One of the reasons why people need an alternative power source is to power the appliances in their RV. What makes an RV a great camping facility is the space and provision it has for several electrical appliances. That’s why some people use their RVs for camping while others live in theirs.
There are so many types of RVs, and they come in different sizes and power capacities. We want you to make the best use of your RV electrical systems, and that’s why we came up with this article.
First of all, we explained the electrical arrangement in an RV below. You need to understand it to be able to make good use of it. Also, we discussed the factors to consider when choosing a power inverter for your RV.
Since the electrical arrangement in an RV is different from the one in other vehicles, after installing an inverter in your RV, you must ground it. That’s why we have briefly explained how to ground an inverter in an RV.
When handling electricity, you must also consider safety. Messing with electricity without applying safety precautions is like taking chances with your health and your life. This is why we wrapped the article up with some safety tips. So, sit back and enjoy the ride.
The Electrical Arrangement in an RV:
There are three electrical systems in your RV. They are:
- A 12-volt DC automotive system
- A 12-volt DC coach system
- A 120-volt AC coach system
The 12-volt DC automotive system is centered on the battery that powers the automotive system of your RV, like the ignition system. We are not concerned with that. The focus is on the other two systems that are meant for powering the other electrical appliances that make the RV a mini-home.
One thing that makes RVs worthwhile is that many campgrounds have electric sources where you will plug your RV to enjoy your appliances. It is the 120-volt AC coach system that is powered at the campground.
The system is usually either a 50 Amp or a 30 Amp system. With a 50 Amp system, you should be able to use all your appliances while your RV is plugged to the power source at the campground.
On the other hand, with a 30 Amp system, you may not be able to use all your appliances. However, there’s a little but vital safety tip here. You need a voltmeter. Don’t just assume that the electricity in a campground is in good condition.
You need to test it with your voltmeter before you plug your RV cord into it. The voltmeter costs a few dollars, but it will help you to prevent a higher repair cost.
Even when your preferred campground’s power source is in good condition, its voltage may drop when many RVs are drawing power from it. This is another reason why it is important to test the voltage first. Low voltage can damage your appliances.
Some appliances work with the 12-volt DC current while the others use the 120-volt AC current. An example of the latter is the microwave oven. It might be helpful to find out what appliances use which power source.
One impressive safety feature that RVs have is a circuit breaker. It prevents overloading. Once you exceed the capacity of your RV’s electrical system, it will trip off to protect your electrical system and your appliances.
What if you’re camping in a bush where there’s no power source to plug your RV into? This is where an alternative power source comes in. You will need either solar panels or a generator to charge your batteries.
Remember that the current from batteries is DC. You will need a power inverter to convert the DC current to AC current for some of your appliances to work.
How to Choose a Suitable Inverter?
Whether you are using a generator or solar panels, you will need an inverter to convert the DC current from the sources to AC current. Don’t just go and get any inverter. You need to get the right inverter.
This is because inverters come in various capacities. You can get it in 300 watts, 500 watts, 600 watts, 1,000 watts, 3,000 watts, 3,500 watts, and 5,000 watts.
It is very tempting to buy the inverter with the highest capacity. But there is a little twist to it. The higher the capacity of an inverter, the more expensive it will be. So, if a 1,000-watt can handle your RV needs, why go for a 5,000-watt inverter? It will be a total waste of money.
So, how do you determine the best capacity for your RV? It is very simple. Add up the total amount of power needed by all your appliances and the ones you intend to buy. Go for a power inverter whose capacity is slightly higher than the total amperage or wattage needed by your appliances.
For each appliance, you can get its rate of power consumption on its body. They are usually in amps. You can convert amps to watts by multiplying it by 12 volts.
Watts = Amps x Voltage
In this situation, the voltage is 12 since you’re using batteries. For instance, a device that consumes 5 amps will consume 60 watts (5 amps x 12 volts). To make this easier for you, we have given you the amperage of common electrical appliances below.
- VCR – 2 amps
- TV – 1.5 amps
- Toaster – 8 to 10 amps
- Roof air conditioner -13.5 amps
- Refrigerator – 2.8 amps
- Microwave – 13 amps
- Hairdryer – 9 to 12 amps
- Electric skillet- 6 to 12 amps
- Converter – 8 amps
- Coffee maker – 8.3 amps
Now, choosing a power inverter should be easier for you. Another reason why you should know the rate of power consumption of every appliance is that it will help you identify the appliances that consume the most power. This will help you manage your power better.
Generally, appliances whose function is temperature-related are power hogs. Immersion heater, microwave oven, electric stove, and pressing iron will consume a lot of power. Also, your refrigerator and air condition, whose function is to make things cold, also consume a lot of power. They should not be used for an extended period.
Apart from the capacity of your inverter, there are other factors to consider as well. There are several brands of inverters. Some of them have a higher quality than others. So, you may need to check the reviews of your preferred brand of inverter before you buy it. If it has issues, users will mention it.
Another way to identify a good product is its Amazon rating. The ratings are given by users. The average of the ratings is stated on the product listing page on Amazon.
It is usually from 1 star to 5 stars. The former is the lowest possible rating, and the latter is the highest. Based on our standards, we will advise you not to buy any inverter whose rating is below 3.0 stars.
You don’t just want a reliable power invert; you want it at a very good price. That’s why it is necessary to compare prices in several stores before you place an order. We understand how painful it can be to discover a better price after paying for a product. So, compare prices on several stores before you make any purchase.
Even after purchasing a power inverter, you may discover something you don’t like about it. This is why you should ask for a return window before you buy. The return window is a period during which you can return a product you don’t like and get a full refund.
On Amazon, there’s a return window of 30 days on their products. Don’t purchase your inverter from a distributor that does not offer any return window.
Finally, many manufacturers advertise an impressive warranty to attract buyers. It is when an issue arises that customers are hit with the harsh reality on the ground.
Many warranties are not what they seem. To avoid such a rude shock, you need to read and understand the terms and conditions of the warranty given on your inverter.
How to Ground an Inverter?
To ground an inverter, you must first install it. Although we have explained how to install a power inverter in a van, we all also explain how to install an inverter in an RV because the steps are different. The electrical systems in an RV are different from the ones in a van.
Step 1 – Decide on The Best Place to Install the Inverter
You must choose a place that is well-ventilated and devoid of moisture. Also, it should a place where the inverter is safe from physical contact.
Step 2 – Fasten the Inverter
You don’t want an inverter that will be shaking or dancing to the motion of your RV. So, you should fasten it after placing it in your chosen location.
Step 3 – Wire it
After the installation, the next step is to wire it accordingly. We won’t discuss much of that here, because our focus is on grounding your inverter.
However, you must bear in mind that the positive socket on the inverter must be connected to the positive terminal on your battery, and the negative socket on the inverter should be linked to the negative terminal on the battery.
Step 4 – Ground Your Inverter
This is our major focus. First, your grounding cable must be of the same type, quality, and thickness as the one you used for wiring the inverter. Now, look around the inverter for a bolt driven into the RV’s chassis rail. This is the most important safety feature in any electrical field. Here are the reasons why grounding your inverter is a must.
1. Grounding protects your RV from a power surge. If your generator suddenly sends a very high voltage, the excess voltage will go into the earth if a proper grounding is in place. Otherwise, your appliances may get fried.
2. Grounding directs electricity to the appliances that need it. In other words, grounding reduces the likelihood of reversal current.
3. Grounding stabilizes the voltage supplied by your inverter. Some appliances will work with fluctuating voltage, while others may not work. So, stabilizing the voltage supplied is very important.
4. It saves you from injury and death. When you ground your inverter, the excess electricity that could have gone back into your RV system to cause a fire will be going straight into the earth.
Now that you understand the importance of grounding, make sure you ground your system properly.
Here are some safety tips for the electrical systems of your RV. They are simple tips, but they can save you from a lot of trouble and costs.
1. If you don’t know much about electricity, it is better to get a professional to install your inverter. When dealing with electricity, every mistake is costly. You don’t want to incur a debt that is a multiple of what you would have paid a professional.
2. If you notice that any cable has peeled off at any point, change it immediately.
3. Don’t allow your battery charger or battery converter to tap power from your inverter. You will shorten the lifespan of the inverter.
4. Don’t wire your shore and inverter to deliver power to your RV outlets at the same time. It is a safe bet for disaster.
5. It is not a good idea to run your inverter and converter at the same time. You will drain the batteries faster.
6. Check the voltage coming out from any campground power source before plugging your RV system into it. You need to be sure that the voltage is within a safe range.
You must have learned a lot of information from this write-up. Here are the most important pieces that you should take away.
- Modern RVs have three electrical systems.
- The total power consumption of your RV appliances should determine your choice of inverter.
- Grounding your inverter is a must.
- If you are a newbie in this field, hire an expert to install your inverter.