Sewing on road. New to full time

Hi I’m Tori. I should be getting my van soon, which I will be building out myself.
I really like to sew. Which I will continue on the road. Wondering what power options I should go with. Generator, shore power, battery banks etc.?



I would start by figuring out your maximum power needs, so we can work backwards from there.


"Ignorance can cost more than an education." - Sir Claus Moser

Thank you. I will do that.
It will have to wait a bit. Still convalescing from unexpected major surgery.
I’m so looking forward to making a start.


As Van_Dweller noted, step one is to figure out your maximum power needs. You will do this for ALL of your devices and appliances before you start your build…well in advance if possible. Buy a ‘Kill-a-Watt’ device for around $30 in order to measure the actual power usage of your various items. The Kill-a-Watt is easy to use and invaluable, especially since lithium batteries are a relatively expensive up front cost, and you don’t want to buy battery power you’ll never use. That said, many people report wishing they had more power, so…food for thought I reckon.

So, you should list all of the electronics and appliances you want to include in your build, then test each one by plugging it into the Kill-a-Watt device. Use the device as you normally would (sewing machine, blender, induction burner, laptop, electric toothbrush, projector, jumbo-tron screen…you get the idea) and then, for each device, you will jot down the watts used and the amps used.

You’ll then multiply the watts and amps you recorded by the number of hours you expect to use each device. This will give you watt-hours and amp-hours. THIS is the key info you need in order to determine how much battery power you’ll need for your build.

Consider that a ‘typical’ 12-volt, 100-amp-hour battery can deliver 1,200 “watt hours” (volts x amps = watts) so you could run an appliance which pulls…say, 300 watts…for about 4 hours. NOTE: If the device is an A/C (alternating current) appliance (like a sewing machine, for example) then you’ll have to run a power inverter (another device you will need) whenever you want to use that appliance. The inverter uses battery power too, so there’s a 10-15% penalty with A/C appliances. Hence, it’s preferable to use DC-powered (direct current, e.g. Battery-powered) devices whenever possible. This is especially preferable for appliances that need to run constantly or draw lots of power (refrigerators, air conditioners, etc.)

Most folks would recommend installing three power sources, certainly for a full-timer:

  1. Alternator
  2. Solar
  3. Shore power

Alternator power should be your number one priority because it will charge your house/leisure batteries every time you drive, and this method charges MUCH faster than solar. For this you’ll need a DC-to-DC charge controller in-line between your alternator/starter battery and your house battery. This charge controller will ensure that the current flowing from the alternator will be optimized for your specific type of batteries (hopefully Lithium Iron Phosphate :wink: The device will also protect your starter battery, ensuring your “current-thirsty” Lithium house batteries don’t drain your starter battery too low. Sound complicated? It is, but for now…

…you have a whole bunch of homework measuring all your electrical devices! Good luck and holler with questions. Most of all…

Have Fun!
Tom Solo



I would like to add a little bit to what @SolarSolo said…

When jotting down the watts & amps, please include the voltage and whether it is AC or DC, trust me, it will help in your calculations later.

I also think a generator should be considered a must have. Batteries can die, solar can’t be trusted, and you can’t charge via alternator if your rig won’t start. A generator and a battery charger can really save the day. Day or night, rain/snow/shine, 24/7/365, a generator can really save your bacon, and improve your life.

While a 100a battery might hold 1200 watts, it’s not all usable. Regardless of the battery type, you should never go below 50% and that includes lithium/lifepo4. Just because you can take them lower, doesn’t mean you should. People are killing their expensive lifepo4 batteries very quickly by using more than 50%.


"Not having an emergency fund, is an emergency!" ~ Rubber Tramp

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