Can a TV Run on a 12V Battery? [This Is How]


Can-a-TV-Run-on-a-12V-Battery

Have you ever wondered if a TV can run off a standard 12V car battery? If you don’t own an RV or camper, probably not.

Recreational vehicles are great, and one of their benefits is that they can provide power to your appliances even if you’re off the beaten path and away from the shore power.

This can even include your TV with the right equipment.

Can a TV run on a 12V battery? Yes, a standard 12V battery can power a television. However, in order to do so, you’ll need a power inverter that can change direct current (DC) power that’s put out by a battery into alternating current (AC) power that runs most household appliances. There are even 12V televisions.

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If you’re looking for a guide on how and why you might want to run a television off of a 12V battery, you’ve come to the right place.

Keep reading to find out all about how to safely run your TV off a power inverter and a 12V battery, as well as how to choose the right battery and inverter to meet your needs.

Can a TV Run on a 12V Battery?

Can a TV run on a 12V battery? In a word, yes, a television can run off a 12V battery, but you can’t just plug your television cable into the battery without having a power inverter.

We’ll get more into power inverters later, but it’s a simple device that hooks up to your battery terminals and provides some power outlets to plug things into.

You can also hook a power inverter up to power some or all of your RV’s outlets.

Of course, you can also do this even if you don’t have an RV but still want to try powering your TV with a battery.

Either way, the steps are largely the same. Here are a few considerations you’ll need to take into account before you hook your TV up to a 12V battery.

  • TV Input Voltage
  • TV Wattage
  • Battery Life
  • Inverter Wattage
  • Inverter Location (if plugging TV directly into the inverter)

Basically, you’ll have to make sure that the inverter you choose is capable of enough power output to run your TV, plus any other appliances you want to run if you’re running multiple devices and appliances.

Luckily, TVs have pretty small power requirements (about 57 watts for a 55 inch LED TV).

If you don’t feel like messing with an inverter, you can even get a 12V television.

Related reading: Does Your Travel Trailer Have an Inverter? Here’s How to Check

These televisions are specifically designed to be powered by DC power sources, like a 12V battery, and you won’t need any additional components like an inverter to power your television if you choose one.

Based on their size, they’re more expensive than their AC counterparts.

Safety Tips

Before you get started on the work to run your TV off a 12V battery, make sure you take some basic safety precautions, since you’ll be working with batteries and electricity.

Here are some quick tips to stay safe:

  • Make sure there’s no water around where you’re working and that your hands are dry
  • Wear the proper protective gear (gloves, eye protection) while working
  • Don’t install a power inverter in the engine compartment
  • Don’t place the inverter near a heat source
  • Don’t install the inverter near flammable materials, and make sure it’s properly ventilated
  • Make sure the battery is off before attaching cables to it
  • Read all applicable safety and instruction manuals before install

If you follow these tips, you’ll be able to safely install an inverter and hook your TV up to a 12V battery without hurting yourself or damaging any of the components involved in your setup.

Related reading: This Is Why Your RV Battery Is Overheating? (Read This First)

Why You Might Want to Run a TV on a 12V Battery

There are a few reasons you might want to run a TV off a 12V battery, but possibly the most common reason is in an RV.

With an RV, you have three options for how you power your appliances:

MethodDescriptionProsCons
Shore PowerHook RV up to an electrical gridReliable, almost unlimited AC powerLimits where you can park
On-Board BatteryUse the batteries on board the RV to power appliances and outletsAllows flexible options for parking off the beaten trailBatteries can die if used improperly or overloaded
On-Board GeneratorUse a small generator kept on  your RVCan provide a large amount of power for an extended periodGenerators are loud and fuel can be expensive

If you’re looking for a relatively cheap, quiet option to power some of your appliances and electronics when you’re camping in your RV, a 12V battery is a decent option.

These batteries are usually a set of two and they’re linked with the AC power source so that the batteries recharge when hooked up to shore power.

Related reading: This Is What Happens to Solar Power When Batteries Are Full? – (FACTS)

How to Run Your TV off a 12V Battery

If you want to go through with running your TV off a 12V and your RV isn’t already set up for it, you’ll have a couple of simple steps to go through.

Here’s a great guide that can walk you through the process step by step; suffice it to say that if you’re not comfortable doing some basic electrical work, you may want to hire a professional.

Essentially, you’ll be wiring an inverter to your onboard 12V battery terminals. Inverters usually have one or possibly a couple of outlets on them, so you can power one or two items off of them.

However, you can plug a power strip into your inverter instead so you can power several devices simultaneously.

How Long Will a Car Battery (12v) Power a TV >> Check out the video below:

As mentioned above, your TV won’t use much power from your batteries. Some items, like larger appliances, air conditioning, and coffee makers, however, use a lot of power, so it’s not recommended to run them off your onboard RV batteries.

A few small devices won’t be an issue, especially if you make sure to turn your RV on every couple of hours to recharge them.

TV with 12v Power Supply

Surprisingly, there are televisions made that run off DC power and can be run off a 12V battery on an RV.

In general, these televisions will be smaller than their AC powered counterparts, and they’ll be more expensive as well.

However, it keeps you from having to wire up an inverter if you’re only trying to power your TV.

Here are some TV with 12v power supply, just follow the link to Amazon where you can check the current price.

12v Smart TV

Looking for the best 12v smart TV? here are our favorite, just check the link the Amazon.

Preserving Battery Life

If you want to run your TV and other electronics off your RV’s onboard batteries, you should first have a reasonable idea of what sort of battery life you should get out of your batteries, and how best to maximize that life.

Large batteries like that can be very expensive so you want to get the most out of your money.

Lead-acid batteries, which are the type you’ll use for your RV, should last at least six years when properly maintained.

There are quite a few factors that go into determining battery life, but here are the key ones to be aware of:

  • Depletion amount – habitually discharging your batteries past 50% will shorten their life
  • Charge – you should recharge your batteries to 100% as soon as possible after depletion to avoid sulfation
  • Power draw – don’t try and power too much stuff off your batteries for an extended period of time, and make sure you switch the battery disconnect switch to “off” to avoid electronics continuing to draw small amounts of energy

How Long Will a TV Run On a Deep Cycle Battery?

The length of time your TV will run depends on what kind of television you are powering as well as the strength of your deep cycle battery. 

  • Smaller LED or LCD TVs of 15’’-20’’ will only use 15-26 watts,
  • Medium TVs 21’’-32’’ will use 26-70 watts
  • Large TVs 32’’-55’’ will use 55-150 watts 
  • Older  Plasma TVs can use between 150-300 watts.

Deep cycle batteries come in various amp-hour capacities, including:

  • 120
  • 100
  • 90
  • 80
  • 65
  • 55

Calculating your run time based on a 12 volt  deep cycle battery is as follows:

12 x (Battery capacity in Amp Hours)    = Run Time in Hours

(Load Power In Watts)

So if you were calculating how long you could run a 100-watt TV from your 60 Ah battery, the calculation would be as follows:

12v x (60 Ah)  =  6 hours 

(100 watts)

  • (6 hours before the battery is completely discharged, or in the case of deep cycle batteries, where you should never discharge more than 50% of your battery, you would get 3 hours run time.
  • 120 Ah x 12v = 1200 divided by 30 watts is 48 hours ( less 50 %) = 24 Hours
  • 100 Ah x 12v = 1000 divided by 35 watts is about 34 hours, less 50% is 17 hours run time.

Note: No battery runs on 100 % efficiency, so you should leave about 15-20 % leeway for power loss or leakage.

So a 60 Ah powering a 20’’ 25-watt TV with an 85% efficiency inverter would be calculated as follows:

25 watts           = 29.41 watts drawn from the battery

0.85 efficiency

This 29.41 is the figure that your 25-watt TV will draw to overcome the inverter’s efficiency loss and still supply the TV with 25 watts.

You would then need to calculate your run time  as follows:

60 Ah x 12 v = 720 watt-hours

Then you would divide your TV draw with the inefficiency percentage figure above 29.41 watts and divide it into your total watt-hours:

720 wH divided by = 24.48 hours at 100% discharge.  29.41 watts

(Less than 50% for deep cycle draw limits would give you about 12 hours run time.)

Can I Run a TV Off An Inverter?

Yes, you can run your TV off an inverter as long as your TV did not exceed your inverter’s wattage limit. To calculate which size of inverter you would need for your particular TV, you would need to find the specific wattage your TV requires.

This figure is usually printed on the device itself (or you may contact the manufacturer.)

Let’s say your Particular TV needs 250 wattage to run. You would need to ask yourself if you will be running your TV alone or with other devices.

If you plan to use the inverter with a light and a laptop, for example, you would need to add all the wattage together to determine the size of the inverter you need.

If you plan to run your TV only,  you need to calculate a safety margin of 20% not to overtax your battery.

So you would take your TV wattage 250 watts and add 20% would give you a figure of 300 watts. You would need to find an inverter with at least 300 watts continuous output.

You may use a higher continuous wattage inverter but not less than 300.

Typically users don’t run a TV alone, so the general inverter’s continuous wattage is 800 watts (you could run a light band laptop at the same time, for example.)

Does TV use AC or DC?

Most TVs, including LED and LCD, run on AC and can also run from an inverter with a DC source.

Once an AC current enters your TV it is converted into DC.through an adapter/rectifier and filter. Some televisions have components that work on AC, but predominantly your television is powered by DC.

DC or direct current flows in only one direction and is typically used in batteries and electronics like TVs, computers, and DVD players. 

AC or alternating current continually changes direction (about 50 times a second) and is typically used in transporting current over long distances such as mains electricity.

What Is The Best Battery For Off-grid?

Self-managed lithium batteries are the best off-grid batteries because they are not prone to communication failures at low temperature and low voltage as in the managed systems.

They are modular and flexible and can be easily expanded to provide larger energy capacity. This battery style can be easily retrofitted to replace lead-acid battery banks because they don’t need any special communications or connections.

They still provide the benefits of managed batteries in that they:

  • Protecting the battery pack from overcharging
  • Calculates the amount of energy left in the battery by monitoring cell voltage
  • It monitors the safety of the battery by checking for shorts, loose connections, or weak/defective battery cells
  • Monitors temperature of cells 
  • Provides longer and more efficient battery life

How Big Of An Inverter Do I Need to Run a TV?

The size of your inverter depends on the wattage of your Television and what you plan to run with your TV.

If you look at your television label, they will provide you with the wattage your particular model will consume. If you plan to run your TV only, it is easy to calculate what size inverter you will need.

  • If your TV consumes 250 watts, you will need to add 20% to the total for a security margin to prevent overloading your system. 
  • 250 watts plus 20% = 300 watts
  • Alternatively, Add the other appliances you wish to run concurrently with your TV (if any)

And add your 20 %

  • Your inverter would need a continuous wattage of 300 watts to power your TV. 

You may use a higher continuous wattage inverter but not less than 300.

Generally, users don’t run a TV alone, so the general inverter continuous wattage is 800 watts (you could run a light band laptop at the same time, for example.)

Will a 14v TV Work On 12v?

Generally, your 14-volt TV should be able to run off a 12 volt because under-voltage won’t do your television any harm.

You should always try to match your power source to your load item and it would be advised to purchase an adapter to provide the correct output.

Conclusion

It is of course possible to run a TV off a 12V battery. Whether you’re just doing it for fun to see if you can or trying to set up your RV to run off the on-board batteries, it’s not a difficult process.

As long as you get a good inverter you’ll be fine, or you can even get a TV that specifically uses DC power without an inverter.


Recommended Reading

For more helpful articles about RVs please check out our articles below:

This Is Why Your RV Inverter Is Beeping [Facts You Should Know]

What is an Inverter in an RV and Why Do You Need it?

What is a Non-ducted RV Air Conditioner? (Ducted vs. Non-ducted)

5 Practical Ways To Unfreeze Water Lines In RVs (That Actually Work)

What Does Solar Ready or Prep on A Camper Mean?

How Many Watts Do I Need to Run a Camper AC? Facts You Need To Know

Is Your RV Water Foamy? This Might Be Why.

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Mike Gilmour

Hi, I'm Mike, co-founder, and editor of RV and Playa. My passion is traveling (with my RV) and enjoying the day at the beach (Playa)! Well, I originally created this blog as a way to share what I've learned by experimenting with the RV lifestyle, and I want to help others develop in life through new skills and opportunities.

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