[FAQ] What Is RV Inverter And How to Use It

What Is RV Inverter And How to Use It

Its cold and windy outside and the children is screaming and the Mother in Law is moaning…What do you do to keep them entertained? The best option is to switch on the inverter and let the kids play PS5 and the Mother in Law watch “Days of our lives” .We have covered all the questions you might have about a RV inverter what is it?And How it works?

What Is An RV Inverter?

An RV inverter is a device that changes the AC power coming from an external outlet to DC power. This power is used to run appliances like a refrigerator in your camper or motorhome so you don’t have to worry about the noise and large price tag associated with an RV generator.

These inverters can also be used with the DC power of your camper’s battery–it all depends on which device has the most reliable source of energy.

Having an RV inverter gives you greater flexibility and eliminates many issues that might otherwise arise. Since these devices have dual-prong outlets, you can use them as a central hub for all of your electronics–a convenient way to keep everything powered without having multiple extension cords going through your camper.

Many portable generators don’t have this feature, making it difficult for owners to move around their homes while they’re running.

Either way, using an RV Inverter allows you to use common household appliances while traveling without having to purchase costly shipping containers or rent space at campgrounds.

What Is RV Inverter And How to Use It

How Does an RV Inverter Work?

The RV inverter consists of a power capacitor that is connected to your RV power inlet. The role of the inverter is to process and convert DC power to AC power for use by household appliances such as refrigerators, televisions, microwaves, and so on.

What Is RV Inverter And How to Use It

Inverters are very important in your camping party—they help you get electricity for your TV, laptop and other electrical devices that you might need at night when the generator is not running.

Getting a good inverter will save you from getting frustrated later on. It would be best for you to spend a little more money on getting an efficient model such as AC-AC type rather than buying a cheaper DC-type which can end up causing you problems at home or during camp nights due to its short lifespan.

Types Of RV Inverters

1. AC-AC Inverter

An AC to AC power inverter converts 120/240 AC voltage electricity from the home supply grid into 120/ 240 volts for use with household appliances that use electric current directly instead of microwave or LP gas for heating.

A typical example is a refrigerator, which requires 120 volt electricity to work. There is no need to convert it back to direct current (DC); hence, it is called an AC to AC power inverter .

The current from the generator is connected directly to the inverter and then to the household appliances.

2. AC-DC Inverter

An AC to DC power inverter converts 120/240-volt AC voltage electricity from the home supply grid into 12 volt, 24 volt or 48 volt DC current for use with devices that require electric current in this form, such as batteries, microwaves, televisions, deep freezers and so on.

What Is RV Inverter And How to Use It

A refrigerator uses DC current for its cooling system—it has a compressor motor which operates through a set of wires. These wires carry direct current (DC) which is converted to alternating current (AC), used by all the other electrical equipment in an RV; when it turns back into DC again it powers up the actual refrigerator.

The converter accomplishes this conversion process and passes on only DC current to the motor. This is why this type of converter is called an AC to DC power inverter .

3. AC-to-DC Inverters

Basically, it can be used with any conventional device that requires 12 volt, 24 volt or 48 volt direct current (DC). The RV battery acts as a reservoir for storing this converted DC electricity for use when the generator is not running.

It will not operate if there is no input from the generator; one cannot get 240 volts in any case. Their main drawback lies in their lower efficiency rate which goes down to 75% up to 82%, compared to 95% on an AC-AC inverter.

They cost less than the other type of inverter and have a better sound level rating of 53db compared to the latter’s 63db for the same size inverter. Their rated power is limited to 6000W, while it can extend up to 10,000W for the AC-AC type.

4. DC-to-AC Inverters

They are more expensive than their AC counterpart and require a professional installer. However, they have a higher efficiency when compared.

DC to AC inverters generally have an output frequency of 60Hz or 50Hz as compared to 120Hz on an AC-AC model.

They are most suitable for high power industrial applications such as operating welding machines, powering giant plasma TV screens or even entire buildings through air conditioning equipment and other large appliances or tools used by construction workers. Their rated power is up to 20,000W.

What Is RV Inverter And How to Use It

You might be asking yourself, what’s the difference between an RV inverter and an RV converter? Both the Inverter and Converter are important parts of your RV system. Without one or the other, your battery will not work. We’ll outline a few differences to help you better understand when it is necessary for each device.

Do I have to maintain my invertor or converter?

An inverter can run on AC power but needs to be converted back to DC power that batteries can produce before being used in your appliances.

A converter does not need this step which saves energy in some cases, but it also means that any power generated by solar panels must be sent through a charge controller first before being used by your appliances.

Difference between RV inverters and RV converters

Inverter/converter combo units are also available, which is nice if you want to keep your electronics running off AC power while having the ability of converting energy for use with DC devices when there is a shortage in energy production from your solar panels or batteries.

Both converters and inverters will only allow limited wattage output – so check with your manufacturer in order to determine how many watts of AC power can be converted to DC for use on battery systems.

An RV inverter is a device that converts the DC power from your battery to the AC power that you need. There are two ways to use an RV inverter: one is to plug it into a 120 volt outlet and the other is to plug it into a 12 volt outlet.

When using an RV inverter, be sure to never exceed its wattage rating. This just means that if it says 500 watts, don’t try to power an appliance that uses 1100 watts or more. It will blow up the device and could start a fire!

How To Use a RV Inverter Power from a 120 Volt Outlet.

First, before you can plug into an outlet to use power with an RV inverter, be sure that the outlet is wired correctly and that it has the right kind of outlet on the wall to receive a standard household plug.

You can find out by reading your owner’s manual or asking at your local hardware store.

What Is RV Inverter And How to Use It

If the outlet is wired properly for use with an appliance, then follow these steps:

1. Turn off everything in your RV that uses electricity so there will be plenty of power for other items you want to use when you plug into AC power. 

2. Unplug all appliances in your home from their outlets so they won’t accidentally turn on when you plug in your RV.

3. Open the breaker box and turn off the fuse or circuit breaker for the outlet you want to use with your inverter. 

4. Plug your inverter into an appropriate, correctly wired AC wall outlet. 

5. Turn on your appliances one at a time so they won’t blow a fuse or trip the breakers when you are running them all at once. It is always best to start small and work up to using more power;

for example, if you have one 100 watt lamp that uses 120 volts of AC power, then turn it on as soon as you have plugged in everything else. Then add another light until you’re sure that there are no problems before adding anything else. 

Often, if you have purchased a new appliance for your RV that uses 120 volts, it will come with an adapter plug so you can plug into an AC wall outlet. If not, then go to the hardware store and buy an electrical adaptor.

Sometimes these items are expensive depending on what kind of inverter you have; but they’re less expensive than replacing the device because of blowing its fuse or tripping the breakers in your home or motorhome!

Using RV Inverter Power from a 12 Volt Outlet.

What Is RV Inverter And How to Use It

If there is a place to plug into your home’s electrical system other than an AC outlet, then you can use an RV inverter to be able to plug in appliances directly instead of using one of the methods described above.

Sometimes this will be on the side of the house where you park your motorhome or at some site you may temporarily visit (for example, campgrounds). Again, check with your owner’s manual or hardware store whether it is safe to do so or not at any place you are going to stay.  

When you’re ready to plug in for using the 12 volt side of your RV inverter, then follow these steps:

1. Turn off everything that is running at your house. This means light bulbs, fans, televisions, computers and anything else that has a power switch or remote control. Be sure to check what’s plugged into extension cords! 

2. Open the breaker box and turn off (by flipping the right switch or pushing down on the appropriate button) each fuse or circuit breaker you plan to use with your inverter. 

3. Plug in your inverter to an appropriate outlet on the 12 volt system. Make sure it only uses as much power as you’re planning on using before turning on your appliances one at a time; just as you did when plugging into the 120 volt outlet described above. 

4. Turn on all your appliances one at a time to make sure that each of them work properly. Be careful not to overload the system so there is enough power for everything you want to use, including any air conditioning you may have!

5. After you are sure that everything works okay, unplug the inverter from your 12 volt outlet. Then go and check again to make sure everything is turned off or else it could short-circuit (become electrically live but not connected) inside your RV while you’re away at a campground!  

You should know how to use and care for your inverter before you ever plug it in. You can read through the directions provided with your device’s owner’s manual, which will contain a lot of information about how to use is safely as well as effective!

How Big Inverter do I need for my RV?

A lot of people have been surprised to learn that their inverter was not powerful enough to run an appliance they wanted to operate, or even two at once without being overloaded.

There are many high quality inverters on today’s market; but if you buy one with too little wattage (they’re rated by watts), then your appliances may be weakened by using them with lower quality current.

This is explained in the owner’s manual for the particular product; so again, follow its directions!

For example, a small device that draws about 1 ½ amps should have at least a 2000 watt inverter, if you intend to plug the same into an AC outlet where it can be plugged directly into your home’s wiring.

If using an adapter or hooking up batteries for 12 volt power, then 400 watts is sufficient because we are talking about DC amps instead of AC amps.

How Long Extension Cord Do I need for My RV Inverter?

It’s best not to use extension cords unless they’re absolutely necessary; and only for devices which don’t pull too much electricity like fans or lights.

The reason why is because you risk overheating the wire inside the extension cord (the cord’s insulation) by using an inverter, which outputs electricity at a higher voltage than that used with extension cords.

For example, one 100 foot 12 gauge extension cord can supply 10 amps of power to two appliances simultaneously; but when connected through an RV inverter, it can only deliver 4.16 amps because each appliance takes up 2 amp loads.

So you see that if more than two devices are plugged in together through an extension cord and your RV inverter, then they will overload the wires in your house’s wiring!

The best solution is to just use power directly from your motorhome or tow vehicle if possible instead of going through any type of adapter or inverter.

If you must use an extension cord, then the best place to plug it in is into a power strip where there are several outlets so no one appliance will consume all the power from your adapter or inverter.

Should I Leave My RV Inverter On All the Time?

RV Inverters use the inverter’s energy to charge up the battery bank or to run the microwave, among other devices.

There may be a temptation to leave your RV battery charger on all the time because it will save you in maintenance costs.

However, if you are using your TV and microwaves most of the time, you may end up spending more on electricity than what it would cost for you to replace your battery every few years.

What Is RV Inverter And How to Use It

Deciding when to turn off your RV battery charger is not a “yes” or “no” question.

Turning off your RV inverter can be beneficial; however, there are many factors that need to be considered before making this decision. There are situations where leaving it on can be very helpful, and there are also circumstances when turning it off would be useful.

Although your Motor Home or RV’s inverter has a switch that allows you to turn it off or on, most people consider it safer to plug the unit directly into an outlet.

Aside from convenience, experts say that leaving the charger plugged in is the safest option because this prevents accidental injury or danger due to a short circuit. If you’re planning to leave for several days, unplugging your inverter will ensure that no shorts occur while you’re away.

However, if you have a frequent policy of going on weekend trips and only staying at campgrounds for just two or three days at a time, then there should not be any issue with leaving your battery charger on.

If you’re going to be gone for an extended period of time, then it would be best if you unplug the inverter in case someone accidentally turns it on while at the park.

If this will happen often, it may be wise to leave notes informing people that the power needs to remain off when they are not around. You can also inform them that leaving the system on all the time will end up costing more than replacing batteries every year or two.

Is an RV Inverter Worth It?

Yes Definitely ,There are many different benefits to having one of these inverters, as they will provide you with the ability to power all of your appliances and electronics.

When you have 120-volts of electricity at your disposal, almost anything can run on it; microwaves to coffee makers, lights to hair dryers!

The possibilities are endless when you start running everything in your RVs electrical system off of one source of energy rather than two or three different ones like most RVs do. So a DC-to-AC 120/240v inverter is an essential piece of equipment for any RV.

What Is RV Inverter And How to Use It

There are basically three types of RVs and each requires a different type of inverter:

1. There are two types of RVs; dry campers (which don’t have a generator) and those that do. The latter, obviously need to have an inverter as they run off of the generators power source which is DC voltage.     

2. All dry campers produce their own power using 12 volt batteries. It’s these batteries that an inverter would be used with. Dry Camping RVs can use either a DC to AC 120/240V conversion or in some cases, a DC to DC converter which can be used in both 12 volt as well as 24 volt systems.

3. The third type of RV uses solar panels or wind generators for their electricity source and then has an inverter for backup purposes. These RVs are usually referred to as “hybrids”.

The use of an RV Inverter is becoming increasingly popular due to the growing number of people who are now making their homes on wheels and traveling the country full-time.

What makes these inverters so appealing is that they make it possible for you to power your entire electrical system off of just one source; the vehicles battery! Another benefit is that if you have AC electrical devices (i.e., television, DVD player, etc.) that require 110-volt power you can run these appliances with your RV Inverter as well.

So regardless if you live in an RV full-time or only use it on occasion for campsite stays, an inverter is something that every RVer should have!

How many watts do I need?

In order to answer the question of how many watts an RV Inverter needs, you first need to decide on what type of system (i.e., solar, wind-generator, or generator) will be powering it and most importantly the quality of the inverter itself.

If your system is larger than 2500 watts then two or more inverters may be needed in order for them to run…in series you probably have no worries unless you exceed 10,000 watts.


  1. Most full time RVer’s choose to have both a generator and an inverter in their systems so that they can use one as back up during low power situations while using the other as primary source when winds or solar is the only power source available.

2. Don’t have a generator? Then you’d want to choose an inverter with 2500 watts or less. This way, with your solar panels and/or wind-generator(s) connected to it, you’ll never overload your system.

To prevent doing this just make sure that your total power load does not exceed what the manufacturer states for continuous operation and run times! Most inverters come standard with overload protection but sometimes those fail…leaving you in the dark until repairs can be made so take precautions!

How do I properly size my RV Inverter?

In order to find out how many watts of continuous use that you need, first estimate how many watts are being used by each device (i.e., 12V TV=50W, Microwave=1000W) and then add up all of the continuous wattage requirements needed for your system needs.

Inverters come in many different sizes and pricing based on their output level.

For example, a 2000 watt inverter might cost $400 while another with 4000 watts might run $800. This is where it’s important to understand how an inverter works and what you’ll really need from it.

Remember that just because you can afford a 5000 or 10,000 watt inverter doesn’t mean you can afford the fuel needed to power it! You not only have to consider the initial cost of the inverter, you must also include the usage cost of your generator(s) and/or solar panels.

If your system has a maximum output rating lower than 2500 watts then you really don’t need to worry about purchasing an inverter with more power! Such inverters only produce more heat, uses more fuel, and are harder on your batteries…thus decreasing efficiency which in turn costs you money over time.

EXAMPLE: I use a 2000 watt Pure Sine Wave Inverter that meets or exceeds everything needed for my needs (i.e., laptop computer, 12V TV, 10″ Fan). I use it often when boondocking because it’s safer than using gas generators for extended periods of time, it’s easier on my batteries, and it produces no fumes or noise!

What about a dual inverter system that allows for more devices to be run at once?

Although this is possible in theory…the idea of purchasing multiple ‘cheaper’ inverters (i.e., 1000 watts each) makes little sense when compared with the cost of one 2000 watts inverter.

For instance, if you buy two 1000 watt inverters you would need approximately 200 watts worth of 12 volt DC power cables to hook both systems up together…but if you choose to use one 2000 watt model you’d have twice the amount of wiring needed!

And as mentioned above…a 4000 to 10,000 watt unit may not necessarily be better depending on what you’re trying to do with it!

NOTE: You can also upgrade your inverter with more features and power by simply buying a bigger model. For example, instead of purchasing a 1000 watts unit that does not have battery charging capabilities…buy one that offers both!

Or, if you need something even more powerful…go ahead and get an inverter rated at 2500 watts or higher. Just make sure that the load doesn’t exceed continuous usage and run times! Most manufactured inverters come standard with overload protection but sometimes those fail…leaving you in the dark until repairs can be made so take precautions!

What should I look for when choosing an RV Inverter?

1.The first thing is to never choose an Inverter Manufacturer that uses cheap components or those built overseas! Such companies use cheaper parts (i.e., transformers, capacitors, circuit breakers) which are poorly constructed and do not last long when run for extended periods of time at higher wattages.

2.Second, check the warranty! If you’re looking at an inverter model that costs $300-$800…an extended service plan is a must have because it will pay for itself when your unit needs repairs due to manufacturer defects.

The same can be said if an inverter is sold without one! There’s nothing worse than purchasing a product that won’t work properly or breaks down on you while on a trip so make sure whatever company you go with is stand behinds its product!

What Is RV Inverter And How to Use It

3.Third, be informed of the company’s return policy. Read this part carefully…because if there isn’t one then you may end up returning your new inverter time and time again until it gets fixed right.

Some companies offer a full refund no questions asked (i.e., Ample Power ) while others will charge restocking fees or make you pay to ship faulty units back to them after repairs have been done (i.e., Magnum Energy ). Always check out how an Inverter Manufacturer handles warranty claims before making any purchase because sometimes those policies change at any given moment in time!

How Much Will I Save Using A RV Inverter?

According to data found online , the average American spends around $113.00 per month or $1443.00 for two months just for power! Which is more than what most RVs cost to purchase in its entirety (not to mention upgrades, maintenance, tires, etc.).

So why spend all that money when you can do everything you need with normal household current alone? Or even better yet…why not opt for a solar system instead since it’s cheaper long term without any of those extra hassles (i.e., inverters)?

How to wire inverter to RV breaker box

1. Remove the cover from your breaker box.

2. Locate neutral and load wires leading to each circuit in your RV.

3. Connect black of inverter to negative terminal on battery.

4. Connect white wire of inverter to positive lead on battery post.

5. Connect white wire of inverter to another positive voltage lead in the RV. (in this case it’s a hot water line)

6. Connect black wire of inverter to negative lead on other side of breaker box.

7. You’re done! the wiring is simple if you follow my instructions and don’t get confused with


If you already have an RV then getting an Inverter may not be worth it since most RVs come complete with standard 120-volt AC systems anyways.

Not to mention that if you decide on going solar instead (which is becoming more popular everyday) then the need for either an inverter or generator is completely avoided! In fact, doing this will save you a lot of money in the long run even if it means paying someone else to install the system for you.

Read More

[catlist id=13]


We own and operate multiple camping and RV Trailer site. Its our passion to see the world thru camping and traveling. There is no bigger pleasure for us then to share with you our readers our experience in RV Travels and Camping.

Recent Content