Choosing an Inverter for your RV

Written by: Randy Anderson, Technical Sales and Training Manager

With summer upon us and the kids getting out of school, the RV’s are being pulled out of storage and readied for their summer adventures. Many are contemplating inverters to keep all those AC devices powered up and the kids entertained, the dilemma is always what brand, size, and type of inverter to purchase.

My recommendation on brand is to choose a product with a proven track record, from a company that has been in business for many years and has all the required CSA or UL certifications to ensure they will operate safely in your RV.  The size required for your application will depend on your particular needs and the estimated power consumption of your RV. Keep in mind that, unlike AC loads in our homes, RV loads may have to be monitored and regulated so they don’t exceed their rated output or deplete batteries to quickly. Depending on size, most RV’s should operate off inverters rated at 2000 to 4000 watts (continuous). Generally, inverters will supply surge loads of 1.5 to 2 times their rated continuous output to allow for high demand start up loads such as fridges and compressors.

Choosing a type also poses several options. Many new devices require pure sine wave inverters that output the same clean power we get from the outlets in our homes, while many older inverters are modified sine wave that may not operate todays sensitive electronics. As the popularity and proliferation of sizes of pure sine inverters continue to grow, the prices have also declined slightly, but modified sine inverters are typically less expensive.  Another option is a high frequency inverter vs low frequency or transformer based inverters. High frequency inverters are more predominate in lower end and lower power inverters and utilize electronics to convert DC battery power to AC. These units are typically lighter in weight and less expensive but may not supply sufficient high demand surge loads like those found in compressors and inductive motors.  Transformer base inverters on the other hand can handle higher surge loads and are meant to be work horse inverters. They are typically larger in size, weigh more and are more expensive due to the large amount of copper that constitutes the majority of the transformer.

Most RV’s are equipped with converters which send AC to the house loads and charge batteries when plugged into shore power. However, most converters are not renowned for being great battery chargers and often overcharge batteries when plugged in for long periods. In most cases they should not be used at all for charging AGM or Gel batteries.  For this reason, when choosing an inverter for an RV, it is a great idea to choose an inverter/charger in its place. Inverter/chargers can be installed in place of most converters and with many brands, like Xantrex, they are equipped with an internal transfer switch which performs all the functions of the converter. Replacing your converter with an inverter/charger eliminates some of the complicated wiring and simplifies the install.

After all these options are weighed, calculated and dissected, don’t forget that you will require sufficient battery capacity to keep those inverters running and AC devices operating. Generally larger inverter sizes mean more battery capacity required.

For answers to any other questions, application information, product availability or anything else, contact us!