A power inverter is important when you live in an RV to keep your electronics and electrical devices charged. What about when you don’t charge your devices—do you have to switch off your RV inverter when it’s plugged in? Otherwise, should you leave the inverter on?
An RV inverter can be left on when plugged to shore power, but it’s recommended to turn it off when you’re not connected to shore power and don’t need AC current to avoid draining your battery unnecessarily.
Your RV inverter can be a power vampire when not used properly, and replacing your RV battery can be costly. So, you’ll want to use your RV battery efficiently by avoiding power usage mistakes. Keep reading to explore how RV inverters work, how to use them efficiently, and good habits for maintaining your RV inverters and battery.
The Pros and Cons of Leaving Your Inverter on While Connected to an External Power Source
Leaving your inverter on while connected to an external power source is not ideal because it can drain the battery quickly. Ideally, batteries shouldn’t be drained excessively unless they’re deep cycle batteries.
The following is a quick summary of the pros and cons of leaving your inverter on while connected to your RV battery:
- When access to shore power is limited or unavailable.
- When traveling, keeping the inverter running allows the use of AC appliances in the RV.
- If disconnecting from shore power at a campground, leaving the inverter on ensures uninterrupted power for appliances during travel.
- For RVs equipped with an AC refrigerator, leaving the inverter on helps maintain cool temperatures for temperature-sensitive food items.
- In dual unit inverters (inverter-converter combination), leaving the inverter on allows the converter to charge batteries using shore power or solar panels.
- You can charge your gadgets or electrical appliances, cook meals, boil water, and more while on the go.
Reasons to Turn Off Your RV Inverter
- Inverters can drain RV batteries quickly if left on without shore power.
- Turning off the inverter saves on wear and tear, extending its life.
- Running a generator for AC power can be more efficient than using the inverter all the time.
- If you don’t have AC appliances that need constant power, shutting off the inverter saves energy.
RV Inverters Can Be a Power Vampire When Plugged In
What I mean by ‘power vampire’ is how an RV inverter can silently drain your RV battery even when unused.
Note that your RV inverter doesn’t drain your battery when it’s in use. That means when you drive around in your RV, your power inverter doesn’t drain your battery. Even when your vehicle is parked somewhere, the power inverter won’t drain your battery as long as your engine is running.
You might have experienced this or heard of a similar story in which a driver forgot to switch off their car lamps, leaving them on overnight—not closing car doors properly is another common mistake. The next day, they couldn’t start their car because their battery had been drained. To start the car, they needed to find a portable backup battery or jump starter or connect their car battery to someone else’s car battery via a jump-start cable.
A similar scenario can happen when your RV inverter drains your vehicle’s battery. Your battery might not get drained out overnight, but it’ll eventually run out if you continue to switch it on while your RV is parked somewhere, not running for some time.
An RV Inverter Channels the Energy From Your Battery
As an RV (or vehicle, in general) owner, you should know that you can’t leave your vehicle sitting in the garage for too long. If you’re not driving your vehicle for more than a week, a rule of thumb is to run the engine for 15 to 30 minutes weekly. Car batteries in good condition can usually go without charging for at least two weeks.
Suppose you decide to camp somewhere for a week. All you want to do is relax and perhaps do some online work. You’ll need all the energy necessary to power up your gadgets and those of the people you’re sharing space with (if any). Your battery must always be charged as much as possible to ensure enough power for everyone.
When Not in Use, You Must Switch Off Your RV Inverter
Some people would plug out their RV inverter and tuck it away when not in use. However, this is unnecessary.
Some people hang their power inverters on their RV walls. A rule of thumb is the power inverter must sit close to the battery. Turning your power inverter off and on should be easy if it has a fixed place or an easy-to-access location.
Whenever you don’t need to use the power inverter—meaning you’re not charging anything—switch it off. Sure, your power inverter won’t necessarily drain your battery even if you’re not charging or powering your electrical devices while the inverter’s switch is turned on.
As discussed earlier, that’s fine as long as your vehicle runs. However, the problem is when you forget to switch off your RV inverter when your vehicle stops running.
Not Switching Off Your RV Inverter Is the Same As Using Energy
If you’re not in the room and your light is switched on, that energy used is still going to your energy bill. It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re in the room using the light.
The same goes for your RV inverter and battery. Even if you’re not powering up your electrical items, your power inverter continues to operate. The energy it channels from the battery isn’t going anywhere, meaning that energy only goes to waste.
It is recommended that you develop the habit of turning off your inverter when it is no longer needed. You don’t want to return to your RV after a long walk, only to discover that your battery has died because you left your inverter on.
Turn Off Your RV Inverter When Not Using Your Deep Cycle Battery
Even if a deep cycle battery can be discharged 80% or more, that doesn’t mean you just leave your RV inverter on when plugged in. Why do that when you’re not charging or powering something? By conserving energy, your battery can last longer before it requires charging.
Your RV inverter shouldn’t be left on when plugged in if you’re not using the power inverter. Switch on your power inverter only when you need it, like charging your devices or cooking. Invest in a deep cycle battery for your RV, as it’s designed to provide power output for a long time before needing charging.