SOLAR POWER STATIONS – Our Experience Shared

There are so many names for this – Off Grid Portable Power Stations, Solar Generators …. at the end of the day, it’s about how efficiently we are able to harness energy from the SUN in order to generate electrical power into a small compact portable box.

OUR FIRST SYSTEM

If you’ve followed along our Van Life journey you may have noticed that we began with the Goal Zero Yeti 400 and a Boulder 90 Watt Solar Panel.

GOAL ZERO YETI 400 (32AH AGM)

Definition of AH – An ampere hour or amp hour (symbol: A⋅h or A h; often also unofficially denoted as Ah) is a unit of electric charge, having dimensions of electric current multiplied by time, equal to the charge transferred by a steady current of one ampere flowing for one hour

GOAL ZERO YETI 400 SOLAR GENERATOR

This was a really good solid system. We used the Yeti 400 (32AH AGM) in our campervan for about one year plus in all our travels around Malaysia and Thailand. We managed to create videos for Season 1 and 2 for our YouTube Channel whilst on the road. We realised that our daily electrical requirement was much much more than this little system could provide. We were soon in need of a bigger system and started exploring alternatives.

AGM Batteries can only be drained down to 50% before you have to charge it back up. (Some would like to say 80% but we prefer not to drain past 50%). So for example with our Yeti 400 the battery was 32AH so the usable power is only 15AH. We required 200AH!!

We continued using our Yeti 400 but we knew that for our Malaysia to UK journey – we really needed a Lithium battery system. Two Reasons – SPACE and WEIGHT.

In order to feed our power hungry needs, we required two units of 100AH AGM Batteries and that meant double the space and double the weight inside our tiny campervan. So with that in mind – our goal was to eventually have a Lithium battery system.

If you want to know more about Deep Cycle Batteries we made a dedicated video about it on our Channel (video below)

OUR 2nd SYSTEM – DIY BATTERY IN A BOX

Whilst we waited for the right Lithium Battery to come into the market – we kept using our Goal Zero Yeti 400 and Boulder 90 Watts Solar Panel but we also began testing out an AGM Battery in a Box system which was DIY assembled for us by an engineer named Gangesh. Inside this black box was a 75AH battery. There was also an big inverter wired up to the box as shown in the photo below.

This system had long red and black wires and Anderson connectors. It was a basic battery system that can suit some people but not quite so for us long term.

DIY BATTERY IN A BOX SYSTEM

Although we were able to use this Battery in a Box system in our campervan, we had some issues with having the inverter, solar charge controller, battery meter reader placed outside of the box – our preference is to have compact portable system where every component fits nicely inside a box.

This black box also lacked a battery management system for us to monitor our battery. For example – how many hours to a full charge, how many watts each device is drawing when being charged, how many watts of solar is entering when charging etc.

Battery meter readers can be bought from Shopee, they are cheap and we did get one but it broke within the first 3 months of usage. Things breaking so easily isn’t convenient especially if we spend so much time on the road. Replacements are difficult to come by.

100 AH AGM with 120 Watt Solar Panel

NEXT, we were given this system to test out. It was an upgrade in terms of Battery power – inside the box was a 100AH AGM battery and a 1000 watt inverter. Definitely much better than the DIY black box but there was still no reliable way for us to monitor our battery and 100AH was still not enough power. We were hoping to place a reliable Lithium Battery inside this box but it was not to be.

THE YETI 1400 LITHIUM POWER STATION

FINALLY Our battery journey has led us to this current system today, we bit the bullet and got ourselves the Yeti 1400 Lithium Power Station and we’ve been testing this out now for 2 months.

So far it is really awesome. We can go up to 4 to 5 days of full usage before we need to start charging up. We know exactly what is happening to our battery, there are multiple ways to charge this battery up and although this is not the latest series by Goal Zero – it is still none the less a powerful one!

What is our preference of batteries? AGM OR LITHIUM? The answer is LITHIUM. It may cost more upfront but in the long run, it has more discharge cycles and you won’t need an upgrade for years to come. Lithium batteries are easier to care for than AGM batteries. Lithium batteries are also much smaller in size and a lot lighter.

There are other differences and once again if you’re confused about batteries do watch the video above. The system we needed has to be portable, compact, lightweight and powerful.

  • Cell Chemistry: Li-ion NMCPack
  • Capacity: 1425Wh (10.8V, 132Ah)
  • Single Cell Equivalent
  • Capacity: 396Ah @ 3.6V
  • Lifecycles: 500 cycles to 80% capacity (Discharge rate: 1C, Full charge/discharge, Temp: 25C)
  • Shelf-life: Charge every 3-6 months
  • Management System: PWM charge controller, low battery protection

FOR MORE INFO VISIT GOAL ZERO MALAYSIA – https://www.facebook.com/goalzeromalaysia/shop/?ref_code=mini_shop_page_card_cta&ref_surface=page

THE YETI 1400 LITHIUM
STURDY HANDLES
COMPARTMENT STORAGE
3 TYPES OF CHARGE PLUGS
12 VOLT CAR CIGARETTE CHARGER
12 VOLT CAR CIGARETTE CHARGER
SOLAR OR WALL SOCKET INPUT CHARGING PORTS AND 12VOLT PORT
BATTERY METER READER AND USB CHARGE PORT
1500WATT INVERTER (SURGE 3000WATTS)
ANOTHER SOLAR or WALL SOCKET INPUT CHARGE
PAYUNG GETAWAY IN CHERATING

We have two ways to charge our Yeti 1400 – one is when driving and the other is with our 90 Watt Solar Panel on the roof. The Yeti 1400 has two input slots for charging and that means we can charge it up double the speed of wall socket charging. Once we drain our battery down to 20% it takes us about 6 hours of driving in the sun to charge it back up to 80%. Charging via 12 volt from cigarette lighter gives around 60watts of power plus sun can bring the charge up to around 124 watts of power.

CHARGING VIA SOLAR AND 12 VOLT CIGARETTE LIGHTER

This is our experience with Off Grid Portable Power Stations so far and we hope you find it useful to you. If you’re struggling with what to get and you don’t know how to build a DIY system into your campervan – we suggest you browse the GOAL ZERO MALAYSIA page linked below – Message them directly and tell them your power requirement – calculate your daily usage and they will be able to show you which Goal Zero Power Station suits your needs. Everyone’s usage is different.

FOR MORE INFO VISIT GOAL ZERO MALAYSIA – https://www.facebook.com/goalzeromalaysia/shop/?ref_code=mini_shop_page_card_cta&ref_surface=page

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