Bruce Bernhart RV Care and Maintenance


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Updated June 30, 2013

Selecting the Right Power Inverter for Your Rig

In Minnesota, Bruce Bernhart has been a camping and RV enthusiast since the 1980's


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Updated June 30, 2013

The Basics of the RV Power Inverter

Finding a device to convert DC power to AC may seem like it should be a simple task, but when you start shopping for a power inverter for your RV or road trip vehicle, you'll soon find that many choices will confront you. With prices ranging from less than $40 to well into the thousands, it can be difficult to know what features are important and how to choose a unit appropriate to your needs. While wattage, features, and connections are obvious considerations, your final choice should take into account the inverter's wave form output. 

RV power inverters convert DC power from a battery source into AC power for small appliances. While an inverter won’t replace a generator or a city power connection for heavier electrical needs, inverters are an ideal solution for a bit of roadside current or AC power while driving down the highway. 


In considering a RV power inverter purchase the first question has to be, just how much power do I need? A small inverter pumping out 75 to 125 watts may be plenty for charging a laptop, a mobile phone, or even powering a few compact florescent lights, but it won’t deliver the wattage needed for your flat screen television, or the coffee maker. A 300 to 400 watt inverter may power a television, a desk fan, and several CFLs, but it can’t run your microwave. Inverters producing 600 to 800 watts are suitable for a range of small appliances. Inverters producing 1200 or more watts will power small heaters, refrigerators, or even a window air conditioning unit.

There are two general types of power inverters: true-sine wave or modified-sine wave (square wave). True-sine wave inverters produce power that is either identical or sometimes slightly better to power from the public utility power grid system. The power wave when viewed through an oscilloscope is a smooth sine wave.

Modified-sine wave and square wave inverters are the most common types of power inverters on the market. Modified-sine wave power inverters produce a power wave that is sufficient for most devices. The power wave is not exactly the same as electricity from the power grid. It has a wave form that appears as a choppy squared-off wave when viewed through an oscilloscope.



xPower 175 Micro
The xPower 175 Micro


What does that mean to the everyday user? Not much. Most household electrical devices will run perfectly fine on either type of wave form. Most of our customers who are using a power inverter to run a laptop, a/c cell phone charger, fan, or camera find that a modified-sine wave power inverter that operates through the cigarette lighter socket the easiest to use. We usually suggest choosing power inverters that are rated under 300 watts when using the 12-volt cigarette lighter socket found in most vehicles. We suggest this because after reaching 300 watts of draw on the inverter, the fuses in your car will begin to blow. The xPower 175 Micro ($35.00) is a great choice for dashboarders who would like an easy solution to power their devices. It has only one outlet, but since plugging it into a 12 volt socket is all that is required for operation, it can't be beat for ease of use. This little inverter can supply 140 watts of continuous operation and has a built-in surge protector.

Square wave inverters, which are appropriate for most roadtrippers, fall into the following four groups:

300 watts ($40-$60): For household appliances, TVs (up to 27"), VCR, desktop computers, other mobile office

equipment. Most of these connect via a 12-Volt plug.

600 watts ($100-$120): For household appliances, large screen TVs, 5-amp power tools, and bread machines. Most such inverters are connected directly to the 12-volt battery and have three or more grounded outlets for powering several products at the same time.

1750 watts ($199-$380): For household appliances, larger power tools, microwave ovens, toasters, and hair dryers. All of theses inverters are designed for direct connection to the battery network and can generally supply 1500 watts of continuous power.

3000 watts ($395-$750): With output power generally rated at 2500 watts for continuous load, these inverters can power virtually all household appliances and office equipment. For loads of this magnitude, special wiring and battery banks may be required.



PS1800
The ProSine 1800 true-sine power inverter


The problem with wave form only comes into play when specialized pieces of equipment need to be powered. Here are a few devices which could have problems when they are connected to an inverter producing a modified-sine wave signal: oxygen concentrators, fax machines, laser printers, high voltage cordless tool chargers, equipment with variable speed motors, electric shavers, and garage door openers.

From Roadtrip America

Bruce Bernhart RV Websites

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Check out the other Bruce Bernhart RV Websites and Blogs:

Solar power for your RV

The care and feeding of your RV battery

The sport of "geocaching" and RV refrigeration basics

The basics of RV power inversion

RV travel tips and tire care

Advanced discussion on power inversion

Tips on buying a house battery and cold weather maintenance

RV insurance basics

Buying the right generator for your RV and portable power

RV television reception options

Care and maintenance of the RV air conditioner

Top RV destinations

RV long-term supplies and weight considerations

RV insurance- Road protection and bodily injury coverage

RV battery types and winter charging considerations

Deep cycle battery basics


Bruce Bernhart RV Websites

Also, be sure to check out the Bruce Bernhart Mandolin Websites:

Bruce Bernhart mandolin rock tabs

Bruce Bernhart mandolin lessons- common scales

Bruce Bernhart on buying and setting up your new mandolin

Bruce Bernhart mandolin lessons- tuning

Bruce Bernhart mandolin lessons- chord patterns

Bruce Bernhart on mandolin history and basic chord structures

Bruce Bernhart on string and saddle adjustment

Bruce Bernhart more tuning tips and whole/half steps

Bruce Bernhart on more chord patterns

Bruce Bernhart on the mandolin family

Bruce Bernhart on mandolin bluegrass chords and patterns


Bruce Bernhart on temperature considerations

Bruce Bernhart lessson on mandolin flats and sharps


Bruce Bernhart lesson on scales, circle of 5ths and meter


Bruce Bernhart on triads, gears

Bruce Bernhart mandolin chord diagrams

Bruce Bernhart on modern emergence of the mandolin

Bruce Bernhart on simple chords

Bruce Bernhart on whole and half-note steps on the mandolin

Bruce Bernhart mandolin practice excercises

Bruce Bernhart on playing waltzes


Bruce Bernhart on majors, minors and sevenths



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