Go on a Power Trip…with DC to AC Power Inverters

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March 30, 2013

Most RVers have been in a situation where a power inverter would be quite handy. Perhaps it was when you were dry camping and there was no household electricity available at your site. Or when you want to watch a movie at night but don’t wish to go to the trouble of hauling out the noisy generator and raising the ire of your neighbors.

Perhaps you’d even like to pop some popcorn in the microwave for the movie, and then when it’s time for bed, have the ability to recharge your batteries again for the next day’s DC battery requirements. We have become very reliant on the comforts of home in our lives, and with DC to AC Power Inverters, there is no need for roughing it anymore.

If you walk through the aisles of Camping World, or check out their catalog and online offerings, you will see that there are many choices. Sine Wave or Modified Sine Wave, including battery charger or without battery charger. And all of those different power ratings are enough to confuse anyone.

So what does it all mean, and what power inverter choice is right for you? Let’s provide you with some helpful information that will allow you to make the best choice for your RV and camping needs.

To Sine or Not To Sine
Inverters and inverter/chargers are based on one of two technologies: Pure Sine Wave or Modified Sine Wave. Pure Sine Wave (PSW) inverters are sophisticated and can produce AC power at or above the quality level of utility power grids. A pure sine wave inverter can eliminate static lines in televisions and improve the quality of a sound system. Portable tool chargers, light dimmers, variable speed tools, laser printers, plasma screens and home theater sound systems are examples of loads that will not work well with Modified Sine Wave inverters.

However, producing a PSW requires more electrical components and more intricate designs, and therefore is more expensive. Modified sine wave inverters product a stair-stepped output form. It is a more economical choice, and will work well with the vast majority of kitchen appliances.

By offering customers a choice of technologies, Camping W odd demonstrates themselves as a technology leading retailer with solutions for all customers.

A pure sine wave inverter can eliminate static lines in televisions and improve the quality of a sound system.

Types There are 3 categories of inverters
1. Portable Inverters-like the Camping World Modified Sine Wave 400W model, these inverters generally connect to your DC electrical system using the common “cigarette lighter socket”. Portable Inverters are instant gratification products: just plug ’em in and start using their modest AC outputs. Ideal for laptops, TV s, small lights and tools.

2. Permanent-Mount Inverters-These inverters draw too much power to pull through a cigarette lighter socket, and so they are hardwired directly to the battery bank. Ideal for home appliances such as microwave ovens, coffee makers and toasters.

3. Inverter-chargers-have outputs that rival small generators (2000-3000W) and include a powerful battery charger. Inverter/chargers include an automatic transfer switch, so that when your inverter/charger detects another source of AC power (because you have access to campground AC or shore power, or you have started your generators), it will start recharging your batteries. Inverter/chargers should be professionally installed because they draw a lot of amps, with the potential for dangerous shorts and electrical fires if they’re wired inadequately.

How Much Power?
The answer to this question depends completely on what you wish to operate from the inverter. Create a list of the items you wish to operate and also find out the power requirement of these items. Most items will have a manufacturer’s power rating on the label near where the AC cord is found on the item. If it is rated in amps, then remember the formula Watts= Volts x Amps, and therefore, you can multiply the amp rating of the equipment x 115-volts to get the watt draw of the equipment. If the items will be running concurrently, then the total watt requirement of each item needs to be added together to determine which inverter power level is required. And remember that many appliances have a start-up current requirement that is significantly higher than the continuous power rating, so it is always best to buy a larger inverter with higher surge if in doubt.

Using solar energy is one of those rare situations where you end up saving money

But I Love My Generator
Many RVers will own generators, and these are great tools for large, continuous loads like air conditioning, heating and refrigeration. While many people would love to run air conditioning off of an inverter, it is pretty impractical unless you are cooling a small area for a relatively short period of time. If your 120-volt energy requirements exceed 2000 watthours per day, a generator is the best bet. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t also a tremendous need for a power inverter on-board the RV as well. The inverter is great at night since it won’t make noise and disturb the neighbors. Unlike noisy, fossil fuel-driven generators, inverters are silent, require virtually no maintenance, and are easy to install. They are tremendous tools for light or intermittent loads when you will not want to crank up the generator each time to operate. Inverters and generators are also great partners together: use the inverter for lighter loads, the generator for heavy-duty loads that would be too taxing for a battery bank. Use the generator as a partner to the inverter by using it to provide AC power to the inverter/charger to recharge your battery bank.

Dependable Support
If you encounter a problem with your power inverter, it’s good to know that technical assistance is available. Look for a power inverter manufactured by a company that is prepared to offer support and stands behind the product with a solid warranty.

FREE POWER! Who said nothing in life is free?
Solar energy has been around for ages and most of you already enjoy the benefits of solar energy whenever you use  a calculator. That’s right, the very technology that runs millions of calculators is used to help run your appliances on your RV. Solar energy has never been more efficient, more easy to use or more affordable. The two most popular solar technologies on the market are amorphous silicon and monocystalline technology. They both are designed to work on all weather conditions and the Natural Power line has been developed with the RV in mind.

Amorphous Silocon technology works in low light conditions and is commonly used for battery maintenance and trickle charging. Typically, these types of solar panels are lower wattage/amperage and smaller in size. It is common to use these products to keep your car, truck boat or RV engine batteries topped up when in storage. Many people don’t even permanently install these due to the universal applications and smaller sizes.

Monocystalline solar technology is widely used to help power homes, small villages in remote places and even on highway signs and parking meters. They tend to be larger in size and are real workhorses. You can expect these solar panels to last over 25 years and the more sunshine the better they preform. For RVers, it is common to daisy chain two or three of these together on the roof and wire them directly into your battery system. Having a monocystalline solar system installed on your motorhome will help offset battery usage by your power inverter. You can minimize the use of your noisy gas generator by having solar panels and in some cases eliminate the need entirely for a generator.

Watts The BIG DEAL?
With the cost of solar energy being at an all-time low, there is never been a better time to invest in solar power. The great thing about solar is you can add solar panels at any time or as your need increases. Fuel prices are at all-time highs and more and more RV parks are setting strict rules when you can run your gas generator due to noise and pollution, enhancing your lifestyle and doing some good for the environment. With recent improved technologies, it now takes less space to create more power. BRING ON THE SUN!

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