What is an Inverter and a Converter? Are They Important for your RV?
Inverters and converters are devices that convert electrical current. An inverter will convert direct current (DC) into alternating current (AC). On the other hand, a converter will convert AC to DC.
AC Power vs DC Power
Before you can make sense of the difference between an inverter and a converter, you need to know the difference between AC and DC power.
AC power will run your typical household appliances and electronics, such as a blender or your laptop. Any device that plugs into a wall socket uses AC power. This is also the type of electricity that powers the electrical grid.
DC power is the type of electricity that can be stored in batteries. Your devices that can plug into a USB outlet use DC power and anything with a battery uses DC. Likewise, cars and trucks use DC power for their electrical systems. Many of the electrical systems inside your RV, like the lights and vent fans work on DC electricity.
When you park at an RV park and plug into their power, you are using AC electricity. However, when you are traveling and are not plugged in, you are running off of the battery bank with DC power. In this case, your wall outlets won’t work, unless you run the generator.
Recreational vehicles typically come with a converter already built-in. These will convert AC power into DC power. Likewise, it will slowly charge your batteries while it powers the outlets in your RV.
If you want to camp off-grid and still be able to run your laptop or anything that plugs into the wall, you’ll need an inverter. To turn the DC battery power and into usable AC power. However, you must keep in mind, appliances that heat up, like hairdryers and space heaters, take a lot of power, which may exceed the limit of your inverter. If you plan on camping off-grid, you may need to just let your hair dry naturally.
Likewise, an inverter is only as big as your battery bank; inverting power will drain your batteries, either slowly or quickly, if you use a lot of electricity. You need to recharge your batteries with the generator, solar panels or by plugging into grid power.
Do You Really Need an Inverter?
If you don’t have an inverter you can still use the indoor lights, vent fans, and run the refrigerator, as long as the frig can run on propane. But you won’t have any power through the wall sockets. If you plan on staying at RV parks, you may not need an inverter. However, if you plan on camping off-grid often, you will, unless you can live without your laptop and your coffee maker.