12-volt Appliances

Note: Although  ventilation fans can also be 12-volt, they will be found under “comfort” appliances in the 120-volt section. Also we have a contribution from a reader about his own project using an “O2 Cool Fan” in the side window of his  Dodge Caravan that you should check out.

For our minivan camper conversion space is going to be a big issue, so you have to choose carefully what you take with you, and that also applies to appliances. Although it’s nice to have many “luxury items” at home, you can always find basic items which do the same thing. A whisk works just as well as an electric mixer to whip up some scrambled eggs or pancake batter.

The appliance industry hasn’t quite caught up to the fact that there are many full-time RV’er’s out there that live in their RV’s. But in the last few years, they have gotten better about supplying home style appliances in 12-volt versions. Field and Stream makes the nice full size 12-cup 12-volt coffeemaker pictured below:

But let’s face it… space is still an issue. So unless you really need that full size blender to fix your “Fuzzy Navels” or Mai-Tai’s, can you get by with a “stick blender”, like the Breville 9.6 volt Rechargeable Cordless Hand Blender?.  I’ll bet you can. And it will be a whole lot easier to clean up, as well as to store!

Or if you still really want a full size blender, we suggest the Waring Tailgater, which plugs into a 12-volt socket.

And although there are 12-volt toaster ovens available, do you really need that thing taking up space in your minivan? However, if you are into pizza, or convenience foods and like them browned properly, it IS completely workable. Just ask Brad at http://vantrekker.blogspot.com. He uses a 120-volt one regularly. But there are also 12-volt versions available.

If you decide that is more convenient than making toast over a camp stove, you can get a normal looking toaster in 12-volts that takes up a lot less space. Unfortunately, they aren’t on Amazon yet, so you’ll have to do a Google search.

A  coffee maker is almost a necessity for us, but since we use mostly our membership parks and have power available, or can use a small inverter (most coffeemakers only draw about 60-watts) we can use a home style unit in almost anything. It all boils down to how you use your camper and where you plan to stay with it. On the rare occasion when we might be without power when we wake up, we can use a small 12-volt “hot pot” like the one below. which will give us enough hot water for both our morning beverage AND hot water to wash up with:

or if we have the camp stove out, Coleman makes a very nice unit that fits right over a burner on the stove:

or, we can just heat some water in a pan on the camp stove, and enjoy some international instant coffee for a change… or tea… or hot chocolate.

One of our readers, (L.H.) also brought something to my attention, and that was a 12-volt microwave. It’s called the Wave Box 12-volt microwave, so I checked it out. It only comes in cobalt blue and red (what, not black or white?) and costs about six times what a plain old 120-volt microwave costs. Also, even though it comes with a  12-volt lighter plug on it, the current draw is right at 20 amps, which is very close to overloading a standard lighter socket! In the electrical industry we know that proper design means never loading a circuit to more than 80% capacity, and this microwave fails on that count. Our reader said he cut the 12-volt plug off and went to a better type of connector (Anderson PowerPole) to handle the current load. I assume he ran some #10 wire straight to the battery, also.

But for the difference in price and the times when you are actually going to be using a microwave, I think it is more practical to buy a standard 120-volt microwave of low wattage (as low as you can find, like 700 watts) and use a heavy-duty inverter with it (which should always be 1.25 times the highest load you are going to put on it). You can buy a heavy duty inverter AND a standard microwave for what they want for the 12-volt microwave alone, plus you will find other uses for the inverter. If you are out boon-docking, then just start your vehicle when you use the 120-volt microwave and you won’t have any problems.

There are really only a couple of appliances that you might need in personal grooming, and one of those is an  electric shaver (but most of those will run easily from a small inverter, so in reality you could bring your home razor). You might want a hair dryer, or for the ladies, a curling iron, and in 12-volt versions those are fine. They’re only used for short times, so won’t drain your battery. But don’t try to use the 120 volt versions from an inverter, as they draw a lot of power on the 12-volt side!

Some things are indispensable, though, like 12-volt coolers. Those will be running constantly when you’re on the road. At night, you can plug them into 120-volt power if you have it, or else run them from your auxiliary battery pack for as long as it lasts. If it runs out in the wee hours of the morning, your coolers will still stay cold for several hours. By then you can either use your  solar panel or run your vehicle again to charge everything back up.

There are 12 volt TV’s available, and with the new LCD screens, they use a whole lot less power than the old CRT versions of a few years ago. These will easily run from a battery pack for several hours, or even a  solar panel. If you plan to stay at a park or campground for several days, you should have power available. If you’re boon-docking, you may have to cut back on unnecessary power usage, but you follow the guidelines in my book, you’ll figure out what you can do and will be fine.

Although there are many 12-volt appliances available, many of them are totally unnecessary for our minivan camper conversion because of how it will be used. The intention of it, is to be on the go very day, traveling affordably and seeing this beautiful country we live in… not sitting at home cooking or being a couch potato!