What Size Power Converter do I Need for my RV?
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The ideal size of the power converter (sometimes called “charger”) for the RV system directly depends on the applications that you need it for. Every RV power converter is scaled for a particular range of amperes (for instance, 30 amperes, 45 amperes, and 55 amperes) and that means, a power converter of 45 amperes is capable of running 45 amperes worth of 12 volts applications.
A converter is a vital part of any recreational vehicle electric system. When you hook it up to outdoor shoreline power or a generator, it will be able to convert this AC voltage current into DC (Direct Current) in order to run your most sensitive electronics that require this kind of power and charge your RV battery for future use.
Common examples of AC (Alternating Current) usage are:
- Mini freezer
- Air Conditioner (A/C)
Smaller accessories and sensitive electronic devices may require DC power to work on:
- TV antenna
- Gas leak detector
- Laptops and cell phones (usually come with a converter built-in)
If you are employing solar power for your RV electricity needs, then charging your batteries will not be a problem. Solar panels produce DC power right away and it will be supplied to your batteries and in some instances, you will need an “inverter” if your appliances require AC power to work on.
How to calculate the size of the RV power converter?
Your converter’s needs basically come down to how many amps your 12-volt DC-powered devices will draw at about the same time. As far as battery charge goes, converters use only a small portion of amperage for this (about 3 to 5 amps), but you need to add it as well.
In order to find out the amperage of your devices, you can simply check the small metal plate on it, a sticker, or the owner’s manual. If the information provided is in watts, use this formula to convert them to amps:
Wattage / Volts = Amps
You can determine the size of the power converter to be used in the RV by following the steps below:
- Lights. Write down what kind of DC-consuming lights you will be using (they could be LED or incandescent).
- AC devices. List all the devices that will require Alternating Current (AC) to be powered by.
- DC devices. List all the devices that will need DC power (include RV battery as well).
- Utilization time. Write down how long any of your devices will be used and will that be at exactly the same time.
- Consumption power. Write down how much power every single one of your DC (Direct Current) devices will consume (in amps) and after adding up everything that you will be running at the same time or figuring out your highest consuming item, you will have a clear picture of how much amperage you will need out of your converter. You can ignore AC voltage needs for now, but if you are planning to use them off the batteries, you may need this information when you will decide to get an inverter (changed DC into AC).
High-Output Power Converters for RV
The RV electric system has evolved and now it requires more power than ever! In order to meet the requirements of modern RV systems, many manufacturers started to provide power converters with the capability of 80 amperes to 90 amperes.
These new conversion systems have a temperature compensation feature along with an exclusive Power Factor modification system. This Power Factor Compensation system is an electrical circuit that employs 120 volts Alternating Current (AC) input in a highly efficient way, generating about 90 amperes of Direct Current (DC) output while withdrawing current which is mandatory for running a 65 amperes power converter.
Here is a quick infographic that you can save for future reference .
Converter-Inverter system setup (video)
In order to really get the most out of your RV and enjoy it, you need to have a complete power system set up, which should include an inverter, converter, and maybe some solar panels. In this video you will find out the exact setups of this type of system:
Here are some converter-chargers you may want to take a look at (from Amazon):
As a side note, there are inverter-converter systems available right off the shelf! They are called: “Inverter/Chargers” and even though they are a little pricey (about $800-$1000+), if you add up all the components that your RV electric system will require, it should come up to be about the same (although, if size matters, this one is more compact).
Following pure sine wave inverter-chargers are in the 2000-watt range (which suits most small to medium-size RV):
If you want to know why pure sine wave inverter-chargers are more desirable for sensitive electronic equipment, it is because they produce a less “rugged” electrical wave that looks like this:
This is a modified sine wave that is coming out of an inverter-charger to power your AC equipment. As you see, it is not as smooth as the one mentioned above and the equipment that you will run on it becomes noisy.
These inverters are cheaper though. In fact, they are much, much cheaper! Here are some that you can get from Amazon (2000-2500w is a reasonable size for small to medium RV):
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