The inverter is key component of any RV, it converts DC power (12 , 24 or even 48 volts) to household AC power so you can run standard electronics and appliances.
I went into this project with limited inverter experience, mostly the cigarette lighter style ones to run a laptop or some other small appliance. Story time, as a kid we took a family trip a few hours away, I wanted to use our desktop computer in the family van. What happens next reminds me of the scene in Apollo 13 (movie) where they had to start each item in sequence or it would overload. My makeshift mobile computer was the same way, I managed with the right startup sequence to get a desktop computer in the late 90s running on a 300 watt inverter, it was the best ever.
You get what you pay for, heavier is better.
All inverters are not created equal, do you need Hybrid modes? ability to run multiple in parallel? Automatic transfer switch and built in shore power charging? All thing to consider.
Even before purchasing our bus, I researched inverters. I heard names like Xandrex, Magnasine, and Victron all with big price tags. I thought I knew better, so I purchased a cheap inverter for a few hundred dollars.
When it arrived I immediately wanted to test it. Sadly, it never even turned on. To be fair, I could have done something wrong, but with only a positive and negative connection to make, there isn't much to screw up.
I returned this inverter to Amazon promptly.
AIMS Power Inverter
Next I tried an AIMS Inverter that included a key component I overlooked earlier, a charger. I purchased the 24v DC / 120v AC @ 3000 watts model, I considered the 4000 watt model as well, but figured I'd maybe upgrade later. If I could do it over again I'd buy the 4000 watt model because having a little extra capacity for starting appliances and avoiding overload is critical.
We used this inverter for the first summer, it ran a TV, Coleman Mach 15 (1500 watts), fridge and anything else we needed. However one day the Automatic Transfer Switch stopped working, so it would not charger from shore power. AIMS repaired it free of charge (I only had to pay for shipping to them).
- Great Phone Support
- Appears to output the advertised power
- Automatic Transfer Switch
- Optional External Remote and Monitor
- Has trouble on weak shore power / no hybrid functionality
- Unable to run in parallel with other inverters
Our Current Inverter(s)
Victron has made a name for itself in the marine world, in the past few years we are seeing them in more and more RVs.
The reason why we switched to Victron was in part due to the quality of the inverter itself, but also the network of other Victron components that all work together. If you want a electrical system that works as one system with beautiful data monitoring and logging, I don't think you can beat Victron. On to the high points of the multiplus.
- Hybrid functionality - This means it can assist weak shore power or a smaller generator
- Parallel Operation - We actually use 2 of these for a total of 6000 watts, running 2 roof mounted AC units pus everything else with plenty to spare.
- Build in monitoring - There are a number of built in monitors, relays, temp sensors, etc.
- Upgradable Firmware - A more advanced feature, but Victron still improves the reliability and capabilities of these with firmware updates.
- Comparatively Affordable - When compared to other brands of hybrid , parallelable inverters, these are the best bang for the buck.
- Expensive - If you know you'll only ever need more capacity or the advanced monitoring bells and whistles, the AIMS model might serve you better.
- Limited Local Support - Being Netherlands based means there is less local support available. PKY Systems out of Houston is a great source of information as well.
- Buying more Victron gear - You'll find yourself buying more and more sky blue off-grid equipment, I tried to warn you.