Travelling off-grid doesn’t mean you should go without your home comforts. But if you want to run your laptop, coffee machine and other 240V appliances, how do you do it in the most convenient way? You need a caravan inverter.
Inverters can make your caravanning experience easier and more comfortable. It all comes down to buying the right one.
What Is A Caravan Inverter?
A caravan inverter converts DC power (direct current) from your 12V battery system into AC power (alternating current) so you can run all sorts of 240V appliances when you’re on the road.
There are different types of inverter, depending on what you need.
The standard inverter does the job of converting 12V DC into 240V AC. Some inverters will also allow the use of 240V AC when hooked up into mains power at a caravan park, whereas a standard inverter will only use power from batteries only. You can also get inverter chargers, which incorporate a battery charger.
What Size Caravan Inverter Do You Need?
The size you choose depends on what appliances you want to run and how much power draw they have.
You need to match the inverter to the load. To do this, think about your average day in your caravan – which appliances do you want to run at the same time? Then add up the total wattages of these appliances. Focus on the peak watts, as these is what the power draw will be when they start up.
For example, when you first turn on your coffee machine it draws anywhere between 1300 and 1800 Watts depending on the machine. But drops to almost nothing between pours.
Note that anything with a pump, compressor or motor will have a higher peak power draw than the specifications state. The inverter needs to handle the peak demand, even if only for a short time, otherwise it will cause damage.
Pro Tip: Don’t switch all your appliances on at the same time, so the peak power draw isn’t at the max for the inverter.
The second factor when choosing the size of your caravan inverter is the battery. Make sure your battery bank is large enough to power the inverter. We say that for every 100Ah of deep cycle battery, you should be able to power a 1000W DC to AC inverter.
Finally, work out how long you plan to run your appliances. You need to calculate how long your battery will run, while powering an appliance through an inverter.
Let’s say your laptop charger is plugged into the caravan inverter and draws 50W continuously. That’s about 4 Amps at 12 Volts, meaning you could run the laptop for 24 hours continuously on 100AH battery.
You also need to consider the power draw of the inverter. The process of converting DC to AC costs energy. A 1000W inverter will draw around 1 Amp per hour just on standby, without any load.
How Much Do You Want To Spend?
Like all things in your caravan, the price of caravan inverters is driven by size and quality. Redarc is at the top end of the range with its 3000w 12v Pure Sine Wave Inverter, which comes in at under $3000. But you get what you pay for. Not only is Redarc the market leader for off-grid travel setups, the inverter comes with multiple layers of protection including overload and short circuit protection, and a cooling fan which is engaged when power consumption and temperature reaches a certain level.
At the other end of the market is the Victron Phoenix Inverter at around $400. This great value for money option has a high start-up power for loads such as LED lamps and electric tools, and also features an ECO mode enabling the inverter to switch to standby when the load decreases below the value you set.
Pro Tip: Always buy an inverter from a reputable brand otherwise you run the risk of damaging your caravan battery / system.
What Are The Pros & Cons Of Different Brands In The Range?
If you’re looking for a good quality caravan inverter, you can’t go past Enerdrive or Redarc. These are the most popular sizes, plus they are backed by trusted brands.
Enerdrive delivers exceptional value for money. You can also get all-in-one solutions, including a caravan battery, charger, monitor and inverter in one simple package. This is not only great bang for your buck, it also gives you confidence that everything will run together like clockwork
Redarc is the market leader in off-grid travel setups, so you know you are getting a quality piece of gear that will last the distance.
The other top player is Victron. The main advantage of Victron products is that they offer a generous 5 year warranty. Plus, they have an extensive range of inverters to choose from for caravans, camper trailers and off grid cabins or homes.