Supplying Power to Your Caravan
You have many different options when it comes to how you supply power to your caravan, and understanding the electrical systems in your caravan is not always easy.
A few decades ago, nearly all the caravans which were on the roads in Australia had very simple electrical systems: 230V mains supply for a small amount of powerpoints and a simple lighting system. These lights usually had a 12V globe and if you were camping off the beaten track, they were often powered by a by a ‘hot’ wire connected to the tow vehicle’s 12V battery.
Times have definitely changed!
Today, a standard caravan has at least one 12V battery, a mains 12V charger, 12V-only lighting, and a 12V water pump. Many caravans also use solar panels, a 12V/230V inverter, a 12V compressor fridge, a DC-DC charger and 12V/5V USB charger points.
In Australia it is still the ‘norm’ to refer to mains power voltage in terms of 240V, but since 2000 it has been legally defined as 230V (+10%, -6%), bringing this into line with many European countries.
Generally speaking, most caravans come with a two voltage systems: a 230V mains supply and a 12V battery supply. While it is possible to only have a 12V system, also having 230V is definitely worthwhile for running your bigger appliances such as air-conditioners, microwaves and battery chargers.
For mains power, all caravans should have a 15A-rated cable, which will have a larger earth pin than what you’ll find on a standard 10A household extension lead.
While it is not a legal requirement in Australia to have power leads ‘tagged and tested’, it is a good safety measure to have them checked once a year. A damaged power lead can be lethal, so even a thorough visual inspection is simple to do and something you should add to your preparation checklist before heading out on the roads. The things to look out for are nicks and cuts or abrasions in the insulation. If you have any concerns, don’t take any chances – replace the lead or have it professionally checked.
Generators can be a reliable source of 230V mains power and are generally available for caravan use in the ranges of 1kVA to 2.4kVA, as generators of these outputs are quite portable.
When choosing a generator for your caravan, the best choice is an inverter generator, which produces a sine wave that matches mains power and is therefore suitable for electronically sensitive devices.
Keep in mind, though, that there are a number of places where generator use is restricted or banned altogether, so do your research before leaving home if you are considering taking a generator with you.
Solar Power Units
When you are not staying at a powered campsite, the best way to power your caravan and charge your battery is to utilise a solar power unit, such as the Solar Mat. You can view the Solar Mat we recommend here or you can contact Caravelair if you are considering using an alternative solar product.