Power for Dry Camping
Technical Issues and Projects
Read This Disclaimer First
I've written what I personally did, and my opinions. Don't assume what I
did was safe, and don't assume it will work for you. Do more research, and
make your own choices. I'm not responsible for your outcomes! :-)
Continued from "RV Electrical Power for Dry Camping"
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Here are a few questions to help you get started:
How big does the inverter need to be?
Up to a point, bigger is sometimes better if you're installing a single inverter
in your RV. You may not want to power the microwave now, but you may
decide in the future that you'd really like to heat up your cold cup of coffee,
and just 45 seconds would do.
The minimum size inverter that will run small
microwaves and coffee makers is 1500W.
Match the Inverter to your Battery Bank, and to the
appliances that you will be running
An energy audit will tell you what you really need.
If you haven't done one take a look
If you only want to run a TV or a laptop you may be
able to get by with a much smaller inverter. Some small 400 Watt
inverters plug into a cigarette lighter outlet and do a fine job. A good
pure-sine inverter of this size will run your TV, DVD and Satellite. Or it will
power a laptop or two and a printer. You could also install a small
inverter permanently, say 400 or 500 Watts, to run home entertainment.
How will you install it? Some inverters can be
hard-wired into your RV electrical system and operate automatically. This
is very convenient, but also the more expensive way to go. You can even
integrate them with electronic controls to automatically start your generator
when the batteries get too low. An alternative is a manual system, where
you plug your shore power cable into the inverter. This is how our RV is
wired. Less convenient but frugal.
Do you need a battery charger? Many of the
larger inverters come with a built in charger. Typically a 2000 Watt or
larger inverter will have a 50 to 100 Amp 3 stage charger. These are much
better than the typical RV converter/charger. If you are planning on a
more powerful charger anyway, the combo units make sense.
Do you need a Pure Sine Wave inverter, or will a
Modified Sine Wave do? Here are
A Modified Sine Wave inverter uses less expensive
technology so it costs much less to buy (typically $40 to $250, but some high
end models will be $500 to $1500+. The output is not
a true, smooth, sine-wave but is a stair-stepped square wave. It will run most
appliances like TV's, tools, microwaves, etc. However, it often makes
noise lines in a TV picture, and some AC motors will run hot on a modified sine
wave. It will not run most laser printers, and some times electronic displays
will not work right.
A Pure Sine Wave Inverter is usually more expensive
($100 to $3000+) but it produces power that is identical to the electric company
(or even better). It will operate sensitive equipment like medical
devices, high end stereos, TV's, laser printers, etc. Unless you really
need to cut corners and save money, I'd recommend a Pure Sine Inverter.
Can I Recommended a specific Inverter? Sure,
I'll recommend several.
If you want a "top brand" and don't mind spending
some money, consider the Xantrex ProSine inverter/charger. The 2000 watt
unit has been around for a long time, and became the standard by which others are
measured. Also available in 2500 and 3000 watt models, all with a 100 amp
charger built in. They are available in different configurations so they
can be hard-wired or not.
Xantrex also has a new inverter/charger, designed
specifically for RV's, the RS2000 and RS3000. They are 2000 and 3000 Watts
respectively, and include a 100 or 150 amp charger.
Another excellent "top brand" is Outback.
They're a frequent choice of solar homeowners. Pure sine wave inverters
from 1700 to 3600 Watts with built in battery charger from 85 to 125 Amps.
For the frugal minded, we're satisfied with our
Samlex 1500. Samlex makes pure-sine inverters at reasonable prices
with 150W to 1500W outputs.
I specifically do NOT recommend the AIMS brand
inverters. We had one. Bulky, low tech, ours had quality issues and
Here are some links to learn more about
Our Inverter - Here's where we installed our frugal 12v system and the
inverters we tried.
12 Volt Side Of
Live - Part 2 - Excellent article by Mark Nemeth on Inverters and
other topics. This is really everything you need to know :-)
Inverter Info on Northern Arizona Wind & Sun web site
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