Portable Power To Go!

Tuesday, 22 March 2011 – By Bernie

I love cooking with my 12 Volt Lunch Box Cooker, and I have killed my battery a couple of times. It is also nice to be able to sit in my van and surf the net where the seat is more comfy than Mc D’s or some other hard bench you get to sit on, if you can find a 110v Plug In. So I have set out to find an answer to my problem.

As usual, I am cruising through Wally World looking in the camping and automotive section and what do I find? A “Portable Power Plant”. Since I still do not have my solar panel installed, which it has been to cold until recently, and since I don’t have any batteries anyway, I am thinking, why bother.

Anyway, there is several different sizes to pick from, so I go with the big one with is the 1,000 version. It has a built in Air Compressor, will jump start your car, has 12 Volt power, a built in 400 Watt Invert for 110 volt power, has a light and I can charge it with 110 V outlet plug or use the 12 Volt cord and charge it from my cigarette lighter while driving down the road. Wow, what a cool deal. Check out this cute fella below.

portable_power_front
Hey, how about the back side view? Those are some serious clamps. Better not get my thumb stuck in there.

portable_power_back
According to the box, this portable power plant should power my lap top for 19.6 hours. WOW!!! What a deal. I wonder how long I can cook with this bad boy. So off I went to where I work to plug it in to charge while I take my trip down to Phoenix. When I get back, it is already showing a 100% charge. Wow, that was pretty fast. I guess it was pretty much charged before I bought it.

So off I go to plug in my lap top down by my favorite “Wi-Fi Hot Spot” for the night. What a bummer, this thing did not even last 5 hours with my little 140 watt inverter plugged in. So the next morning I head to the gym for a work out and shower and head back to work to plug it in. I let it charge again while gone, but this time the numbers are not doing what they are suppose to. It will read 48%, then goes to like 54% then to 58% and then starts over again at 48% and keeps repeating itself.

Anyway, I let it charge while I am gone as it has a good 7 or 8 hour charge. Again, I head back to my favorite “Wi-Fi Hot Spot” for the night but this time I use the built in 400 watt inverter as the power source. Geez, about 3 hours if that it is beeping at me driving me crazy. So, the next day it is back to Wally World to get rid of this “Hunk-O-Junk”.

This would have been really nice, as I could have jumped my van, which I have had to do a couple of times, had a nice carrying handle, could have powered my cooker and lap top and not sure what all. Oh well, lets see what else we can get on our shopping list at the big ole Wally World.

Here we go. Lets get this big ole bruiser that weighs a ton and I know will last a whole lot longer, and would actually work with my solar panel and charger. Here is this big ole marine battery with dual hook ups on each post with a 12v plug installed so I can plug in my cooker, or 12 v cooler or my inverter for my laptop. I can also charge this monster with the 12 volt cable by plugging in one end in my cigarette lighter and the other in the 12 volt receptical on the battery. However, just make sure you are doing this while your van is running.

My lap top should last for many days on this huge ole monster marine battery. I bought the biggest one they had, and it was only $75.00. The portable power unit above was $100.00. So, of course I have to have a battery charger, so that was another $30.00. The Marine Battery and Charger combo was only $5.00 more than the portable power plant above, plus the 12 v plug which was about $8.00, but this set up last so much longer. Actually, it will even power my portable heater you will see below.

battery_w_12v_plug
Here is that fancy dancy little battery charger. OK, I am not sure it is fancy, but the nice thing here is that the battery connection ends will not spark if they are accidentally touched together, and it will not start charging until you have the charger connections on the proper battery post. What a nice feature.

charger
OK, now that we have spent a ton at Wally World, lets head on down to the “Zone”. “Auto Zone” that is. Yep, lets make a list and check it twice, sure don’t need to buy something that I don’t need, as I don’t have much of a budget since I bought the above items. Oh, also got hit with a $15.00 battery core fee. I have some cores at home, but I don’t have one here, so I am still out that $15.00.

OK, first thing on the list is some huge wires. I buy 2 wires that are 40′” long. I wanted a red and black, but no luck on the red, so I starting looking for some red tape. Hum, not exactly what I wanted, but I found some reflective red tape that will do just fine.

Big Black Wires and Red Tape.

2_black_wires red_tape
I figured I did not need to wrap the whole wire with the red tape, so I just cut off a section and placed it on the end that hooks to the battery so I don’t get the 2 black wires reversed going to the Inverter. Man, that could be a costly mistake!

 

taped_wire_end
Once I get that all figured out, then it is time to get the cables all hooked up and lets get ready to give the inverter a test. I have had this inverter for about 11 years or so, and had never hooked it up. Sure would have been a bummer if it did not work.

No problem, once I get the wires hooked up, I get out my handy dandy little checker I bought at Wally World. This is used for 110v electricity and it will let you know if there is a wire backwards or not properly connected or grounded. Hey, what do ya know, this whole test passed with flying colors the first time out. Yehaaaawwww!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 2 Yellow Lights!!!!

 

battery_hooked_up
You can see in the picture below this handy dandy little creature. If you ever decide to buy a home or RV, this is a great way to test all the outlets to make sure the wiring is installed properly. The circles on the diagram shows the problem, if any. The perfect solution is to have only the 2 yellow lights light up when you do your test.

hand_held_tester
Here we are in testing mode. Yep, passed with flying colors. Now, that should have been pretty easy, as all I did was hook the red wire to the positive ends of the battery and the inverter, the same as I did the black. I did not ground the inverter to the frame of the van, so I was wondering if I was going to get a false reading for some reason.

tester_in_inverter
So lets get to our second test. The first one was with the lap top computer. It went for several days before I took the battery back in to charge. Not sure how long it will last, but I am guessing a couple of weeks non stop with out a problem. The second test I did was with my little 110V heater I bought to knock out the chill in the van in the mornings when I get up, or at night before I go to bed. I am sure this battery would last a while with a 12v heater pad or blanket as well. Oh, and it works great for the 12 Volt Cooker! No more dead van batteries.

Here is that cute little heater I bought from JC Whitney. I put my phone next to it to give you an idea of its small size. The purpose of this little guy is to be placed in your car and plugged into your home electricity about 30 minutes before you decide to get in your car in the winter time. This will warm your car up so you are not getting in on an ice cube seat and should do a really good job of defrosting your windows for you.

110v_heater
The first test run I let the heater run for about 30 minutes to knock out the chill. Wow, what a nice feeling. The second day, I only got about 10 minutes out of it before the inverter starting squealing letting me know that the battery is getting a bit on the drained side. Ya know, if I had that panel up top, I am betting that this one battery would do me pretty good since I am very conservative on my power usage.

When I bought this battery, I was thinking that I could go back and buy another one for my system and that would be an incredible start to my solar power plant. These batteries must weight at least 75 lbs, so if I got like 3 more for a total of four, that is about 300 lbs and about $300.00 plus battery core fees. Hey, not a bad deal. Hum, makes me want to go to Wally World right now! That should also give me enough power to get some serious tunes going on in there. Man, I sure need some good sound therapy!

OK, lets get back to the experiment. Here is the heater hook up to the inverter. Hey, look at that little pantry of goodies!

trial_heater_run
Well, there you have it. A very nice little 1 battery starter system that will power your lunch box cooker for some good eats, power your lap top and do minimal heating, and even jump start your van, which I did as well. Just make sure you always keep good jumper cables, as you just never know when you or your fellow traveler will need em.

With this 1 battery starter system, I am not even considering hooking up my stereo to one battery, but as I get money coming in, I can buy another battery for less than $100.00 to add to the system. I also bought a little 12 volt van system to take out all the gas vapors from inside the van when the batteries are charging.

Some day, I may just have my “Home On Wheels” all configured and figured out. Wish me luck.