Sunday, April 21, 2024
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Bluetti AC240 boondocking backup power

I was excited to be contacted by Bluetti to test the company’s new AC240 Portable Power Station. My spouse and I are always looking for creative and new ways to supply boondocking power for our full-time RV lifestyle. And not just power it, but to do so efficiently and economically. 

AC240 Portable Power Station ready to use!
AC240 Portable Power Station ready to use! All images: Lucinda Belden

Can the Bluetti AC240 Give Us the Boondocking Power We Need?

We have been RVing full-time for five years, and we still work full-time. Having reliable camping gear and equipment is crucial for our 44-foot RV and fully equipped office. We also boondock a lot and love it!  So we need our boondocking backup power. We want equipment that will support our RV adventures no matter where we are camping. And we were curious to see if the Bluetti AC240 (MSRP: $1,399) could meet that need. Here’s what happened.

How We Tested the AC240

The AC240 Portable Power Station arrived charged at 63%. According to the AC240 Specifications, this unit can store a total of 1,536 watt hours (Wh). Since we were currently on shorepower, the first charge was done with 120 volts on a 15-amp circuit. We charged it using the standard charging mode to 100% and then ran the first test. 

  • Note: There are other modes for charging but they should be used when higher amps are available. 

Test 1: Can it handle our electric space heater?

It was about 31 degrees Fahrenheit outside, so running a small, 1,500-watt-max electric heater was a good place to start. Although we wouldn’t use the power supply to run an electric heater in a boondocking scenario, it was interesting to find out how long it would last in a pinch.  

  • The station powered the electric heater for almost one and a half hours—one hour and 22 minutes to be exact. 
  • The average wattage fluctuated during the process. 
  • We depleted the station charge down to 10%. 
The Bluetti AC240 screen and connections.

Test 2: Is it capable enough for other household items, like our microwave?

Here are a few other examples of household RV items we ran individually on the station:

  • The coffee pot used about 250 watts for a 10-minute brew. Generally speaking, you would use about 15% of your battery charge for a morning pot of coffee.
  • Our microwave is 1,500 watts, so the time use available was much like running our electric heater at full power. 
  • We got out a floor fan (about 12 inches). At 60 watts, it could run for 25 hours if you ran it alone.

How fast can you recharge the Bluetti AC240 Portable Power Station?

For the next test we recharged the AC240 back to 100%. This was also done on shorepower. Here is a chart of the time it took to reach specific percentages. Times are cumulative.

Chart showing how fast the Bluetti AC240 charges
A look at how fast the AC240 charges.

The rate of charge was about 13 minutes for an additional 10% of the charge. 

As it was powering up to 100% again, the station was very quiet. About two to three times per hour the fan would start cooling, but it was a low-level noise. We did this testing with the station sitting in the center of our rig inside and it was not disruptive or distracting during our regular work and activities. 

  • Note that if it is below freezing outside and that is where you have the station, you should not charge during freezing weather. 
Bluetti AC240 fans
The Bluetti AC240 fans are quiet.

Is the AC240 a good fit for RVs?

This is a good time to mention that the unit weighs about 70 pounds. If this is beyond your lifting capabilities, you will want to plan a space that can be accessible and a permanent home for the station. 

  • The measurements are 16.5 inches high by 16 inches wide by 11.5 inches deep. 
  • Add two inches to the width so you have space for the cord to be plugged into the side of the unit.
RV home office boondocking power station

Using the AC240 as a boondocking power station.

Another important test for us since we work full-time is how long we could run our business equipment on the power station. Here’s what our office gear looks like:

  • Two laptops with two external monitors
  • Two Bluetooth speakers
  • One 12-port AC-powered USB HUB

And now here’s a chart showing how power dropped for each hour of use (using this equipment only).

Bluetti AC240 Power Station boondocking power consumption
  • During the use of one computer system, we were using around 100 watts.
  • When both computer systems were in use, we were using around 150 watts. 

Power use will fluctuate depending on what you are using your computer for. But on average, while using two computer systems we consumed about 8–9% of our power available per hour. 

In other words, you should easily be able to use a small-demand computer system or tablet for about 10 hours each day without recharging the station. 

Later we discuss recharging options with solar panels, so you are up and ready to go the next day.

How You Control the AC240

Bluetti mobile app showing usage info.

The AC240 Bluetti Portable Power Station also comes with an app that allows you to connect to the unit via Bluetooth or the internet if connected. When you purchase the station, there is a QR code in the user manual to download the app. 

  • Here is the link you receive when you scan the code if you want to peruse it:  
  • Note that while you are using the app, it keeps your phone active. When connecting to the station via the app, there is a slight delay in controlling the power toggle for the station features.

The AC240 has multiple output and charging options available. 

  • For output, there are two 20-amp house-style plugs, as well as a 30-amp connection you could connect the shorepower cable to.
  • The unit also has two regular USB-A ports and two USB-C ports that can deliver 18 watts and 100 watts, respectively. 
  • It also has a cigarette-lighter style 12-volt port. 

Each of the output methods (AC, DC, and USB) can all be enabled or disabled with a button press.

Bluetti Power Station charging system

For charging, you can utilize a standard 120-volt AC plug with the included adapter. The AC240 can also be charged via DC connections such as solar panels, vehicle alternator outputs, or even a vehicle’s cigarette lighter with a different included adapter cable.  The user’s manual indicates maximum amp requirements for each.

We Added Folding Solar Panels For an Extra Boondocking Power Boost

Bluetti PV350 solar array set up in the sun near the back of a truck at the campsite.

Unless you are going to be connected to shorepower most of the time, you will want to consider adding Bluetti solar panels for boondocking. They’re a great investment because even if you have access to shorepower, electricity is usually an extra cost. So, relying on solar panels to cover part of your energy use will save you money and quickly pay for itself.

Bluetti’s portable boonocking power station panels are foldable and weigh around 30 pounds. This makes them easy to move and set up. We worked with the PV350 panels which provide a maximum of 350 watts, and the unit folds up to about 2-by-3 inches. When folded the unit is only about an inch thick. Remember to add another inch for the non-removable cable sticking out of the back of the panels.

Bluetti PV350 folding solar panel

The product page on the solar panels does not specify the cable lengths. The length of the cable that came on the PV350 solar power panel unit was eight feet, with three feet of the cord already split into positive and negative ending in MC4 connectors. 

After the solar panels are set up you can plug them into the station with the included adapter cable that came with the AC240. The station has a display that lets you know how much charging time is left. Here was the environment:

Bluetti PV350 panels charging conditions

Charging with Bluetti’s Folding Solar Panels in Real-World Conditions

We noted the wind speed because the expanded panels take up about eight feet and can make a good sail if you’re not careful.

You may need to get creative on where to place them if neighboring RVs are blocking sunlight, if you are in a treed area, or you just need to be wary of wind. 

It was a little windy on our setup days, with wind blowing around 16–17mph. The wind did manage to close one of the panels over another at one point. 

  • A good solution to keep the panels in place is to use wide landscape staples that fit over the straps. We hammered those into the ground over each end of the strap stands in the back, and it didn’t move. You may find other ways to anchor the panel array against the wind, but the staples are lightweight and easy to store. It would be a nice feature to have added grommets to anchor or hang the array.

What to Expect for Charging Time

The panels were generating about 316 watts during the exposure time. At 51% charge, the station display showed it still had 2.3 hours to reach 100% charge. On average, on a good full sunny day, you can expect charging to 100% from a very low charge to take about four hours when using one 350-watt panel array. 

Bluetti PV250 solar panel and AC240 boondocking power station

Note that Bluetti recommends that you not charge and discharge the station at the same time. You may want to consider more than one power source if you need a lot of power throughout the day while you’re boondocking. Or, at the very least, limit and plan your power use during primary charging times. 

The app does not let you know how much charging time is left; you can only find that on the station display.  So, if you are stepping away from your rig for a while and leave the solar panels charging the battery, it is good to have an estimate of how long it will take as you will not have access to the station display. This would be a nice feature to add to the app.

Fifth-wheel boondocking (Image: Lucinda Belden)
Our office view while boondocking.

A Winning Combination for Boondocking Power Needs Great and Small

In our RV, we are not saving the station for emergencies or using it on a temporary basis; we need a power source at all times. The nicest thing about the AC240 Portable Power Station and the Bluetti PV350 Solar Panel combination is the suitability for all types of RVs and lifestyles. The size, features, and capabilities of the station and the panel array make it easy to support and store even in the smallest RVs. However, it easily integrates into existing systems as well, for even larger, more energy-demanding usage.

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