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Electrical Installations for Your Overlanding Vehicle

Hi there and welcome to the next article in the Building an Overlanding Vehicle series where we talk about Overlanding vehicle electrical systems.

If, like us, you go away Overlanding for more than a weekend, you should probably consider installing a dual battery system. We survived for a while using Chilly Bins and charging equipment, like phones, using the cigarette lighter sockets in the truck. After a while however, we became tired of emptying water out of the chilly bin, clearing up broken eggs and having to pay for a campsite where we could charge up anything that needed 230 volts.

If you are out “Bush”, the last thing that you want is a flat crank battery and even camp lights will drain your battery much quicker than you think.

So, when we sold up in Auckland and started our travels, we decided to install a dual battery system to make us self-sufficient whilst on the road. Don’t forget that one of the key points about Overlanding is self-sufficiency……

There are several key items involved in a dual battery system. The first is obviously the battery itself. The second is a battery charging management system. The third is an inverter and the fourth is a means of keeping the “house” battery charged if you decide to stay in one place for a few days without running your engine.

So, let’s start with the battery. There are basically two types, AGM and Lithium. Once again, this is not going to be a technical article and you can find out more information online. Putting it simply, an AGM battery weighs a ton and you can only draw down half of the stated Amp hours before the voltage drops to an unusable level. So a 100 Ah lead acid battery, will only give you 50 Ahs before the voltage falls away and your kit stops being charged.

A Lithium battery, weighs a third and will maintain its voltage until you’ve used roughly 90% of the energy stored inside. A Lithium battery will also charge much quicker than an AGM. A Lithium battery, whilst they cost more, will last much longer than an AGM. Again, there is a lot of information online, so Google it before you make your decision.

When we started, we had a 50Ah AGM, which lasted two years before it couldn’t even keep the fridge running all night and never reached its full voltage, even after a long road trip, being charged by the alternator.

A year ago, we bit the bullet and went to a 100 Ah Lithium battery. When I went to pick it up, I couldn’t believe the difference in weight! I was sure that I had just paid $1000 for an empty plastic box!!!! As you build an Overlanding vehicle, it’s really easy to keep adding weight, and I’m sure that this battery has saved me more than 15kgs and given me four times more power.

So now you’ve got the battery, what’s the next step. You need battery a management system that will charge your crank battery and then charge the “house” battery and make sure that neither get over charged.

After a lot of research, we decided to go with the industry leader, REDARC. Their quality and reputation are beyond question and, whilst they may cost more than other cheaper brands, we live out of the truck and need reliability and kit that will not only work, but last as well.

Photo 1 of Electrical Installations for Your Overlanding Vehicle

We decided to go with the REDARC BCDC1225D unit. This is a 12V 25A In-vehicle DC to DC battery charger.

This enables us to charge off both the alternator and solar. It also has profiles that can be changed to suit either Lithium, AGM, GEL and standard lead acid batteries, meaning that if you decide to change batteries, you don’t have to buy a new charging unit.

Because we work remotely and have a lot of electrical equipment that needs to be charged, we decided to also install an inverter. An inverter gives you the same 240V that you have at home and has a standard plug fitting, allowing you to switch it on and plug in your devices.

Again, sticking with REDARC, we installed a 700W Pure Sine Wave invertor which allows us to charge laptops and other equipment that we carry.

REDARC do produce inverters with larger capacity, up to 3000W, but as we don’t carry a kettle or fancy coffee maker, 700W is totally sufficient for our use.

So now the system is almost complete, but what happens if you find somewhere you want to stay for a few days without running the engine? The answer is solar…….

With the 100Ah house battery and the Bushman fridge, which draws nearly nothing, we decided to go with the REDARC 115W Solar Blanket. This will easily deliver 5.8A+ in full sunlight, operates in low light and folds away to a very small size when not in use.

Since we have installed this system, we have never been short of power, have the Bushman fridge running constantly and have no worries about using our camp lights in the evening.

Once again, we hope that you have found this article interesting and informative.

We look forward to seeing you out there on the trails!!!!!

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