RV Solar Inverters
by Sam Streubel
A power inverter converts DC (Direct Current) power
from your solar or wind charged battery into AC (Alternating
Current). Anything that plugs into a wall outlet in your home
runs on AC.
RV (Recreational Vehicle) power inverters are designed for
use with RV mounted solar panels. Having an RV solar power
system is like having a mini onboard power plant. It allows you
the freedom and flexibility to camp out where there is no
conventional power source; what's commonly known as living off
The key to portable solar powered success is investing in a
properly sized power inverter. As with everything else, when
you purchase an RV power inverter you get what you pay for.
A well made power inverter should be efficient at all input
levels, rugged enough to stand up to changing environments and
won't overheat while providing the power to run your small
Various brand name inverters include Outback, Magnum,
Xantrex and Go Power. Choosing and installing a properly sized
inverter is a task best left to your local RV professional or
alternative energy store.
In order to pick out an RV inverter perfectly suited to your
needs, you will have to provide your local professional with
some basic information.
You need to know what appliances are going to be powered
with the system, how much power they consume (amp/hours), and
the phantom load.
Phantom load is the electricity consumed by an appliance
when it is turned off. Your television set is one example, but
the worst offender is that cube shaped transformer used to
charge cell phones. These transformers are 60% to 80%
inefficient and should be unplugged when not in use.
The power consumption of each appliance is stated somewhere
on the appliance itself, and is expressed in terms of AC watts
or AC amps. What the RV owner really needs to know is the
equivalent in DC amps, since that's what the battery bank is
Where an appliance's power consumption is expressed in terms
of AC watts, one can use a simple formula to calculate the
equivalent power expressed in DC amps:
DC Amps = AC Watts / 12 volts
Example: A TV set with a 100 (AC) watt rating used for one
hour would consume 9.17 DC amps.
Look for an inverter with three distinct charging rates: a
bulk charge at 100 amps; then dropping to a lesser rate as the
voltage increases in the battery bank; and finally applying a
float charge just sufficient to maintain the batteries in a
fully charged condition.
The result is much faster recharging of the batteries,
either from shore power or from the motor home or tow vehicle
The remote monitor and control mechanism mounted inside the
coach performs a wide range of functions pertaining to both the
inverter and charger functions. It also has the basic "on/off"
switch for the inverter.
When "on", the control panel provides information about
whether the unit is operating in inverter or charger mode. If
operating in the inverter mode it will tell you the present
level of amps being consumed and the present voltage under that
If in the charger mode, it shows the present level of the
amps in, along with the voltage at which it is being charged
along with various warning functions pertaining to overheating
Clearly this is not a "one size fits all" choice. Especially
important is the need to consider your RV lifestyle when
determining whether or not an inverter would be a useful
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