Even with the most casual scanning of the van living/camping groups on Facebook you’ll soon see someone gushing about how much they love their Jackery portable power station.
What are those, you might ask? Basically they’re just a Lithium battery with a built-in dc to ac inverter and some 12 volt USB outlets all wrapped up in a small, portable package. I hated them and the people who sang their praises to the sky almost instantly. The things are also outrageously expensive. About a buck a watt. In other words a 500-watt unit will set you back $500 and the 1000-watter a grand! I swore I’d never get one. Instead, I’d move the set up I’ve been using on the boat for the past three years to the van…
I already own a pair of deep-cycle batteries, a 2000 watt dc to ac inverter, and three Renogy solar panels. I started out with a 50-watt rigid panel.
That wasn’t quite enough. Then I added a 100-watt panel.
This setup kept my stuff running while I was anchored off of Anna Maria Island, FL, a bit south of Tampa Bay. It was a bit iffy when there were two or three days of heavy overcast skies. You still get some energy from the ambient light but by the end of the second day I had to keep a close eye on the battery power of my notebook computer, my iPad and phone which has a mobile hotspot to keep me connected to the internet.
In order to compensate for that I added a Renogy 160-watt flexible panel to the array. I chose this panel because there is limited deck space on a 22-foot boat and I needed to leave a clear passage from the cockpit to the bow so I could tend to my anchors. The rigid panels are quite heavy. The 50-watt panel weighs nearly 9 pounds. The 100-watt tips the scales at almost 20 pounds. The only place where I could possibly mount a panel would be on my flimsy Bimini top…
So I coughed up the dough to purchase a Renogy 160-watt flexible panel. It only weighs just a hair over 6 pounds.
With everything hooked up I haven’t had a bit of worry. And I’ve even added a 12-volt refrigerator/freezer to the mix.
I got to pondering how I’d transfer a system from the boat to the SUV. I’d need to lug at least one of the batteries off the boat and find a place to secure it in the SUV. Then remove at least the 160-watt panel, the solar charge controller, the attendant wiring, the inverter, et al and then build up a panel with electric wiring bus, blah, blah, blah. Ya know, I just didn’t feel like doing that.
So I began looking further into the portable power stations, especially alternatives to the ubiquitous Jackery. There are quite a few, and they’re all fairly expensive. One brand that caught my attention was the Bluetti. They make a 750-watt unit which is, obviously, 250 watts larger than the Jackery.
Amazon was offering a $100 off coupon so I could get one for the same price as the 500-watt Jackery. Gulp, only $495.
Here, look at what Bob Wells has to say about this unit. If you don’t know, Bob runs a website called “Cheap RV Living” and is the guru of mobile living and the inspiration of much of the recent Academy Award-winning film “Nomadland.”
I DO have two generators. One is a 2 stroke the other a 4 stroke that smokes pretty heavily. Both as quite loud, especially the two stroke which would make either one fairly irritating in a camp setting. They are only marginally more powerful than the Bluetti…1,000 watts vs 750. In addition they also need gasoline to work which cost money I’m not willing to spend.
I brought my unit back to the boat about an hour ago. It had an 80% battery charge in it and right now it’s set up on shore power to top it off. I plugged it into the 160-watt solar panel and even though it’s heavily overcast right now the digital display showed it was receiving limited power from the panel. Plugged a couple of things that need charging into the unit and it works just fine.
Though I’d like the red one and was delivered the puke green I’m happy having it never the less.