RV living is fun, but it also comes with numerous challenges. One of the most common is in terms of power supply. You’ll need electricity for your convenience and safety, but power or hook-up isn’t always available. This is when you might want to add an inverter to the RV.
An inverter converts electricity from solar panels or batteries, so you can use it the same way you utilize power at home. Proper installation is necessary to maximize its functionalities while ensuring safety as you go off the grid.
Are you clueless about the proper power inverter setup? We got you! Keep on reading and learn how to install an inverter in an RV.
Ways to Install an Inverter in an RV
First, it’s essential to note that there are different ways of connecting an inverter to a travel trailer. You can do so through a direct connection. This is done by attaching a 50 or 30-amp shore power connector to an extension cord.
Meanwhile, a more complicated method uses a hard-wired terminal that connects to a distribution panel. This is a full integration that requires more effort and knowledge. It might also require using an RV inverter charger.
Step 1: Prepare
Are you ready to install an RV inverter system for your motorhome? First, make sure you have the necessary materials, which include the following:
- Zip ties
- Transfer switch
- Fuse holder
- Ring connector/terminal end crimp
- Extension cord
Once you gathered the materials, you’re ready to start. Here’s a quick look at the things to do.
Step 2: Choose the Right Inverter
It starts with picking the suitable inverter that will meet your RV needs. Consider the numbers, including the power rating and wattage. Determine the appliances you will need to run in your RV so you can identify how much power is necessary.
The input and output voltage are also critical factors. A common configuration is 12V to 120V, but this can vary depending on what you need.
In this case, 12V refers to the input voltage, which should match the desired voltage, which can be 120V.
- Output voltage: 110 V – 240V
- Input voltage: 12V – 24V
More so, you need to pick an energy-efficient inverter. Otherwise, it will be too demanding, consuming more power than necessary.
- Pure Sine Wave – This type of inverter will be efficient and quiet, offering consistent power. Furthermore, since they are safe for sensitive gadgets, they will be pretty expensive.
- Modified Sine Wave will be more affordable and give a decent performance. They are safe for use with small and non-sensitive devices.
Step 3: Pick the Right Location
First, it’s crucial to consider airflow in the location where you will be putting the inverter. It should be large enough to hold the unit while ensuring it has space to breathe. This is especially important on the part that has fans. Otherwise, overheating can be an issue.
Second, the inverter must be close to your battery. This way, there’s a lesser possibility that the voltage will drop during the operation. However, in the case of a flooded lead acid battery and inverter setup, the two should be kept at a distance to prevent fire hazards.
Step 4: Connect the Inverter to a Cigarette Lighter
Now, let’s have a more in-depth discussion of the things you must do to connect the converter to your RV. There are different ways to do this, but the simplest is through a cigarette lighter connection. This is specifically good if you have a small inverter.
Depending on your RV, the cigarette lighter fuse can be 10A to 20A. So, make sure that it matches the inverter rating. Otherwise, you might end up dealing with a blown fuse.
- The supply cable of the inverter will come with a plug. Insert this plug into the cigarette lighter spot.
- Turn the inverter on, and it will now provide the necessary power to run your AC devices.
Word of caution: This is for small power needs. If you live in your RV full-time and need to run multiple appliances at once, the cigarette lighter socket isn’t the right place to connect the inverter.
Step 5: Connect to the Battery
For more demanding power needs, the battery bank is your best bet. The RV wiring diagram with inverter below provides a glimpse of how the set-up should look, followed by more detailed steps.
First, determine your fused circuit needs. Every RVer will have different requirements. In case you require more than 40A, you must have a more powerful ANL fuse holder. You’ll need to change the fuse accordingly.
- Turn off the battery bank isolator switch. If you are connected to a generator or shore power, you’ll need to disconnect.
- Grounding the inverter is the next step. The specifics can vary from one model to another, so make sure to religiously follow what the manual indicates.
- It’s time to work on the battery connectors. As shown in the installation diagram above, the red line goes from the battery’s positive terminal to the ANL fuse holder.
On the other hand, the red line links the inverter’s negative side to the earth point or busbar. You must use a ring connector or terminal end crimp to complete this connection.
- Using another positive cable, wire inverter to the positive side and the output terminal of the fuse holder.
- After making sure all the connections are in the right places, position the fuse and turn on the battery isolator.
- Switch the power button of the inverter, but this time, do not turn on any appliance. First, use a multimeter, which will confirm that you have 12V electricity. If not, then you need to fix the circuit.
Step 6: Connect to an Extension Cord
As you can see in the image above, this process is almost similar to connecting your RV’s inverter to a battery.
However, the main difference is that you will first plug your appliance into your extension cord.
Your choice of an extension cord is a crucial consideration. Shorter cords are better, which will help preserve voltage. The current rating is also important, which must exceed the appliance you intend to use.
Step 7: Connect to the AC Outlet
Power outlets can also be your choice for linking the inverter to your RV. If you opt for this, you will need wiring to your AC distribution box. The process is also almost the same as those mentioned above.
- Securely position the socket.
- Take the inverter fuse out.
- Run your cable from the inverter to the socket.
- Check the circuit’s continuity with a multimeter and confirm its insulation with a megohmmeter.
- Once everything is in check, add the fuse to the setup. If it works, turn the inverter on.
- Check the voltage. Please test it out by plugging a small appliance.
Under this arrangement, you can also opt to install an RV inverter transfer switch. The main function of the latter is to easily convert from shore power to battery power, depending on what you need.
Overall, installing an RV inverter can be simple or complicated, depending on the type or model of inverter. The best thing to do is read the manual and follow the instructions religiously.
For a quick visual guide, if you have a pure sine wave inverter, watch the short installation video below.
Overall, learning how to install an inverter in an RV can be handy knowledge. It can be a simple process that you can complete as a DIY task. However, if you’re not confident in your skills, then it’s best to leave the job to the pros.
“Hi, I’m Francis’ husband—Calvin. Our story began with our shared passion for traveling. I have had a career journey for over 11 years at Ford Motor Company, where I took on the role of BMS SW Process Engineer.
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