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.
Firstly 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. Check your battery specifications for the maximum discharge current rating (A).This rating multiplied by the voltage will give you the peak wattage that your battery can produce at 240V, which is equivalent to the size of inverter your battery can power. For example, an Enerdrive 200Ah B-TEC Lithium Battery has a maximum discharge current of 200A, with an average output voltage of 12.5 volts. 200 x 12.5 = 2,500 watts. So this battery is a good pair for a 2000 watt 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, so total of 96 amp hours over a 24 hour period.
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 and is the biggest inverter on the market. 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 650W 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.
A happy medium is an Enerdrive ePOWER 2000W Pure Sine Wave Inverter at just under $1,000! This model is an easy to use, reliable and highly efficient unit!
Pro Tip: choose an inverter with a built in RCD protection, this is the safest way to run 240V appliances off-grid.
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 lithium battery, AC & DC 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.
Have any further questions? Give us a call on 1800 787 278 or shop our range of caravan inverters now.