What Inverter should I buy?
Inverters take the 12 volts from your batteries and convert it to 110 volts to operate your home appliances. They come in all sizes and are rated in watts for how much energy they can handle.
The two main types are Modified Sine Wave and Pure Sine Wave. This refers to how "pure" the electrical signal/current is being transferred through them. A Pure Sine Wave Inverter is needed for some electronics like newer TV's and laser printers, where a Modified Sine Wave is good for general purpose stuff like your toaster or coffee maker and lights.
Most campers can use the Modified Sine Waves, and they are a lot less expensive. You can get a 2000 watt Modified Sine Wave for a couple of hundred bucks for the weekend warrior, whereas a decent 2000 watt Pure Sine Inverter for a serious off gridder can run you a couple thousand.
The amp load is what matters to size your inverter. For each 100 watts of your appliance, it is about a 10 amp load. For example a single 100 watt bulb, will pull about 10 amps if connected through your Inverter.
If you had 10 light bulbs, your Inverter needs to be able to handle almost 100 amps plus some room for inefficiency and the draw of the Inverter itself, so add about 25%, so call it a 125 amps continuous rating. This is huge. Those bulbs would drain your car sized deep cycle battery in 30 minutes that way!
It would also mean you would need about a 1500 watt Inverter. (1500 watts / 12 volts =125 amps)
LED lights are next to nothing for an amp draw, so by all means convert as many as you can.
Anything that makes heat is the hardest on the batteries and the Inverter, Your appliance will have an amp draw rating on it, and this can be used to add up all the things you want to use at once, and for how long.
For example a 1500 watt hair dryer can pull about 150 amps in one hour by itself. ( 1500 watts plus 25% for the Inverter itself and inefficiency = 375 watts = a total of 1875 watts.) That means you would need a 2000 watt Inverter just to run the hair dryer.
That is a lot for a 12 volt battery. And before you laugh, the most common appliance used camping is a hair dryer!
Knowing your amp draws will dictate the size needed of your batteries and your Inverter. We can help you with this.
The cables from the batteries to the Inverter need to be the thickest. They are pulling the juice out so need to be able to handle it. The closer the Inverter is to the batteries, the thinner cable you can use. If you have to have your coffee maker far away from the batteries, it is better to put the Inverter close to the batteries, then run an extension cord from the Inverter to your coffee maker.
Using 4 gauge cables from the batteries to the Inverter that is close by (within say 6 feet) will keep the voltage drop to a minimum.
Conversely, if you are using a solar panel, it hooks up to the "input" side of the batteries and can be much thinner. A 10 gauge wire from the charge controller to the batteries for up to say 50 feet works just fine.
Going up to a 24 volt or 48 volt system changes the wire thickness needed, we can help you determine what you need for that too.
With the right size battery bank, the right type and size of Inverter, and the right size wiring, you can comfortably use all the appliances you want to.
Our locations in Abbotsford and Port Coquitlam can provide you with all the pros and cons of all of the types of Inverters in a friendly and helpful manner. There are no stupid questions!