I previously wrote about the solar generator in the campervan which, so far, has provided all the electricity we’ve needed including charging two laptops in a day as well as phones, iPods and even running a small blender, with power to spare for the lights of an evening.
The lights are hard wired to the leisure battery but for charging the laptop or running other appliances you need a plug socket. This is where the power inverter comes in.
They are a voltage converter which steps the 12v DC (direct current) supply from the campervan battery or leisure battery up to 230v AC (alternating current) which means you can plug your chargers, emergency lights or even televisions in (although why you’d want a TV I’ll never know).
The issue with inverters is that they only produce so much power and to run bigger appliances you need a bigger inverter. Mine is a 150w RMS (root mean square), 300w peak output inverter made by Auto XS (a German company) which is fine for running a laptop, charging phones, cameras and even my battery drill. It also has a USB slot for additional charging which is a bonus, although I prefer to use a dedicated USB charging hub for those devices.
I paid 17 euros (£15) for it and it’s served me well for over a year now. I had a look at some recently which deliver twice the output meaning you could run more powerful hardware on them but the prices started at around 70 euros.
They look like car audio amplifiers and are housed in an aluminium extrusion which acts as a heat sink as well. Some can be connected directly to the battery via terminals, while others plug into a cigarette lighter socket. They should be fused already making them usable straight out of the box.
The advantage with my Auto XS inverter is its size, meaning I can stash it easily and connect when needed, whereas bigger inverters need to be fixed somewhere permanently.
You can run them from the lighter socket in the car/van but it is not advisable for long periods as they can burn the vehicle’s wiring out. In-car sockets are only designed for quick burst usage and should never be used for long periods.
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