What is an Inverter and Why Is It Important in Your RV?

RVers often want to have their cake and eat it too. What does that mean? The warriors of the road love exploring the beautiful sites of North America, even off-grid, but don't want to sacrifice the comforts of home. How do RV lovers boondock while enjoying a coffee and laptop with no shore power? It's all made possible with the RV power Inverter. 

What is an RV Inverter?

A power inverter for RVs is a device that transforms the DC (direct current) power from your RV lithium batteries into usable AC (alternating current) energy, just like the kind that runs your home appliances like electronic devices, the microwave, or air conditioner.

Why is this important in your RV? An inverter allows you to use standard household appliances while off-grid without plugging into shore power.

AC vs. DC Power

Alternating current (AC) is a type of electrical power that periodically reverses 

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direction. DC power is a unidirectional flow of electric charge.

The two kinds of electrical power are very different, and it's essential to understand the difference when considering what appliances to bring with you RVing. AC power is the standard type of power found in your home and most businesses. DC power is used for automotive wiring, batteries, and solar panels.

In DC, the electric charge (current) only flows in one direction. On the other hand, the electric charge in AC changes direction periodically. If you're RVing and want to use a standard household appliance that plugs into the wall (like electronics or air conditioners), you'll need an inverter to convert the 12-volt direct current from your RV batteries into 120-volt AC power.

While RVers often choose to bring along standard AC appliances when hitting the open road, some things only run on DC power, like LED lights, fans, or 12V fridges like Everchill models. Knowing both sides of the RV electrical power equation when outfitting your RV for boondocking away from shore power is essential.

How Does an RV Inverter Work?

RV inverters work by taking the direct current from your RV batteries and converting it into an alternating current that can be used to run standard household appliances.

The inverter takes the DC power from your RV batteries and uses a process called "inversion" to convert it into AC power. Inversion is simply the process of reversing the flow of electrons.

The inverter uses this AC power to run anything in your RV that requires alternating current, like a microwave, coffee maker, or laptop.

Inverters come in different sizes, measured in watts. The size you need will depend on the type and number of appliances you want to be able to run at the same time.

For example, if you want to use your RV microwave and coffee maker simultaneously, you'll need an RV inverter that can handle at least 1500 watts.

It's important to note that inverters are not 100% efficient, so you'll want to get an inverter rated for at least 25% more watts than the appliances you want to run.

Are there Different Types of RV Power Inverters?

Inverters have two main types: the modified sine wave inverter and pure sine 

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wave inverter.

Modified sine wave inverters are the most common and least expensive type of inverter. They work well for most RV appliances except for some sensitive electronics like computers or TVs.

Pure sine wave inverters are more expensive but provide clean, stable power identical to the energy you get from your home outlets, making them ideal for running sensitive electronics. 

When choosing an inverter, remember to consider what type of appliances you'll be running and whether or not you need more power and stability of a pure sine wave inverter.

Difference Between an RV Inverter and RV Converter

It's important not to confuse a power inverter with an RV converter, another component in RV electrical systems. An RV converter is a device that takes the 120-volt AC power from your RV hookups and converts it into 12-volt DC power to charge your RV batteries.

RV converters are essential for keeping your RV batteries charged, but they don't do the same job as inverters. RV converters can't convert DC power into AC power, so they can't be used to run standard household appliances in your RV.

If you're confused about which one you need, just remember that inverters change DC power into AC power, and RV converters convert AC power into DC  power.

How to Use an RV Inverter

Now that you know what inverters are and how they work, it's time to learn how to use them.

Using an inverter is simple: just plug your RV into the inverter using the included 

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cables, then plug your appliance into the RV inverter.

Some inverters have built-in outlets, while others have cords that you'll need to plug into a standard RV outlet.

Once your RV and appliances are plugged into the inverter, it will automatically convert DC power into AC power.

RV owners should remember to keep an eye on their RV batteries when using an inverter, as they will be drained faster than usual. To combat this, it's a good idea to have a generator on hand when using an inverter, so you can recharge your RV batteries if needed.

What Size Inverter Do I Need for My RV?

As we mentioned earlier, inverters come in different sizes, measured in watts. The size you need will depend on the type and number of appliances you want to be able to run at the same time.

For example, if you want to use your RV microwave and coffee maker simultaneously, you'll need an RV inverter that can handle at least 1500 watts.

It's important to note that RV inverters are not 100% efficient, so you'll want to get an RV inverter rated for at least 25% more watts than the appliances you want to run. This will ensure that your RV inverter can handle the load and that your appliances, like your air conditioner or electronics, work properly.

Is an Inverter Worth It for your RV?

An inverter is an excellent investment if you are looking to boondock without compromising your appliances, electronics, and lighting. RV inverters allow you to use your RV appliances without plugging into shore power, making them a must for most off-grid travelers. 

Power inverters are also a good choice if you want to be able to use your RV appliances while driving. Just be sure to get a size that's appropriate for the number of appliances/devices you want to be able to run simultaneously.

If you don't dry camp or boondock often, then an RV inverter might not be worth the investment. RV converters are less expensive and can still charge your  RV batteries while driving, so they might be a better choice for you.

Final Thoughts: Inverters for RVs

RV inverters are a great way to get AC power while dry camping or 

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boondocking. They're also a good choice if you want to be able to use your RV appliances while driving.

Be sure to get the proper inverter size for your entire RV and keep an eye on your battery power when it is in use. Inverters are just one component of an overall RV electrical system that will support time away from shore power. Inverters, solar panels, generator power, and other necessities like a battery bank and charge controllers will give RVers the comforts of home while out on the road.

Do you want to better understand the boondocking process and the power needed to sustain it? Contact Way’s experts for more information about the RV lifestyle and our products.