EP66 | NEVER RUN OUT!! Optimizing Auxiliary Power in Vehicles with Mark Bruce of REDARC Electronics

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Episode Description

Join us for our best episode yet on auxiliary power with our incredibly knowledgeable yet highly entertaining guest from Down Under, Mark Bruce, manager of International Training and Development at REDARC Electronics.

Do you have lots of questions about auxiliary power systems for your vehicle, be it an overland vehicle, hunting rig, van, or even a small R.V.? Have you wondered about the pros and cons of lithium batteries, how solar power functions, and whether a mobile or “house” auxiliary power system is right for you?

To get answers to these questions and much more, we reached overseas to record this episode with Mark Bruce of REDARC Electronics in Australia. REDARC is a leading manufacturer of extremely rugged and reliable mobile power systems for everything from overland vehicles to sailboats and their equipment represents the state-of-the-art in this industry.

What are “Amp-hours” (Ah), watts, volts, and charge controllers and how do they function in an auxiliary power system? Mark defines these terms and provides us with the math we need to figure out our own unique power needs and how to effectively meet these needs in a variety of climates and conditions by optimizing our vehicle’s auxiliary power system.

Will solar panels work when it’s cloudy? Do I need to worry about my starting battery dying if I am running a powered refrigerator? Will lithium batteries function effectively in cold climates? Can gas or diesel generators be useful? The questions just keep coming and Mark keeps up, providing us with the information and insight we need to build the most efficient auxiliary power systems for our vehicles, whether we’re overlanding or weekend camping.

Detailed Episode Summary

Part 1 (0:40-4:14) Welcome Mark Bruce, International Training and Development Manager at REDARC Electronics–All the Way from Down Under in Australia!! We welcome Mark Bruce, International Training and Development Manager at REDARC Electronics, onto the podcast all the way from Australia! Jimmy and Mark have coordinated a 16-hour time difference, and freshly fueled with espresso, the two are ready to have a sparky conversation about providing electric power for overlanding vehicles. Mark describes his professional background in the electronics industry and his role at REDARC.

Part 2 (4:15-7:36) What is “Auxiliary Power” and What Role Does It Serve in Our Vehicles for Camping, Overlanding, and Traveling? Mark explains what “auxiliary power” is exactly, begins to explain the role of vehicle alternators, and explains why an auxiliary power bank is needed to supply power to electric-powered accessories.

Part 3 (7:37-18:20) Amps? Watts? Volts? Making Sense of Auxiliary Power Systems and How They Operate: Ever wondered what guys like Mark are talking about when they’re referring to Amps, Watts, and Volts? Mark provides definitions for these oft-used terms when it comes to vehicle-based electrical power, and explains the critical role a charge controller plays in optimizing battery management in auxiliary power systems. He further explains the roles of both alternators and solar panels when it comes to the recharging process.

REDARC Products Mentioned in this Part of the Episode:
REDARC Manager 30

Part 4 (18:21-24:44) Doing the Math: How do calculate how much power you need to power your portable refrigerator and other electronic appliances in your vehicle? Mark explains the basic math of powering electronic appliances in a vehicle and how you perform the calculations to know how much power is required to meet your needs.

REDARC Products Mentioned in this Part of the Episode:
300 Watt Solar “Blanket”

Part 5 (24:45-31:27) Will Solar Power Work When It’s Cloudy? When It’s Raining? Will solar work when it’s cloudy? Yes, but you need to take some important factors into consideration. Mark explains how to design an auxiliary power system if you plan on camping and traveling in cloudy/rainy environments and how to manage it in this kind of weather.

REDARC Products Mentioned in this Part of the Episode:
REDARC 150 Ah Lithium Battery

Part 6 (31:28-44:26) Are Lithium Batteries Better Than AGM Batteries? Should you buy lithium batteries or AGM batteries? What are the differences between the two, and why do so many people consider lithium batteries superior to AGM? Will lithium batteries work in cold environments? Mark answers all of these questions and provides a detailed explanation of how lithium batteries work and what their advantages are. He further explains how to properly charge and maintain lithium batteries and provides a look at their longevity.

Part 7 (44:27-47:21) Will Lithium Batteries Work in Cold Climates? Being a Montanan, Jimmy has some concerns about using lithium batteries to power his Four Wheel Camper in cold climates. Mark explains how lithium battery manufacturers have addressed this concern by manufacturing batteries with built-in heating systems and other reasons why today’s state-of-the-art lithium batteries work well even in extremely cold climates.

Part 8 (47:22-55:33) What is a “12-Volt” System? Most overland vehicle auxiliary power systems are “12-volt” systems. Jimmy wants to know exactly what a 12-volt system is, why it’s popular, and how to manage it. Mark addresses all of these questions in detail, providing a thorough explanation of 12-volt systems and how they operate. Jimmy and Mark also discuss how to manage solar panels when camped in the shade.

Part 9 (55:34-1:04:15) How Do Gas/Diesel Powered Generators Supply Power to a Vehicle-Based Auxiliary Power System? When you are camped deeply in the shade, when you are using extensive power in shady conditions, or when you are camping in the winter when the days or short, will a gas or diesel-powered generator supply power and recharge the power bank in your vehicle’s auxiliary power system? Mark explains the charging dynamics of gas/diesel generators and how they can function to supply power to an auxiliary power bank in your vehicle or RV. Mark further explains how to effectively monitor your battery’s power level by observing a simple voltage meter.

Part 10 (1:04:15-End) Is a Portable Power System a Good Way to Go for an Auxiliary Power System for Your Vehicle? Mark and Jimmy discuss the pros and cons of a fully-built house battery-based auxiliary power system vs. a portable system and why some people might prefer one system over the other. Mark also explains key differences between between these two types of systems and what their benefits and limitations are.

REDARC Products Mentioned in this Part of the Episode:
REDARC Portable 100 Ah Lithium Battery (Not yet available in the U.S.)

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