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Fellow #vanlife folks ...

After reading endless articles about propane and having to vent to the outside of the van or installing a propane tank under the van, I started looking for those who decided to go with all electric appliances (110v/115v or 12v), then I ask myself what about battery life to power the appliances. I could use an induction cook-top for cooking, but the refrigerator, microwave, water heater, water pump, and washing machine would need to use electric power. Would I need extra batteries to power these appliances? Is going all electric a good idea? Is 12v better than 110v/115v?

thanks in advance for your insights! happy thanksgiving to everyone!

Randy
 

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I went back and forth on this quite a bit, from all propane to all electric and finally landed somewhere in between. The amount of battery power required to be all electric is quite high, even with induction cooking. It's not impossible, especially if you allow for alternator charging and have a beefy solar setup, but the math that I couldn't make work was really just the heating. If you have a diesel and install a furnace, this isn't a concern for you, but with my gasser there was no way to heat it effectively with electric.

In terms of footprint, the propane tank requires about the same amount of space that the extra battery would take up.

In the end, I like having propane for cooking and not having to worry about battery levels (as much)
 

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Oh, I'll add in terms of venting, I just left the van ribs exposed in the compartment where I installed the propane and they drain to the outside. I installed a propane detector in the compartment and a CO detector in the main area so I feel safe with the setup.
 

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Hi,
Here are some rough estimates for daily amp-hr use for the applicances you listed...

Full size microwave for 15 minutes (1500 watts) -- 31 amp-hrs
1800 watt induction cooktop on full for 20 min -- 50 amp-hrs
(this could be 20 minutes on full, or much longer on part way)
10 gallons water heated from 60F to 120F -- 125 amp-hrs (ouch!)
3 or 4 cu ft efficient fridge 24 hours -- 40 amp-hrs
water pump 7 amp for 15 minutes -- 2 amp-hrs
Washing machine -- don't know -- 10 amp-hrs ??

That totals to 260 amp-hrs of battery use per day.

If you were to go with lead acid batteries (AGM or FLA), you would want about twice this in battery capacity, or roughly 500 amp-hrs (eg four golf cart batteries -- $360)

If you wanted to go with Li batteries, you could probably use three 100 amp-hr BattleBorns -- $3000).

If you had 600 watts of solar in a good solar location on a sunny day could provide about the same 260 amp-hrs to charge the batteries back up to full.

If you wanted to go for more than one day without recharging, you would need more battery -- eg twice as much for 2 days on batteries without charging.

If you went for propane for cooking and water heating, then a setup with 2 golf cart batteries (220 amp-hrs) would be plenty, and a couple hundred watts of solar.

What do you plan to do for heating?

Gary
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Hi,
Here are some rough estimates for daily amp-hr use for the applicances you listed...

Full size microwave for 15 minutes (1500 watts) -- 31 amp-hrs
1800 watt induction cooktop on full for 20 min -- 50 amp-hrs
(this could be 20 minutes on full, or much longer on part way)
10 gallons water heated from 60F to 120F -- 125 amp-hrs (ouch!)
3 or 4 cu ft efficient fridge 24 hours -- 40 amp-hrs
water pump 7 amp for 15 minutes -- 2 amp-hrs
Washing machine -- don't know -- 10 amp-hrs ??

That totals to 260 amp-hrs of battery use per day.

If you were to go with lead acid batteries (AGM or FLA), you would want about twice this in battery capacity, or roughly 500 amp-hrs (eg four golf cart batteries -- $360)

If you wanted to go with Li batteries, you could probably use three 100 amp-hr BattleBorns -- $3000).

If you had 600 watts of solar in a good solar location on a sunny day could provide about the same 260 amp-hrs to charge the batteries back up to full.

If you wanted to go for more than one day without recharging, you would need more battery -- eg twice as much for 2 days on batteries without charging.

If you went for propane for cooking and water heating, then a setup with 2 golf cart batteries (220 amp-hrs) would be plenty, and a couple hundred watts of solar.

What do you plan to do for heating?

Gary
Thanks, Gary - great details. As for heating and AC, I forgot to add it to my list. I would like electric for heating and AC, but I have not done enough research on good heating options. What did you do for your van build?

Randy
 

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Hi Randy: I have been watching many many vans for years, this guy is one of my favorites. He is all electric. Jarod Tocci https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_Ya2lzMERgVQ-LJg_Tp1zQ
While yes he is all electric, his setup probably costs at least 100k, 45k for the van, 15k for the electrical package (450 AH battery bank, 900 watt solar deck), radiant heat flooring, recirculating shower etc.

So yea totally doable, but his van isn't the most realistic option for most people
 

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Washing machine in a class B? That is a new one here I believe. If you plan to park where there is a shore power electric hook up go with electric. If you plan to camp w/o an electric source plan to use propane for everything you can and plan to do without air conditioning. Propane will heat the food, heat the water, heat the van, but you will need 120 volt for the microwave, washing machine, 12 volt for the refrigerator, pump, charging your electronics, lights. Forget an induction cooktop if you have propane which is superior anyway. This way you can get good service from about 300 watts of solar and a 200+ Amp hour battery set. I’d use FLA as you are going to have vents anyway.
 

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While yes he is all electric, his setup probably costs at least 100k, 45k for the van, 15k for the electrical package (450 AH battery bank, 900 watt solar deck), radiant heat flooring, recirculating shower etc.

So yea totally doable, but his van isn't the most realistic option for most people
His van is not all electric. He uses an Espar hydronic, which is a diesel-fired heater.
 

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I went back and forth on this quite a bit, from all propane to all electric and finally landed somewhere in between. The amount of battery power required to be all electric is quite high, even with induction cooking. It's not impossible, especially if you allow for alternator charging and have a beefy solar setup, but the math that I couldn't make work was really just the heating. If you have a diesel and install a furnace, this isn't a concern for you, but with my gasser there was no way to heat it effectively with electric.

In terms of footprint, the propane tank requires about the same amount of space that the extra battery would take up.

In the end, I like having propane for cooking and not having to worry about battery levels (as much)
Jarrod Tocci used induction flooring -
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Washing machine in a class B? That is a new one here I believe. If you plan to park where there is a shore power electric hook up go with electric. If you plan to camp w/o an electric source plan to use propane for everything you can and plan to do without air conditioning. Propane will heat the food, heat the water, heat the van, but you will need 120 volt for the microwave, washing machine, 12 volt for the refrigerator, pump, charging your electronics, lights. Forget an induction cooktop if you have propane which is superior anyway. This way you can get good service from about 300 watts of solar and a 200+ Amp hour battery set. I’d use FLA as you are going to have vents anyway.
With van life, there is not a lot of room for tons of clothes. So, to me having a compact washing machine (no dryer) allows me to wash small loads when I need to, The plan is to have the washer/closet next to the shower. The bottom half of the closet will be the washer and the top half will be for hanging clothes (shirts, jackets, etc).

Randy
 

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Thanks, Gary - great details. As for heating and AC, I forgot to add it to my list. I would like electric for heating and AC, but I have not done enough research on good heating options. What did you do for your van build?

Randy
We used a DC Thermal SD12-5000 ducted 12V heater, which draws 50 amps on high (we no longer recommend electric heaters unless they are used as a back up when/if your fuel-fired heater fails)

We currently install either a Kingtec or ProAir rooftop DC Air Conditioner or a Cruise N Comfort split DC Air Conditioner. All are 12V. The Kingtec draws under 45 amps on high
 

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With van life, there is not a lot of room for tons of clothes. So, to me having a compact washing machine (no dryer) allows me to wash small loads when I need to, The plan is to have the washer/closet next to the shower. The bottom half of the closet will be the washer and the top half will be for hanging clothes (shirts, jackets, etc).

Randy
Why not use 110v for refrigerator and water pump?

Randy
 

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??Why not use 110v for refrigerator and water pump???

Wasted electricity due to inefficiency of inverter and if you do it right you can have the inverter off most of the time.
 

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We used a DC Thermal SD12-5000 ducted 12V heater, which draws 50 amps on high (we no longer recommend electric heaters unless they are used as a back up when/if your fuel-fired heater fails)

We currently install either a Kingtec or ProAir rooftop DC Air Conditioner or a Cruise N Comfort split DC Air Conditioner. All are 12V. The Kingtec draws under 45 amps on high
Can the 12v heaters plug into the same system that comes with the van?
 
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