How long can you go without an electric hookup?

Is your RV all tricked out with solar panels, generators, maybe even a power generating wind machine? Do you have banks for batteries that you can charge with these devices and a generator that will keep you going for days on end?

Or are you limited to a deep cycle battery or two, with no way to effectively generate much power without plugging into shore power? Some of today’s large RVs come with a residential-type (all-electric) refrigerator and electric stove that require lots of juice. But in most cases the RVs only have one or two house batteries, making it a stretch to even go 12 hours living comfortably with an external power source.

So what about you? How long can you live with all your electrical stuff working in your RV without hooking up to a power source?

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23 Thoughts to “How long can you go without an electric hookup?”

  1. Emery

    At a recent FMCA rally some 1,700 rvs registered or were on display. Out of the total, 3 rigs registered as not needing either electric or being allowed part or full time generator use. Even with a bit of rain our 60 year old bus conversion with 1,200 watts of inefficient (curved) panels and 4 L16 6 volt batteries easily spent the 2 days ahead of the rally and 5 nights at the rally without either plugin or gen set. Not so hard to do if you really want off grid, tanks are more limiting than power! We run a 12 V marine fridge and use diesel to provide hot water, so not even a lot of propane use.

  2. Magee Willis

    Depends on the weather, if AC or furnace is needed, not very long. Otherwise, quite a while.

  3. Dave Jeffries

    We normally go 6 months without hitting an RV park. Solar power for all my radios (ham, red cross, CAP, CB) that run 24/7 and the lights (all LEDs). Have a home built 12 VDC swamp cooler for really hot days. I take care of the water and waste chores with a macerator, and two 50 gallon barrels, one for waste and one for water. Toss them in the back of the pickup and drive to the dump station every 8 to 10 days. The 5th wheel rig stays in place unless we feel like going somewhere else but when that happens we are usually boondocking there as well.

  4. Millerman

    On one of our recent trips to Hawaii, my wife, who uses a CPAP, and I began talking to a guy in front of us with a CPAP, and he said he camps and hikes with it using a battery. Said he tops it off daily w/a small solar charger, and isn’t limited on where he goes or for how long,,,

  5. Troy

    As long as I can run my generator and it’s not so hot that I need to run both A/C’s then I can go as long as 60 gallons of gas will last running the generator. My limiting factor is my grey tank for my shower. It’s 40 gallons which we usually can fill up every day, but we have had it last two days before.

  6. Retired firefighter Tom

    I must add that we can not go more than 24 hours without electricity because we both have sleep apnea and must use a CPAP unit to help prevent a stroke, heart attack, or even death to either of us. Sure, you can purchase a separate battery for overnight use but it won’t power the humidifier. Dry air causes coughing spasms.

    1. FYI: I’m trying to get more information on CPAP units so I can provide scientific answers to the dozens of readers who have asked me about running them on battery/solar power. I should do a poll on that next week to see just how many readers use a CPAP.

      1. Loren Robinson

        We have three 80 watt solar panels and only two 6 volt deep cycle batteries. Have no trouble running a CPAP on 12 volt for as long as 3 weeks at a time [Then the gray water tank is full and we need to find a place to dump]. You can buy a 12 volt cord for most machines so you don’t have to use an inverter.

        1. My casual studies on CPAP units confirm what you just said. However, I have dozens of emails from CPAP users who seem terrified that their house battery will die in the middle of the night, and their lives could be in jeopardy if the CPAP shuts down. So I need to study this very carefully before I come up with any answer or suggestions. I’m also studying AEDs and how to get campgrounds to add them as a safety item. Lots to do….

          1. Randall (Randy) Davis

            Thank you for thinking of AEDs.. Cardiac arrest survival rates increase significantly when defibrillation is administered within a few minutes. A vast majority of campgrounds are located well over a few minutes from EMS bases. Let’s also remember that a vast number of campers are retired and have medical issues.
            I am a 37 year Paramedic and American Heart Association faculty. Happy to help with the AED project in any way

      2. Wolfe

        I use a CPAP and have done the running-on-AC and running-on-DC wattage demand tests, have run from batteries, etc etc etc.

        MY Airsense A10 unit is annoyingly 24V input (not the easier 12V, and in fact it has an extra logic pin in the cord), and draws up to 90W depending on pressure/humidity, so an average draw may be hard to pin down. Until recently (below), I had 450AH and didn’t worry about a mid-sleep surprise, but it IS a real concern on a single 600AH (usable) 1200AH LA battery, especially if running through a 120V inverter and powerbrick. I can safely run one night with a single RV battery (40-45W average draw), but it WOULD mostly kill the battery from full to do that.

        BTW; the official Airsense 12-to-24V converter is $80… I built mine for $5 but it wasn’t a “simple” voltage stepper… It’s designed to defeat DIYers like me.

        MS: Let me know if I can help your research.

      3. Retired firefighter Tom

        Thanks, Mike. We’re sure there are many people with sleep apnea. A battery for your particular machine is suppose to last 8 hours. If you don’t have 120-volt AC what do you do the second night? The one house battery won’t last long enough for two machines with humidifiers. We used to stay at a Wal-mart when traveling from home to a vacation spot before retiring as an easy way to pull in late to sleep overnight. Can’t do that any more.

  7. Bill & Kitty BATEMAN

    I agree with Tony King … we try to be outside our 11′ Lance cabover whenever we can. Isn’t that what ‘campers’ and ‘recreational’ rigs are for?
    We get by for 2 weeks easily if we have 6 or more hours of reasonably sunny day with our 1000 watt solar and 1 (one) 115ah group 31 deep cycle battery. We have a propane 2500 Onan generator for the VERY rare occasion when we want a/c or microwave.
    The rig has awnings to shade the fridge and entry way when needed. I use a 400 watt inverter to charge the verizon connected iPad and Straight Talk LG phones. We can even watch tv with our 12v 24″ flat panel and portable 12v dvd player. The fresh water is 36 gallons usable withe both holding tanks being around 18 gallons. 2 of the 7 gallon propane tanks.
    We have been camping with everything from bedrolls under an open sky to tents, then our 1st cabover camper, then 22′ Sunflyer class A, then 24′ Nomad Toy Hauler and now back to our cabover until that “just right’ Mercedes Sprinter based B+ or C- comes along.
    Like Tony, we know how to conserve and still really enjoy ourselves while doing so.
    There are only the 2 of us and our 40# ‘kid’ who makes sure we get plenty of exercise on hikes and walks. (Important in your late 60s).

  8. Drew

    We’re pretty much rv park people. My batteries are usually only there to run the water pump or start the generator before we get parked. We usually stay in the same spot on the Sacramento River with our family and friends. Before I hang up the keys though, I’d like to do some more boondocking- although I’d be using the generator during our stays.

  9. Barbara J Carroll

    Haven’t been “plugged in” to electric since leaving Florida in May. I have found free dumps at water treatment facilities and water wherever available for free. Use my Berkie to filter my drinking water.

  10. Glenda

    I checked “A few days…” but that depends on the season. In cool weather I can dry camp longer since I don’t need the A/C or the furnace. I can go as long as two weeks without dumping the black-water tank.

  11. Ann

    We run out of fresh water before anything else. We run a propane generator if the solar isn’t doing enough.

    For electric, a week or two until we run low on propane. But by then, we’ve already had to get water a couple of times.

  12. Bill

    Can run on the on-board generator as long as fuel is available, but need diesel, water, and dump about every week. Prefer hookups but not exclusively.

  13. Tony King

    I grew up as a kid Camping with my Parents Boondocking all over So Cal’s deserts. So by the time I grew up and started Camping on my own with my family I knew how to conserve. We find ourselves conserving even when we stay somewhere with hookups. We normally Camp every year in the High Sierra for 6 weeks Dry Camping. We have Solar and 4 Batteries but we never even come close to running out of Battery since we know how to conserve. Probably the best way to conserve is get out of the RV and go do something !

  14. Tommy Molnar

    With our fairly large solar array (700 watts) we never need electrical hookups. Our holding tanks are the limiting factor.

  15. Eric Meslin

    Our TT can be just a permanent tent. It depends on the comforts we demand. Our minimum is fridge, water pump, and water heater. With our one solar panel and reasonable sunlight we can theoretically go indefinately, but have only gone a couple of days at a time.

  16. Alaska Traveler

    We tried carrying a Blue Boy for dumping and it was a pain. So we can boondock until we need to dump a time or two… and run out of generator gas. Then we like to stop at an RV campground to plug in.

  17. Wolfe

    Until this month, my 450AH of LA batteries lasted a week of reasonable living. Last week I unplugged and went dead almost immediately. Despite monthly water checks, for some reason all four batteries boiled half dry between June and July, and are ruined. ;(

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