RV Inverter Problems [and Solutions to them]
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Usually, there is only one problem with an inverter and it is – NO power from the battery bank! If you thought of the “inverter problem” simply because your AC appliances are NOT working, then the first thing to do is to check how much charge is left in your batteries.
If your battery is OK, then you can have it checked by a professional or replace it. Let’s start with the basic problem:
Does your battery have charge in it?
If your battery is out of charge or is weak, replace it and reset the inverter. If that doesn’t work, let’s first check the following:
- Do you have a general power problem? Are your DC devices working properly on the battery or solar grid? If yes, go to the next point.
- Do you have a flipped breaker? Now, check your circuit breaker panel that is powered by your inverter to see if you have any flipped breakers. If no, then let’s troubleshoot further.
- Are any of the inverter fuses blown? There are usually one or two fuses on the inverter itself that protect the device in event of faulty wiring. Check them and replace them if needed.
- Is there a problem with your transfer switch? Check if your transfer switch is actually powering your outlets. If something is wrong with it, replacing it is generally cheaper than replacing a good sine wave inverter.
- Do you have wiring problems? All kinds of wiring in between your breaker panel and transfer switch or outlets could be damaged and you should look for that if you can. Non-contact voltage measurement device could assist you with that procedure.
- Is your battery getting close to full when powered by a solar panel? Sometimes solar charge controller will put out high voltage spikes to keep the battery topped off. If your inverter triggers overload light, you may want to disconnect the solar charge controller from the batteries (don’t forget to disconnect panels first).
Here is a video on inverter problems from an expert:
Now, let’s get into details!
1. No power TO the inverter
The first thing you need to check is your battery terminals. If they are loose, tighten them. If they are corroded ur sulfated, clean them. If they are reversed, make them right (positive to positive, negative to negative) and change the internal fuse.
Make sure that batteries that are wired together (either in parallel or in series) do not have reversed polarities as well. Of course, let me remind you again, if there is no power in your batteries, the inverter will simply not work!
2. No power FROM the inverter
If you are missing the 120-volt power that your inverter is supposed to produce, the following could be a cause of it:
- The reverse protection fuse is blown. Fuses are usually conveniently located on the back and can be easily replaced.
- Output overload was triggered and the unit shut down. Why would an inverter have an overload? Two reasons. (1) It was really overloaded by trying to power more devices than it was rated for and (2) some wires have shorted and created an overload situation. Simple solution – remove the excess load. Complicated solution (if that doesn’t help), get a specialist to take a look at your wiring situation.
- The inverter has an internal problem or a short. This is a device with many components and wires. Anything can happen. In this case, the inverter should be taken to the repair shop.
3. The inverter is beeping
There are basically two reasons for inverter beeping on you:
- You just ran out of battery
- You overloaded your inverter
If you loaded your inverter ABOVE its rated capacity, there is a big chance that it will be a burden on the inverter and it will shut down on you (in “overload” beeping mode). Your total load demand should NOT exceed the rating of the inverter and you should give it some room ABOVE it as well.
Even though inverters have a peak surge rating (which is very often twice its capacity), this rating is only valid for few seconds, and after that, it goes to the normal rating. Don’t forget that many cheap inverters on the market right now, are inflating their ratings and this could also trigger the overload problem.
How to calculate your AC power usage? Just add all the watts of the appliances or tools that you are planning to use at the exact same time. The rule of thumb for loading inverters should be:
No more than 80% of rated capacity
If your inverter is working at full load all the time, it could lead to lower efficiency and performance. It could also fail sooner. This also goes for the cheap inverters, which usually cannot keep up with more than 80% of the rated capacity load.
When the inverter is overloaded and the light starts flashing (usually accompanied by a consistent beep), the first thing to do is to unplug or shut down all the unnecessary equipment! After that press the reset button (if it has one) or disconnect power and connect again.
If that worked, but you need all of those devices, it’s time to look into getting a BIGGER size inverter! Internal faults or short circuits inside the inverter could also cause the overload problem.
When an inverter gets low on battery, the same thing happens, it starts beeping! Usually in a very wrong time (middle of the night, for example). Keep your battery or batteries charged and everything will be fine.
4. Inverter is overheating
The most common causes for inverter being overheated are:
- Fan failure.
- Extreme outside temperature.
- Poor ventilation.
- Wrong cable size.
If there is a problem with the fan, the inverter is not being cooled down and therefore electronic components inside could get damaged. Your inverter could also end up sitting inside the vehicle under the sun, which could generate extreme internal temperatures and cause it to fail.
You need to ensure that the placement of the inverter is not too close to other objects and there is a space in between. Inverter overload could also trigger cables to be overheated along with a unit itself.
The cable size must be calculated correctly to handle the demand of the load. Low-grade or undersized cables are a fire hazard.
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