An inverter is a critical piece of equipment for any travel trailer owner to have if they want to power appliances without using a generator or shore power station. Not every travel trailer comes with an inverter pre-installed. Here’s how to find out if your travel trailer has an inverter and how to install one if you don’t have an inverter.
How do I check my travel trailer for an inverter? The inverter for your travel trailer is most likely located in a compartment where it is well-ventilated and near the battery. As you will find out in this article, there are a limited number of locations within a travel trailer that can actually hold an inverter.
If you don’t have an inverter, it is actually quite practical to invest in such a system. You need to do your research before installing such systems, as the specific inverter you choose is based on your power demands. You should also seek out an airing method that limits the amount of appliances receiving power from the battery. The most common and effective wiring methods for inverters in travel trailers will also be discussed below.
What Does an Inverter on A Travel Trailer Do?
The 120v wall outlets in a travel trailer will only work if you have the trailer connected to a shore power source or generator. A shore power source may be a circuit box at a campground or RV resort. If you are in a remote location, the only power source option is the 12v battery for the travel trailer.
The problem is that the deep cycle battery for the RV only produces 12V DC (direct current) power. An inverter will convert the 12V DC power to 120V AC (alternating current) for the outlets in your travel trailer. You will then be able to plug appliances such as TVs, coffee makers and blenders into the outlets of your travel trailer. An inverter limits your dependency on generators or shore power stations to power basic appliances.
A popular example of a power inverter is the Lyvuan Pure Sine Wave Power Inverter. The inverter has outlets for you to connect your appliances into. This particular inverter comes with a conversion efficiency rating of 85% or greater. More on the conversion efficiency rating will be discussed below.
You will need to keep in mind that the battery bank is a significant limiting factor when it comes to supplying adequate power. If you are going to rely on an inverter, you will need to use this system sparingly.
If you were to increase power output by a factor of 10, you will simultaneously increase the amperage rating (current) by a factor of 10 as well. The consequence is that high wattage appliances will take up a pretty big piece of the pie when it comes to available amperage from the battery.
To put this into perspective, think about the amperage requirements of this 1000-watt countertop kitchen blender. The blender uses 8.33 amps (this number comes from the watts to amps conversion). Even the blender alone will draw at least 83 amps from the battery.
This is without even considering the efficiency of the inverter. Even high-quality inverters are known to draw as much as 10% more battery amps then what the piece of equipment actually needs. The consequence is that you have to be really cognizant of how many appliances you are using.
Where Is the Inverter on A Travel Trailer?
The inverter needs to be located in an area where the wiring to the battery is relatively short in length. It is also important that the inverter is mounted in a location where the wiring does not make the system inefficient, defeating the purpose of having an inverter in the first place. In this section I will address the methods used to seamlessly wire an inverter into the power supply for a travel trailer.
In A Separate Line from The Converter
The converter is a mirror image of the inverter, as it is responsible for converting AC power into DC power. When it comes time to install your inverter, you will be best off not installing this system into the same line as a converter. Otherwise, you will have to contend with a system that is inefficient.
So, if you happen to have a travel trailer that already has an inverter installed, look for a location that is close to the battery. This may be a cargo hold located along the underside of the travel trailer.
The converter should be directly connected to the switch box for the shore power supply or generator. The inverter should be tied into a line starting with the 12V DC battery then going to a breaker and finishing off at the main panel after going through the inverter and auto switch.
Connected to Select Outlets
In the alternative, the inverter may be located in a location where it only supplies AC power to a select few outlets within the travel trailer. The inverter will still be located near the distribution box, but the wiring process may include installing a few more breakers in the travel trailer’s breaker box.
The purpose of the extra breakers is to ensure that appliances that would otherwise quickly deplete the 12V battery are not included in the same line. This includes major appliances such as an air conditioner or water heater. The strength of the battery to inverter set-up is that you will be able to supply power to appliances such as TVs, coffee pots, blenders and other such items.
If you have purchased or inherited a travel trailer and notice that it has a bunch of circuit breakers in use, it is probably because it has been set-up in a manner that would conserve battery use.
Why Inverters Need to Be Located Close to The Battery
The inverter should always be mounted in a location that limits the amount of cable needed to connect to the battery. The recommendation is that the wrong distance between the inverter and the battery is no more than 10 feet.
The reasoning behind the short wiring distance has to do with the fact that the inverter will need to be connected to a new breaker box. This will be a lot easier to do if the inverter is located near the breaker boxes.
The 12v DC cable length is the biggest limiting factor of all when it comes to inverter location. This is because of factory pre-cut lengths of cable from the DC power source that cannot be altered. It is also important that the inverter has been installed in a clean, ventilated area.
For these reasons, Blue Polar Solar recommends that the inverter be installed in one of the basement compartments of the travel trailer. This includes the compartments that are often located near the front of the trailer. It needs to be located in a compartment that doesn’t contain any flammables, since inverters can give off heat.
You Will Probably Need More Than One Battery in Solar Systems
You are encouraged to place more than one battery in your battery pack for a travel trailer making use of a solar-powered system. Chances are, a single 12v battery will either not be enough or barely be enough to supply your AC power needs when you are not connected to a generator or shore power supply.
All batteries should be of the same type or something size and 4 deep cycle 6v batteries are recommended. If you already have a 12v battery, then you should just purchase an additional 12v deep cycle battery rather than spend the extra money to replace the existing system with 6v deep cycle batteries.
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