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Best Power Inverter for Campervan Travel

How to choose a power inverter for campervan travel

TechOn 1000 Vansage power inverter for campervan
The Power Powere TechOn 1000 Watt Pure Sine Inverter is a VanSage Top Pic for its high user rating and great price.
Whether it’s a blazing hot day and you need to crank up the fan, or it’s the dead of winter and you’re depending on electric heat, or you just want to watch some Netflix on the laptop, your campervan power inverter needs to be a steady, reliable energy source.

The best power inverter for can make the difference between suffering at the hands of the elements, or relaxing in total comfort.

The world of power inverters is vast, to say the least. And it should be, considering all that these magic boxes perform out there in the world of RVs, Vans, trailers, trucks, campsites… Chances are you’ve been Googling like mad, just trying to get a grip on which inverters do what, how much power you need, which type of inverter to get and more.

In this article we’ll get you up to speed on some basics, and then make some recommendations of inverters we’ve researched carefully.

A Word of Caution

This post will not provide you with an education in RV or Campervan electrical. We highly recommend consulting a specialist trained in RV and Campervan electrical systems prior to installing or using electrical equipment in your van. We take no responsibility for the safety of your property or person. 

Virtually every campervan electrical horror story we’ve heard (or, uh… lived) could have been avoided by simply hiring an expert to install, or at least guide, the installation of the electrical system in question.

Therefore, we strongly suggest that at the very least you consult an RV electrical professional prior to powering up your installation. Better yet, have the work done by a pro.

Here’s a partial list of safety concerns when installing an inverter. These are beyond the scope of this article, but are nonetheless essential to consider for safety and successful operation of your inverter.

  • Cables from battery to inverter: Type/material, quality, gauge, length/distance from battery…
  • Inline fuse: Size for your inverter and power usage, location/distance from battery, style of enclosure…
  • Grounding: Where to connect ground for safe operation of your inverter, acceptable length…
  • Location of inverter in your van: Horizontal or vertical, air circulation for cooling, convenience/ease of access…
  • Ring connectors at battery and inverter: Gauge, material/quality, method of crimping to cables…
  • AND more! Again, consult an expert, please.

Okay, you get the point. Moving on…

Jump to the Power Inverter for Campervan Recommendations

Reliable Power 800 Watt

Power TechOn 1000 Watt

VertaMax 1500 Watt

AIMS 3000 Watt

“Pure Sine Wave” vs “Modified Sine Wave”

Aside from power output wattage, pure sine vs modified sine might be the biggest point of mystery and confusion when choosing an inverter.

It’s also an issue that’s open to a wide range of opinion. We found some very heated arguments on RV and auto electrical forums, in blog comments and on Facebook pages.

Without getting into the deep electrical science behind these technologies, here’s the main difference:

  • Pure sign wave inverters offer the cleanest power source, identical in output to home power, also known as “grid power quality”. 
  • Modified sign wave inverters offer a less clean stepped or square power output that can cause problems for some devices including audio equipment, LED lights, some TVs, laptops, microwaves, medical equipment and others.

If hard science is your thing, start with this very good article from Altestore.com

Let’s take a look at a video on the subject. (Tip from the impatient, busy Sage: Click the gear icon on the video to watch at 1.5 speed).

Overheating? Buzzing? Inefficient operation? No thanks. At least not in my van. And yes, I’ve experienced all of these things when I’d installed a modified sine wave inverter.

Aside from the safety concern of overheating, nothing puts me off my Breaking Bad or my Steely Dan (the Sage is old, it’s true) like a buzzing sound system.

Our advice: Get a pure sign inverter. Save your pennies, sell your baseball card collection, whatever it takes.

The best power inverter size for your Campervan

How big does your inverter need to be? You’ll want to become familiar with the power usage of the accessories and appliances you’ll be plugging in.

Every appliance has a power usage rated printed on a label or stamped in the plastic.

We’ll be focusing on sustained power output ratings.

It’s important to consider appliances that draw high power levels over longer periods of time such as a heater, fan, hair dryer, microwave…

Our product reviews, below, will include some larger inverters in case you’re running big stuff like a clothes drier air conditioner, heat exchanger…

Wattage rating and power use cycles

How wattage relates to power use can be deceiving. For example, your 12 volt fridge freezer might actually use use considerably less power than your 12 Watt fan.

Let’s use the Dometic CFX-40US Refrigerator/Freezer as a fairly typical example of 12 volt fridge freezer power usage. This machine draws 60 Watts of power, when it’s running. 

That last part; “when it’s running” is a very important distinction because in order to keep your food cold, these fridges only need to turn on for a few seconds every hour, so they tend to use a very small amount of power, especially if they’re not opened very often. Vansage Power Inverter article AboveTEK 12V DC Electric Car Fan

Compare that to a 12 volt portable fan drawing “only” 12 Watts, but for hours on end, and you’ll start to see the fridge for the bargain of power usage that it is.

All that to say that higher wattage often has less to do with over all power usage than common sense might suggest.

So it’s important to take cycling of appliances into consideration when designing a power system, and when choosing the best inverter for your campervan.

What size inverter should you get?

Minimum 800 Watts. Why am I so confident about that? Here’s why: The list of available appliances, in both AC and DC that an 800 Watt inverter will comfortably power is substantial and will have you covered for nearly every comfort of home, short of a baking oven, clothes drier, any worthwhile microwave, a cocktail or smoothie blender, and a few other power pigs.

I have a DC hot water kettle that uses 750 Watts and boils water very fast. You can even get a low wattage heater (for smaller vans) that will run nicely on an 800 Watt inverter without any issues.

So our reviews and recommended products start at 800 Watts and go up from there.

But if, based on total awareness of your power usage requirements, you feel you only need 600 Watts, or (cough) 400, you can use our guide to find the best brands and by carefully reading the reviews and performing your own due diligence.

And if you’ve got a bigger rig with more creature comforts like a big heater or AC unit, you might want to go up to 3000 Watts or more. We’ve got you covered in reviews, below.

Power inverter safety features: Minimum requirements

For our recommendations, we only considered inverters that include the following minimum safety features, and so should you.

  • High and low voltage shutdown
  • Short circuit protection
  • Thermal (overheating) protection
  • Cooling fan

We also like to see a digital read out showing current voltage output and wattage use, though there are some decent units without this feature.

Our power inverter for campervan travel recommendations

Reliable Power 800w Pure Sine Inverter

  • VanSage.com Reliable Power Drive 800 Watt Power Inverter for Campervan800W continuous 1600W peak pure sine wave power inverter,
  • Grid quality power supply.
  • Transfer 12VDC to 120VAC, 60Hz frequency
  • Dual US outlets.
  • Intelligent temperature control cooling fan.
  • Ground connection for PCB board and output.
  • LED display.
  • High quality true copper inductance filter the wave form and  ensure the pure sine wave AC
  • Safeguard your equipment.
  • All big imported metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistor (mosfets) with strong drive capacity.
  • PCB thickness 2.00mm allow the better current float on circuit and increase load capacity.
  • High frequency transformer for DC/AC transfer for stable AC output.
  • Includes battery cables and extra fuse for replacement.

Here’s a VERY thorough review of this inverter.

 Power TechON 1000w Pure Sine Inverter

Vansage.com TechOn 1000 Vansage power inverter for campervan

 

 

 

  • 1000 watt Continuous 2000 watt Surge, 12V DC to 120V AC
  • Remote Switch
  • 3 Standard US Sockets
  • Protection: Thermal, over voltage, under voltage, low voltage alarm
  • Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) <3%; Soft start low interference tech
  • Temperature control cooling fan.
  • Output: AC 120V; Frequency: 60Hz

VertaMax PURE SINE 1500 Watt Inverter

  • LED Displays DC voltage and AC power consumption.vansage.com vertamax 3000w power inverter for campervan
  • 3 grounded AC outlets (115 volt for USA devices).
  • Each AC outlet includes dedicated breaker.
  • 1 year warranty.
  • Thermal shutdown and reverse polarity protection with internal fuse.
  • Short circuit protection, over-voltage protection, low voltage shutdown, low and high voltage alarm.

AIMS 3000 Watt Pure Sine Power Inverter

  • 3000 Watts Pure Sine Power vansage.com power inverter for campervan Aims 3000w pure sine
  • Direct connect AC terminal block
  • Built for larger gear
  • Battery low voltage alarm: 9.8 +/- 0.5 Volts, low voltage shutdown: 9.5 +/- 0.5 Volts
  • Overload and over temp protections