Motorhome electricity comes in lots of varieties and there are many combinations and different ways to get power to your various appliances. Some of these are more efficient than others, however, and understanding how the electricity works in your motorhome is essential to getting the most out of it. Here’s out guide to managing your motorhome’s electricity supply and making sure your energy bill won’t cost you the earth.
Most motorhomes will have two energy sources: the vehicle battery and the mains supply. In more modern motorhomes the ‘vehicle’ battery actually consists of two stores; one that connects to the engine and drive train in exactly the same way as your car battery, and one that charges from the engine but is not necessary to start the engine. This means you’ll always be able to fire up your motorhome, even if your battery has gone dead.
The only way you’ll be able to access the mains supply of electricity is if you ‘hook-up’ your motorhome to an external power source. These are extremely common on most campsites nowadays and it’s possible that you may even have access to a hook-up free. If not, you may have to pay a premium to the campsite, but at usually only seven or eight pounds a day, this is much cheaper than working your vehicle battery too hard.
Your vehicle battery is perfectly competent at dealing with basic demands. As it only pushes out 12V at a time, it’s best given to things like lighting. Your water pump usually runs off your vehicle battery and a lot of modern motorhomes will run an immobiliser system from there too. These supplies are really the ‘essentials’ so don’t push them until they’re empty.
If you do find yourself running out of energy in your vehicle battery, it is possible to recharge it by simply starting the ignition. This is great is you had a journey planned, but it’s not particularly cost effective or environmentally friendly if you’re just charging while stationery. It’s wise to find out how long your battery can last between charges so you know your limits.
Your mains should be able to deal with almost any household appliance and, in the UK, normally runs off 230V – that’s the same as your mains plugs at home. This is consistent across Europe so you shouldn’t need to worry about transformers, but you may need an adaptor plug to fit your hook up to the main system.
It’s key not to overload your power sockets when hooked up to the mains, causing a surge will more than likely take out the whole campsite’s power. Using extension cables is fine, but never plug extension cables into one another as this can be a hazard – and you don’t want to be making a claim on your motor home insurance! Your campsite may impose a maximum use level, usually in kilowatts. To calculate what you’re using, check the labels of the various appliances and add the total.
Charging your mobile phone isn’t going to cause too much of a problem as mobiles need only a low power to get them up to speed. However, your motorhome is full of things like air-conditioning, heating and the oven that all drain power supplies. Be extremely mindful of the impact of these items and don’t overuse them if you can. Not only will this help you to save money from fuel, it will help minimise your environmental impact.
Adding Power with a Generator
There is a third option: many campers choose to use a generator to boost the power supply to their motorhome. This is extremely useful if you’re camping away from the beaten track and will act as a self-sufficient power source. Usually generators are less efficient than hooking up to a mains system and they need some sort of fuel to run off. They can be noisy and are often a disturbance to other campers, so check if your site has any regulations on generator use before you start up.
Your motorhome’s energy supply should be quite self-explanatory, but it’s worth understanding the mechanisms that keep it running. If you’re concerned about any specific issues your motorhome manual should be able to help you out, but if you’re still lost there are plenty of forums online that will no doubt be extremely keen to help you out.
Motorhome energy is about providing a balance between what can be done on your vehicle battery and what really needs to be hooked up to an external supply, whether it’s a generator or the mains. Understanding how your motorhome works will really help you to figure out the right balance for you.