C devices to charge, though not always super fast. (Our Samsung chromebook likes to see 3.0A for fastest charging, for example.)

The next thing you'll need to learn about is current consumption and "Amp-Hours", which is the measure of how many amps a battery type device can deliver for so many hours. The Jackery 500 is 24AH, so theoretically it could deliver a constant 1A output for 24 hours. (Or 0.5A for 48 hours, etc.) So, to know how long you can run your intended devices, you need to have some idea of how many amps they'll consume. So, on a single charge, 24AH should easily recharge any small portable device many times. OR it could charge something like your chromebook several times (probably less than 10, but I'm guessing based on my own devices). 24AH is not enough to run a fridge for even a single day. (Just trying to put a boundary on it for you.) Note that with devices that have their own batteries, how long you can run is sort of unrelated to what it takes to recharge the device, and whether those devices start charged or empty, etc.


The setup in my van is the "advanced user" version. I have a 100AH AGM house battery connected to secondary fuse panel which then lets me hard-wire a whole mess of stuff, including the fridge, the vehicle lighting, air compressor, water pump, etc. That battery can be charged via the alternator, via solar, and/or via AC shore power, and I'd need 10 minutes and a ruler to draw out the entire circuit diagram if starting from scratch.

The short answer is that I have a set of 12V "cigarette lighter" style sockets in the van that have a variety of DC chargers plugged into them for all the portable stuff like cameras, 2-way radios, and tablets/chromebooks.
 

alanymarce

Well-known member
Key question - how long are you going to be stationary?

If you're driving a few hours a day you can charge most items from the vehicle without needing an independent unit. If you're going to be several days parked in one place then you will need something.

We don't usually stay in one place more than a couple of nights, and when we do we usually have access to power (either at a powered campsite or we're in a hotel for a few days working remotely or just taking advantage of being in a city for a bit). So, we can keep iPad, phones, and other odd items charged from the vehicle (12V DC outlets) and can run the espresso maker as well.

I'm wondering why you don't want an inverter? To keep the laptop(s) and camera batteries charged we use a small simple inverter when we're away from external power.

Similarly, why no solar power? We use solar lamps for campsite light, and can power/charge the iPad and phones from a small solar charger.

We have an AimTom solar generator which can run a laptop for a normal working day without external power, and can be charged with a solar power supply. Obviously if you don't have solar power and no external power supply then this won't last more than a day.
 

Livingduckman

New member
Key question - how long are you going to be stationary?

If you're driving a few hours a day you can charge most items from the vehicle without needing an independent unit. If you're going to be several days parked in one place then you will need something.

We don't usually stay in one place more than a couple of nights, and when we do we usually have access to power (either at a powered campsite or we're in a hotel for a few days working remotely or just taking advantage of being in a city for a bit). So, we can keep iPad, phones, and other odd items charged from the vehicle (12V DC outlets) and can run the espresso maker as well.

I'm wondering why you don't want an inverter? To keep the laptop(s) and camera batteries charged we use a small simple inverter when we're away from external power.

Similarly, why no solar power? We use solar lamps for campsite light, and can power/charge the iPad and phones from a small solar charger.

We have an AimTom solar generator which can run a laptop for a normal working day without external power, and can be charged with a solar power supply. Obviously if you don't have solar power and no external power supply then this won't last more than a day.
You’re right. I’m not worried about charging my smaller electronics. Everything, even my chromebook, can be charged while I drive, or off a jump charger. I could go solar instead I suppose. Which AimTom did you buy? And you bought solar panels, right?

My main concern is having power for a mobile hotspot when I’m working and not at a powered campsite or at a hotel. Now that I’m looking, most mobile hotspots look to be USB charging too rather than a regular three-prong plug like I was thinking. Maybe a simple inverter will do. What kind of inverter do you use? And solar charger?
 

alanymarce

Well-known member
Which AimTom did you buy? And you bought solar panels, right?
What kind of inverter do you use? And solar charger?
We have the SPS-155 AimTom. We've held off buying another solar charger and will research this further - it could be a folding multi-panel unit, or perhaps a fixed unit on the roof, however we're redesigning the roof rack and haven't a final design so this will affect the solar panel decision.

The inverter is a Steren INV-125 - works fine for charging the laptop and camera batteries.

We currently have a small GRDE panel (10,000 mAh) and an Anker Powerport Solar as back-up units; as noted, we're planning on a more powerful one once the roof rack decision is made.
 

Mfitz

Member
You have a few things working in your favor:
You can leave each time with everything charged up.
Charge anything you need while driving, so you are arriving at your spot with everything fully charged.
Plug everything with a battery into your vehicle whenever you drive from place to place, including the Jackery. Every little bit of charge helps.

I think you will find you can manage electrons in vs electrons out pretty well this way. Keeping the various screens at less than full brightness helps a ton as well.

You could spend a lot of time calculating draw rates, recharge times, etc, or you could just buy a Jackery 500 and try it for a few days at home. Plug in your hotspot and see how many recharges you can get on your ipad and laptop. If it doesn't have enough juice (with a comfortable margin), return it. You have 30 days, according to Jackery.

I tried to do all the calculations for running my CPAP off a Jackery, buy never was confident I did it right. I bought a 500 and ran it at home to see what I could do. Net result is that I can run my CPAP for 4-5 nights without humidification, problem solved. I have solar on my trailer, but for quick and easy travel out of my F150, the Jackery does it fine. No need to invest in solar for your roof and start running wires. It will also work when we have power outages, so no more sleeping next to a running generator. Some day I'll build a proper custom LifePo suitcase, but I don't have the time right now.
 
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