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Question Of The Week

Inverter Set-Ups For Truck Campers

One thing we love about Question of the Week is that we learn about a wide range of topics from our truck camping community.  For example, we learned from this week’s responses that 12-volt to 12-volt chargers are something we should look into for our computers, phone, and cameras.  We also learned that several readers are content with two batteries, all-LED lighting, and approximately a 100-watt solar panel.

Thank you to everyone who answered this week’s question, “Do you have an inverter in your truck camper?”

“I have a Cobra 400 watt inverter.  It is located in the cabinet with the Samsung Blu-Ray player and Direct TV box.  Supplementing the inverter requirements are two Group 27 deep cycle batteries.  Our Lance also has the factory solar panel installed.  This combination allows us to watch our 19-inch Samsung television without any drain on the batteries for extended periods.

Also, the inverter has a USB port for charging our cell phones and iPad.  This configuration is most effective for boondocking so the generator does not have to be used for such low wattage devices.  I wouldn’t be without it.  It’s a very inexpensive upgrade for sports and movies.” – Warne Todd, 2000 Ford F250 diesel, 2005 Lance 981

“Yes, we have two portable inverters; a 70 watt Vector and a 200 Watt Whistler.  The Whistler has two outlets and a USB charging port.  We use the units for charging the computer.  The iPad and phone are charged by the 12 volt outlet.  Sue is a quilter and she can operate her sewing machine and iron off the 200 watt inverter; not at the same time of course.  We also have solar panels and two batteries.” – Don and Sue Graf, 2008 Ford F350 , 2013 Arctic Fox 865

“Yes, we currently have two small generic portable 100 and 150 watt inverters which we use plugged into the camper’s 12 volt jacks.  We use these to power and charge small electronics and a 50 watt heating pad.  These are handy to have since we are not usually plugged into shore power.

Eventually, we would like to install a Xantrex 2000 watt inverter to power a coffee pot and microwave while not on shore power, but only use it for brief periods as necessary.” – Bruce Tinkler, 2013 Ford F-350, 2013 Lance 1181

“Our old Panther had three full sized batteries and a 1000W pure sine wave inverter which ran a domestic type compressor fridge and all lighting and accessories.  It could also power the AC for a while.  It only charged from shore power or the engine’s alternator. 

In my opinion, pure sine wave is the only way to go.  Our camper originally came with a modified sine inverter and it did some scary things to the laptop computer and other electronics.  I would never again use a modified sine inverter.  Most compressor type fridges do not like modified sine either. 

Our new camper, that we are building, will have only one battery and a 300W pure sine inverter.  It will have all-LED and fluorescent lighting and no refrigerator or air conditioner.  I have no plans for solar power.” – Vince Kurpan, 2012 F150, Panther

“I haven’t installed an inverter yet because I’m still looking for a spot in my camper to put it.  I would like to add an outlet by the sink for a coffee pot or toaster and one by the dining table to charge my laptop.  I’m looking for around a 1000 watt unit.” – Pete Haidinyak, 2008 Ram 3500, 2014 Lance 1172

“I presently do not have an inverter, however, I’m in the market to purchase one.  Which one?  Full or chopped sine wave?  And how many watts?  I hope your commenters will help me out.

I do have one important question.  Why do you think you have to provide alternating current to all your toys (camera, computer etc), when you can purchase an inexpensive 12 volt charger that plugs into an ordinary cigarette lighter socket?  It seems to me that converting 12 volt DC to 120 volt AC and back again is very inefficient and eats away at your battery’s storage.  Am I missing something? 

As 12 volt DC wiring is found throughout my camper, it’s a simple project to tap into that wiring anywhere and install a 12 volt DC socket.  Do later model campers provide these 12 volt sockets?  If not, why not?” – Steve Cordis, 2000 Ford F250, 1996 Weekender 1010E

“We do not have one, have not missed it, and haven’t figured out why we would need one.” – Allen Brummel, 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 , 2008 Northstar TC650

“Being new to RVs when I purchased my truck camper, there was a steep learning curve.  But, I was up for a challenge.  Sitting in the camper, pulled into a small park on the way home from picking up my camper for the first time, I sat inside looking around and surveying the camper and one of the first things I looked at were the outlets.

That is when I realized I am a slow starter.  They didn’t work and I needed to get that solved.  Then I found out about inverters and, of course, their inherent limitations.  Something so inane, such as a television, wouldn’t run on one of those simple plug into a cigarette 12 volt outlet inverters.  You needed to have an inverter that meets the watts of the item you are using!

I soon solved all of this by installing my own solar system.  This was to match my daily power demands.  I mated my solar system with a Xantrex 2000 watt Pure Sine Inverter.  Now, many years later, I am still using this same set-up and successfully.  Nothing comes easily, but the more I delved into the problem, reading and researching, the things I needed were easier to understand.

It all came from why those outlets were dead.  It was a matter of what was needed to make them work every time, just like in a home, anytime I would plug something in to them, no matter where I might find myself boondocking.” – Bryan Appleby, 2008 Ford F550, 2009 Lance 1191

“I have a Power Drive 300.  It is a portable 300 watt inverter.  It does an adequate job of charging the laptop and cell phones when camping.  It will also run our television.” – Mike Suan, 2008 Silverado 2500 HD, 2010 Lance 830

“Yes, I have an inverter.  It is a 350 watt unit and was purchased at Fleet Farm (brand unknown).  My wife likes me to shave everyday and I don’t have much luck with a blade.  I only use it to shave once per day.  I have been using it for six years now and it is very handy.” – Rag, 2003 Chevrolet Silverado, 1980 Sportsman 8ft

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“We have two inverters that we use in the camper.  One is a Tripp Lite PV375.  The Tripp Lite PV375 is hard-wired via a re-purposed motorcycle driving light harness.  The installation features a relay and remote switch with indicator light to two custom outlets.  It runs either of two LED televisions and a DVD player when shore power is not available.

I mounted the Tripp Lite PV375 in the basement to muffle the whine of the cooling fan, and ran the control switch/indicator light for the wiring harness to a site inside the living space for convenience.

The other unit is a portable solid state Energizer 180 watt cup inverter which has one 120 volt AC outlet and four USB outlets.  It’s compact and lightweight.  We use this for charging cellphones and laptops at any one of several cigarette 12 volt outlets that I’ve installed in the camper.

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