When considering an independent power source for an RV, most people immediately think of a gas generator. These days, there’s an increase in people who see an inverter as a viable means of supplying their RV energy needs when shore power is not available. There are many advantages to using an inverter to supply electricity to an RV and I’ll be discussing these through the course of this article. Not to mention a full review of the best RV inverters.
Understanding the technical details of using a power inverter is fairly complex, so I’ll be dedicating a large part of the article to explaining how an inverter works and answering all the frequently asked questions. As many of you may be new the idea of an RV inverter, these questions will be numerous. What’s the difference between a modified sine wave and a pure sine wave? What type of inverter do you need for your RV? How many watts should your RV inverter supply? How many batteries do you need? Do you need a transfer switch for your RV inverter? These are only a few of the many questions I’ll be answering after the review.
I’m sure many of our readers would rather cut to the chase and source the best RV inverter. So, without any further ado, let’s get onto the matter at hand, a review of the best power inverters for your RV.
Best RV Inverter – The Full Review
We’ve selected a total of 10 RV inverters for this review. Yes, that’s quite a few choices. If you have a good idea of what you’re looking for it should be easy to find the best option for your needs. If not, you may want to skip to the RV inverter buying guide before making a decision.
As always, we’ve tried our best to find something for all buyers. Amongst the inverters selected for this review, you’ll find some of the absolute best pure sine wave inverters, and some cheaper modified sine wave inverters. We’ve also chosen a good variety of sizes, from small units of around 1200W, up to larger inverters, capable of supplying up to 4000W continuous power and an 8000W surge capacity.
1. Giandel Pure Sine Wave Power Inverter 2200Watt
I was immediately impressed by the high-quality feel of this inverter. The Giandel 2200W pure sine wave inverter is certainly one of the best. I do, however, find the fact that this inverter has no surge capacity a little disappointing to say the least. With that said, it is a wonderfully reliable and safe AC power supply for any RV and can also be a great solution for efficient emergency power at home. From the first impression, the Giandel looks the part of a high-quality inverter. All aluminum, with excellent cooling, this is a great product.
I like the smart fan that only runs when needed. This makes for a lot less unwanted noise. Taking a look at the internal components and my admiration jumps in leaps and bounds. As a technical guy, this is what is important to me.
This is a state of the art IGBT pure sine wave inverter with a rated efficiency of up to 91% and THD of less than 3%. Making the Giandel one of the best you’ll find. I also like the solid nature of the components and the fact that this inverter can handle inductive load. This means it can run appliances like refrigerators and microwaves. The abundance of internal aluminum heat syncs and a superb cooling fan, means that it can supply the required load without any hassles.
Hooking up the Giandel Inverter to your RV is no hassle at all. You can use either of two standard 3-prong 120V household electrical outlets or you can use the hardwire connections and connect the inverter directly to your RV electric panel. I’d recommend a transfer switch for a panel connection though. It also has a fully protected 2.4A USB port for safely charging devices.
A remote control is supplied with this power inverter. The remote system has a 15’ cord so you can conveniently control the system from just about anywhere in your RV. It also has an LED display on the inverter. Here you can see input and output power display, as well as critical warning information, like overheating and overcurrent. You can rest assured though, the Giandel Power Inverter is fully protected against these situations. If the onboard electronic management detects a power overload, a short circuit, or the inverter overheats, it will automatically shut down.
With 2200W of pure sine wave power, you can use quite a few appliances safely and efficiently. That’s what I really like about the Giandel inverter, the pure sine wave with great efficiency. What I’m not too happy about, is the limited power. I guess it depends what your requirements are. For watching TV, using your laptop, and keeping the lights on, this is one of the best RV inverters. For larger appliances, like refrigerators and air conditioners, you may find it slightly lacking. The wattage is sufficient for many refrigerators and a few smaller air conditioners. Though, with no surge capacity (peak power), you’ll have difficulty running anything else at the same time. On the plus side, it’s perfectly compact and blissfully quiet. Quality is tops, backed by a fantastic 3-year warranty.
2. Krieger 3000 Watts Power Inverter (Modified Sine Wave Inverter)
Although I’m not a big fan of modified sine wave inverters, Krieger is one of my preferred power inverter manufacturers. I’ve had a lot of dealings with US and Canadian supplier of inverters and solar power equipment. I’d easily rank them as one of the best in the world. In short, if I were to buy a modified sine wave power inverter, these guys would be the first I’d trust. Generally, a modified sine wave inverter is not the most efficient way of doing things. They tend to generate extra heat within the appliance and may, in some cases cause damage.
Though, looking at the Krieger spec sheet for this model, you’ll see an efficiency rating of up to 90%. That’s about the same as most pure sine wave inverters. This is also a seriously heavy-duty inverter with an incredible amount of power.
For an inverter that weighs only 7.58-pounds, I’m astounded at the wattage the Krieger can supply – 4000W continuous power, with an incredible 6000W surge capacity. If you want quiet, clean inverter power for a full array of RV electrical equipment, this is one of the best there is. The ultra-quiet cooling fan is truly sublime, you’ll hardly hear it.
A remote control is supplied with the Krieger 3000W Power Inverter, along with a 15’ CAT5 cable. High quality battery cables are also included. You have the option connecting the inverter directly to your RV (or home) electric panel, via a transfer switch, or use either of the two standard 120V power outlets. It also has 2 X USB ports for charging phones, tablets, and the like.
Meeting all North American safety standards, you can use this inverter with complete confidence. It is protected against over current, over voltage, overheating, and short circuit. An onboard computerized management ensures your safety and information is supplied by means of an LCD display. It also has an audible alarm for system warnings.
Krieger is one of the most respected and trusted power inverter manufacturers I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. Some of their high-end products can be a bit on the expensive side. Quality always comes at a price. This makes the Krieger 3000W modified sine wave power inverter quite refreshing. You’re getting a top-quality product from one of the best in the business, just a little cheaper than their pure sine wave inverters. Allowing those who can’t afford the very best, an opportunity to own a product from a premium brand with an amazing 3-year warranty and unbeatable customer support. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the more 1,000 customer reviews on Amazon (average 4.5-star rating). These are impeccable stats from an enormous selection of customers.
3. AIMS Power 3000 WATT Pure SINE Power Inverter
For a pure sine wave 3000W inverter with a 6000W surge capacity, this AIMS Power model comes at a wonderful price. Not too familiar with the brand, I was wondering what the catch might be. Search as I may, I really couldn’t find one. This really seems like excellent value for money. In every aspect, the AIMS Power inverter can match any of the big name, more expensive options. This is a mighty powerful inverter, with an incredible surge capacity, capable of running your refrigerator or RV air conditioner without a hassle.
It is also as efficient as the best of them, rated at 90%. To top it all off, this is a pure sine wave inverter with the ability to supply heavy-duty equipment, like electric motors, as well as sensitive electronics found in computers and TVs.
4. Energizer 4000 Watt 12V Power Inverter (Modified Sine Wave Inverter)
The Energizer brand is generally associated with good value, low prices. I think this perfectly sums up the Energizer 4000W power inverter. This inverter is not extraordinary in any way. Except, perhaps, if you compare the price to any other similar product that delivers a whopping 4000W with an even more impressive 8000W surge power. While I wouldn’t call Energizer products top-quality, they are reliable. This is a well-known brand and that counts for a lot in this price range.
The low price is due, in part, to the fact that this is a modified sine wave inverter. I’ll discuss this in greater depth when we move on to the buying guide. For now, just accept that some equipment might not perform optimally using this inverter. I’ve often found cheaper LED lights to pulse erratically when running on a modified sine wave inverter. Anyway, more about that later.
Generally, though, I’d say good sound value for money defines this inverter. It certainly has the power to supply all your RV electricity needs and it has the ability to handle inductive loads, more than I’d have expected at this price per watt. Good news here, it means no problem running refrigerators, microwaves, and air conditioners.
You have quick access to 2 X conventional 120V household outlets. It also has hardwire ports, neatly concealed behind a cover on the front panel. The Energizer inverter also has 2 X 2.4A USB ports. The LCD screen offers heaps of valuable information in an easy to use format. A single touch button lets you quickly scroll through display options which include all the usual stuff: input and output voltage and battery status. It also has critical warning displays for high voltage, low voltage, and overload. The Energizer 4KW inverter weighs only 14 pounds, making for an excellent power to weight ratio.
When you’re looking at buck per watt, it’s hard to beat the Energizer 4000W inverter. They’ve even thrown in the battery connectors at this amazing price. Above average quality, below average price. Quite irresistible for the intrepid bargain hunter. Okay, modified sine wave is not the best, but you can’t expect anything better at this price, it is superb bang for your buck.
5. Ampeak Power Inverter 2000 Watt (Modified Sine Wave Inverter)
The Ampeak 2000W Power Inverter is another product that will excite buyers looking for an extremely low price and reasonable quality. Personally, I’m not too sure if I would go for this inverter. It just seems a little too cheap for me. However, that’s my opinion and many disagree. It received a pretty impressive 4.4 star customer rating on Amazon (from 351 customer reviews). Perhaps, my standards are a little too high for an average inverter like this one.
I’m going to stick with my assessment of average. It’s not a bad inverter, nor is it a great one. The 2000W power output, with a rather impressive 4000W surge capacity, needs to be taken with a pinch of salt though. This inverter has no inductive load capacity. It is not suited to powering refrigerators, microwaves, or air conditioners. It’s also a modified sine wave inverter which is not the best for some appliances.
Computers and TVs are really what this inverter is built for. Lighting equipment should be fine, most of the time, you might see some flickering because of the modified sine wave. Many stereos have issues with modified sine wave inverters, so it’s only a guess which will work with this model. I really wouldn’t try using anything more powerful than a regular (max 300W) hand drill off the Ampeak.
For the right applications, this can be a fantastic AC power source. It has all the necessary safety features and an LED screen displaying output watts, voltage, and all your typical warnings for overheating, over current, overload, low voltage, and low battery, with an alarm. AC Power is supplied by means of two regular 120V outlets and it has a USB port, as well as an input for a remote control. Though no remote is supplied with the inverter, that will set you back an extra $10 - $15.
It’s not easy to find a 2000W inverter around $150 that’s worth buying. For this alone, the Ampeak is quite a remarkable product. If you only need a light duty inverter, don’t mind modified sine wave, and don’t have a huge budget, this little inverter should be like a ray of sunlight in otherwise murky waters. Buying a sophisticated electronic device this cheap can be fraught with uncertainty. At least the Ampeak Power Inverter has proven to be quite dependable, making for sound value.
6. WZRELB 3000w Pure Sine Wave Solar Power Inverter
On a technical level, the WZRLEB 3000W pure sine wave inverter really appeals to me. This looks like an incredibly well-made piece of electronic equipment and that always floats my boat. I believe that this inverter can rank amongst the most robust and should perform well, even when supplying heavy-load inductive current. I reckon this inverter can keep producing the full 3000W running capacity (surge power – 6000W) longer than most without overheating or failing.
It appears as though they have used a combination of MOSFET and IGBT technology with amazing effect. You can read more about this technical jargon in the buying guide. Basically, it means you have the robust hardworking capabilities of old-fashioned heavy copper and the clean power advantage of modern transistor technology. The best of both worlds, and something I prefer to see in an inverter. Dual cooling fans and excellent heat syncs serve to further improve reliability and the longevity of this product.
Form a user perspective, the WZRLEB 3000W Pure Sine Wave inverter is as good as any of the best products in this review. Although they call this a solar inverter, it does not include any form solar charger. It is the same as any of the other inverters in this regard. Yes, you can use solar to charge the batteries, but this would require an extra investment in both solar panels and a solar charge controller.
The WZRLEB has a pretty cool LED display, with two screens. It displays input and output current simultaneously. Outlets are the usual 120V household type, with 3-point hardwire terminals for hot, neutral, and ground. Safety requirements are all met, with protection for under and over voltage, overheating, and current overload, including onscreen and alarm warnings.
The WZRLB is most certainly a quality product and I highly respect the expert engineering that has gone into making this such a great inverter. It seems, by all accounts, to be built to last. A reliable pure sine wave inverter with a power output to supply most RV needs.
7. POTEK 2000W Power Inverter (Modified Sine Wave Inverter)
Of the more affordable modified sine wave inverters, the POTEK 2000W Power Inverter is one of the better options. It has a rated output of 2000W and a peak surge capacity of 4000W. This is a popular size for an RV inverter. Relatively cheap, with enough power to meet general RV and home electricity needs. One thing I like is that this inverter can supply an inductive load. Not all cheap inverters can do this. It means you’re able to run a refrigerator, microwave, or air conditioner. With the 4000W surge capacity, possibly more than one at a time.
For a modified sine wave inverter, the POTEK is reasonably efficient and utilizes dual cooling fans to improve performance at high output loads. If you like fancy color displays, this model will peak your interest. It has a green to red LED bar output display, making it easy to see how far up the power supply capabilities you are at any given time. Naturally, it meets all North American safety standards and then some. Like the other inverters in this review, the POTEK will shut down when overload, overheating, overvoltage, or low voltage is detected. It also has the same 120V household outlets with the option for hardwiring directly to an electric panel, and a USB charging port.
Another great value for money, affordable RV inverter. The POTEK is a cut above the norm, when looking at cheap inverters, in that it can supply heavy-duty inductive load. Modified sine wave always means a better price, albeit not the best electrical supply for some equipment. Though this inverter appears to be an above average machine in its class.
8. VertaMax Pure SINE Wave 1500 Watt
Although the VertaMax 1500W model is one of the least powerful in this RV inverter review, it makes up for this in the quality of its design and components. Offering only 1500W continuous and 3000W surge power, this inverter will only meet the most basic of RV AC power requirements. It will, however, do so efficiently and reliably. The VertaMax is a high-quality inverter by any standards.
I like the power outlets more than most. The VertaMax inverter has 3 X 115V household power receptacles, each with their own overload circuit breaker directly below the outlet. This is quite a novel approach for a power inverter and very convenient. It also has a remote control, supplied with a 17-foot cord.
The battery cables are also supplied, with an inline fuse fitted to the positive cable. When it comes to attention to detail, these guys win my respect. The inverter, with its impressive aluminum, heat sync casing and multiple cooling fans also displays a high level of quality. This is a pure sine wave inverter and is clearly a highly accomplished machine.
The usual safety features are standard gear – shutdown for overload, overheating, overvoltage, or under current. An LED screen displays wattage and volts, a switch allows you to select the display. Two LED lights, one red and one green, inform as to whether all is okay or there is a system fault. All very basic and to the point.
Although less powerful than most of the other RV inverters that we’ve reviewed here, the VertaMax Pure Sine Wave 1500W inverter deserves a lot of credit for the incredible quality it has to offer. I’m always going to shower praise on equipment that is this well-made. Definitely one of the best.
9. BESTEK 1200W Power Inverter (Modified Sine Wave Inverter)
Perhaps we’re entering the bargain basement here. The Bestek 1200W Power Inverter is unbelievably cheap, well under $100. Ordinarily, I would be seriously apprehensive about a product this cheap. Though, this little inverter has caught my attention in a big way. This is a lightweight, light duty, take anywhere inverter. It only delivers 1200 watts of AC power with a timed peak supply. This probably means a thermal overload that will handle a peak of up to 1700W.
The amount of time that the inverter will supply a load exceeding 1200W will be dependent on the extra load. Although they specify that the Bestek inverter can supply a refrigerator, I would not recommend it. Perhaps a small under counter fridge, but no more.
For a cheap inverter, the materials used are way better than I’d have expected. It is enclosed in an aluminum housing which reduces weight and improves cooling. The Bestek weighs a little over 4-pounds and has a handle which makes it easy to carry with one hand. This inverter is a winner for easy portability and great for camping and day trips. Modified sinewave, means lower efficiency and not the best for all types of electric equipment.
The Bestek inverter has a comprehensive LCD display, two 120V AC outlets and USB charging ports. Warnings for low voltage, under or over current, as well as overheating are displayed on the screen, along with AC and DC power values. It has a cooling fan for extended use at high load output.
The Bestek 1200W inverter is by no means a heavy-duty power supply. For the best RV inverter costing around $100 this has to be the undisputed champion. Even an old cynic like me, with a serious disdain for cheap electronics, has to admit this little RV inverter is excellent value.
10. Go Power! GP-SW3000-12 3000-Watt Pure Sine Wave Inverter
The Go Power GP-SW3000-12 is most certainly a serious contender for the best value 3000W/6000W pure sine wave RV inverter. This is a great power source for demanding applications and is very reasonably priced. Delivering 3000 watts with a 6000W surge capacity, the Go Power GP-SW3000-12 has the guts to deliver, whether for camping, home, or a jobsite. This inverter supplies pure sine wave AC power and can handle heavy inductive loads. Certainly as good as any of the top-rated inverter power products.
The robust housing makes this a great machine for hardworking conditions and it has a thermostatically controlled cooling fan, allowing the Go Power inverter to supply high load current for longer. Like any of the best inverters, it will shut down if the internal components overheat. It also provides additional protection against current overload, as well as under and over voltage. A rare sight on an inverter is GFCI protection, making the GP-SW3000-12 quite unique with this additional safety feature.
The control panel is basic and minimalist. The on/off switch has a third position for remote control. The remote control unit is sold separately. It has LED indicator lights for ON, LOAD, and STATUS. Nothing too complicated. Two standard 120V AC outlets are provided, along with hardwire connection ports. There’s an all-metal solidness about this machine that I really like. Yet it is not all heavy – 22-pounds.
Another remarkable aspect is revealed when reading customer reviews for the Go Power SW3000-12 inverter. It’s not often that we see praise awarded to a brand for outstanding customer service. People may be quick to complain if the service is substandard. But for someone to actually compliment good service, a company has to go the extra mile. I’ve read several great reviews, commenting on the excellent customer service offered by the Go Power team. This is a remarkable feat and wins my admiration, giving one additional faith in the 2-year warranty offered on this product.
RV Power Inverter Buying Guide
What is a Power Inverter?
Before moving onto the more complicated technical details, let’s start with a basic understanding of what it means when you’re buying an RV inverter.
An inverter is used to convert DC power from a battery into AC power that can run regular household appliances. In North America, this means 110 – 120V, 60HZ AC current.
A 12V deep cycle battery is used to store DC power, that can be used at any time. Although there are other batteries types used to supply the 12V DC current, like lithium ion, deep cycle batteries (also called leisure or marine batteries) are the most popular choice. This has mostly to do with the price vs lifespan that lead acid deep cycle batteries offer.
Inverters used to power an RV, home, or business, all operate on the same principle, but may not always use the same input DC current. An inverter could use any DC voltage, this will usually be a multiple of 12 (12V, 24V, 36V etc.) as deep cycle leisure batteries are all 12V. The input voltage can be increased by using 1 or more 12V batteries connected in series.
How Does an Inverter Work?
Without an in depth knowledge of electrical engineering, all the technical details concerning current inversion can become confusing. I’m going to do my best to explain this in a way that everyone can understand. To do so, we need to take a step back and look at how AC and DC electricity work.
We cannot see electricity. We cannot hear it. We can feel it, in the form of an electric shock, but that is something we would all rather avoid. Because of this, electricity is something that few people fully understand, yet it is a regular part of daily lives.
With the right equipment we can see electricity. An oscilloscope is used to do this, helping us understand electricity and how it works.
By viewing an electric current through an oscilloscope, we know that Direct Current (DC) moves in a straight line from a point of high charge to one of low charge.
Alternating Current (AC) is aptly named because the current alternates between a point of high charge and one of neutral charge, in a pulsing action. The AC electric pulse, when viewed through an oscilloscope, resembles a wave, known as a sine wave.
In order to convert the linear movement of DC current into a pulsing AC sine wave, the electrons need to be rearranged to switch between two poles, rather than move directly.
Switch Mode Inverters
The first inverters used Metal Oxide Semiconductor Field-Effect Transistors (MOSFETs) to switch DC current so that it roughly resembled a sine wave. The name is a mouthful, and its operation is fairly complex, but still easy enough to understand.
By using two MOSFETs (one at the negative pole and one at the positive), the DC current is switched to alternate between two points. Hence the name switch mode inverter. Though by creating only two points, using two MOSFETS, the sine wave resembles a square. A true sine wave is an elliptical curve and this shape difference has a great effect on how efficient the current is.
A square sine wave inverter, using a single step dual MOSFET setup, is the most basic type of DC to AC current conversion. These inverters are limited in their capabilities and are seldom used for general applications. They are also the cheapest type of inverter.
In order to create a more usable and efficient sine wave, MOSFETs can be added in groups of two. With every two MOSFETs used, and additional square step is created. This is known as a step square or modified sine wave. If a modified sine wave has enough steps, it can read as a true or pure sine wave. Although he pure sinewave created by an inverter is technically a modified sine wave, with enough steps, it becomes undetectable and looks just like the elliptical curve of a true sine wave.
The problem with using MOSFETS to create a true sine wave, with 1000’s of steps, is matter of practicality and cost. The amount of MOSFETS required would be wholly unpractical in terms of size and weight, and it will also be prohibitively expensive.
So all switch mode inverters produce a modified sine wave with only a few steps. Even then, not all modified sine wave inverters are equal. The more expensive modified sine wave inverters will use more steps, this closely resembles a true sine wave with almost the same efficiency.
Cheaper modified sine wave inverters will usually have only two or three steps. These inverters will not be as efficient as true sine wave inverters or a modified sine wave using multiple steps. Appliances running off a modified sine wave will generate extra heat and won’t operate as efficiently. There may also be some noise emitted, particularly from electric motors, in the form of an electric “buzz”. Capacitive load, used in electronic devices, may not always work properly when supplied with a modified sine wave. I’ll discuss this in more detail when we talk about the types of load used by electric appliances.
Here’s another tongue twister, we electrical guys sure like complicated terminology. An Insulated-Gate Bipolar Transistor is a cost-effective and practical means to produce multiple steps in the conversion of DC to AC power. By creating an almost infinite array of steps, IGBT inverters produce a sine wave that perfectly resembles a true sine wave.
By using a number of transistors and capacitors, controlled by an electronic management system, these inverters are able to produce a perfectly stable sine wave with incredibly low levels of Total Harmonic Distortion (THD). High THD results in excessive heat, reduced efficiency, and can harm sensitive electronic circuitry.
THD results from imperfections in the sine wave, caused by changes in the voltage and frequency. This is brought about by non-linear loads (like inductive current) and increases with the load demand.
Mechanically generated power, like a portable gas generator or the grid power that we use in our homes is prone to harmonic distortion when load demand is increased. This is most prevalent with small portable generators, with a limited load capacity. THD can reach as high as 25% with these generators. During peak demand periods, even the grid power supply to our homes can exceed 20% THD.
The benefit of using a computerized IGBT inverter is the control it offers in reducing THD. The best IGBT inverters produce less 1% THD. Though most commercially available true sine wave inverters are rated at <3% THD. This is perfectly safe and reliable current for any type of electronic circuit. In fact, it is more reliable than the utility power supply to our homes.
Types of Load
So far, we’ve established that there are two basic types of inverters: switch mode inverters that produce a modified sine wave and IGBT inverters, producing a pure sine wave. There’s a third factor which will also be relevant when we look at what types of load an inverter is suited to. This is the use of copper transformers and is of greatest importance when dealing with inductive load.
When choosing the best power inverter for your RV, it’s important that you understand the type of load you’re using. There are three categories of AC power load.
This is the simplest form of electric device and is the easiest to understand. Any appliance that uses electric resistance to function will fall into this category. These would be brushed electric motors, used for low power devices like a small electric fan, incandescent lights, and resistance heaters.
All inverters can be used to supply resistive load. Though a true sine wave inverter will be more efficient for any type of load. This means longer battery times and better performance from the appliances.
A capacitive load exists in many forms. Capacitors also form part of an inductive electric motor. It is fairly similar to an inductive load as it is also non-linear. In terms of household electric devices, we usually refer to capacitive load as being electronic devices and LED lights.
True sine wave inverters are the best for capacitive load devices. Not all modified sine wave inverters can run electronic equipment, and some may even damage these appliances.
Unfortunately, there is no sure way of knowing if a modified sine wave inverter will negatively affect the use of capacitive load devices. It’s only through using the inverter that the user can determine what its limitations are. Fortunately, most modified sine wave inverters on the market today use sufficient steps, along with transistors, to ensure that they are safe for electronic equipment and will not interfere with their functioning. While there is no guarantee that the modified sine wave inverter that you buy will be sufficient for all types of load, only the really cheap inverters usually pose problems.
In my electrical experience, this is the type of load that has caused the most headaches with regard to inverters. It is important to understand that an inverter that does not use a copper transformer cannot handle inductive load. A purely transistor-based inverter will burn out rapidly if used to supply inductive load. This basically renders the inverter useless, as it becomes uneconomical to repair.
Inductive load is non-linear, resulting in the maximum and zero points of the sine wave being out of phase. The most common type of inductive appliances used in our homes, RVs, and workplaces are brushless AC electric motors. These are found in most appliances that use a high power electric motor, including vacuum cleaners, washing machines, air conditioners, dryers, most power tools, and garden tools. Microwave ovens are also inductive, as are certain types of lights. This is often the area of most confusion. Lights that use a gas reaction, requiring a ballast, like fluorescent and mercury vapor lights, are inductive and require a transformer-based inverter.
Both IGBT pure sine wave inverters and switch mode modified sine wave inverters can supply power for inductive load. In both cases, the inverter has to utilize a copper transformer in order to handle the consequent unbalanced load.
As with any power supply, an RV inverter has to provide the wattage required for all the equipment that you’ll be using. This means adding the total power consumption for all the electrical equipment in your RV. You need to account for the running load and the startup peak power requirement for appliances, like refrigerators and air conditioners, which need extra watts when starting.
When calculating your RV power requirements, you’ll need to use a certain degree of discretion as to how you use the electrical equipment. You won’t be using all this equipment simultaneously. You can also decide whether to switch one appliance off when using another. This will help reduce your maximum power demand, meaning that you could use a less powerful inverter, saving some money.
You also need to consider your battery usage. There is virtually no limit to how many batteries you can use to supply power to your RV. It’s a matter of how much space you have, your battery charging capacity, and how much you’re prepared to spend on batteries.
A 100AH 12V deep cycle battery is equivalent to 1200 Watt-Hours (WH). This means the battery can theoretically supply 1200W for an hour before is needs to be recharged. I say theoretically, because there is a power loss factor, depending on the efficiency of your inverter. The best inverters can be up to 95% efficient, meaning that you will only lose around 5% of the 1200 watt hours supplied by a 100AH battery. The cheapest modified sine wave inverters may only offer 80% efficiency, sometimes less. This means that you could be losing 20% or more of the usable battery power.
Is an RV Inverter Worth Buying?
Many campsites have electrical supply outlets for campers requiring AC power. If you’re going off-grid, like dry camping, a portable generator is the conventional means of supplying AC power to an RV. So, why would you want an inverter? Below are the reasons why so many motorhome and trailer enthusiasts see the need to invest in an inverter system:
In many cases, an inverter is used alongside an RV generator. The gas generator will supply power during the day and charge the 12V deep cycle batteries used to supply the inverter. At night, when generator noise can be problematic, the inverter is used. They can also supply emergency power when a campsite electricity supply fails.
For environmentally friendly off-grid power, solar-powered battery chargers, batteries, and an inverter is the most popular choice.
RV Inverter FAQ
What will a 3000 watt power inverter run?
An inverter with a constant power capacity of 3000W and 6000W surge power is ideally suited to an RV with a 30A electric panel. This is sufficient wattage for a 10,000 – 15,000 BTU RV air conditioner, a mid-sized refrigerator, and all the other appliances you’re likely to be using in a medium to large RV. The power delivered by a 3000W (6000 peak watt) inverter will allow the air conditioner and refrigerator to start simultaneously without tripping.
What will a 2000 watt power inverter run?
A 2000W inverter (4000W surge power) can run an RV refrigerator or small air conditioner. Though using these appliances at the same time could cause the inverter to trip because of a current overload. When using a microwave, other high-watt appliances would need to be switched off. Electronic equipment, like TVs and laptops, as well as lights, are no problem with an inverter of this size.
Does my RV have an inverter?
There’s no way of telling if an RV is fitted with an inverter without doing a physical inspection. Chances are your RV does not have an inverter unless you have had one fitted.
What size Power inverter do I need for my RV?
Choosing the correct size inverter for your RV is not as simple as one might think. Ideally, you should go as large as possible, keeping in mind the actual space you have available for an inverter and the batteries required to supply the DC power.
To obtain a reasonably accurate assessment of your RV power requirements, you need to add the wattage of every appliance you use. For equipment like refrigerators and air conditioners you also need calculate the maximum startup power requirement.
Do a reasonable assessment to determine what your peak running and startup power requirements will be. Keep in mind that you will seldom, if ever, be using all the equipment at the same time. It is always better to add a safety margin (10 – 15%) on top of your final total. This will prevent the likelihood of an overload or overheating if the inverter is going to supply peak loads for prolonged periods.
How many batteries do I need for a 2000 watt inverter?
Calculating battery requirements for an RV inverter is not an exact science. More batteries is always going to best for several reasons. For one thing, the more battery storage you have, the more power you can use for longer. More importantly, deep cycle batteries last longer if they are not used beyond 50% of their rated cycle. In other words, if your inverter battery is only discharged up to half its rated capacity, before recharging, it will provide many more years of usable life.
To calculate what your minimum DC battery storage requirement for a 2000W inverter will be, you need to estimate your average power consumption. The inverter may provide 2000W constantly, but are you actually going to be using 2000W all the time? You also need to allow for inverter efficiency, which can be anything from 70% to 95%, depending on the quality of the inverter.
Start by converting your battery Ampere Hours (AH) to Watt Hours (WH). For a 12V deep cycle battery, you multiply the AH by the voltage (12). A standard 100AH leisure battery will provide 1200 WH. Taking into account the average inverter loss factor (efficiency rate), you can assume this to be closer to 1000 WH.
If you’re using your 2000W inverter at full capacity, a single 100AH deep cycle battery will provide approximately 30-minutes of AC power. Though, if you’re only watching TV at night, with a few lights on, you power consumption would probably be less than 300W. This should mean around 3 to 3½ hours power from a single 100AH battery.
Should I leave my RV inverter on all the time?
Generally speaking, I’d say only switch the inverter on when you need it. Leaving an inverter on for no reason, increases wear and it uses up battery standby time. However, if you’re using an inverter charger, it is better to leave it on all the time. This is because these inverters have a built in charger (solar or mains) which monitor and charge the batteries all the time. If you switch an inverter charger off, the batteries will not be charged.
Does an inverter use power if nothing is plugged in?
Yes, all inverters have a no-load current spec. The electronic controls inside your inverter draw current constantly.
How long will a 12V battery run an inverter?
The amount of time a 12V deep cycle battery can supply an inverter is dependent on the size of the battery (AH) and the AC power consumption (including power conversion loss factor). A 100AH 12V deep cycle battery will provide 1KW power for approximately 1-hour.
How do you check if an inverter is working?
The best way to check if an inverter is working properly, is to check the output and battery voltage using a multi-meter. Make sure the inverter is switched on and check for fault readings, like overload or overheating. If all looks normal, check the battery voltage to make sure you have sufficient battery power. With no load on the inverter, you want at least 12V at the battery. When you draw load from the inverter battery voltage can drop as low as 10.5V, depending on the state of the battery charge and the general condition of the battery.
Remember to check the battery voltage using the DC setting and the inverter output voltage using the AC setting on your multi-meter.
Check the voltage at the AC electrical outlet with no load on the inverter, this should be around 120V. Plug an appliance into an outlet on the inverter and switch it on. When you measure the voltage with load on the inverter, it should be the same as when there was no load. A voltage difference between load and no-load may occur, but this should not exceed 1% - 2%. In other words a voltage difference of up to 2.5V is acceptable.
Inverter AC voltage in North America can be anything from 110V to 125V. It would be best to check your owner’s manual to see the rated AC voltage for your inverter to make the most accurate assessment as to whether it is functioning optimally.