RV Electric Power for Dry Camping

Blog Index

Technical Issues and Projects

Home Page





RV Inverters


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"  Click here to return to the general article.


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 here.

    • 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 the basics:

    • 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 failed.

Here are some links to learn more about Inverters:


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


Continue on to Air Conditioning -- or choose another topic from the menu in the left sidebar at the top of this page.