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Old 04-04-2015, 11:48 PM   #1
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Inverter - better to order factory or do aftermarket?

We're considering ordering an AS vs. buying a new one off a lot.

Is it better to have the factory install the 1000w unit or have an aftermarket unit (and additional outlets?) installed in an existing unit.

It would seem better done at the factory, even if the capacity/rating (1000w) is less than one might have done aftermarket (1500w).

What are your thoughts on this? Is it rather straightforward to retro fit an AS with an inverter and inverter-fed outlets?
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Old 04-04-2015, 11:58 PM   #2
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Remember that the power supplied by the inverter is limited by the battery storage capacity, and the ability to recharge them. The factory setup works well within its limitations, and the inverter on-off switch and advisory light on the kitchen wall is convenient. We have it and like it.

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Old 04-05-2015, 12:05 AM   #3
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Although the WFCO factory inverter is marginal in quality at best I liked the outlets which are very difficult if not impossible to add later. So, I opted for the factory package and can change the inverter itself out easily. The inverter also has the needed wiring to the battery box, and the special large fuse needed for protection.

I have already added a second Morningstar 300 watt, much more efficient inverter to my rig, but have not yet connected it to the inverter outlets (yes, there is a reason).
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Old 04-05-2015, 12:23 AM   #4
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My hunch was that factory inverter option makes good sense, if for no other reason than the specific inverter outlets (are these really needed?) that would definitely be difficult to add later.

I do understand that the battery/inverter system would only be capable of powering a few small-drain items or just one or two higher drain items.

Would the 1000w inverter be enough to power one AC unit? Or just the microwave? I'm sure it could power a TV or a coffeemaker.

I'm wondering, though, if an inverter were to be added aftermarket instead of factory... couldn't it be done in such a way as to feed all of the existing factory outlets in the trailer?

I'm not sure why there would be outlets only fed by the inverter and other outlets fed by shore power. It would seem that one set of outlets should be fed by either choice of power.

But my understanding is limited. What am I not 'getting'?
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Old 04-05-2015, 12:49 AM   #5
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The factory inverter outlets are placed to power primarily the entertainment and sound systems, and recharge electronic devices. The factory batteries are just not capable of powering water pump, furnace, vent fans, lights, entertainment, computers and such, plus microwaves and coffee makers. I think that's their logic, so they limit the available inverter outlets.
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Old 04-05-2015, 01:26 AM   #6
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The factory inverter outlets are placed to power primarily the entertainment and sound systems, and recharge electronic devices. The factory batteries are just not capable of powering water pump, furnace, vent fans, lights, entertainment, computers and such, plus microwaves and coffee makers. I think that's their logic, so they limit the available inverter outlets.
That makes sense. And, as you say, given the limited capacity of the two batteries, getting a larger aftermarket inverter won't necessarily provide much, if any, added benefit.

I'm contemplating downsize mode right now, as we're considering trading our coach for a trailer. Our present rig is a 2011 43' Class A with enough battery power and inverter to run the full size residential electric fridge and other stuff as well. And a 10,000w generator which will run 3 rooftop AC units, the residential fridge, and pretty much everything else in the coach while boon docking! So, I really need to adjust my thinking down, down, down to a much smaller, simpler way of RVing.

I think we will opt for factory inverter rather than plan on an aftermarket option.

Thanks.
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Old 04-05-2015, 04:21 AM   #7
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Don't make the assumption that a 1000w inverter is going to run a coffee maker (or anything else). Check the power requirements of what you want to use. A coffee maker could easily require 1500w or more. That isn't going to run. That said I have a single pot coffee maker requiring 800w and it runs fine.
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Old 04-05-2015, 05:09 AM   #8
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While looking at the potential new trailer and deciding to swap the propane oven for a convection/microwave oven, look at the power requirement. The factory 1,000 watt inverter could lack the capacity for that electric cooking unit. As an example, our plain microwave that was installed by the factory requires over 1500 watts.

When we ordered our 31' Classic, I knew we were doing a large solar system that when completed would provide power to every outlet in the trailer and could even run the smaller air conditioner for over an hour.

I suggest looking at the Magnum product line of inverter/converters that can be programmed to properly charge any type of battery in the future as well as providing adequate power for whatever. They have pure sine wave models for clean power to your electronics.
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Old 04-05-2015, 07:32 AM   #9
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Depends on how much use you are intending to give your inverter when off-grid. There are other reasons to either pass on ordering the factory inverter package or replace and upgrade it if you already have one.

A quality inverter/charger like a Magnum (all of their units are also battery chargers) will give you fully programmable 4-stage charging set to match the specifications of your battery bank. This will assure long battery life (rather than letting the OEM Parallax toast your batteries in short order).

Again, depending on what 120VAC appliances you want to add into the off-grid mix, an upgrade in the size/quality of your battery bank should be considered. Also, I have installed many 2000 and 2800 watt sine wave inverters and 3000 watt 'hybrid' sine wave inverters from Magnum that will effectively energize your entire trailer, eliminating the need for dedicated 'inverter only' outlets. EVERY outlet is now an inverter outlet when off-grid.

I also replace a number of the WFCO inverters from the Airstream package with Magnum MMS-1012 1000 watt inverters that also take over the battery charging functions and can also be configured to be a full function battery monitor system thru the ME-RC remote. In fact, I know where you can get a 'deal' on a WFCO unit right now!

And depending on the size of your battery bank, you can start and run a 15K BTU roof A/C with a Honda 2000 watt generator and a Magnum MSH3012-M hybrid inverter. It will seamlessly supplement the output from the generator to 'fill in the gap' for additional amperage when the A/C starts.

Many custom electrical options exist if you think just a bit 'out of the box' and consult someone with the knowledge and experience to point you in the right direction.
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Old 04-05-2015, 09:02 AM   #10
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So, I really need to adjust my thinking down, down, down to a much smaller, simpler way of RVing.

Yep. Best to avoid TV, micro, electric coffee maker. Use propane for all cooking, including the coffee. Reserve your battery power for lights, water pump, fans, etc. The 1000w inverter may allow you to run some of this stuff but you wonít have the battery to power all of it. And if you add more batteries, youíll also have to add charging capacity. It is hard to boondock and try to maintain your electricity usage the same as when youíre connected to shore power.
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Old 04-05-2015, 11:23 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by SCOTTinNJ View Post
Don't make the assumption that a 1000w inverter is going to run a coffee maker (or anything else). Check the power requirements of what you want to use. A coffee maker could easily require 1500w or more. That isn't going to run. That said I have a single pot coffee maker requiring 800w and it runs fine.
Of course, you're right. A 1000w inverter is incapable of powering a device requiring more power than that. Some coffee makers do require more than 1000w.
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Old 04-05-2015, 11:32 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by switz View Post
When we ordered our 31' Classic, I knew we were doing a large solar system that when completed would provide power to every outlet in the trailer and could even run the smaller air conditioner for over an hour.

I suggest looking at the Magnum product line of inverter/converters that can be programmed to properly charge any type of battery in the future as well as providing adequate power for whatever. They have pure sine wave models for clean power to your electronics.
This is a very appealing idea - having a solar system on the trailer that had much greater capacity than just trickle charging the batteries. Are such systems readily available and adaptable to the roof of a 30' Airstream? I'm thinking that higher capacity batteries may also be obtained to replace the batteries that Airstream provides, possibly fitting the same space, but taller?

If one intended to install higher capacity batteries and a higher capacity inverter, along with a larger than standard solar power system... does it make sense to order the factory inverter anyway, for some of the pre-wired lines?
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Old 04-05-2015, 11:39 AM   #13
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Depends on how much use you are intending to give your inverter when off-grid. There are other reasons to either pass on ordering the factory inverter package or replace and upgrade it if you already have one.

A quality inverter/charger like a Magnum (all of their units are also battery chargers) will give you fully programmable 4-stage charging set to match the specifications of your battery bank. This will assure long battery life (rather than letting the OEM Parallax toast your batteries in short order).

Again, depending on what 120VAC appliances you want to add into the off-grid mix, an upgrade in the size/quality of your battery bank should be considered. Also, I have installed many 2000 and 2800 watt sine wave inverters and 3000 watt 'hybrid' sine wave inverters from Magnum that will effectively energize your entire trailer, eliminating the need for dedicated 'inverter only' outlets. EVERY outlet is now an inverter outlet when off-grid.

I also replace a number of the WFCO inverters from the Airstream package with Magnum MMS-1012 1000 watt inverters that also take over the battery charging functions and can also be configured to be a full function battery monitor system thru the ME-RC remote. In fact, I know where you can get a 'deal' on a WFCO unit right now!

And depending on the size of your battery bank, you can start and run a 15K BTU roof A/C with a Honda 2000 watt generator and a Magnum MSH3012-M hybrid inverter. It will seamlessly supplement the output from the generator to 'fill in the gap' for additional amperage when the A/C starts.

Many custom electrical options exist if you think just a bit 'out of the box' and consult someone with the knowledge and experience to point you in the right direction.
My mind is opening wide now!

If I plan to go with a Magnum inverter/charger and upgrade batteries, and install a higher capacity solar system is there any benefit to ordering the factory inverter and factory solar as an initial step? Or best to skip all of that entirely?
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Old 04-05-2015, 11:44 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by DHart View Post
My mind is opening wide now!

If I plan to go with a Magnum inverter/charger and upgrade batteries, and install a higher capacity solar system is there any benefit to ordering the factory inverter and factory solar as an initial step? Or best to skip all of that entirely?
If you are going to a large, high quality inverter/charger/solar/battery changeout, probably there is no real advantage to the factory inverter system to begin with.

If you don't need or want all that much electrical capacity, especially at 120 volts, the factory inverter option is a fair solution.
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Old 04-05-2015, 12:04 PM   #15
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Keep in mind an inverter is a device that can quickly drain batteries. The two standard group 24 batteries will quickly drain if used for high current application's like coffee pots and microwaves. Solar panels can somewhat mitigate this loss but we sometimes park our campers in part or full shade sites for comfort, thus handicapping the solar system. For example: I'm heading to the Redwood's for a long weekend and have zero expectation of getting any solar input as those campgrounds are always in deep dark shade, so need to use the stored battery power sparingly.


I have 400 watts of solar and the 300 watt morningstar inverter mated to the stock batteries used only for entertainment and light duty appliances. The system seems reasonably balanced. Consider your expectations of the inverter first.
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Old 04-05-2015, 12:24 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by DHart View Post
My mind is opening wide now!

If I plan to go with a Magnum inverter/charger and upgrade batteries, and install a higher capacity solar system is there any benefit to ordering the factory inverter and factory solar as an initial step? Or best to skip all of that entirely?
Skip it! The money you save from NOT getting the factory solar and inverter can be added to the overall costs of your total electrical upgrade.
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Old 04-05-2015, 02:14 PM   #17
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We bought the factory system. It is useless for true boondocking--primarily because the solar panels are not adequate. Also, the supplied solar control is one stage instead of three stage--throw that away, too. The inverter itself is OK for lite use--that and the two 110 wired sockets are the only thing we use from the expensive option.

As others have said, first determine your needs for the inverter. You will most likely need more storage, too. We gave our brand new 12v back to the dealer and bought 4 6v for double the storage (440 Amps; 220 usable at 50%)and double the weight. We will change this out for a 300 amp lithium bank, (260 amp usable at 85%; weight savings of 2/3!!)

There's plenty of room on your roof for solar panels.

If you're near FL in the winter or the Pacifc NW in the summer, contact Lew Farber (Lewster.) after reviewing your needs, he will set you up with all of the best components for your particular application and do a beautiful install job, too.
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Old 04-05-2015, 02:20 PM   #18
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Solar and battery upgrades are not independent of other considerations, and can $nowball out of control. We have factory solar and inverter, and know how to make it work for us.

We could get more solar but that would be worthless without more battery storage. A big battery bank would exceed Airstream's 1,000 lb. limit for tongue weight, and tax the load limits of our otherwise excellent half-ton truck. So the batteries would have to be relocated aft. That means inside the Airstream, so lead-acid batteries are no longer an option. Or do we mount them on the tongue in spite of Airstream's advice, and buy a heavier duty truck. $nowball effect.

What we have works well for us, but we conserve power usage as needed. If we needed big power (air conditioners) we would buy a big generator, but we don't, others do.

First decide what your own realistic power needs are, then decide what system to buy. If you decide on a upgraded system, Lew has excellent advice.
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Old 04-05-2015, 02:46 PM   #19
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Second that, Lew seems to have the best advice on this topic. But you can throw a whole lot of money at this issue. You really need to determine what your requirements are. The factory installation meets my needs since we do not boondock. Even so, I would not have been able to get close to someone with Lew's expertise if I wanted a new or modified installation. If I were buying new, I would probably order the factory package for the convenience.
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Old 04-05-2015, 04:19 PM   #20
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If you use a 1000 watt microwave running off an inverter, you are discharging your 12 volt batteries at the rate of 1.4 AH (ampere-hours) per minute, or 84 AH per hour. I believe the fans draw about 3 amps each when running, so the two of them add another 72 AH discharge, per 12 hours (if they are running constantly and not cycling on and off via thermostats) (142 AH per 24hours). I believe the batteries have a capacity of approximately 84 AH each (total 168 AH) and I think the guidelines are to not let your batteries go below 40% of capacity (if so that means you only have 100 AH available for use, excluding solar generation or an external generator).

If you have incandescent lights, they draw about 5 times the power of LED lights, so depending on how much lighting you are using they can suck the batteries down too. To heat a quart of water from 60 degrees up to boiling (without boiling) takes 7.4 AH (continuing to heat it with 1000 watt inverter would be adding another1.4 AH per minute).

All that said and done, Iím a believer in using the propane stove to heat water, and run the fans and lighting judiciously. You can play around with the numbers, but still see that without additional power being supplied you still have to be conscious of your rate of consumption.

General inverter comments: If you use a 1000 watt inverter, it will draw about 85 amps from your batteries (requires large cable to wire inverter). If you use a 1500 watt inverter, it will draw about 125 amps from your batteries (requires very large cable to wire inverter). Should you try to pull this sort of current for an hour (electric oven or microwave), that alone will completely discharge your batteries. Bottom line, if you need to do electric cooking for any period of time, etc. you need external shore power or a generator.

Should you still want to pursue the high drain on your batteries, you need to consider swapping out your batteries with 6-volt golf cart batteries. The size 24 batteries mentioned above are about 84 AH each. Golf cart batteries are about 225 AH each, so if you made that change you would be almost trippling your battery capacity. The conversion takes some work though, because the golf cart batteries are too tall for your existing battery box, so you have to modify the box, wire the batteries in series, replace the battery hold-down bolt, etc.
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