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Living in a Small RV: Electricity

This is a continuation of the Living in a Small RV series. It will be a bit boring for anyone who isn't interested in solar power, but I wanted to write it like this because I had a tough time finding all of this information tied together.

There are two classes of devices in an RV that need electricity, AC and DC. The DC ones run off the battery and these include things like lights, the water pump, the vent fan(s), and anything you can plug into a 12v socket.

The AC ones are primarily the air conditioner and the microwave. They get their power from either plugging the RV in to a campsite or 120v socket at a house or by running the generator.

Micro inverters

On Travelling light

Last Thursday, I attended a seminar on residential solar organized the MIT club of Northen California. Thanks Victor Huang for getting me in ! Among the guest speakers was Paul Nahi, CEO of Enphase, a forward thinking company specialized in micro inverters for PV systems.

An inverter has two role in a solar PV system:

1. Convert the direct current generated by panels into alternative current 2. Optimize the power produced by the system through Maximum Power Point Tracking.

If there is shading or any other issue with a single panel on the array, the inverter in a conventional setting will adjust the MPPT for the whole array, leading to a large diminution of the power production. Micro inverters adjust their MPPT independently at the panel level, significantly improving the efficiency of the system. Here is a technical study on the difference by Mr. Lee and Mr. Raichle from the Appalachian State University

An other big advantage of micro inverters is that they eliminate the high voltage part of the system, making it not only safer, but also cheaper to install and repair. Any electrician can install systems with micro inverters, while conventional systems require a high voltage operating license.

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