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Mercedes Sprinter: Electric Accessories: Computing, Heating, Charging and More
Photographer and cyclist and Mac expert and software engineer Lloyd Chambers is available for consulting on general Sprinter considerations at his usual consulting rates via phone, or in person in the Palo Alto, CA area. Save yourself hours and mistakes by discussing issues up-front. More about Lloyd....
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- Extended runtime for computing needs.
- Pro-grade LED lighting (low power).
- Chargers including USB (low power)
- Direct DC laptop charging.
- Rooftop venting fan (very low power).
- When hot, a good quality fan.
- At times, lots of power goes into electric heating for a short while such as with the Aerus Apollo 2000 Infrared Space Heater; see Mercedes Sprinter Alternator Behavior.
- A low-power electric heater also has its uses for localized heat and an 12V DC electric blanket might make sense at times.
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Outlets and wiring
For 12V DC, don’t get cheap cables or splitters—16 AWG wire size minimum, 12 AWG or 14 AWG preferred. It’s not just the amperage issue, it’s that voltage drops if the wiring is too wimpy. Lower voltage means more heat and less efficient operation.
Suggestions: Cuzec 1 to 2 Car Cigarette Lighter 16 AWG Cord and the heavy duty BESTEK 12V 24V Cigarette Lighter Extension Cord Cigarette Lighter Cable in case the accessory has too short a cord for a nearby wired-in DC outlet.
Caution: anything in the 10 to 25 amp range should connect directly to a hard-wired socket that can safely handle 40 amps for brief periods (that’s what ADF Sprinters did for my 12V DC outlets). For anything over 25 amps the device should be wired directly with heavy gauge wire or to a special high-power socket (not cigarette lighter socket!). In such cases using AC power makes a lot more sense because the wiring can be much smaller gauge for the same amount of power.
Electric accessory suggestions
By investing in the robust Lithionics 400 amp battery, anything reasonable can be operated in my Sprinter van. What follow are a variety of electric devices that I use or plan to use.
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Raison dêtre: mobile photography workstation
The driving factor for me was being able to work as efficiently in the field as at home. Hence this setup.
The iMac 5K consumes about 55 watts at idle up to about 140 watts when working hard for a few minutes at a time. It probably averages 70 watts in my usage. The NEC PA302W consumes a steady 90 watts or so. That’s a total of 160 watts, but figure at 86% efficiency that is 186 watts DC power (about 14 amps at 13.2 volts).
Extra lighting including professional grade LED remote phosphor light sources of very high color rendering index (CRI) draws minimal power.
I chose to use several Cineo Matchbox units but the Cineo Matchstix are also good choices if one wants central control and dimming. Cineo remote phosphor LED lighting is daylight-quality lighting far superior to the spectrally gappy LED lights installed by Mercedes, and most upfitters—Hollywood film grade lighting, easy on the eyes and in one’s preference of color temperature.
The BESTEK 3-Socket 200W 12V/24V DC Cigarette Lighter Power Adapter with 5.2A 4-Port Car USB Splitter Charger offers high power USB charging ports and is also a 3-way splitter. Here, one port is used for the Lupine charger. Be sure not to exceed reasonable wattage.
The iPhone and iPad are easily charged, but charge fastest with high power 2.4 amp charging ports as on the Bestek unit.
Lupine bike lights and headlamps can be charged using a direct 12V DC adapter (or via AC power). Using 12V DC is preferred since it takes less power and the adapter is little more than a cable (no power brick).
Most batteries chargers for cameras and similar items require AC power; not shown is a 3-way short extension cord that I keep just to the right for such chargers.
I’ve used velcro to attach these items so they stay put while driving.