RV Inverters | Choosing the
Best Inverter to Power Your RV

Wether you choose to install solar on your RV or not, RV inverters have some major benefits to offer RVers, especially if you spend time camping off grid. In a typical RV system, you have certain appliances that run of 12 Volt D/C power like your lights, your slide, your refrigerator on propane, among other things. RV manufactures do this, so if your not plugged into shore power you can still operate the basic items on your rig. You cannot however plug items that require A/C power (like hairdryer, computer or phone charger, microwave, etc.) unless you have a generator.

We both work online and love boondocking but hated having to turn on generator every few hours to charge our laptops so we could continue working. That’s why we got an RV inverter.

what is an RV inverter?

An RV inverter converts the 12 volt DC power that is stored in your RV battery bank into 110 volts AC which is the power most standard household items use for electricity. The RV inverter allows you to use your TV, microwave, Instapot, air conditioner, Nespresso milk frother or any other common appliance you plug in without needing a generator or shore power.

Types of RV inverters

There are two types of RV inverters modified sine wave and pure sine wave inverters. Other than the price tag, the biggest difference between the two is how it inverts D/C power to A/C power. I’ve read a lot of blogs and watched a lot of RV videos that nerd out on this topic, but what’s important to know is that pure sine inverters convert energy more efficiently, replicating the energy that is created or produced in a home. Certain appliances, especially new technology can be damaged from a modified sine wave inverter or simply won’t work at all. For this reason, we suggest getting a pure sine wave inverter.

modified sine wave

  • Cheapest option $100 – $300
  • Converts energy in modified wave with pauses built into the current
  • Can damage appliances or items that use newer technology (like laptop or camera chargers, induction burners, milk frothers or fancy new coffee machines, etc).

pure sine wave

  • Most expensive option $500 – $1,000
  • Converts energy in pure wave without pauses
  • Safe for appliances and items that use newer technology (like laptop or camera chargers, induction burners, milk frothers or fancy new coffee machines, etc).
  • Replicates energy created in a house

What size rv inverter do I need?

To determine what size RV inverter you need, you’ll need to do an electrical audit on the amount of power you use. If your not sure how that’s done – we explain the process here. Most RV inverters are sized in Watts. Once you determine the maximum wattage the appliances you want to power use, you can choose the inverter that fits your needs. Always go higher than the maximum wattage to leave room for additional appliances that you may be using at the same time. For example, if your blowdryer uses 1,500 watts, I don’t want a 1,500 watt inverter, I would want a 2,000 watt inverter at minimum. This leaves room for things like a laptop charging, a TV playing, or other random appliances to be used as well. If you don’t need or want a full inverter on your RV, go for a portable inverter like this one.

We ended up with an Aims 2000 watt pure sine wave inverter. Aims is a super reputible company who has been in the solar energy business for a long time. We have friends who have used their inverters before, and were pleased with their quality and functionality. So we decided to give them a try.

We really liked that the inverter has a built in 70 amp battery charger. That means when we’re plugged into shore power or our generator is on, it uses A/C power to recharge our batteries automatically.

It has a battery-type selector on the top of the unit allows the ability to adjust the voltage provided to the bank or we can adjust the settings as needed.

The biggest benefit is the automatic generator start. The inverter can tell if the voltage has dropped below a specific level and automatically start your generator to prevent damage to your batteries. This would have been GREAT on our fifth wheel when we had an AGM battery bank. Unfortunately, this won’t work with our lithium battery bank because the voltage remains the same even if the batteries are a 0%, so the voltage reader won’t be alerted in order to start the generator.

The Aims inverter also has a built-in 30 amp transfer switch, which will automatically detect when you’re switching from shore power to battery-bank power. Even though it’s a 2,000 watt inverter it does have a 6000 watt surge for 20 seconds – although we hope we never test that out!

Adding an RV inverter to our RV has been a game changer. There’s nothing better than being able to use items on your comfortably and freely, even when your boondocking in the middle of nowhere. Hopefully this post has made it easier to determine what the best RV inverter is and why you would want one.

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Liz & Dennis

Liz & Dennis

ESRV Team

We’re two travel-loving, real estate investing, foodies exploring North America as full-time RV’ers. This blog is where we share our lessons learned, tips and tricks, and favorite places to eat, see, and RV across North America! We hope it helps you find your wanderlust, plan and prepare for RV life, and get out on the road!

 

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