Benefits of a Secondary Alternator
Nomadic Coolings boondocking adventurers are taking advantage of all the amazing camping opportunities out there while staying cool with our latest air conditioning models; the X3 and the X2. These units come in 12, 24, and 48 volts and give you the ability to have a range of electrical system set ups to run them. Most people these days are building their rigs out with 400-600 amp hours of battery storage capacity, giving them the ability to power all their loads for longer periods of time while off grid. Having massive battery banks has really opened up the possibilities of what creature comforts are available to us off grid.
With large battery banks, it takes a lot to recharge them. If your primary way of charging your system is solar or DC-DC chargers, then it could take a considerable amount of time and may not fully recharge it in a day for you to have another enjoyable night of sleep while you are off grid. As you grow your battery bank and the items that are drawing power off it, the time it will take to recharge it increases. Oftentimes while we are camping off grid, we are on the move. Driving and allowing a second alternator to do its magic is the fastest way to recharge your battery bank. It is an excellent investment in your rig for your electrical system to install a secondary alternator to make charging your battery bank more efficient.
Having solar is a great investment to your overlander as it helps to charge your system when you have no ability to plug into shore power, but there are some downfalls. First you are dependent on the conditions being nearly perfect for them to be effective. For example you need the sun out, so during the day is the only available time plus weather conditions and different seasons can change the amount of daylight time you will have to utilize them. In order for them to be effective to generate enough power to run our air conditioners, you would have to have your vehicle parked in full sun at the hottest part of the day. This would defeat the purpose of when you would usually be using the air conditioner, as it would run more during that time of day. Your solar would almost certainly not be able to achieve this, but they are great for a trickle charge to help assist more effective methods of recharge.
DC to DC chargers are devices that convert electrical energy from one power source to another. It achieves this mode of charging by converting the input voltage to an output voltage suitable for battery charging. Victron Orion Tr-Smart’s, which we highly recommend, have bluetooth capability with intelligent control capabilities to monitor battery status and adjust charging current and voltage as needed. While this is more efficient than solar, a secondary alternator is the fastest way to charge a large battery bank.
With the secondary alternator you can eliminate the solar panels and gain roof space on your rig for vent fans, air conditioners, roof racks, and even a rooftop deck! A secondary alternator can charge your battery bank at 150 amps when it’s idling, which is equivalent to 2500-3000 watts of solar on a sunny day. The secondary alternator would do this despite the weather or time of day proficiently. When driving the amps can exceed 200 amps. A great resource video regarding a secondary alternator is put together by Vanlife Upfitters in Sarasota, Florida.