So you've built your camper van or motorhome, and now you want to make it more like home by having things like TV, laptop phone chargers. How do you do it?
Most vehicles run on 12v DC and whilst you can buy a variety of 12v accessories to make life more comfortable on the move, using your standard household appliances is much better.
One example is a 12v kettle. One of these can take 20 minutes to boil enough water to make 4 cups of tea where a 240v kettle will take less than 5.
The easiest way to achieve 240v in your van is to use an inverter. These simply hook up to your 12v battery and convert the 12v dc into 240v ac. They are simple to fit as there are just 2 connections, positive and negative. On the end of the inverter is a standard plug socket as you find at home and so you can plug your appliances in directly or run an extension with multiple plug sockets to it.
For the best results, use a second leisure battery or deep cycle battery. These are designed to deliver power gradually over a long period where your vehicle battery is designed for short high power bursts to start the engine.
The leisure battery can be charged from the engine using a simple split charging system. This ensures that you will always have sufficient power to start the vehicle while all your internal appliances run from a separate power supply.
Which Inverter Should I Buy?
Inverters come in a variety of sizes. These are generally referred to as wattage. Two figures are generally quoted, the maximum peak wattage and the continuous wattage. The continuous wattage is the important figure.
The wattage will determine what appliances you can run from your battery so you need to have a good idea of what appliances you want to run and how many at the same time. In my camper I have some basic requirements, I want to run a small portable TV, a laptop and be able to charge my mobile phone. These are all fairly low wattage appliances with the TV probably the largest at around 80w. The laptop will draw about 45w and a charger around 5w. so all together that is around 130w. Technically this means I could buy a 150w inverter to power all my needs.
However, I would recommend buying the largest inverter you can afford, I bought a 500w inverter as this allows me the luxury of running some power tools from the van when needed and this cost me around £30. The bigger the wattage the more the cost unfortunately so it pays to shop around using eBay or Amazon. Be wary of anything too cheap though, it might not last very long.
If you were to run a fridge in your camper I would probably recommend at least a 1000w inverter and anything with a heating element such as kettles or hairdryers tend to have very high wattage requirements. Check your appliances and what you will need in your motorhome before buying an inverter.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Tony R. on May 31, 2020:
Since most good coffee makers, and most all microwaves, require 1000-1800 watts, you should buy a minimum of a 2000 watt inverter.
I can easily live without a microwave, but being on the road a lot, a coffee maker is a must.
Also, deep cycle carbon batteries are the preferred way to go, but they are NOT cheap. However, if you live in your RV (like I live in my pickup truck/trailer rig), they are worth the investment.
Good article, thanks.
Dale Anderson from The High Seas on September 16, 2019:
I bought an RV not that long ago and am in the process of re-equipping it so, naturally I am interested in hubs like this.
spiritwood from Wales, UK on January 07, 2014:
tony on February 07, 2010:
smileyedd on October 19, 2009:
I amm planning to rig my camper van with ac mains so thanks for the info.