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DCDC CHARGER WITH MPPT CONTROLLER
That’s all a fancy way of saying “the thing that puts the power back into the battery.” The DCDC terminology refers to the controller’s ability to pull DC power from the car’s alternator when the car is running and use that to recharge your battery. A smart DCDC controller, like the one from KickAss, is able to do this safely and efficiently. You program it with the type of battery you are running, and it uses a charging profile specific to that battery type, ensuring the maximum life of the battery. It also has a built-in voltage-sensitive relay— it monitors the source voltage and will cut out if the power drops too much — which is a fancy way of saying that it won’t kill your car’s starter battery because it’s busy charging your auxiliary battery. In fact, the KickAss charger has a built-in ignition controller, so it gets a signal when the car’s ignition is on and uses that to ensure you don’t drain the start battery.
The MPPT controller part of the equation references the fact that the controller can also re-charge your aux battery via solar power. Plug in a compatible solar panel, and the charger will convert that sunlight into usable power to charge your battery. The cool thing about this is that you can charge your battery while driving, and it will continue to charge even when you are parked at the store buying more beer to restock the fridge.
Something to Power
Ok, this is pretty obvious, but if you are building this auxiliary power setup, you need something to power with it. If your goal is to power, say, a Dometic fridge, you can buy the Dometic hardwire kit and connect that directly to the auxiliary battery, giving you ports to plug the fridge into. Likewise, you can buy dozens of different USB ports, 12V cigarette sockets, etc that can all be connected to your battery.
We are not running an inverter in our setup, but if you aspire to power household appliances that run require more than 12V (like a blender, toaster, coffee pot, etc), you’ll need to add an inverter. Make sure to look for a pure sine wave inverter and buy a high-quality one that can handle the loads you are looking to power.
Totally optional creature comfort accessory here, but if you fancy knowing the current battery life remaining, you might want to add an external battery monitor. Technically you can also use a basic voltmeter to derive the same thing because a battery monitor is basically looking at the voltage of the battery and doing some maths to translate that into a percentage in an easy-to-consume format. We opted for a battery monitor because we’ve been trained by our iPhones to look for a percentage sign, and we appreciate a quick and easy way to determine our battery status.
This is how you stop yourself from burning down the car, house, dog, forest, etc. Fuses are devices designed to withstand a certain amount of electricity flowing through them, measured in amps. If the amount of electricity exceeds what the fuse is rated for, the fuse “blows” - like a circuit breaker tripping in your house — as a safety. Unlike a circuit breaker in your house, most automotive fuses are designed to be replaced when they blow, but they are inexpensive and it’s easy to have spares in your repair kit.