So you want to power your van with a Jackery Explorer portable power station? That's a quick and easy solution for a modular setup or for a super-simple electrical system (van, minivan, Jeep, etc). That being said, there are some limitations... so the goal of this article is to help you choose the right solution for your needs, by fully understanding what Jackery power stations are all about!
1- Jackery Power Station In A Nutshell
The Jackery Explorer portable power station is an “all-in-one” solution that packs almost everything you need to power small 12V DC or 120V AC appliances such as a phone, laptop, fan, small fridge, etc. The power station can be charged with solar power, vehicle’s 12V output or 120V wall outlet. It’s an attractive solution for people with limited electrical knowledge or with super-simple needs.
At the time of writing these lines, Jackery has 7 portable power station models to offer:
Jackery Explorer 160
Jackery Explorer 240
Jackery Explorer 300
Jackery Explorer 500
Jackery Explorer 1000
Jackery Explorer 1500
Jackery Explorer 2000
|120V AC Output||100W||200W||300W||500W||1000W||1800W||2200W|
|USB-A Output (Quantity)||2||2||2||3||2||2||2|
|USB-C Output (Quantity)||1||N/A||1||N/A||2||1||1|
|12V Car Output||N/A||10A||10A||10A||10A||10A||10A|
|12V DC Output||7A||N/A||N/A||2 X 7A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Solar Input Recommended||60W||60W||100W||100W||200W||400W||800W|
|AC charge time||5h||8h||4.7h||7.5h||7h||3.5h||2.6h|
|12V car adaptor charge time||5h||8h||5h||16h||14h||13h||18h|
2- First things first: Is Jackery the right solution for your needs?
Honest question: Why would anyone bother to design and build its own DIY electrical system, when “all-in-one” portable power stations exist? To help us find an answer, let’s compare the limitations of a Jackery 2000 with a DIY system:
Limitations (Jackery 2000 VS DIY):
In a DIY system, it's possible to customize the battery bank capacity by wiring 12V batteries together in parallel. For example, wiring 6 BattleBorn batteries (100Ah each) together in parallel equals 7,200Wh capacity!
In a DIY system, it's possible to wire solar panels together to increase the solar input. The limitation if often dictated by the roof space available for solar panels...
Shore Charge Rate (120V Input)
With a single Victron Multiplus 3000W, it is possible to charge a large battery bank at a rate up to 120A! Several Multiplus can be wired together (in parallel) to increase the charge rate (but that's overkill for a van or RV).
Alternator Charge Rate (12V Input)
With a single Sterling Power Battery-to-battery charger (BB1260 model), it is possible to charge a large battery bank at a rate up to ~45A! Several Sterling b2b can be wired together (in parallel) to increase the charge rate. The true limitation here is the capacity of the vehicle's alternator.
12V DC Output
This is the limitation that bothers us the most. With the Jackery, you cannot run any 12V device that draw over 10A, but most importantly the current of all the devices running simultaneously cannot exceed 10A. Considering that a small fridge (e.g. Dometic cooler) can draw about 7A when the compressor starts, it doesn't leave much buffer for other devices...
120V AC Output
With 2200W max, the Jackery can power most of these appliances: kettle, microwave, toaster, induction cooktop, espresso machine, etc.
There is no shortcut when building your own DIY electrical system: you will have get the right tools, learn how to install wires & terminals, make sure the components you choose are compatible together, etc. That being said, if you are willing to educate yourself, you can start here and build your way up with our Electrical System Guide, Wiring Diagram & Tutorial (faroutride.com/electrical-system).
In simple terms, it'll do the job if you plan on powering a small cooler-type fridge, a few USB small devices (light, fan, phones) and occasional 120V device (max 2200W). No hardwiring required, all of this can be plugged straight into the Jackery.
On the other hand, if you plan on powering multiple devices such as a larger fridge, a roof fan (faroutride.com/fan-installation), puck lights (faroutride.com/led), water pump (faroutride.com/water-system), a wall fan (faroutride.com/sirocco-fan-review), a heater (faroutride.com/air-heater-installation), then you'll quickly reach the limit of the Jackery. We'll repeat ourselves, the 10A DC output of the Jackery is what bothers us the most...
In our humble opinion, Jackery portable power stations excel at being PORTABLE. They're not exactly the perfect match for a permanent campervan setup, as they have too many limitations (especially the 10A DC output). There are, however, certain situations where we would recommend it:
Jackery Portable Power Station
Great for temporary or modular setups, or when portability matters. For example:
- A photographer going to work in the field for a few days/weeks. Almost any vehicle (Jeep, minivan, etc.) can be quickly transformed from a commuter into a temporary mobile home & office.
- For people needing a work van during the week, and a camper van setup for the weekend.
- For van-camping (small cooler fridge and USB-powered small devices) rather than van-life (roof fan, water pump, heater, etc).
- For remote work at the beach (don’t forget to turn off your webcam so your boss doesn’t find out!!)
DIY Electrical System
Great for permanent campervan setup (weekend warrior or full time Vanlife). A DIY setup is fully customizable and can be tailored to your own needs easily as shown in this quick demo:
Jackery Autonomy Calculator
|Device||Watt||Hours Per Day|
|Device||Watt||Hours Per Day|
? DAY AUTONOMY
One of your 120V device exceeds the Jackery max power.
You might want to consider a DIY electrical system. You can familiarize yourself with that topic with our Electrical System Guide.
- Smartphone: We assume that a smartphone goes through a whole charge each day. (Dept. of Energy estimation is 0.54 charge per day, but we think it's on the low side especially with the GPS use and all...)
- Tablet: We assume that a tablet goes through a whole charge each day.
- Light (USB) examples: See section 3.2- "Small Devices" below.
- Fan (USB) examples: See section 3.2- "Small Devices" below.
- A Fridge regulates its temperature by cycling between power ON and power OFF (this is called the duty cycle). The time it spends ON (and draw power) is normally about 35% at ambient temperature (68F), which is equals to 8.4 hours per day (24h x 35%). The duty cycle increases as the ambient temperature increases; van are especially subject to this because the temperature varies more than in a house. So it is not unusual to witness a duty cycle as high as 70% on hot summer days, which is equals to 16.8 hours per day (24h x 70%). For example, Dometic rates the energy consumption of the CRX 50T fridge at 268Wh per day at 77F (25°C) and 557Wh per day at 90F (32°C).
3.1 - Fridge
Fridge, typically, is the device that use the most energy in Vanlife. Here are a few tips to make the most out of your power station:
We would personally splurge on a higher-end product (such as Dometic) for better efficiency and longevity, but there are cheaper options around:
3.2 - Small Devices
Energy loss is inevitable when converting power to 120V AC, so avoid it when you can. For example, choose USB-powered devices over 120V devices:
4- Wiring Diagram & Items List
4.1- Portable Setup
If you decide to go with the portable Jackery solar panels, it doesn't get any easier than this. Everything is "plug-and-play", so just unbox it and use it!
4.2- Permanent roof setup (third party solar panels)
In this case, you'll need some extra parts. Don't worry, no electrical work is required except connecting wires together 😉
(PERMANENT ROOF SETUP)
|1||Jackery Explorer 1000||Includes power station, 120V input, 12V input.||1||Amazon|
|2||100W Solar Panel||Renogy 100w solar panel||2||Amazon|
|3||Parallel Connector||To connect two solar panel in parallel.||1||Amazon|
|4||Extension Cables, 8 AWG, 15 ft Red + 15 ft Black||To connect between ITEM 3 and ITEM 6.||1||Amazon|
|5||Double Cable Entry Gland||To pass solar cables (ITEM 4) through the roof.||1||Amazon|
|6||MC4 to Anderson Adapter||To connect MC4 solar cables (ITEM 4) to the Jackery’s Anderson input.||1||Amazon|
|7||MC4 Tool||To remove/install MC4 connectors (required to route the extension cables through the entry gland).||1||Amazon|
4.3- 12V Hardwiring (optional)
With the 10A max output of the Jackery, we don't really recommend hardwiring your 12V devices; you'll quickly max it out. BUT yeah, it can be done... (see wiring diagram above and items list below)
The Jackery portable power station is simple, flexible and cost effective. It does, however, have some important limitations for Vanlife. So make sure to understand your needs, understand the limitations, and then you’ll be able to make the right choice (Jackery VS DIY). Good luck and see you on the road!
- That's it folks, hope that helps! -
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