Power inverters convert DC battery power to AC power. Your RV may or may not have a built-in power inverter. However, you can buy one as an interface between your RV DC power system and your AC devices. It may also come with the generator you choose to use, whether it is a standalone generator you use to recharge or supplement house batteries. In any case, it is worthwhile to ensure that your RV has a power inverter. How does a power inverter help campers?
1. It Protects Your Electronics
Conventional DC power, whether it is from solar panels or a house battery, has some variation in power quality. This can wear out a vacuum cleaner or can opener motor faster than it otherwise would. When it comes to smart devices, it can be deadly. Poor power quality due to power fluctuations can burn out smartphones, laptops and the intelligence in other smart devices. A power inverter often provides high levels of power quality. The standard recommendation is less than 3 percent total harmonics. This level of power quality is also necessary to safely operate medical equipment like oxygen concentrators and CPAP machines.
Know that you need to verify that the inverter provides this level of protection. That feature is common on inverters on generators and inverter/power packs but is not universal.
2. It May Double as a Battery
Inverters at a minimum are power converters, converting DC to AC power. In some cases, the inverter is also equivalent to a battery because it can store up power that it slowly delivers downstream. This may mean you can run your laptop computer for five more minutes before it shuts down, or you may be able to run flashlights and other small devices for an hour or more through the generator is off or house batteries are drained. Depending on the inverter, you may even be able to charge small batteries though the house batteries are off or disconnected, and you might be able to run low-draw devices for hours.
3. You Can Charge Devices without Special Converters
This is another benefit that only comes with specific power inverters. For example, some inverters come with USB charging ports. Now you can plug your smartphone or laptop into the inverter to recharge it. You don’t need to buy a special converter plug for the cigarette lighter in the dashboard or a separate power converter cable to plug the phone charging cable into.
4. You Can Use Almost Any Appliance
One of the benefits of a power inverter is that you can plug in conventional AC powered appliances into it just like a power outlet and then use them, assuming the power draw is within the output level of the inverter. You don’t have to buy DC powered household appliances, something that limits your selection. This allows you to plug in a standard 110/240 volt electric heater or use your existing flat-screen TV. Not only do you likely own these items already, but they’ll be much cheaper than the special RV specific models. For example, an RV compatible TV is a limited edition item. And there are items that may not be available in low voltage RV compatible forms. Plus there are high voltage items that just aren’t available in DC form, vacuum cleaners, and hair irons being the most obvious examples.
5. It Minimizes Interruptions in Power Flow
A side benefit of many inverters is that it can release stored power during peak loads. For example, your air conditioner may require 1000 watts to run once it is running but pulls 1200 or more watts when you start it up. An inverter may be able to provide those extra few watts from its de facto battery, allowing the appliance to start up without denying power to other appliances. These are the cases where starting up the microwave causes the lights to dim and fridge to cut off when you don’t have excess capacity in your power system. This also means a power inverter connected to your power system may prevent it from being overloaded because you turned on too many items at one time.
Power inverters at a minimum provide alternating current power with conventional power outlets. They may provide better power quality and the ability to charge or run anything. And that makes power inverters invaluable to campers.