If you’re planning on living in a van or travelling in your camper for long periods of time, then it’s time that you were thinking about the best 12v inverter for your build.
There are lots of choices out there all in different shapes, sizes, and ratings. But which one do you choose?
I’ve been living in my camper for coming up to three years now, so I’ve learnt a thing or three about what to look out for when choosing the best 12v inverter for your conversion.
Here’s what you need to know, what to look out for, and how they work!
Let’s Talk Power!
What Is A 12V Inverter
A 12V inverter is a device that can integrate into the electrical set-up inside your camper. It converts 12V DC electric from your leisure batteries into the standardised AC current in your country of origin (120AC for the states, 240AC for the UK).
So, if you’re a digital nomad who likes to charge phones, drones, and action cams on the go, then you’ll need one of these powerhouses to keep your tech topped up.
Why Do I Need An Inverter?
USB outlets are good for phones, but if you do a lot of work on a laptop or need to charge your camera, then you’ll need a 12V inverter.
Basically, if you are planning on running anything with a ‘pronged plug’ in your tiny travelling home, then you’ll need something powerful enough to convert that 12V DC from your batteries current into an AC current strong enough to start your device.
It’s not just as easy as buying any old inverter either. You need to do your calculations to make sure you’re buying the best 12V inverter for your needs.
How Do I Know Which Inverter I’ll Need?
We’ve listed the maximum wattage of each inverter below. If you have a gadget or tool that needs 530W of power to work, then you’ll need to make sure that your inverter has a bigger power rating than this.
To find the wattage of a device, just look at the writing on the plug.
Most electrical devices need something called ‘surge power’ in which they require double the amount of wattage for less than a second in order to get going.
Think of it as a super boost at the start of a Mario Kart game.
Your inverter will have a continuous power measurment (the maximum wattage advertised) and a surge power limit (usually double the wattage advertised).
Write down the wattage of the devices that you will be running through your inverter at any one time, add them together, and make sure your inverter’s watt rating is bigger than your end number.
Are They Easy To Install?
Inverters might look complicated, but they’re easy to install.
Some plug into your 12V DC car socket, while others can be integrated into your electrical system.
My inverter came with three wires; positive, negative, and earth. The positive wire went straight to my battery isolator switch, and I bolted the negative and earth wires to the metal side of the wheel arch.
Check out our how to build a camper e-Book for more detailed instructions.
What’s So Special About A Pure Sine 12v Inverter?
There are two types of inverter – sine, and pure sine.
Pure Sine devices are by far the best 12V inverter models because they produce a cleaner signal.
Imagine a sine signal as being blocky, and a pure sine signal as being wavy. Pure sine inverters are much kinder to your expensive laptop and camera batteries.
If you work on the road, then pure sine is definitely the way you want to go.
Time To Find The Best 12V Inverter For Your Conversion!
First up is this 300W inverter from BESTEK, a portable device that can be plugged into your cars 12V DC outlet (sometimes known as the cigarette lighter) and used on the go.
This inverter isn’t one that you would look towards for long-term off grid living, but it is a great device for getting power while driving and charging up devices on long journeys.
This BESTEK inverter comes with 2 Smart USB charging ports as well as a singular UK plug socket. It has a built-in 40-amp fuse and full-protection including low-voltage, over-charge, short-circuiting and overheating.
Next up on our list of the best 12V inverter models is this beastly 3000W inverter from GIANDEL. This is the perfect bit of kit for any nomads who are looking to use lots of gadgets for remote work or powering big fridges and cooking equipment.
This inverter has a whopping 3000W of continuous power and a surge power limit of 6000W. If you’re looking to kickstart massive machinery or charge lots of things at once, then this is the inverter for you.
Unlike my inverter which I have to turn on at the source (like a savage!), this inverter comes with a remote control on a cable. You can wire this to any point in your van, next to your bed for example, and get power without having to move!
This inverter is modified sine wave rather than pure sine wave, so bear that in mind if you’re looking to run complex/expensive items.
This ENERGIZER 1100W inverter is another modified sine wave device, but that doesn’t mean that you should discount it before checking out the finer details.
First off, it has two power sockets, giving you multiple options for creating plug points throughout your mobile home. It’s perfect for fridges or cookers and comes with all of the electrical and temperature overload protection that you need.
ENERGIZER boast that you can use this to power everything from microwaves to power tools. If you’re an off grid carpenter, then this will be right up your woodland street.
As well as two easy to access USB ports, this inverter comes with an LCD screen that shows you Input Voltage, Output Wattage and Battery Level. Pretty neat, right?
If you’re a vanlifer that travels with expensive camera or filming equipment in tow, then the next two devices may well be the best 12V inverter models for you.
First up we have this funky-fresh-looking power-hub from WZRELB. It provides 3000W of continuous power with a 6000W surge power limit.
And best of all, it produces the cleanest pure sine wave signals that all of your expensive gadgets deserve.
It comes with two US plug-socket outlets. Don’t worry about the fact that there aren’t any USB sockets on there; you can just wire the outlets up to wall sockets with USB charging ports in them instead.
If you like to keep tabs on how much energy your drawing, then the digital LED display will give you the same amount of pleasure as binge watching your favourite Netflix series.
It even has an intelligent cooling fan inside it too. Plus with all of that power, you could probably work a robot to cook your meals as well!
Last but not least is this four-socket behemoth from Novopal. This 2000W pure sine wave inverter is perfect for bigger builds such as busses, or tiny homes that have multiple rooms requiring multiple socket chains.
As well as all of the standard protection features mentioned in the devices above, this inverter comes with an audible alarm to let you know when input voltage is too low and reverse polarity protection. It’s a one-stop-safety-shop.
Thes Novopal inverter also comes with a remote and provides 100% pure sine wave power, so it’s not going to destroy your expensive equipment. It also has a 2.1-amp USB port for charging your phones or tablets.