While I am on a little bit of a boondocking roll, let me share my two cents on this ongoing discussion: Generator or Solar. It is really not a debate on whether one is better than the other. There are plenty of folks who’ve decided to use both technologies. For those of us who are on a budget, the main reasons to choose are the cost and storage availability.
The standard battery bank on the Airstream consists of two 12-volt group 24 batteries connected in parallel stored just in front of the trailer and behind the propane tanks. Group 24 batteries are designed to hold around 75 amp hours of power each. At a full charge, they store just enough juice for you to run all the lights in the Airstream for about 2 seconds. OK, maybe that is a slight exaggeration, but the power-hungry halogen bulbs Jackson Center, Ohio installed into our 25 foot International are not really designed with boondockers in mind. Bright and warm as they might be, they are very inefficient. Many people have swapped them out for expensive LED versions of these lights bought from Internet sources. The problem with this ‘upgrade’ is that in return of them running forever, you have to deal with these dim little blue lights that makes you feel like you are living in the International Space Station.
A big part of going full timing is being able to adapt to changing environments. In some of our recent posts, we have focused a lot on the ability for us to boondock. That is because I have been obsessed with getting the Airstream a steady supply of portable power. As much as I would love to have solar panels installed on the Airstream, the cost is much more prohibitive than just getting a reliable generator. I know, I know, there are more ongoing costs with generators not associated with solar power like gas and maintenance, but I just can’t see myself spending upwards of $2000 to get the solar panel I want. It is a much more permenant solution that I would want to do it right when I am ready to spend that kind of money.
After scouring Craig’s List and eBay for the last 6 months, I finally came across a local seller with a lightly used Honda EU2000i generator. He was asking $900 for the unit that has maybe 10-20 hours of use. Relying solely on my negotiations skills, I walked away with it only $775 lighter in my back pocket.