A few weeks ago, the Jeep finally received an upgrade to allow for what’s typically referred to as “shore power” when in a camping/rv type setup. This shore power is simply a way to allow you to “plug in” to an electrical outlet at home, or a camp site and then that power does a variety of different tasks.
For me, it was a must to do the following:
1) maintain the starting and primary battery in top condition
2) keep the auxiliary battery topped up
3) allow me to run a few low current lights when plugged in
4) allow me to charge cameras/phones/etc when plugged in
5) be clean, and fuss-free under the hood
The research began, and led me to look at a variety of battery maintainers and charger units – including small solar systems.
My first experiment was to test out a small solar panel that plugs into a 12V power outlet inside the Jeep to see what I’d get for results. After all, I’m not always going to be near a 120V power outlet. I went ‘cheap’ and purchased an “All Powers 18V, 5W solar panel” from Amazon (more info here). I hoped this would have offset my standing current drain in the Jeep, but unfortunately it didn’t – after all, an 18V, 5 Watt output is under ideal circumstances. Don’t get me wrong – that panel had equal to or better output – BUT only in perfect circumstances.
The Jeep’s alarm, satellite tracking and various other constant on electronics were far too draining for this tiny solar panel to keep up with during the day, and since the Jeep sits parked at a location with 120 volt AC power quite regularly, I opted to see what I could setup for a battery charger.
I continued on with the research and came across a variety of battery maintainer products. Most were not what I wanted as these were devices you’d open the hood of the vehicle, attach to battery and leave the device sitting there until done with it. I wanted something that I’d attach to the Jeep, and it would then be with me, ready to use no matter where I went.
Then I found NOCO and their line of products. I placed an order for the NOCO single bank 4 amp battery on-board battery charger unit. This device would do what I wanted – charge and maintain my main battery, and stay under the hood of the Jeep as it’s waterproof. You can also leave it attached to the battery when not in use as it has a very minimal drain off the battery for monitoring.
Excuse the mess of wiring in the above photo. I decided to re-build my power distribution system, and this photo is while things were in a temporary disconnected state. Also, despite that ‘rats-nest’ of wire, you can be assured that everything is fused close to the battery – this is a must do for ANY of your electrical projects – along with to use the right sized wire for the current draw of what you’re attaching.
Not wanting yet another power cord dangling out of the side of the Jeep (a block heater for winter, and this battery maintainer), I also opted to purchase a NOCO power port and cut a two-inch hole in the side of the Jeep.
Under the hood, I have this power port splitting off to a three-way outlet. One outlet for the NOCO charger, and one for the block heater plug.
All power cords now stay tucked away under the hood and when I’m near a 120V power outlet, I can just run one extension cord to keep everything charged up. With the NOCO 4 Amp charger, I can run lights at night, the stereo and charge my other electronics without worry of having a dead battery in the morning.
A couple of warnings:
1) If you’re not comfortable working with electricity, take this idea to an auto-electronics professional. You’re dealing with high amperage car batteries, 120 volt AC power and movement of a vehicle. Household wiring “marrets” have no business being used in your project here!
2) I haven’t tested the NOCO port with a locking power cable – you might NOT have enough room to unlock such a cable if you plug it in here!
If you have any questions on my installation, be sure to let me know in the comments below!
Building something similar for yourself?
These Amazon links should help you find what you’re after…
– NOCO port plug
– NOCO on board battery charger/maintainer (I used the 4 amp, single bank charger as it suits my needs, but they have a variety of others too).
– More NOCO products (emergency jump-start kits, etc)