What is an Inverter & Why Do You Need One?
An Inverter for your motorhome or camper is a device that will transform DC power from power sources such as solar panels or your house battery into AC power. If you plan to do any boondocking, or camping off-grid then an inverter is likely a must if you want to power certain devices from your AC wiring system. Typical input and output voltages go from 12 volts of DC power supply to 110 volts of AC power.
Want a deeper understanding of how RV electrical systems work? Check out our guide on RV Electrical & Power Systems 101.
If on the other hand, you plan to spend all your time in your rig hooked up to shore power, then such devices are probably not a necessity.
Important Factors in Choosing the Correct Inverter for Your RV
What Luxuries Can You Not Live Without?
A large part of choosing the right RV power inverter is going to depend on what you need it to power. RV appliances that use a heating element generally require a lot less power to start up than electronics that have a motor, which in turn use a lot less power than things like hairdryers and televisions. You must add together all the power ratings/watts of the electronics and appliances you’ll be powering and then get a van inverter with a power rating that matches or is higher. We explain more about watts in the next section.
As stated before, the total watts of your electronics need to be less than or equal to your inverter’s watts. However, there is a small catch with this. Most electronics that have motors have two different watts ratings. One rating, usually the higher one, is the starting watts. This is how many watts are required to get the appliance going. The second rating is the running watts, also called the rated watts. This is how much watts are needed to keep the electronics going after it’s been started up.
When adding up the watts of your electronics, use the starting watts. Otherwise, you may end up with an RV inverter charger that isn’t powerful enough to turn the electronics on.
Just as some electronics have two watts ratings, so do RV power inverters. Don’t let all the different ratings confuse you. We’ll break this down.
Inverters have what is called continuous watts and surge watts. Continuous watts are much like the running watts of electronics, while surge watts are like starting watts of electronics. The difference is that surge watts are only useful over a certain length of time – usually a matter of seconds. This gives RV power inverters with smaller continuous watts ratings the ability to handle high levels of starting watts just long enough to get things going.
Having an RV inverter charger with a good surge watts rating can help you to save money because you won’t have to get the largest-rated RV power inverter to start electronics up. However, it may be beneficial for you to splurge on the higher-rated inverter if you plan to use all these electronics often.
Modified Sine Wave Inverter vs. Pure Sine Wave Inverter
These names may sound highly scientific, but they’re straight-forward.
Appliances run on AC power, which looks like a sine wave. Pure sine wave inverters convert the direct current power to a sine wave so that appliances can use it. Modified sine wave inverters also convert the DC power to a sine wave, but it’s more choppy and square-like instead of being a smooth curve. This causes appliances to have a lower performance then they would on a pure sine wave power inverter.
While certain smaller appliances such as griddles or microwaves can get by with a modified sine wave inverter, in the long run, these types of devices may damage them. Other types of appliances may not work at all on a modified sine wave inverter. For sensitive electronics such as cell phones or laptops, you should avoid a modified sine wave inverter altogether.
So, if modified sine wave inverters aren’t that great for appliances, why buy them at all? The answer to this question is simple: price. Modified sine wave devices tend to cost much less than PSW RV inverters. Our advice is to stick with a pure sine wave inverter to make sure that all your appliances stay safe. However, if you want to save a few bucks, stick with simple appliances and get the modified version.
Size and Weight
You probably already have a lot of camping gear, so the idea of having a gigantic, heavy inverter may be a turn-off. Unfortunately, the size (dimensions) and weight of an RV inverter is usually indicative of the amount of power it can convert. If you are only powering small appliances without motors, you can get away with a small, portable RV inverter. For everything else, you’ll have to scoot that gear over to make room for a big, heavy piece of equipment.
All the above information prepares you for shopping for an RV inverter. By arming yourself with the information we’ve given you, you can be sure to be able to pick the best power inverter for RV usage. We’ve kickstarted your shopping spree with nine of the best RV inverters on the market.
The Best RV Inverter Charger – The Best Pure Sine Wave Inverter Reviews
AIMS Power 3,000-Watt Pure Sine Inverter
Best Quality RV Inverter
We’ll start this list off with an industrial-grade pure sine inverter. The AIMS inverter is extraordinarily well-designed and manufactured. It has a surge rating of an incredible 9,000 watts for up to 20 seconds. That’s a 300% surge, which is rare for a commercial inverter.
This RV inverter has a lot of features, but one of the most impressive is the built-in battery charger that charges at 100 amps. It’s adjustable from 0 percent to 100 percent so you can have more control over how fast and how much the battery is charged. This comes in handy if you happen to have a small battery.
Unfortunately, the RV inverter only has two 110-volt standard power outlets, which, for the price, is disappointing. However, we are so impressed with the quality of the inverter that we can over-look this (it’s nothing that a good power strip can’t fix). The AIMS 3,000-watt RV inverter is 16.48 x 8.74 x 7.10 inches and weighs 64 pounds. It’s a fair-sized inverter with a lot of high-quality tech packed into a little box.
- Optional on/off remote with LCD.
- Can be customized to auto-start a generator.
- It’s a high-quality, industrial-grade RV inverter.
- Alternating current bypass is sometimes faulty.
- It’s loud.
Power TechON 3000-Watt Power Inverter
If you prefer a lightweight RV inverter, the PowerTechON 3,000-watt inverter only weighs a little over 14 pounds and measures 22 x 9.3 x 4 inches. It’s one of the lightest devices you can find. This is due to it being a bit basic and the parts being on the cheap end, but it’s a suitable inverter for light-duty, and would make a good power inverter for camper usage.
With 3,000 running watts and 6,000 surge Watts, the inverter can handle low to medium wattage appliances and electronics. It has four outlets. Three of them are standard 110-volt outlets, and the last one is a USB port.
The Power TechON inverter boasts five different protection systems. These are thermal, under-voltage, over-voltage, overload, and low voltage. Most devices have these five protection systems, so it’s not a unique point, but it is nice to have these protection systems in place.
- Plenty of outlets, including a USB port.
- Remote on/off switch included with the inverter.
- Only one alert light for all five protection systems.
- Made of cheap parts.
KRIËGER K3000-Watt 12V Power Inverter
The Best Compact RV Inverter
Here is another lightweight option that is very similar to the Power TechON inverter, but with a few minor upgraded features. It’s suitable for light-duty use and comes with a three-year warranty for your investment protection.
The inverter handles up to 6,000 surge watts and has two standard 110-volt outlets as well as two USB ports. We are confused about the USB ports-it’s not a pure sine wave inverter, so it’s not a good idea to power sensitive electronics with it. Nonetheless, it’s there so you can take that risk if you choose to. We like the fact that it has a small LCD that gives readings on different systems within the inverter. The display only gives numbers, but it’s better than being entirely in the dark.
The KRIËGER K3000 RV inverter is very compact and easy to use. It measures 13.19 x 5.67 x 4.88 inches and only weighs 7.58 pounds. The inverter also has five protection systems like the Power TechON, but the good thing is that they aren’t redundant systems. This includes thermal shutdown as well as a short-circuit shutdown.
- Comes with a built-in hardwire kit.
- It has a wired remote control.
- 3000 watts of continuous power
- It’s a modified sine wave inverter.
- Battery cables are short (3 ft long)
WindyNation Vertamax 3,000-Watt RV Inverter
We call this a no-hassle recreational vehicle inverter because it comes with a complete installation kit. You won’t need to worry about matching and buying additional parts. It’s high-quality, manufactured very well, sturdy, and performs at an outstanding level.
The inverter features three standard 110-volt outlets. Like most of the devices on the list, it can handle 3,000 continuous watts and 6,000 surge watts. It has a continuous power output frequency of 60Hz. It weighs 15.4 pounds and measures 16.7 x 10.3 x 3.7 inches. It’s very lightweight but has the performance level of some of the heavier devices.
We like the fact that it has three fans to keep it cool. It comes with the same six protection systems as BCI RV inverter. We also like the fact that there is a switch that allows the display panel to switch between direct current volts and alternating current volts.
- Included battery cables are pure copper.
- Each outlet has an individual circuit breaker.
- You have the option to hardwire it to your RV.
- Some of the parts seem less durable than others.
- Short warranty period.
Go Power! GP-SW3000-12 RV Inverter
Most Efficient Power Inverter for Van Use
This Go Power! RV Inverter has a great, quality construction that isn’t seen in a lot of generators. It’s made with all-metal, durable housing, and it’s evident that this is a long-lasting product. Despite this, it still comes with a 2-year manufacturer’s warranty in the case of defects.
With 3,000 continuous watts and 6,000 surge watts, you’ll be able to run a host of appliances and electronics. It is incredibly efficient and stable. This RV inverter only has two standard 110-volt outlets, and we wish it had more. However, this is easily fixed with a power strip, so we’ll overlook this minor inconvenience.
The inverter comes with the price tag of a high-quality item, but it’s worth every penny for a product that’s going to perform at an outstanding level continuously. The inverter measures 17.8 x 6.5 x 8.2 inches and weighs 21 pounds.
- Outlets are GFCI protected.
- Has a two-year warranty.
- Power save mode sometimes doesn’t wake up when it’s supposed to.
The Best RV Inverter Charger – The Best Modified Sine Wave Power Inverters Reviewed
BCI 3,000-Watt RV Inverter
Best Inverter for Motorhome
This RV inverter is a great, lightweight, high-quality inverter that can work well in a variety of situations. It’s a pure sine wave inverter with a continuous power output frequency of 60Hz. The inverter has a surge watts rating of up to 6,000 watts and can handle up to 3,000 watts continuously. With four standard 110-volt outlets, this inverter can handle a multitude of electronics and appliances.
While it is a bit limited in the fact that it only has AC outlets, it makes up for the limitation in other areas. It has six protection systems. These are the same systems as the other devices on the list plus an added reverse polarity system. It has dual 2.5-inch cooling fans and two LCD panels so you can keep up with real-time system information.
The inverter only has a one-year warranty. However, if used correctly, it’s been shown to continue to work well for a long time. The inverter measures 16.9 x 7.1 x 5.5 inches and weighs just under 15 pounds.
- This is a pure sine wave RV inverter.
- Works great in cold/freezing temperatures.
- Can work in up to 90% humidity.
- Short warranty period.
- No USB ports.
Ampeak 2,000-watt 12-volt RV Power Inverter
Best Budget RV Inverter
Here is a good budget option for those who need to save a few bucks. This Ampeak RV inverter can handle up to 4,000 surge watts and 2,000 running watts. While it’s not built for heavy-duty use, large appliances, or sensitive electronics, it is useful if you need a cheap inverter for simple things. We like that the manufacturer clearly states what this inverter is not suitable for, so you know upfront what it’s capable of.
This inverter is for someone who needs to run small, simple appliances. What it does run, it runs exceptionally well for a cheap inverter. It doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but it does have three standard 110-volt outlets and five protection systems like most of the other devices.
The Ampeak is very compact. It only weighs a little over 8 pounds and measures 10.3 x 8.2 x 3.4 inches. It’s not made to last as long as other devices, but if you’re only going to use it lightly, it will last a good while.
- Very easy to set up and use.
- Can be used with optional remote switch.
- Extremely budget-friendly.
- It’s a modified sine wave inverter.
- Only comes with an 18-month warranty.
Xantrex 81201012 Inverter
This is a high-quality, premium RV inverter that offers a high level of performance (with a premium price tag to match). While it can only handle 2,000 continuous watts, it can handle up to 12,000 surge watts. This makes it perfect for large appliances that have heating elements such as industrial ovens and more. It has two AC lines (no outlets).
Another attractive feature of this RV inverter is the number of automatic functions that it performs. When AC power is available, it automatically charges batteries. It also automatically passes the power from the AC source directly to the appliances or electronics, saving the battery power for backup. When the alternating current power is disrupted, it automatically switches back to inverting direct current battery power.
This RV inverter was designed for heavy-duty use with little to no physical monitoring so you can spend your time focusing on what matters most. It’s truly a “set it and forget it” piece of equipment. This is not a portable RV inverter. It will have to be hardwired into your RV, and you’ll need to purchase the basic remote panel separately.
The inverter weighs 45 pounds and measures 7.9 x 11.5 x 13.2”.
- Automatic functions are very convenient.
- Has automatic battery temperature sensing.
- Power-sharing prevents tripping of the internal circuit breaker.
- The troubleshooting LED light is complicated to figure out.
- It’s a modified sine wave inverter.
Peak PKC0AW 3,000-Watt Power Inverter
We included this inverter on the list because it’s a great value. While we won’t go so far as to call it a budget option, it is on the lower end of the price spectrum, and it does have many attractive features. One of the main things we like about it is the fact that it has four standard 110-volt sockets plus a USB port. This allows you to plug up several appliances or electronics without needing an extension cord or power strip. Many of the premium inverters on the list don’t even have this many options. Unfortunately, it’s a modified sine wave inverter, so you can’t charge or power sensitive electronics from the USB port.
The Peak inverter can handle up to 3,000 continuous watts and 6,000 watts of surge power. This is average as far as other inverters on the list; however, we will admit that this inverter may not be able to handle 3,000 continuous watts. You may be better off if you keep your continuous watts at 2,000 or lower. If you do this, then you are sure to have a great inverter without spending a fortune. The Peak inverter is very lightweight and compact. It measures 20.8 x 9.8 x 5.9 inches and weighs a little over 17 pounds. This makes it very easy to work with.
- Has a wired remote on/off switch.
- Comes with everything you need to hardwire it to your RV.
- Safety features such as overload protection
- Inefficient with power conversion.
- Can easily overheat.
Last update on 2020-09-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API