The MSW RV inverter will run most of your gear, but not everything. Anything with a power brick, such as a laptop computer, will work fine.
All of your battery chargers will work, as will your hair dryer and small power tools. The TV will work, but depending on the particular TV and particular inverter, there be some lines running through the picture.
I have operated two different microwaves with two different MSW inverters, but I have heard of problems with some combinations. With one exception, modern electric blankets with digital controls absolutely will be destroyed.
If you can still find a blanket with the old analog control, it will work. The one exception is the Soft Heat blanket from Perfect Fit. It uses an 18 volt power brick and will work with a MSW. It is a little more expensive than most, but is a very nice blanket.
How Big of an Inverter Do You Need?
Inverters are available in almost any size, but unless you have a huge battery bank, anything over about 3000 watts will use too much battery power to be practical.
To decide what size you need, check the wattage requirements of what you want to power, and get an inverter that is a little bit larger. Forget about running the air conditioner, but almost anything else is reasonable.
Each RV inverter will have a continuous rating and a peak rating. Mostly, you want to look at the continuous rating, but microwaves, power tools, air compressors, and some other devices will require a higher peak rating.
The typical power power consumption of devices that you might want to be running are listed below. Simply add up the wattage of everything that you might want to be operating at the same time.
RV Inverter: Power Consumption Diagram
|Queen electric blanket|
|Cell phone charger|
A more robust list of RV appliances and their power requirements.
What Are Your Power Requirements?
You also want to determine if you have enough battery power available. There isn’t much point in installing a 3,000 watt inverter if the 250 amps needed to supply it will run down your batteries in half an hour.
To estimate your anticipated power consumption, take the current (from column 3), multiply by the number of hours per day that you expect to use it. Add up that figure for each device, and compare the total to the Amp-Hour rating of your battery bank.
You will also want to check the efficiency of the RV inverter that you are selecting. Because the process of converting from 12 VDC to 120 VAC generates heat, the inverter will always draw more watts from the batteries than it putts out. Some brands have greater losses than others. Read the specifications carefully.
Be aware that a RV inverter uses some battery power whenever it is turned on, even if nothing is connected to it. You want to be able turn it off whenever it is not being used. Some large inverters have an optional remote on/off switch.
I bought my remote after the first time I had to go outside to turn it on in the middle of a cold night, while bare footed and in my underwear. If you will be installing your inverter in an outside battery compartment, or anyplace else that is not easy to reach, you will definitely want one with this feature.
The bells and whistles on the different models vary considerably. Some may have digital displays to indicate the battery voltage and power output. Others display the same information with bar graphs. Some keep cool with fans that run continuously. Others save a little power by switching the fan on and off with a thermostat.
Most Recommended Brands for the Best RV Inverter
MAGNUM – 3 Year warranty and made in the U.S.A.
They manufacturer both TSW and MSW inverters along with combo units with chargers. Well regarded by RV technicians.
OUTBACK – 5 Year warranty. Also with a full line of RV inverter/charger products. Highly rated.
XANTREX – 2 Year warranty on most products. Full line of RV power products.
Historically great products though recently the company was sold so some have went with other options.
Its not to say that there are not other brands that may work well for your application, just that the brands above are time tested by other RV’ers to be the absolute toughest, best performing, and offer the best warranty in their class.
Summing Up RV Power Inverters
The scope of this article is to offer a better understanding of the different options and considerations when looking for a RV inverter.
Once you have narrowed your search for your RV inverter you may want to keep an eye out for my follow up article which will review the process for installing your RV inverter.
Be sure to read PART 2 of this RV Inverter series where I explore options for installing your RV inverter.