When you are out camping, it is always nice to have power and still feel connected to civilization whether that is through a TV, microwave, cell phone, or other 110 volt devices. If you are off grid, you cannot use these devices as you only have 12v battery power. But wait, there is a product that will allow you to use 110 volt power while you are away.
That product is called an Inverter.
Do travel trailers have inverters? No, travel trailers typically do not come with inverters as they are an upgraded item. Some more expensive travel trailers will come with an inverter that can power a coffee maker, microwave, or other items while off grid.
What does an inverter do in a travel trailer?
An inverter supplies 110 volt power to your travel trailer without being connected to shore power or a generator. They are small, compact electronic devices designed to keep small appliances powered.
The inverter works by plugging into your travel trailer’s batteries. The inverter turns the battery’s power from 12V DC to 120V AC, since most accessories such as TV’s, laptops, camera chargers, etc. run on 120V AC.
When installing your inverter, you can either install it with your electrical unit or place it next to the batteries. Inverters power smaller appliances like microwaves, mini-refrigerators, cell phones, hairdryers, TVs, computers, etc. If your trailer has full-sized appliances including a refrigerator, oven/stove, A/C, and washer and dryer an inverter will not be able to supply enough power to these appliances.
Also, depending on the wattage of the inverter you have, do not use several appliances at once. This could cause a power surge, trip and possibly overheat the inverter. You will need to check to see how many watts your inverter uses. Then calculate how many watts each of your appliances use to see what you can use and which appliances you can use together. The power that is being used from the battery will need to be replenished. This will need to be done by recharging the batteries either with solar on the go, a generator, or back in civilization with shore power.
What type of inverters are there?
There are two types of inverters, a pure sine wave, and a modified sine wave. When purchasing an inverter for your RV or travel trailer look for a pure sine wave inverter. You may be tempted to purchase a modified sine inverter due to their lower price, but stay away as they can damage your electrical devices.
Pure sine wave inverters work like the power in your house, whereas modified sine wave inverters are only good for powering small devices. Pure sine wave inverters produce a better quality of power and can power appliances and larger devices. If you were to look at a graph you would see the pure sine produce power waves that flow smoothly. Whereas modified sine waves produce sharp square-like waves that change from positive to negative.
Modified sine waves are also known to make buzzing sounds when trying to power a device that is too large for the system. Pure sine wave inverters may cost more but they are worth the money. If you use a modified sine wave inverter on a TV or a microwave it could break or damage the appliance. This is one of our favorite 3,000 watt sine wave inverters that can run a microwave as well as other devices.
Why would you want an inverter on a travel trailer?
Travel trailers and RVs do not come with inverters. This is something that you will need to install yourself or have a professional mechanic install if you want to power your 110v devices on the go.
Many people prefer to install them themselves because they are easy and quick to install. Inverters are small and compact which is great that they do not take up a lot of space since a travel trailer is already limited on space.
There are several other reasons why you want an inverter installed in your travel trailer. The first and foremost reason is to be able to camp off the grid. You will be able to take your travel trailer to areas that there are no electrical hook-ups and will still be able to watch TV and make coffee in the morning. (this is one of our favorite features, making coffee in the morning without firing up the generator)
An inverter is also a great use for a mini-refrigerator. For example, if you are traveling a long distance and not want your refrigerated items to get hot, you can supply power to your mini-fridge with the inverter. Another great reason is if you are someone that has a medical need or life support system that constantly needs power, then you need an inverter in case you are unable to access shore power, or if the shore power goes out.
Inverters have a long life and are meant to last for years. So, once you buy one, it will be a great investment that will last. Remember to purchase a pure sine wave inverter. These inverters are similar to the power that runs a house. Pure sine wave inverters do cost more than a modified sine wave inverter but keep in mind, they are cheaper than a generator.
Also, an inverter is a great alternative to a generator. An inverter does not make noise like a generator. If you have a generator, then you know how noisy they can be and can keep you up in the middle of the night. Also, inverters do not need fuel like a generator, since they run on batteries. You will not have to spend extra money on gas and you will save space in the trailer since you do not have to store the gas cans to run your favorite 110 volt accessories.
Should I leave my RV inverter on all the time?
Yes, you can leave the inverter on at all times. This does not hurt the inverter or the battery, but if you are boondocking you may not want to as it will constantly eat at your batteries. We suggest turning your inverter off after use so you can spare your batteries.
If you do leave it on all the time, it is great as when you need to use any small appliances, they will work immediately without having to switch the inverter on. The batteries drain slowly when an appliance or a device is being used. So, by having the inverter on it won’t drain the batteries but remember batteries do drain whether they are being used or not.
Just know the inverter isn’t causing the batteries to drain much more than what is already being done. If the batteries are getting low and you are not near shore power or have a generator, then you can have them hooked up to your car (that is pulling the travel trailer) or the RV’s motor. This will slowly charge the batteries while you are driving. However, if your battery is completely depleted, charging it with the car is not a good idea. It won’t completely charge the battery and can damage the battery by making it lose its capability to hold a charge. It is best to charge a completely dead battery with shore power. To learn more about charging, read our guide here.
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