An RV without electricity isn’t much more than a can on wheels. Being able to use all the electrical appliances that we would at home is one of the many benefits of a modern recreational vehicle. Ensuring that you have a reliable electricity supply for your motorhome or trailer, at all times, need not be too complicated. The best RV power converters will do this for you.
The most convenient and reliable means of ensuring constant power to an RV is by using Direct Current (DC) to supply appliances and lighting. This means that you can store power in a battery and use it when needed. In order to convert 120V AC power from the grid or a generator, you’ll need a good power converter. With the correct wattage and charge controllers built-in, the best RV power converters will supply reliable DC electricity to your lighting and other low-volt appliances, whilst charging 12V batteries at the same time.
Best RV Power Converters – The Full Review
If you’ve been shopping around for an RV power converter, you’re probably feeling a little overwhelmed. There are just so many options out there and, as to be expected, every manufacturer wants you to believe their product is the best. Relax, grab a cup of coffee, and get reading. We’ve done the homework for you. I’m confident anyone looking for the best RV power converter will find exactly what you’re looking for right here.
We've set about finding the best RV converters for this review. That’s something our readers have come to rely on. In doing this, we’ve not only sought out the ultimate, high-end Ac to DC power converters, we’ve also looked for some great cheaper models for buyers who aren’t up to paying high prices. Essentially, you can choose between some expensive top-quality power converters and several much more affordable options.
Naturally, we’ll never recommend that you waste your money on cheap junk. So, even the cheapest RV power converters in this review have their merits and are certainly worth buying. Some may provide more watts for high-powered appliances, like DC refrigerators. While others will be more basic (and affordable), providing the wattage needed to keep your deep cycle batteries charged and possibly supply a few lights and some other low-watt equipment at the same time.
Before you head over to Amazon and make that critical decision to “Add to Cart”, you may want more information. If this is all new to you, buying the best power converter for your RV can be somewhat daunting. Even if you’re not buying your first RV power converter, you may have questions that need answering before you buy. Fear not friends, we’ll also be providing a complete RV converter buyers guide. Here you’ll get all the information on how these devices work and what you should look for before deciding which will be the best product for you.
1. WFCO WF9855 (WF-9855 55) Amp Deck Mount Converter / Charger
The WFCO range of converter/chargers has a great selection of high quality products. The most popular of these, amongst RV owners, is the WFCO WF9855 55. This is a robust 55A power converter with an amazing, intelligent charger. Price vs quality and performance is a compelling reason for rating this machine as one of the best. Not a cheap item, this is still one of the better priced power converters, if you’re looking for top quality from a brand with over 40-years industry experience.
Installing the WFCO power converter is an absolute synch. Designed for deck-mount installation, there are four screw slots at the base to secure it to a convenient place in your vehicle. It has 2 X DC terminals, which are wonderfully insulated for additional safety, yet really easy to access. Connect DC + and -, plug the converter in, and switch it on.
Input power supply ranges form 105 – 130 VAC. You know that it is perfectly safe, there are two fuses on the front panel which are also super easy to check and replace when needed.
Your batteries will last as long possible, thanks to the 3-stage charging process. A rapid charge 14.4VDC mode is perfect for quick bulk charging. The WFCO power converter will monitor the battery charge, reducing the DC current as your batteries reach full charge. Once the batteries are fully charged, the converter maintains a trickle charge to ensure optimum battery life.
Good ventilation and a cooling fan ensure that the converter functions perfectly, even when delivering high-power for extended periods. The fan only switches on when needed, keeping noise levels to a minimum.
RV owners are most certainly delighted with the WFCO WF9855 deck mount power converter. It is as reliable as they come with a brilliant 3-stage battery charger. After reading through countless customer reviews, I’m convinced that this is one of the most popular, and for good reason. A majority of reviewers have given this product a 5 star rating.
2. Progressive Dynamics PD9260CV Inteli-Power 9200 Series Converter
The Progressive Dynamics Inteli-Power PD9260CV has to be one of my favorite 60A power converters. It displays every aspect of robust design and build that I’m looking for in an electrical device of this nature. It also has some of the best electronic engineering. An all-round winner, certainly worth a few dollars more than the average RV power converter.
Solid construction with incredible cooling, I can see this power converter outlasting most others. It has one of the best cooling fans, operating at a variable speed. This allows for optimized cooling of the electronic components, whilst keeping noise levels to a minimum. The fan will only run at full capacity when the converter is supplying maximum load (60A). It will safely handle an AC input voltage of 105 – 130V. If the AC voltage drops too low, or spikes to dangerous levels (>135V), the Inteli-Power will shut down the DC power supply, protecting your DC equipment from over or under voltage.
It also monitors to the DC supply, keeping the voltage at a constant 13.6V for optimal battery charging and power supply to your DC electric equipment. Charge Wizard technology provides the best battery management system.
Designed for quick, safe installation, the Progressive Dynamics power converter has slots to screw it down to a flat surface. The DC terminals have two connection points for both positive and negative with easy access, insulated ports. The three fuses are also easy to access.
The Progressive Dynamics Inteli-Power RV converter is undoubtedly one of the very best. An amazing 4.8 star average rating on Amazon (from 357 customer reviews) is clear evidence of this. I was particularly impressed by the 4.8 star value for money rating. This is not the cheapest power converter, yet the overwhelming majority of users see it as excellent value. I think that kind of says it all. This one will be high on my wish list.
3. Powermax 110 Volt to 12 Volt DC Power Supply Converter Charger for RV
The Powermax RV Converter Charger is similar to the WFCO model at the top of the review. These are both 55A power converters with the same capabilities and general features, the Powermax may be slightly better in terms of long term reliability, but that’s more of a personal guess, not proven fact. One thing’s for sure, this is one of the most popular 110V - 12V power converters for an RV and has received rave reviews across the board.
The 3-stage battery charging system is one of the best, providing safe and efficient power to charge 12V batteries. Charge voltage and current is constantly monitored for the fastest charge times and best battery maintenance, prolonging the life span of your leisure batteries, whether it be for an RV, boat, or vehicle. You are able to easily select your preferred DC voltage between 13 and 16.5 volts. It’s all perfectly safe, with protection against overload, overheating, short circuit, and reverse polarity. The Powermax converter also has dual easy access fuses.
I particularly like the super quiet cooling fan, it makes for a much more pleasant environment inside the RV, especially if the converter is close to where you sleep. The unit is beautifully compact and as easy to install as anyone could wish for.
Among the best rated, good value power converters for an RV, the Powermax 12-volt model is a great option. There are several models in the Powermax range up to 48VDC, but this 12V version is the most popular, because 12V is a common supply voltage for most users. All-round excellent value for money and a reliable product, makes this another winning choice.
4. Arterra 0318.1454 WF-8955-PEC 30 Amp Power Converter
This is by no means an average product, which becomes abundantly evident when you look at the price. It may cost around $100 more than a cheap power converter, but the Arterra WF-8955-PEC is in a completely different league. It is more complicated to install because it offers a full range of AC and DC branch circuits, contained in an elegant flush mount box that will enhance the aesthetics of an RV. You don’t need to hide it in a closet or something, where it is difficult to access.
As a 55A power converter, the Arterra WF-8955-PEC can rank proudly alongside any of the very best. It has a wonderful 3-stage charge control, providing the requisite 14.4V rapid, bulk charge mode; 13.6V absorption mode and a 13.2 Float or battery maintenance mode. This is all done automatically, keeping your RV batteries in top condition without any hassles on your part. This is a comprehensive RV power center.
Where this product really impresses me is when it comes to great convenience. The elegant power panel provides a main (30A) AC breaker, with up to 5 AC branch circuits, as well as 2 X 30A 12VDC circuits and 9 X 20A DC circuits. While installation is not a simple process of connecting up a few terminals, it offers a complete, all in one AC and DC power distribution panel for your RV. The whole unit is neatly contained in a durable PVC box with a cover, allowing quick easy access to your breakers and fuses, whilst fitting in beautifully with the rest of your RV installations. It is a perfect replacement electric panel, or an elegant upgrade to your current one.
Box dimensions are 12³⁄₁₆” (W); 10⁷⁄₈” (H); 7¼”. Mounting and cut out dimensions: 13⁷⁄₈” (W); 11⁵⁄₈” (H); 9” (D). It could easily replace your existing RV power panel with little or no alteration needed. Along with the exquisite design, this product has all the safety and protection requirements for a modern electrical installation of this type (FCC Class B compliant, UL & cUL listed).
I like the complete electrical solution that this power converter and distribution panel provides. The Arterra not only offer sate of the art, safe AC to DC power conversion and battery charging, it is also an elegant full-solution power distribution panel for an RV or off-grid home power supply, up to 55A or 940W 12VDC, as well as 30A AC power distribution. You’ll avoid untidy and potentially unsafe electrical clutter. A magnificently beautiful and practical product with a 2-year warranty.
5. Iota DLS-75/IQ4 12 Volt 75 AMP 4 Stage Automatic Smart Battery Charger
From a technical perspective, this could easily be my number option for an AC to 12VDC power converter. Not just for an RV, but any situation where reliable DC voltage is essential. It must be one of the best and this also means it’s one of the more expensive options. Deservingly so. Not only does the Iota DLS-75/IQ4 deliver a mighty impressive 75A DC current, it has one of the most advanced power control modules, making it the best 12V electric supply for sensitive electronic equipment.
At a glance I can see immediately that this is not an ordinary power converter and would obviously cost more than most others. The metal enclosure with extensive cooling, provided by the external heat syncs, is exceptional. It is pretty standard as far as installation goes, with holes at each corner for screw down mounting. The Iota DLS-75/IQ4 is designed for a permeant installation that is completely hands-off. To this end, it has no on/off switch or indicator LED lights. I’d recommend installing a dedicated AC supply circuit with a 20A circuit breaker – maximum AC current is 17A.
Apart from the high output of 75A, there are plenty more features that make this an exceptional power converter. I would call this electrical engineering at its finest. If you deal with high-end electronics, you will definitely be impressed by the tech specs for this unit. Input AC voltage range is really great (108 – 132V), and it has an incredible 1240V maximum surge tolerance.
Efficiency is upwards of 80% with the best DC filtering and monitoring you can get. Of course, this means a fully competent 3-stage charging system for batteries (bulk, absorption, float), but it does a lot more than this. Output voltage at full load is a nominal 13.4VDC, with a no load tolerance of +/- 0.7%. Ripple and noise is <100MV RMS with the same spec for line regulation. Superbly regulated DC power that will cause absolutely no noise on stereos and the like.
Protection is offered across the board. The Iota DLS-75 has magnificent cooling with an output regulated fan for the lowest noise. If it does happen to overheat, full thermal protection will prevent damage. With the best power regulation the possibility of over or under voltage is nearly impossible. None the less, if there is a voltage spike, or low voltage, the unit will shut down the DC supply. It also has short circuit protection.
There are some professional environments where there can be no tolerance for voltage fluctuations, like auto electricians who deal with computer software and programming. These are the guys who insist on a product like the Iota DLS-75/IQ4. If you want the same level of power conversion for your RV, this one will knock your socks off. It’s a superb electronic device. About the best quality, for a long life span, and perfectly regulated DC voltage. A technophile’s dream machine.
6. Parallax Power Components 8345 Converter/Charger
The ultimate in quality AC and DC power distribution panels for an RV with the obvious inclusion of a power converter. Even though the Parallax power converter and panel has a lower current capacity compared to the Arterra converter and panel (reviewed above), it is more expensive. Why, you may ask? The answer is simple; the highest quality components, an all-metal enclosure for added durability, along with plenty of AC and DC circuits. This may be the best AC to DC converter and power panel combination for a camper or travel trailer. It can also be the perfect solution for an off-grid home, if the 45A charger and converter capacity will suffice.
While 50 – 60A power converters are the norm, the Parallax 8345 isn’t too far behind, with a maximum DC output of 45A. It does this reliably and safely. The battery charging capabilities are tops, with the expected 3-stage battery charger. Though to charge 12V batteries, you’ll need to install the Parallax 4400TAU battery charging module.
This unit is exemplary as a distribution panel for 30A shore power and a full array of 12VDC circuits. On one side are 6 X 15A AC circuit breakers (branch circuits), with a 30A main breaker. To the right, you have an 11 position DC fuse block, providing a combined total of 17 AC and DC circuits, that’s plenty for any RV. The DC fuse box also has a “blown fuse” indicator for easy fault diagnosis.
Robust quality is something that will always impress me, making the Parallax Power Components (8345) converter and power distribution panel and absolute winner in my opinion. At a little over $400, it may seem expensive for some. Especially when you consider that the 4400TAU battery charger is sold separately. Though, after taking in the top quality and extensive array of AC and DC branch circuits, we gain some perspective on this product. The best technology, with high-quality components will never come cheap.
7. Go Power! GPC-45-MAX 45 Amp 4-Stage Converter/Battery Charger
The Go Power brand exemplifies good quality at an extremely reasonable price. Simply put, the Go Power GPC-45-MAX is superb value for money. I feel that they are going a little overboard advertising this a 4-stage battery charger. In my opinion, there’s no such thing.
Though essentially, this no lie, it’s just that the so-called 4th battery charging stage is more of a maintenance cycle. At least, that’s what I’d call it. Be that as it may, this is a wonderful power converter and the charger is recommended for multiple 12V batteries, which is a common feature on many RVs and boats.
There’s no real wow factor to this power converter. It’s a sensible product, opposed to an extraordinary one. The compact unit is housed in a well-ventilated metal shell, with no visible heat syncs. This indicates that you will probably be hearing the cooling fan most of the time. No big deal, when you consider the great price.
It is also fairly limited, with a 45A DC output current. Though this should be quite sufficient for most of us. The 12 VDC supply is reliable and safe, with the expected safety features. Battery charging is as good as any of the best power converter/chargers. A full three stage charger ensures bulk charging with decreasing absorption and float charge as the batteries reach full capacity. Then they’ve included a battery equalization stage, which is basically the same as a battery monitoring and maintenance stage, quite common to most of the best power converters. Essentially, when using more than one battery, they don’t discharge at exactly the same rate. The Go Power converter compensates for this by periodically increasing the voltage, which allows the battery voltage to equalize throughout the battery bank (up to 6 batteries).
Installation is really easy. This is pretty much a plug and play device. It has the typical elongated slots for screws, four of them. The DC connection ports are safely insulated, with two fuses on the front panel for easy access.
Sort of like a Ford Focus, the Go Power GPC-45-MAX power converter is good old fashioned common sense. A product that can appeal to any type of consumer, looking for a reliability with no expensive frills. The emphasis being great value for money, nothing fancy.
8. WFCO WF-8735-P Black 30 Amp Power Center
A perfect all-in-one AC and DC electrical supply and distribution setup for a camper or travel trailer. Wonderful, if you’re on a budget and are looking for a 35A power converter and power distribution panel with AC and DC circuits. Note that fuses and breakers are sold separately, giving you the option to select the perfect amperage for your RV electrical requirements. The WFCO WF-8735-P 30 AMP Power converter is the perfect low-cost solution for a small to mid-sized RV.
In an ideal world, cheap should not mean nasty. The WFCO WF-8735-P certainly defies expectations in this regard. It’s a quality, robust product that fits neatly into an RV as an upgrade, replacement, or retrofit AC/DC electric panel, which includes a built-in power converter. Dimensions: 12.3” X 8.4” X 7.2”. This is a well-designed panel, in a durable box, with a cooling fan excellently concealed inside it.
Compared to the other power converters in this review, the WFCO WF-8735-P does seem a little lacking in its DC power supply. With a maximum DC output of 35A, it should be fine for a camper van or small travel trailer. At this price, I’d be cautious of anyone advertising a higher DC supply current. It includes A 30A main circuit for AC shore (or generator) power, with 5 branch circuits. There are 6 DC fuse ports with LED indicators for a blown fuse. All neatly contained behind a closed door, with easy access to breakers and fuses when the need arises.
A nice, compact power converter with distribution for AC and DC circuits, the WFCO WF-8735-P is affordable, practical, and of a high quality standard. I don’t think anyone could ask for more. The 35A power converter is fully up to the task of supplying smaller RVs safely and efficiently.
RV Converter Buying Guide
Essentially, understanding a power converter is not rocket science. This is a device that converts the AC power from the electricity grid or a portable generator into 12V DC power. While this all seems quite basic, modern power converters are more sophisticated than their primitive predecessors from days gone by. This has mostly to do with their battery charging capabilities. Most top RV models will have batteries to supply DC power when AC shore power is not available. When using a generator to power an RV, the DC battery power comes in handy during restricted quiet times, when the use of a generator in a campsite is prohibited.
So, setting out to buy the best power converter for your RV is not as simple as it may have initially seemed. This buying guide is going to help you navigate your way to finding the ultimate solution for your needs.
If you search power converters on Google, many of the results come up as “Best power inverters”. I reckon this can cause some confusion to RV power supply newbies. Yes, an inverter is a wonderful addition to your RV power supply setup, but it is not a power converter. In fact, the two devices do the opposite to one another. I think we should start by clearing the air, distinguishing between a power converter vs inverter. I’ll then move on to all the important stuff concerning RV power converters: how they work, what to look for when buying a power converter, as well as answering all those frequently asked questions.
Power Converter Vs Inverter
To anyone unfamiliar with electrical supply, inverters and converters could be confusing. Heck, they sound almost identical and are often used in the same context. The difference between a power converter and an inverter is a simple one.
A power converter is used to convert Alternating Current (AC) into Direct Current (DC). In North America people are familiar with 110V – 120V AC power, it’s what we use in our homes every day. We are also no stranger to 12V DC power. This is the battery in our car and is also used for leisure batteries, like those found in trailers, campers, boats, and golf carts. In an RV, there is often a 12V DC circuit, with several branch circuits. The 12V power is perfect for battery storage and can be used when there is no shore power supply. Depending on the RV, 12V appliances can range from basic lighting, all the way up to refrigerators and stereos. The power converter needed for your RV will depend on which DC equipment you’re using and how many batteries you have in your RV. All this will be covered in perfect detail as you continue reading the buying guide.
A power inverter is used to convert DC power (usually stored in a battery) into AC power. In other words, it converts direct current into alternating current. In an RV, an inverter is used to replace shore or generator power.
When there is no AC supply, the inverter will use DC power, stored in deep cycle batteries, to supply all (or some) AC appliances in the RV. Because an inverter is virtually silent, it makes for an ideal AC power supply when generator noise might be an issue.
How does an AC to DC Power converter work?
I suppose it’s important to identify that we’re talking about AC to DC power converters here. AC to AC power converters are also used by people traveling internationally. If you’re using a US appliance in Europe, you’ll need an Ac to AC converter to use 120V equipment when supplied by a 240V circuit. This is a topic for another discussion. In the world of RV power converters, we’re talking about converting AC power to DC.
If we’re going to get overly technical, there are many ways to convert AC to DC. Since this is not an electrical engineering guide, I’ll keep it relevant to the type of power converter we would be using in an RV, or similar situation.
A power converter uses rectifiers to change the alternating current into a direct (linear) current. Reservoir capacitors are used to smooth the pulsing DC voltage. These capacitors store and release power as needed. When the DC voltage drops, the capacitor will supply the additional voltage. Similarly when the voltage peaks, the capacitor will store the excess power, to be used for a low voltage situation.
The final output voltage is managed by a regulator, which ensures the correct voltage is supplied. Most modern power converters supply multiple voltages, depending on the power demand. Generally, a circuit designated as 12VDC will require a constant open circuit voltage of 13.4V. This is to allow for the voltage drop as load is placed on the circuit. A 12V battery, at full charge, is expected to supply 13.4V under ideal circumstances.
The reason for multiple voltage settings on a power converter is to allow for safe and effective battery charging. When a 12V deep cycle battery is discharged, it needs an increased voltage to bring it up to full charge. The initial battery charge cycle, referred to as bulk charging, requires an ideal DC voltage 14.4V. As the battery reaches full charge (± 80% of maximum capacity), the voltage is reduced to prevent over charging. This will be in the region of 13.2 to 13.4V. A fully charged battery requires a float, or trickle charge. This is a very low amperage constant voltage, around 13.4V. At this voltage, the power converter is able to maintain optimum battery charge and supply power to any equipment that may require power at the same time. A 4th stage, should include equalization for multiple batteries.
Why do you need to equalize deep cycle batteries?
An RV will often utilize several 12V deep cycle batteries. These batteries never discharge at exactly the same rate. The conductors between the batteries cause a minor resistance, which will result in an energy loss. Furthermore, no two batteries are exactly the same. There will always be a difference between seemingly identical batteries when it comes to their rate of discharge. For this reason, the best power converters will detect a difference in the battery requirements and provide a boost charge to equalize the voltage for all batteries in a single battery bank.
The equalization feature on a power converter, or battery charger, ensures that the batteries remain at the same voltage. This prevents damage from over or under charge for different batteries within the same battery bank.
Power Converters and Deep Cycle Batteries
When discussing power converters for charging batteries, I feel it is vitally important to mention the type of batteries used for an RV and how they need to be charged. While the complete guide to leisure batteries is the topic for an entirely different article, it is important to look at these batteries in the context of a power converter.
The reason for this discussion revolves around the growing popularity of lithium ion batteries. The question often arises: “can I charge my lithium ion batteries using a power converter?”. This also applies to conventional 12V battery chargers.
Technically, you can charge any battery rated at 12V with a DC power supply of the same voltage. However, it is not recommended to charge lithium ion batteries with a charger designed for lead acid, AGM, or calcium gel batteries.
Until fairly recently, all batteries used for deep cycle applications, like an RV, have been mostly lead acid flooded type batteries. These batteries use lead plates, immersed in an acid bath, using distilled water for cooling. Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) batteries provide better cooling and can last longer when used for deeper cycles. Calcium and other types of gel batteries can be better than flooded lead acid batteries in terms of cooling. This is just a basic description of typical deep cycle batteries. The important distinction to be made here is that all these batteries have the same charge cycle.
In the previous section, I spoke about the various stages of battery charging for deep cycle batteries. These would be high voltage bulk charging, lower voltage absorption charging (when the battery reaches approximately 80% charge capacity), and a float charge at low amps to maintain battery voltage. This is ideal for all lead acid, AGM, and gel batteries. They require a high voltage initially and it is important to provide a float voltage because these batteries are prone to self-discharge which, left unchecked, will deteriorate the battery.
Lithium ion batteries have an entirely different cell type and use a different charge cycle, known as constant voltage / constant amperage charging (CV/CC). This distinction is of great importance. The battery charging voltage for lithium ion batteries is the opposite to conventional deep cycle batteries. The initial charge remains fairly constant at an average 13.5V, contrary to deep cycle chargers that provide a bulk charge stage of around 14.4V. The lithium ion charger will provide a short high-volt (±14.4V) peak charge at the end of the charge cycle with greatly reduced amperage. The charger will shutdown all current when the battery reaches 100% charge to prevent overcharging, whereas a deep cycle charger will continue providing a trickle float charge.
Because conventional deep cycle batteries remain the most common, most power converters are designed to provide the ideal charge stages for these batteries. If used for a lithium ion battery, this type of charge cycle will damage the battery. The charge voltage will be the opposite, to that required for optimum charging. More importantly, the continues float charge once the battery has reached 100% capacity, will result in over charging lithium ion batteries.
Using lithium ion batteries, charged by a conventional power converter, will result in reduced battery power output and a shorter lifespan.
What to look for in an RV power converter?
Because these are fairly basic items with regards to technical specifications, there isn’t much to complicate your decision. There will always be a quality difference between high-end expensive equipment and run of the mill cheaper options. This is true for any type of equipment, not just power converters. While the best, most expensive models may be preferable, it is not always possible. This is when reviews, like this one, can be of greatest importance. Knowing when an affordable item is worth buying, is most certainly valuable information if you’re watching budget. We’ve done that homework for you.
Price is not the only factor when looking for the best RV power converter. Power output is an important one. Generally, more amps means a greater price tag. Battery charging is also important. Some power converters might not provide 3-stage charging for 12V batteries and battery monitoring to ensure good battery life. A final decision is whether you require a stand-alone power converter, or one that includes power distribution panel.
Price vs quality is an individual choice, only you can decide on how much you’re prepared to pay for a power converter. I can offer some advice on how to go about choosing the right size power converter and some pointers on distribution panels.
What size power converter do you need?
The physical size of a power converter is not too crucial, these are not big devices and can easily fit into a small space. Remember you need good ventilation for cooling. Take this into consideration when looking for the best position to install your RV power converter.
The real decision is the power output. That’s what I mean by the size of a power converter. As with any power supply, bigger is better. If you choose a power converter that just meets your requirements, it will be working at maximum capacity most of the time. This means it will be running at high temperatures, with several consequences. You’ll have a cooling fan running constantly, which can be a little annoying. More importantly, a power converter that is used at close to 100% capacity most of the time won’t last as long.
It usually makes better sense to spend a little more initially, buying a slightly larger power converter that will last longer. This will save in the long run, when it comes to unwanted replacement costs. Allowing for extra load capacity also makes sense when you consider future equipment upgrades. You may need more power from your converter in the future.
Calculate your amperage requirement based on the DC equipment in your RV (lights, water pump, refrigerator, etc.). You need to consider a battery charging amperage of up to 20A and add this to your total amp requirement. To allow for peak loads and lower average draw on the power converter, add 25% to your total and choose the power converter model closest to this amperage requirement.
Power Distribution Panel
Some power converters include a power distribution panel, which is advantageous in many ways. An all in one power converter and distribution panel makes for a simpler installation. You don’t need to install a power converter and then connect it to your panel. It can be safer and neater too. Everything is contained in a single box with a cooling system designed to keep it safe.
A power converter with a distribution panel will have a main AC circuit breaker with branch circuits. This will include individual breakers for each circuit. It will have a similar setup for the DC main and branch circuits, but the DC circuits will usually have fuses instead of circuit breakers.
You want to ensure that you have sufficient AC and DC circuits for your RV. The input amps for AC can vary from 30A to 60A. The power converter will generally be in line with this. A panel rated for a higher AC main circuit will typically have a power converter with a similarly high DC supply capacity. The amp rating (both Ac and DC) should be in line with the type of electrical equipment you’re using. Use the same criteria from the previous section on how to choose the correct size power converter for your RV.
The power panel and converter unit will be designed to fit easily into existing RV panel designs. Though it may not always be possible, as not all RVs are the same. Check the dimensions before buying a power converter and panel combo unit. You may have to do a little cutting to install it, just make sure all this is possible.
Frequently Asked Questions About Power Converters
How much does a power converter cost?
Power converter prices will be dependent on the brand, general quality, and power output. Power converters that include a distribution panel will also cost more than an equivalent stand-alone unit. For a basic power converter of about 30A, from a cheaper brand, you could be paying a little under $150 for reasonable quality. As you increase the amperage, prices will increase accordingly. For a high-end power converter (up to around 70A), you can expect to pay as much as $300.
How do you know if your RV converter is bad?
There can several warning signs that your RV converter may be on its way out. The most obvious would be appliances not functioning properly. If you see the lights in your RV dimming, this is a good indication of a power converter problem. You should be aware of the sound the fan makes. If you notice that the fan is not switching on, this would mean a failure, which would result in overheating. Battery charging could be affected, resulting in flat batteries, or overcharging, in which case you may notice an acidic or sulfurous odor.
How do I know if my RV power converter is charging my battery?
If your batteries keep running flat, the problem could be bad batteries or that your power converter is not charging the batteries. A simple voltage test can provide the answer. Voltage at the batteries, when the power converter is on, should be between 13.4 and 14.4V.
How do I test my RV converter charger?
If you have a basic knowledge of electrics, you can conduct a few voltage tests using a multi-meter. You should have normal output voltage of around 13.4 volts when the converter is connected to an AC power supply.
When the batteries have been discharged, the voltage should increase to around 14.4V.
To check the cooling fan, one needs to determine if the thermostatic switch of fan is faulty. If the cooling fan does not run when the converter reaches high temperature, you need to check the power supply to the fan. If the connections to the fan read a voltage of 12 – 13.5V, the switch is fine, and the fan needs to be replaced. No voltage at the fan means the switch needs to be replaced.
Does my RV have an inverter or a converter?
A power converter is not standard equipment for all RVs. If your RV is supplied with 12V equipment and 12V deep cycle batteries, it should have a power converter installed. Check your owner’s manual for more information.
An inverter is less common as standard equipment for an RV. If you are able to run 120V AC equipment from battery power, then your RV has an inverter installed.
How many volts should an RV power converter put out?
The correct open circuit voltage for a power converter is generally around 13.4V. If the converter utilizes a 3-stage battery charging process, the initial bulk charge voltage should be approximately 14.4V.
Will an RV converter work without a battery?
An RV power converter will function without a battery, as long as it is connected to a 120V AC power supply. The battery is used to supply power when there is no AC supply.
How long do RV converters last?
There can be no telling exactly how long an RV power converter will last. Operating conditions, like temperature, moisture, and average load will play a significant role. The brand and general quality of a converter will obviously determine, to some extent, how long it will last. On average, you can expect anything from 5 – 10 years lifespan, with some lasting up to 20-years.