“Once you have one, you’ll wonder how you ever did without it!”
So what is a Power Inverter?
In simple terms a power inverter converts 12-volt power into 240v power. This effectively allows you to use low wattage household appliances like laptops and phone chargers, using your car battery or a separate 12v camping/leisure battery.
Why would you need one?
If like us, you prefer the convenience of being able to use the odd electrical items whilst camping, then you really only have two options.
The first is booking a pitch with an Electrical Hook-Up (EHU) facility. However, whilst electrical hook-up is common place in many UK and European campsites, lots more simply don’t have EHU pitches or have only a limited number.
The second option (you guessed it), is to use an inverter and a 12v battery, which you conveniently have in your car
So, what capacity (wattage) should you get?
Inverters come in many sizes and are rated by their power output. The capacity rating relates to how much power it can convert at a time, usually shown as watts. So, the higher the wattage rating of the inverter, the more powerful appliances you can use.
Inverters suitable for camping are widely available and typically fall between 150 watts and 1500 watts.
To decide what capacity you need, start by looking at the things you are likely to want to use whilst camping and check their power consumption.
Typical camping appliances include…
- Inflatable Airbeds – Build in inflator type (Aerobed / Intex Queen (200w)
- Charging and using a laptop (Apple MacBook Pro – 85w)
- Travel Kettle (450w – 1000w)
- LCD TV with DVD Player (45w)
- Mobile phones chargers (less than 10w)
- iPad or Tablet Charger (80w)
- Kindle / E-book readers – (45w)
- DSLR camera battery charger (80w)
- Slow Cooker (200w – 480w)
- Camp Lighting (20w – 200w)
These are examples only and you should check your own appliances to be sure.
Savvy Tip: Each appliance will have a label on it which will tell you the number of Watts or Amps it uses.
You’ll then need the add up the total power required by all these appliances. Remember, you’re probably not going have them all on at the same time.
Then simply buy an inverter that has a bigger capacity than your estimated requirements.
Working out power from amps
In some cases you may find your appliance’s power consumption is shown in amps instead of watts. In these cases you’ll need to convert the Amps into Watts.
Don’t worry, you don’t need a physics degree to do this you simply need to multiply the amps by the voltage (240v in the UK).
So, for example, if you have a slow cooker rated at 2 Amps;
2 Amps × 240 Volts = 480 Watts. (Easy, right!)
I’ve seen there are two types of inverter, what’s the difference?
The first is called a Pure Sine Wave inverter which sends the power to your devices in a smooth wave that behaves more like normal household 240V. This is good, but they are generally much more expensive.
The second type and by far the most common amongst campers is a Modified Sine Wave inverter, which sends the power in a stepped wave. This is more than adequate for charging and powering simple devices.
Savvy Tip: Realistically, the cheaper modified sine wave power inverter, rather than a pure sine wave power inverter will fit your camping needs just fine.
We currently use a 500 Watt unit, and that suits our camping needs all year round. I wouldn’t really recommend buying anything less than 300 Watts. Ideally go for a 500w or 800w unit as the cost difference between the two is often only a few pounds.
A final though about using your inverter.
Treat your inverter as something you use sparingly to run or charge small appliances or maybe provide low wattage lighting for an hour or two at night. If you must use it on larger wattage items limit the time you do so.
Remember: More watts used = quicker battery drain!