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Expensive Inverters, Generators and Cheap Power

Updated on May 23, 2018
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Ward Tipton is an avid traveler and outdoorsman seeking to reestablish a web presence and share fun, informative articles!

Is 12 Volt DC Power Enough?

Back, a long place ago in a time far away, when I was just beginning to look at moving off the grid, and my home away from home was scarcely more than a blank spot of desert land, I shunned AC power and my generator whenever possible. Not only was the gasoline powered generator expensive to operate, it required resources that I was unable to generate on my own at the time and was an added expense that amounted to a luxury I could not afford. Oddly enough, I soon discovered that virtually all of my needs and even most of my desires could be fully provided for without the need for 110 or 220 volt AC power. Of course, there are a great many people who will deny it, the fact is that 12 volt DC power straight out of the proverbial box, will run virtually everything that is needed for a very comfortable life off the grid.

To be fair, I did have a propane operated refrigerator in my camper trailer. An eleven pound canister of propane would generally last just over two weeks and allow me to freeze up my beer should I so desire, and kept my ice cream nice and well-frozen even in the dead of summer in the middle of the desert. In short, it was quite capable of meeting all of my needs even if I did not really need it that much … but sure was nice to have. It was also not long before I had established a solar hot water heater to provide me with hot water on demand, though this was more of a luxury than the refrigerator … even if the overall cost was lower. For regular power however, the 12 volt DC power was generally enough to run everything I needed. While it is not ideally suited for anything that requires a large amount of amperage … effectively anything that is going to get hot or get cold … the DC power provided everything that I needed and more. In the world today, with the advent of the technological revolution, there are even more things that can be done with 12 volt DC direct.

One of the most common responses people had when I explained my situation to them was that 12 volt power could never provide the lighting necessary. Back in those days, the Xenon headlamps were not around yet, but a single car headlight was more than enough to light up an entire room and when directed with an aluminum shield, was certainly bright enough to make reading even the finest print possible. The headlights I had were even connected to light switches allowing for the lights to be turned on and off in a “regular” or normal fashion as one entered or left any room. Granted, I used speaker wire rather than more expensive electrical wiring, but it was again, just another benefit of running twelve volt power directly.

Oh, but I need my stereo … that is something else I hear. Now even back in the days when I was beginning this life, there were ample car stereos, amplifiers, or “power boosters” as we called them back then, and other features that allowed for a very adequate home stereo system inside a small camp trailer or even for a single room within a house. Given the recent evolution in car stereos, one could hardly be convinced that the stereo that will literally break the windows out of a car is not sufficiently loud for most people, even if it does run directly on twelve volt power with no expensive power inverters needed. These days even passenger cars have television sets, dvd players and even full entertainment centers that all run on twelve volt power directly.

While the idea of not having an expensive power bill to pay each and every month may actually frighten some people, for most people that is money that could be much better spent in other areas of their life. With a little thinking outside the box, there are numerous additional savings to be had, including the costs of converters, inverters and other expensive electrical equipment. When living off the grid, all of these savings added up together should allow for a new expansion or three on the homestead itself, making room for even more new ideas and concepts to be put to the test and put to use. Not only is twelve volt DC power sufficient for most of the needs of a home, it is quite sufficient to make life downright pleasant, even out in the middle of nothing and nowhere where not everybody feels quite so at home as people like me will.

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