Have I got the right motorhome for longer stays off grid?

Unless your club invested in a large group, (and very quiet) generator for your Motorhome electrics then the essence of this is self-sustainability On a Club site with a 10A or more hookup, it’s so easy to use whatever electricity you want but come away from this and it’s a different ball game. So which type of motorhome is best suited to this lifestyle?.  Without a mains hookup your only source of electrical power is your leisure battery, so which type of motorhome is the most economical?

LED lighting

LED lighting is pretty universal nowadays and is so much more economical than quartz bulbs or even fluorescent tubes.   If yours isn’t then change those bulbs now to LEDs. Loads of sellers at the shows but be wary of the cheapest LED bulb replacements as they can upset the radio’s and phones.

Keeping Beer Cold

Fridges are a different ball game.  In small campervans, converters are increasingly drawn to the use of 12V Compressor fridges. These take all of their power from the leisure battery and don’t require any holes for Fridge Grill Vents in the side of the van. (They also heat up the inside of the van)  Some argue that with lots of solar panels and double sized batteries they are OK but most tend to end up with a flat battery sooner rather than later and if the show weekend is grey, stand no chance.

Of the increasing range of compressor fridges are ones identical to the new narrow absorbtion fridges from Thetford . Globecar for example  give you the choice of 12V only, or three way  gas  with their Campscout, both made by Thetford. The problem with these is that each time you open the fridge door all the cold air falls out so the compressor has a lot of work to do afterwards.

Motorhome Electics

Power Comparison – One 6kg gas bottle to 63 100AH batteries!

The most economical compressor fridges are the top opening variety that can hide beneath a hinged work surface. The classic Absorbtion Fridge on the other hand takes power from the mains when on hookup, takes power from the vehicle engine when driving but more importantly takes its power from the gas bottle when at a show or wild camping.

So is using the gas good?  Well YES.  One 6Kg (12 litre) gas bottle contains the same amount of energy as sixty-three fully charged 110 ampere hour 12 volt batteries, about eighty-three kilowatt hours. So it is impractical to carry even one 6Kg bottle’s worth of electrical energy stored in batteries, even if one had the payload and space to store them.  Then factor into this the desire to limit battery discharge to 50% to prolong their service life the comparison is even more stark.


As has been said, small van converters do all they can to maximise space so that they need no gas bottles which is a bonus if you can do this. Diesel powered heaters such as Eberspatcher, the diesel versions of Truma Combi and Webasto or even the clones from Bangood in the far east  all suffer the same problems. The start up sequence includes a 12v glow plug that takes many amps,  a small but powerful pump is needed to force diesel through a small jet to make a mist that is then ignited by the cherry-red glow plug.  Each time the thermostat turns off and back on the startup sequence is repeated. And just for good measure many converters don’t fit thick enough cables to feed them so both diesel heaters and compressor fridges suffer from volt drop.  So if you are able to specify it has to be gas again for heating.

The very best is a kettle for hot water and a gas convector for space heating. ZERO electrical demand on your 12V leisure battery.  For more luxury then the gas versions of the Truma Combi are quite economical although the up -market Alde wet system takes less 12v energy.

So your spec for the new tardis has to be  GAS for heating and the three way fridge of your choice.

BUT  An alternative approach for the small panel van conversion without any gas just might be the Wallas diesel powered hob which takes about half the electrical power of most other diesel setups, an essential feature of this hob is that with its lid closed a small fan blows air across the hob in a lamina flow  and it becomes your space heater as well. Add the kettle and you have hot water. And the most economical compressor fridges are the top loading variety that you secrete away under the worktop.

Now add a modern Lithium Ferrous battery to double your effective electrical storage capacity and save weight. Finish this arrangement with a battery to battery charger to put amps into the battery by running the engine if the sun doesn’t shine