A key piece of equipment in your solar energy system in your RV is the inverter. You’ve successfully installed the solar panels on the roof, selected the optimum battery, attached your solar charge controller and now you need to use that all important solar energy you have so patiently waited for. To do this you need an inverter to convert the DC power stored in your battery to the AC power which your onboard devices need to work.
Here we take a look at what you need to think about before purchasing the right inverter for your RV’s solar energy system and give our views on some of the best products on the market today.
Best Inverter and Remote for RV
VertaMax PURE SINE WAVE 3000 Watt (6000W Surge) 12V Power Inverter Review
This great pure sine wave unit from WindyNation provides you with all you need to get started as well as excellent safety features. The 17 feet of chord supplied with the remote on/off switch should provide you with plenty of flexibility for where to house your inverter. The pure-sine wave energy will also ensure your complex devices get appropriate power thanks to guaranteed permanent AC connections, with none of the annoying buzzing you get with cheaper modified sine-wave power.
The super safety features of this unit will also keep even the most neurotic sleeping softly at night. These features include both over and under voltage protection, as well as defence against overload, high temperature, reverse polarity and short-circuit. The additional thermal shutdown feature also helps to ensure safe operation of the inverter.
There is also a useful LED display which allows you to monitor your power usage for both DC and Watts. This inverter will soon reduce your need for an inverter, so you won’t have to worry about waking up any nearby campers and their disdainful looks! So if you’re after an easy to install, safe inverter, that can power all your devices up to 3000-watts, then this is a great price for what is on offer.
Q&A: Does this device have a USB port?
A: Unfortunately this does not come inbuilt with this inverter.
Best 6000W Inverter for RV
Power Bright PW6000-12 Power Inverter Review
If you are somebody who just can’t do without devices with high starting loads, such as modern refrigerators, some air-conditioners, or decent size microwaves, then you may find yourself needing something with more power. This 6000W inverter from PowerBright gives you just that and also maintains greater voltage stability than many 3000-watt inverters.
This inverter is built to last with an incredibly durable casing made of anodized aluminium, so it is ready for a rough and tumble lifestyle if needed. It also has a built-in cooling fan for safety, a useful LED display and 10-volt cut-off to prevent battery drain.
This beast of a unit comes with a remote that is both easy to use and install and runs surprisingly quietly for something that provides such a massive amount of power on tap! If you do come into any issues with this product you will, fortunately, find a solution quick and easy to reach thanks to the excellent customer service provided by this company. However, this is a truly reliable unit that should work well for years as the brain of your RV’s solar energy system.
Q&A: Is it possible to plug this into a transfer switch?
A: You can and there are also inbuilt terminals which you can connect your plug into directly.
Best Inverter with Inbuilt Transfer Switch
AIMS Power 1200 Watt Pure Sine Inverter Review
If you are looking for an inverter that offers 1200-watts of continuous pure sine power and comes complete with a 10 Amp inbuilt transfer switch that works automatically, then this excellent value product from Aims should be right up your street. It also has decent surge power up to around 2100-watts if you want to get the vacuum out.
The transfer switch ensures you can have pass-through abilities when connected to shore power and also allows you to use the inverter as backup power, making this unit sure to be your RV solar system’s lifeline. There are useful terminals for AC input or output, which require hardwiring and you can also order a remote to switch your inverter on and off if needed.
This flexible converter works well with most devices as and when required, being a pure sine wave inverter. However, the cooling fan can be a little noisy, so make sure you install it in a good location where this won’t be an issue for you. That being said, you won’t be disappointed if you invest in this great value product.
Q&A: How do I hardwire the neutral wires for the AC connection?
A: Always make sure to check the user manual, but basically, you need to remove the screws holding the AC input and output plate on, below which you will find a divider separating the two connections. The neutral wire will be white and should be connected to the silver screw. The grounding wire will be green and should be connected to the green screw, whilst the hot wire will be black and connects with the brass screw.
Best 1500-watt Pure Sine Wave Inverter
Power TechON 1500W Pure Sine Wave Power Inverter Review
This smashing lightweight model from Power TechOn is great for use when power fails or simply when you want power off-grid. The 3 AC outlets, remote switch and multiple safety features will ensure you can confidently set this device up in no time and get the right power to suit your batteries’ needs as and when required.
The 3000-watt surge power will also help you get those power hungry devices started up, whilst the pure sine wave power will ensure your electronic devices are powered sensitively to their needs. With overload protection, thermal protection, and under and over voltage protection, as well as a low voltage alarm system, you can be confident your system will be safely looked after with minimal effort.
This is a truly efficient device that works great in a whole variety of stressful situations, so if you want to make your life a bit easier the next time you lose power, make sure you have one of these installed and you will be laughing.
Q&A: Will the remote switch shut off the inverter so it disconnects from the battery/batteries?
A: This is a super convenient tool that shuts down the model fully so that no draw comes from your battery or batteries.
Why do I need an inverter for my RV’s solar energy system?
The electronic devices on your RV such as your kettle, microwave, TV, and phone chargers require alternating current (AC) power in order to function, this is the power they normally receive from the mains electricity supply in your homes. If you are reliant on these luxury items when you are in your RV then read on…
The energy stored in your RV’s battery which has been juiced up by the solar power is known as direct current (DC) power and so will not work if this power was sent directly to your onboard electrical devices.
Fortunately, this incompatibility is solved by an inverter. When you are relying on your solar energy system for power the super smart inverter will convert the DC power from the battery into the AC power that your onboard electrical devices need to operate.
What type of inverter should I buy?
It is understandable if you feel flummoxed when you first delve into the complex world of power inverters. While they are simple to use, the technology behind them is quite technical, but rest assured, we will explain what you need to know as simply as possible so you can make an informed decision about what the best inverter is for your RV.
You will notice that the inverters on the market are described as either ‘pure sine wave’ or ‘modified sine wave’. It will also not have escaped your notice that the pure sine wave inverters have a heftier price tag.
The distinction is this: with a modified sine wave inverter the power that reaches your electrical devices will be coming in square waves whereas with pure sine waves the power comes in evenly distributed arching waves. The difference in the waveform effects the efficiency of the power received. With modified sine waves the power reaches your devices in a less ‘pure’ form and, subsequently, means they run less efficiently, are more likely to overheat and may even not work at all. This type of waveform can sometimes damage your devices and create unwanted noise.
Pure sine wave inverters, while pricier, deliver power that is practically the same as the power you receive when you plug in your devices at home. This is a much purer waveform and you can pretty much guarantee that it will work with all of your onboard RV electronic devices. You can also be confident that your devices are protected from damage.
If you are just needing to power the basics such as your kettle and hair-dryer a modified sine wave inverter can power up these devices just fine. However, if you are relying on your inverter to charge your phone, laptop or other more expensive and technical devices then it is worthwhile to invest in a pure sine wave inverter for your RV so that you don’t have to replace these items earlier than expected.
What size inverter do I need?
The size of inverters is rated in watts. The amount of watts you need is dependent on the combined number of watts that all of your electronic devices onboard your RV need to function. Now, how to work this out. On all of your devices, there should be a label that states the number of amps the appliance uses, as well as the number of volts. To convert this to watts simply times the amps by the volts, so AMP x VOLT = WATTS. Easy!
Once you have worked out the total wattage of all your devices we recommend that you choose an inverter with a slightly higher watt rating than needed, so you can fully ensure your power needs are covered – at least 10% higher is a good ball-park area.
What about safety?
As there will be an ample amount of power running through your inverter, safety is a paramount concern when it comes to selecting the best inverter for your RV.
Check if the inverter has a transfer switch, some inverters come with these inbuilt (you can also buy them as an add-on). The job of the transfer switch is to make sure that power is not fed back into the inverter when you are reconnected with AC power from either a generator or mains power (i.e. when you are no longer off grid), it will act as a pass-through device and switch off the DC mode.
Another safety feature to think about is a fuse box. Make sure that the inverter you are buying has a fuse box built in to both the input (DC) and output (AC) in the device – as there is a high level of current passing through from your battery to inverter and inverter to devices a fuse box is essential should a short develop as this will cut the circuit and prevent a possible fire.
So, there you have it – a whistle-stop tour of what you need to know before buying an inverter for your RV’s solar energy system. This is an essential device which ensures you can use that solar energy you have so lovingly collected.
Make sure you have an understanding of the difference between pure sine wave and modified sine wave inverters before you make your purchase so that you know whether or not the pricier pure sine wave inverter is a worthwhile investment for you. Also, make sure you consider the size of the inverter you need and have a close look at its safety features before parting with your cash.