Best portable power station to power my new tiny home on wheels

Hey y’all :slight_smile: this is my first post.I just purchased a 2020 Chevy Suburban with all of the bells and whistles. I will be converting it into a mobile home/office as I sell life insurance and enjoy traveling around the country to different underserved rural areas. My first spot with the Suburban will be the mountains of WV, hence me converting a 4WD SUV instead of buying a true RV. I am seeking the best power source, and it needs to be able to continuously run a mobile printer, multi USB charger (I currently use a 2 plug sine inverter that I plug into the cig lighter for those but would prefer not having to waste gas keeping the car on ), a mini fridge, and my laptop and will need to periodically run a mini microwave and espresso machine. I am ripping the 2nd and 3rd rows out to accommodate my kitchen and sleeping area. I was looking at the Yeti 6000X power station (the massive $5k one) but don’t know if the solar panels or car ciggy lighter will be able to charge it on the go and I only go home once a week for one day and sometimes miss a few weeks entirely. I do not utilize hotels at all and would have nowhere to charge it unless a friendly client let me use their wall socket​:joy: please give me advice on the best power source to use as well as how to choose the best possible mini fridge, mini microwave, and espresso machine. The fridge does not have to hold much as it is just for low carb milk and heavy cream for coffee as well as the occasional leftovers from a restaurant. Money is really not an issue and I have no problem paying top dollar for quality. It must be relatively simple to set up though as I am fully physically disabled and don’t know much about electronics. It’s also critical that I can use it to power my things while it charges- well I guess of course I can always buy two and cycle them if needed. I am open to any set up as long as it does not require gas and can run enclosed in my car. Thanks!

There are many threads here that discuss electrical power and what’s feasible with a battery powered system. Buying a ready-made power station such as a yeti is far more expensive than a DIY setup, and the DIY setup if done properly will be superior.

Running a microwave, espresso machine, and to a lesser extent a fridge will use a lot of power - bumps against what’s feasible with a battery system. Also, running a bunch of 110 volt stuff requires an inverter, which isn’t very efficient.

With the needs that you describe, rather than building a gigantic battery powered system it’s more efficient for you to use a gas powered generator. Get a hitch carrier for the back of your Suburban and mount a generator to it. Batteries can be used for lights, fans, and small device charging. A larger battery system can also run a small 12-volt fridge.

Making electricity isn’t cheap or easy in a vehicle, and most who’ve been at it a while have discovered that it’s far easier to use less of it than make a enough for household-type appliances.

1 Like

If money is not an issue then just pay someone to setup a proper system for you. It will probably still be cheaper than spending 10k for two of the overpriced jackery, yeti, goal zero, whatever.

The fridge won’t pull much power at all if you get a good one and you’re going to need a minumum of 400 watts of solar to power all of that, probably a lot more. I have no idea what a printer would cost to run, or an espresso machine for that matter. What all are you charging with the USB ports?

1 Like

Greetings & Welcome!

In my humble opinion, lithium battery technology isn’t ready for prime time yet. Too many of them are catching fire and/or exploding. Their claims of advantages seem to be getting proved false as well.

Okay, let’s start at the top… We need to know the wattages of everything you want to run, and how long per day maximum total that you will be running each item.

The next problem is replacing the power you’re using each day. Solar panels aren’t going to do it, and charging while driving isn’t likely to do it either. The only two remaining choices are a generator or shore power, and with either of those, you can bypass the yeti 6000x altogether. A ~$100 generator, a ~$30 battery charger, and a 100ah deep cycle battery would give you all the power you want. The ~$4800 you’d save would get you a more capable system, and buy you plenty of gas for your generator. ( I get 8 hours of run time on my generator for each gallon of gas used. )

ummm… I just thought of another possible option… ~IF~ you’re only running the microwave, espresso maker, printer, and other heavy loads for a very small amount of time, you ~MIGHT~ be able to hook up an inverter, and only use them with the engine running. Just make sure it’s a pure sine wave (PSW) inverter, probably a 2000 watt one. ~IF~ this worked, you could also plug in a battery charger into it to charge your house battery while driving, or use an isolator.

The best, most efficient, most versatile, and most reliable option is also probably the cheapest, which is the house battery, generator, and battery charger. To make that system even better, you could add an isolator to also charge your house battery while driving for under $100. This option, including the isolator shouldn’t cost more than $300-$400 total, and would be a no brainer for me. (It’s actually what I use!) If I need shore power, I just fire up the generator, simple, easy, reliable, & cost effective. Old school cool for the win.


"Beat Murphy's Law with a KISS! (Keep It Stupidly Simple)" ~ Van_Dweller

It would probably end up taking up more room than an all-in-one solution but I agree with Axel that I would go the route of individual pieces. Much easier to customize to your exact needs and should one link of that power chain fail you could more easily replace/fix it.

When you say ‘mini fridge’ do you mean a compressor type like the ARB/Dometic ones or do you mean the thermoelectric ones? I have used the latter but made the switch to the compressor type and they use SOOO much less power it’s amazing.

I run a 750 watt microwave off my inverter and it works well. Draws a lot of power but only for 2 minutes may twice a day and the solar panel replaces that loss easily. If you were going to cook a turkey in the micro that would be a different situation :slight_smile:

For your inverter you mention ‘sine’. Is that pure sine or modified sine?

As long as you’re realistic about your power needs, it can work. Just be sure you adhere to safe practices when selecting wire gages, fuse sizes, fuse positions, and how much power you use vs. charging capacity. Always err toward larger wire gages and install fuses close to where the power comes from. Also when selecting fuses make sure the wire gage is big enough to carry more current (twice as much) than the fuse, so the fuse blows well before the wire overheats. Select fuses that carry just a little more current than the appliance uses.

In terms of inverters you’ll have to do your research on modified vs. pure sine wave. A pure sine wave inverter gives you the same AC power wave form that’s available at a household outlet, so it should work with anything. Modified sine wave inverters work with most things, but not all. They put out a square or stepped wave form that can damage or overheat some things.

I have been looking for 12 Volt powered items for a while. There are 12-volt printers, refrigerators, coffee machines(maybe an espresso machine). Truckers use them. They have them on amazon and trucker websites. I just bought an alpicool c9. Hopefully, I can write a review. It’s small, compact and fits just right into the space I have for it. I am only using it for trips. Packing creamer, eggs, milk, butter and maybe some lunchmeat cheese and mayo. I travel light. The mini microwave is going to be a power hog. They do have small 12 volt ones, but that will still take some power. Maybe invest in a small gas generator. They have some good ones online. Have you thought about heat and a/c?

Dahlia, sounds like you’re on the right track. There are several ways to generate heat, electric being the least practical due to its huge power requirements. I use a solid fuel heater, similar to a wood burning stove, but it burns charcoal and coal (and can also burn wood in a pinch). It produces a nice dry heat without using any electricity. Most others use either a propane catalytic heater (doesn’t use electricity, but not a dry heat), or some kind of furnace-type truck heater such as a Webasto diesel heater or Propex propane heater. The advantage of the furnace-type heaters is that most of them have a thermostat that can be set, and produce dry heat, but the disadvantage is that they use electricity to run a blower (noisy) and the control circuitry, so if your power goes out the heater doesn’t work.

For cooling there are a few options: refrigerated air (air conditioning) uses a lot of power, so you’d need a generator or shore power. If you live in a dry climate evaporative coolers work well (swamp coolers), and don’t use a lot of electricity. They don’t work well in hot/humid areas because the cooling mechanism is dependent on evaporation of water - if it’s too humid the evaporation rate is too low to be effective.

Passive methods of cooling can also be effective, such as parking in the shade and providing plenty of ventilation through the van. If the outside temperature is comfortable, there are ways to keep the air inside the van about the same temperature.