backchannel: DIY purists


I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it here for any who might misconstrue:

There is nothing inherently wrong with “power stations”. The problem is marketers and influencers convincing low-information customers that there is an Easy Button for offgrid power in the vehicle for anyone willing to whip out a credit card.

Here is my generic cut/paste. Note there is no recommendation for DIY vs AIO:

  1. assess your daily power requirements <- arithmetic, not guessing
  2. figure out how you will recharge the bank, based on your particular use case
  3. read the relevant specs (not marketing) on everything under consideration
  4. choose whatever components or all-in-one solutions meet power needs at a price you (money and effort) you are willing to pay.

the comment in question

[from this thread on reddit]

I think that many of the folks in the so-called “vanlife community” are just teetering on the brink of being in some sort of a cult. A solar power / DIY electrical system cult.

I would say there is a subset of people who know DIY works, because they were doing it before “solar generators” existed.

If I had to summarize the DIY position it might be “with a bit of learning you can build a power setup that is both better suited for your needs and less expensive”.

Or, at minimum, they are a clique of solar power fetishists.

An odd claim, since the AIO devices are marketed at solar generators.

If I had to point out a difference between the two camps it’s that DIYers tend to understand how it works and have working systems. Since powerstation folk are already sold on the “Magic Box handles everything” bromide they are less likely to have mounted panels, to emplace portables, or point them in a sun-catching direction when they do emplace them.

Why? The knee-jerk reaction to posts like yours, asking about electrical systems and related issues, is often something along the lines of “…oh, it’s so simple, just do it yourself. There are tons of YouTube videos on it…” Some will give off a vibe that you’re something of a lesser “vandweller” for not wanting to DIY things

It’s not a lesser vandweller thing, and getting that “vibe” says more about the receiver than the sender.

that could quite literally kill you, or burn your van to the ground.

Power stations are risk-free?

And if someone wants to go the power system route, and happens mention any awesome aspects about them such as being able to charge all 3,600 watts of an Ecoflow Delta Pro from 0% to 100% at an EV charging station in the time it takes to watch Dune and take a piss afterwards,

This is a weird flax. “If your setup performs so poorly you need to recharge from shore power….”

But there is nothing special about an Ecoflow in this scenario. Any lithium-based setup could be charged that way. Caveats:

  1. charging at high C rates isn’t good for the chemistry; and
  2. DIY setups typically wouldn’t require it because they are set up to work without shore power.

Even if it is “illegal” in some places, I can assure you that it is like jaywalking and isn’t enforced.

Everyone has their own ethical code. I won’t try to enforce mine on others.

Then there is the old chestnut “if your power station breaks, you are screwed”. Which is 100% true.

Your words, not mine.

But the same can be said about having a critical component going belly-up in a DIY system.

DIY components are often repairable or swappable in the field. And they don’t need direct replacements; a cheap PWM can hold down the fort until the $$$ MPPT can be replaced. A relay can pass power from the alternator until the DC-DC can be replaced. Etc.

I’ll bet it’s less hassle to get a replacement power station than to diagnose, troubleshoot, order the parts, install, and

These steps are (or should be IMO) part of the solution in both cases.

pray you didn’t just set the stage for a three-alarm fire.

This fire stuff is really starting to sound like FUD or projection.

With a power station going bad, I can probably go to Cabela’s and pick up a smallish power station to tide me over

Every component of my DIY setup can be serviced or replaced in the field, without buying every component again.

No such warranty with a DIY system, and

What an odd thing to say. The components carry warranties, and I’ve had to use one once.

nobody to sue if something goes terribly wrong.

That is one of the classic examples of FUD:

This is a recognized phenomenon, epitomized by the traditional axiom of purchasing agents that “nobody ever got fired for buying IBM equipment”. The aim is to have IT departments buy software they know to be technically inferior because upper management is more likely to recognize the brand.

words have meanings

words have very specific meanings… I gotta be honest and give you a hair-brained theory of mine….

Harebrained. As in the rabbit-like creature.