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At Guaranty, we love RVing! We know we’re lucky—we get to spend all day every day thinking about RVs, researching the best makes and models, learning about great road trips and campgrounds, and generally keeping up on the latest RV-related trends, news and lifestyle tips. Best yet, our team of RV-enthusiast bloggers get to share all of that with you! If you’re curious about the latest and greatest in RVs and RVing, we invite you to visit the Guaranty Blog. Be sure to check back with us regularly for updates.

What's the Difference Between an Inverter and Converter

Both transform voltage, but in opposite directions. A CONverter transforms AC Voltage to DC Voltage (110V to 12V in an RV). An INverter transforms DC Voltage to AC Voltage (12V to 110V in an RV).

Converter versus Inverter: The Ultimate Transformer Battle

Okay, full disclosure, neither a converter nor an inverter will transform into a car, or a plane, or a robot. Nope, we are talking about electrical transformers and more specifically about the difference between converters and inverters. The names are so similar that the question becomes, “how will I keep them straight?” Over the years I have had many conversations with customers about their inverter that turned out to be conversations about their converter and vice versa; they had the right information but they had turned the names around. An easy way I have found to remember which is which is in the components name itself. A CONverter decreases voltage, or takes the voltage in a negative direction. When thinking about the pros and cons of an issue cons are the negative aspects. It's a bit of a stretch but a con is negative and a converter transformers voltage in a negative direction. Less of a stretch is an INverter which INcreases voltage.

RV Electrical Systems: DC and AC, Why Do I Need Both?

The simple answer is you don't. The DC (12V) system runs the vast majority of the electrical components in your RV from the lights, interior and exterior, to the water pump, to the circuit boards on the gas appliances. Your RV is designed and equipped to be used with no AC Voltage for at minimum several days before you deplete your DC Voltage; which is referred to as boondocking or dry camping. The exceptions are an RV’s air conditioner and TV, which run on AC Voltage. As RVs evolve more and more they become a second home on wheels. After all; if I can't microwave a burrito and watch the game I might as well be tent camping. Am I right? Of course I am! Excuse me, I get a little carried away but I take my comforts seriously.

Converters, Inverters, and Batteries: An RV Love Triangle

Whether we are converting or inverting the trail leads back to the batteries. A large part of the converters job is to take the incoming AC Voltage (110V), transform it to DC Voltage (12V), and then use the DC Voltage to charge the RV's house batteries. The second portion of a converter's job is to distribute the DC Voltage (12V), on separate fused legs, to the required components. This DC Voltage (12V) is sourced either from incoming AC Voltage (110V) that is transformed by the converter into DC Voltage (12V) or from the DC Voltage (12V) stored in the house batteries. The third part of the converter's job is to distribute the incoming AC Voltage (110V), through a breaker panel, to the AC Voltage appliances.

An inverter uses the existing DC Voltage (12V), transforms it into AC Voltage (110V), and then distributes that AC Voltage to either a single dedicated outlet or through a breaker panel to multiple outlets used by 110V appliances. Unless your RV is plugged into AC Voltage (110V) the power available to your RV is DC Voltage (12V). The inverter will allow you to run the AC Voltage appliances but only as long as the DC Voltage lasts. See, now we are back to the batteries.

An RV/Marine deep cycle battery is designed to charge and discharge at a slower rate than a start battery, and a deep cycle battery will recover from being fully discharged where as a start battery often will not. This slower charge and discharge rate means that consumption of the DC Voltage is also at a slower rate, with a Group 24 12Volt deep cycle battery generally lasting two to three days. As you add additional batteries you add available DC Voltage, thereby extending the ability to boondock.

Deep cycles come in multiple levels of quality and in both 12volt and 6volt. Wait, 6volt? You've been talking about DC Voltage as 12volt this whole time! Relax, two 6volt batteries wired in series will produce 12volts, and are equivalent in amp hour storage to roughly three 12volt deep cycle batteries.

This is why many RV owners choose to go with 6volt or "golf cart" batteries if they use an inverter. Like their 12volt cousins, 6volt batteries come in the traditional wet cell variety as well as sealed options in the AGM (Absorbent Glass Mat) construction or a gel cell battery. An AGM 6volt battery is the best companion to an inverter due to its life span and the maintenance-free design.

Behind Every Inverter Is A Good Battery

Think of a battery as a box of peanuts. When we demand power from the 12volt system we eat those peanuts with our best cocktail party manners, one at a time with our pinky sticking out. When we demand 110volt power from the same battery, or box of peanuts, it is as if our teenage son has invited three of his friends over and they are eating the peanuts by the handful. Whom do you think will consume the peanuts first? In simple terms the more power you demand, the more peanuts…er, power you need to supply. No matter if the demand is 12volt or 110volt. 110volt will consume the power more quickly but the rule of thumb is as your power requirements increase, so do the requirements of your battery bank.

A typical bank of batteries on RVs equipped with the larger inverter/chargers is four 6volt “golf cart” batteries. Assuming that these are the wet cell construction batteries (AGM), this bank gives you roughly 440amp hours of 12volt power. As I mentioned earlier, a 6volt AGM is maintenance- free which helps to extend its life span. They also provide a small increase in amp hours. Taking our example of four 6volt batteries, AGM’s would supply 500amp hours of 120volt power. Experts tell us we should not discharge a battery more than 50% or there is the potential to shorten the lifespan of the battery, so in actuality a 440amp hour battery bank is really only good for 220amps hours before you will need to recharge your system. Of course, adding additional batteries to the bank will increase the available amps hours, thereby increasing run time.

Consumption - Or How Do You Eat Peanuts?

No matter how many peanuts you start with, if you don’t replenish them, eventually you eat them all. No matter the size of your battery bank, if you don’t replenish them, eventually you will drain the batteries. Even the biggest RVs have storage constraints making the amount of batteries you can carry limited. So until lithium batteries become affordable for the masses, you will have to maximize the performance of the current offerings. A battery bank is better used to power smaller loads for longer periods of time rather than large loads for brief durations. In fact, heavy loads like water heaters and air conditioners are not connected to an inverter because they would quickly deplete your battery bank; sometimes in minutes depending upon the load and available amp hours.

While there are ways to charge your batteries, or replenish your DC Voltage, using DC Voltage from solar panels or the alternator of the motorhome or tow vehicle, the most common method for recharge is plugging the RV into AC Voltage. This can be an outlet at home, at the RV park, or either an on-board or portable generator. (Did you know that most generators produce DC Voltage and then invert it into AC Voltage?)

Power To The People

We spent more time discussing inverters in this article than we did converters and this is based on the difference in complexity. On the surface both seem pretty simple and straight forward: I turn something on and it gets power from the batteries. In reality, the process involved for either a converter or an inverter to transform and distribute power is quite complicated; but a converter needs less attention than an inverter. A converter gets it’s incoming power from a theoretically endless supply; plugged in to an outlet or generator, while an inverter has a limited supply; the onboard battery bank, that must be monitored relatively closely to prevent depletion of the source.

In conclusion, no matter how you dry camp always remember your Ins and Cons. A CONverter reduces voltage from 110volts to 12volts, while an INverter increases voltage from 12volts to 110volts, but it is your battery bank that determines how long your adventure lasts.

Article written by Quinn Larson, Guaranty RV Super Centers

The Best 4-Season RV's for Winter Camping, Living & Road Tripping—Part 1

If you’re like us, this summer’s RVing season didn’t last long enough. Every year as the weather turns cold, we hear from RVers who are disappointed that it’s already time to winterize and put their RV’s into storage until next spring. But there’s no denying that the rain has arrived with a vengeance in our part of Oregon and, sadly, some of our favorite RV’s, while being perfect homes from spring through early fall, just aren’t built to stand up to the kind of cold and/or wet weather that gets thrown at them in the winter months. If you’ve ever spent a hunting or skiing trip in an RV that wasn’t winter-friendly, you know how fast you’ll use up propane trying to stay warm. This blog is for those of you who are already antsy for another camping trip, or who would love to bring your home-on-wheels with you when you take that holiday road trip to see family and friends. If you’re thinking it’s time to upgrade the travel trailer, fifth wheel, camper or motorhome that has served you so well in the warm months, to a model that can serve you all year, we’re going to give you some pointers on how to choose a truly four-season RV.

This week we’re going to spend some time on what to look for in four-season and Arctic packages. Next week, we’ll give you some information on the manufacturers that rate the best for winter RVing.

Four-Season RVs and Arctic Packages

You’ll find a number of RV manufacturers who offer four-season or Arctic packages, and that is a good place to begin your search. However, as much as we’d like to say, “If it’s advertised as a four season RV, you’ll be good to go,” there is no RV industry standard for what an Arctic package is or what four-season means. One four-season model may differ significantly from another, and an RV that could serve you perfectly in a Pacific Northwest winter, might not cut the mustard in a North Dakota winter. Depending on what you need, you’ll have to do some research into the brands and models that you like best. Talk to RV experts like our knowledgeable sales staff and RV service professionals, but also remember that, in the age of the Internet, a wide array of information is available at your fingertips. Visit manufacturer websites and read about their construction methods. Peruse RV forums and see what other RVers have experienced. If you meet some snowbirds at the gas station, go make their acquaintance and see what they have to say; RVers are some of the friendliest people and you’re likely to get great feedback.

While you can’t assume that just any Arctic package is going to give you everything you need to overwinter in the frozen north, the best RV manufacturers are building some spectacularly good four-season models, and they’re improving every year. They’ve spent a lot of time talking to RVers and figuring out how to build with cold weather in mind. As interest has grown in four-season camping, we’ve seen manufacturers making huge advances in construction methods and materials, increased insulation, ducted heating systems, dual pane windows and more—all of which make these winter-friendly RV’s equally good for extremely hot weather, so it’s a win-win for those of us wanting to camp year round.

What to Look For

The most important features in a winter-friendly RV obviously all have to do with heat, whether for yourself or your plumbing. So, when you’re looking for that perfect four-season RV, there are some features that are a must.

The people who have been living in their RV’s full time, like Jason and Nikki Winn, will tell you that one key to staying cozy in your RV in the winter is to have a high capacity propane furnace, a heat pump, ducted heat and good thermostats. The propane furnace is going to be necessary in the coldest temperatures to take the chill off, but having the heat pump will be the better way to heat your RV in regard to cost savings and comfort. The ducted heat and thermostats give you more control over how even the heat is throughout your RV, which means you can pick and choose where you want the most heat at any given time. This saves you more money and enables you to prioritize your comfort.

Many modern RV’s now feature enclosed and heated basements, which does wonders for protecting your pipes and keeping your floors warmer. Alternatively, look for cold weather packages that provide heated holding and water tank pads, as well as a way to protect water and sewage lines.

Do your research regarding insulation in the ceilings, floors and walls. You want plenty of it, and you want it in the right places.

Dual pane windows will make a huge difference in your comfort. In places with rainy winters, like western Oregon, you might also want frameless windows that open out from the bottom; this allows you to get some fresh air if you need it without letting in rain. However, some people want more ventilation in the summer than frameless windows provide, so be sure to look at your options.

In a more general way, think about the plumbing layout. Is the plumbing in your cupboards against the outside wall where it can easily freeze, or is it in the basement where it’s close to the heat from the floor? Do you have easy access in case of an emergency, or is it going to be hard to get to?

We think four-season camping is the best. Seeing the beauty of winter from the comfort of your home on wheels is a perspective we wish everyone could enjoy. By putting a little time into thinking about what you need and which RV manufacturers are doing the best job of creating truly winter-friendly models, you’ll be well on your way to finding your perfect four-season RV. Next week we’re going to take a look at some of the manufacturers that we respect the most for their four-season RV’s and Arctic packages.

If you have any questions, or you’d like to walk through some of the best four-season RV’s, contact us today or come on over to Junction City.
If you would like more information about The Best 4-Season RV's for Winter Camping, Living & Road Tripping read part #2 of our blog

Photo Credit Colleen Lane

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