The best battery to power BOB was an Odyssey AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat) battery, and for several reasons. I’ve used them in the past with great results, they can be installed in any position except inverted and won’t leak, never need water or checking, can go two full years before needing a charge and have a design life of up to 12 years. They also produce more power than similar size lead acid batteries. EnerSys makes numerous Odyssey batteries and while they are initially more costly than conventional batteries, if you figure their useful life, they are actually a real bargain. While lead acid batteries will work, they require maintenance and lose power unless topped off regularly. They are also prone to causing nasty corrosion which we couldn’t have inside BOB because of the sensitive electronics in the same enclosure.
For our inverter, we went with an affordable AIMS 1500 Watt continuous, 4000 Watt surge, modified sine wave inverter, which provides ample power for everything we plan on using it for.
BOB’s battery still requires charging, and when the power is on 99.% of the time, we use an “Xtreme” charger. Designed for the military, it actually pulse charges the battery increasing its useful life and freshens weak batteries. To test it, I had an old tractor battery that wouldn’t take a charge and put it on the “Xtreme” charger for a few weeks to de sulfate it, and it took a charge and still works fine.
When the power is out, BOB still needs a charge to function. Instead of a gas generator, we felt a solar charger would be ideal. After looking around, we decided on the Coleman 55 Watt Solar 12 Volt power generator kit. Its affordable, compact, was easy to set-up and better yet, is maintenance free. No gas, no mess, no noise, no future expense. Not only does it include a 200 watt inverter, all of the panels are very rugged and the connections simply push together. In addition, it has a lighter plug to power 12VDC products. The frame could be a little tighter, but overall it’s a great system for anyone that likes it simple. We also found out during the final assembly that the entire solar package easily fit inside BOB meaning we can take the entire package anywhere it’s needed. When we only need a little bit of power, we use the Coleman 200 Watt inverter to save battery power.
After getting the unit all assembled and wired, we put it to the test and found that it does everything we hoped it would. I tried it out on a full size circular saw and it cut exactly like it was plugged into a hard line. One day, I was in the shop and the power went out. I rolled BOB over and continued working – no wasted time. Using our scrounged riding mower to pull it around, we now have a portable power supply that doesn’t need gas, will provide basic emergency power if rationed properly and can be recharged off a car battery or generator if the solar can’t keep up with the demands. Understand it won’t run a whole house, but if used judiciously, it can tide you over until power returns.
If you’d like the security of a backup power system for your fridge, freezer and other electrical necessities, but don’t need it on wheels, these components are actually designed to sit still and can be put almost anywhere an extension cord will reach.
We’ve since added a 20 Watt LED work light, jumper cables and an adjustable battery charger inside our portable power supply, so now anytime the power goes out or we need some light, a jump start or some electricity we just say “go get BOB”.
Shown all set up with the panels charging the batteries. It literally takes just a few minutes for one person to get it up and running with the panels.
Inverter: TheInverterStore.com (888)417-8673
Battery: enersys.com 610-208-1991
Solar: coleman.com 1-800-835-3278
Charger: pulsetech.net 800-580-7554