Solar Inverter Essentials: A Comprehensive Guide to Choosing, Installing, and Maintaining the Perfect Inverter for Your Solar System
What is an inverter?
Inverters are devices that convert DC power stored in batteries to AC power (the same as a house).
This means you can run domestic 230V appliances while traveling off grid, using clean green energy you have generated yourself.
The quality of inverter AC power can affect the appliances you are running so chose a good quality inverter, such as Victron, that is relevant to the appliances you are using.
Inverters for Motorhomes and Caravans
Power inverters are one of the key components in a solar system for motorhomes and caravans, and convert the DC from your batteries to the AC (alternating current) that is used by most appliances and gadgets.
How Do Power Inverters Work?
They take the energy from your battery, and convert it to AC power that can be used by devices like laptops, coffee machines, TVs and so on. Inverters are probably one of the most important parts of a motorhomer/caravaner’s kit.
Inverters typically come in two different varieties – a pure sine inverter and a modified sine wave inverter. We strongly recommend pure sine inverters for motorhomes and caravans.
Pure Sine Inverter
A pure sine inverter also known as true sine wave inverters. In general pure sine wave is more expensive than modified sine wave, but they provide better power that is good enough to use in most applications. Pure Sine is what you have available from the power points in a house.
Modified Sine Inverter
A modified sine wave inverter (which produces modified square waves) produces an imperfect version of electricity which is able to run certain appliances (such as some motors) with no problem at all, but will have some impact on other electronics such as microwaves and laptops.
How to Choose the Right Inverter for Motorhome or Caravan Needs?
A pure sine wave inverter can range anywhere from $350 to several thousand, depending on its capacity (how much wattage they can handle), size, brand and more. In order to get maximum use out of any inverter it’s imperative you choose one based on what you need. In order to do this we recommend considering these two factors:
- Type of electrical appliances; Some common devices include microwaves, e-bike charging, coffee machine etc.
- Power requirements; Power inverters usually have different wattages, and if sized incorrectly you can spend more than you need to.
When choosing an Inverter, there is a lot of information out there. Not all inverters are created equal. We encourage you to check in with us before making any decisions, in order to find the best one that suits your needs. We’re happy to give you our recommendations free of charge and with no obligations.
- The higher the capacity (wattage) rating on an Inverter, the better off you’ll be when using devices with high power demands;
- Inverters come in many sizes so make sure to choose one based on the type of device or appliance it needs to support.
Pure Sine Wave Inverters
Victron pure sine wave inverters are the industry-leading standard. With their vast capabilities of providing a smooth, consistent AC power you can be assured that any and all devices you plug in will be functioning without flaw or disruption. You can literally power anything up and reap the long lasting benefits for years to come with this quality purchase!
What is a Pure Sine Wave?
Inverters use energy from the your solar panel to convert it into run-time electricity for your motorhome or caravan. They are generally rated by their continuous output wattage and peak output wattage.
The Benefits of Using a Pure Sine Wave Inverter
Inverters are used to convert DC voltage to an AC source. To understand this better, let’s first go over the basics.
In a home setting (230VAC), electricity flows from the wall outlet through a house circuit breaker panel and is broken into smaller bits that will be compatible with anything in your home. In a motorhome or caravan, the charge goes from a battery to an inverter. They are used to convert the voltage of an AC power source.
Most electric devices these days have micro-processors within them, the micro-processors use the frequency of the pure sine wave to manage timing within these appliances’ functions. Modified sine does not allow this timing to happen and can lead to damage of appliances.
Inverters are not expensive when you compare them to the cost of a pure sine wave device. Inverters are usually in the $250-400 range and will last for years before needing replacement. In this case, it’s probably cheaper than replacing an expensive appliance that may have been fried by using power from your caravan or motorhome battery without having a converter.
How to Install and Use an Inverter
Best practice when installing an inverter is to locate it as close to the battery as possible and wire directly to the battery.
At Motorhome Solar we only use pure sine wave inverters.
Common Mistakes Made When Installing an Inverter
Inverters generally require a separate installation and you need to make sure that the power coming in from your solar system is sufficient to power the inverter.
One of the most common issues is using cables from the battery that are too small for the size of the inverter, and tends to cause DC ripple.
What is the Best Size Inverter for a Motorhome or Caravan?
The only way to tell the best Inverter size for your motorhome or caravan is by calculating how many watts you need. Add up the watts of all the appliances you would like to use at the same time and then calculate the Inverter size required.
For example, if you want to charge a laptop and small cordless vacuum in your motorhome or caravan, you would need an Inverter that could power at least 600 watts of appliances (240V x .33 Amps = 300 Watts). It’s best to give yourself some room for growth.
Coffee machine = 1400W
E-bike charger = 400W
TOTAL = 1800W so recommend 2000W pure sine inverter