Since the 1970’s we’ve had experience with custom vans, converted buses, RVs, houseboats, rural cabins and other off-grid style living.
In typical U.S. residential homes fans, televisions, computers and monitors, refrigerators, air conditioners, microwaves, toaster ovens and and endless array of small devices plug it into electrical outlets that provides 15 amps of 110-120 volt AC electrical current. Dryers, electric ranges and some devices requires a 220 volt AC connection. In those homes there is a [seemingly] endless supply of electricity 24 hours a day, rain or shine.
Not familiar with terms like; volts, amps, watts, AC, DC, etc… read our article: “Volts, Amp, Watts Explained“.
Why 12 volt?
Most vehicles manufactured in the United States between the 1920’s and 1950’s had a 6 volt electrical system.
In the early 1950’s car makers began equipping vehicles with 12 volt electrical systems, with batteries capable of storing enough of cold cranking amps to turn over the bigger V8 engines they were producing. The vehicle’s generator or alternator were built to produce enough high amperage 12v electricity to recharge the battery quickly, and to feed the cars ignition system, mandatory lights and run any power options, (power windows, power seats, interior/exterior lighting packages, etc).
By the mid to late 1950’s, most US auto maker had standardized on producing cars with 12 volt electrical systems.
One humble option in almost every vehicle manufactured was the cigarette lighter.
Today, most people know that a “USB Port” is something they can plug a phone, tablet, laptop or other device into to charge it.
And of course, there are 12v cigarette lighter adapters to provide USB power.
Since the 1950’s the receptacle for the lowly cigarette lighter became a “standard [power] port” — one that carried a constant supply of 10 amps (or more) of 12 volt electrical current.
Aftermarket companies began to offer small fans, spotlights, hand warmers, electric blankets, windshield defrosters, small air compressors, and other devices that vehicle owners could use by simply plugging it into the cigarette lighter with no need to modify the vehicle wiring.
The camping and boating industry came up with just about anything you could think of from food coolers and heaters, to small televisions, small coffee percolators, to frozen drink blenders, and every other cooking appliance you’d want for camping or boating that all ran on 12v plugged into a cigarette lighter receptacle.
In the past few decades interest in 12 volt electrical system spread to the photovoltaic solar energy market. Solar panels, charge controllers and related devices are available in 12 volt, (as well as 24 volt, 48 volt and higher voltage systems).
Since we have over 4 Decades of Experience with “12 Volt Life“, we decided to feature products and information related to what we know best.