Power Inverter Thingy

Bridget's being paranoid again. Just ignore her.

Yesterday’s cliffhanger:  The really cool feature of my van

Behind the bench seat in my van there’s a box attached to the wall.  It’s about half-again as big as a shoe box.  Across this box it says, “Power Inverter – 3000 watts.”  It has two places to plug in and they’re labelled 20 amps.  It also has colored lights for “battery” and other electrical-type words like “output.”  (I’m the daughter of an electrician.  Yes, I know, it is hard to believe.)  Anyway…. this box….

This is a good thing, right?

I think this means I can run stuff like a computer or fan or maybe a tv in the back of my van!  Or maybe a coffee pot!   Hmmm… very handy if I run out of propane.  Feel free to try and educate me about this mysterious box.  Will it drain my van’s battery?  I can’t imagine why it would.  That would make it useless, silly.

The other good thing about my van is the tires are brand new.  Hey, I may have to replace the transmission — it does have 108,000 miles on it — but I bought it under the assumption I will have to replace the tranny.  Hopefully not any time soon.   (I’ve always wanted to use that word tranny.  Sounds like I know automotive stuff.) 

Tow package?  No. 

That will have to be installed.  A subject for a future  post.  I’ve also got to write about simple living and getting ready for fulltiming.  Oh yes, and Why Be a Vagabond, Part 2.  So much I want to share with you….

Let me hear from you.  There should be a comments box below.  If not, click on the title under “recent posts.”



About rvsueandcrew

Fulltime nomad
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15 Responses to Power Inverter Thingy

  1. Merri says:

    Why be a vagabond part 2? Of course I’d love to hear about it. Get busy! Cheers! ~M

  2. Mick Kent says:

    A power inverter converts the vehicle 12 volts direct current (DC) to 120 volts alternating current (AC). 120 VAC is normal house power so you can run appliances from your van. It does take power from your battery so you must have the vehicle running or it will drain the battery. Many times a second battery is installed and a special connection prevents both batteries from being drained by the inverter. RV dealers know about these things better than me. Also google is your friend in these matters: try “rv power inverter connections”


    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Mick, I knew you’d come through for me! I’ll look into that 2nd battery set-up and do some more research. This may be crazy but I was wondering if this would work… When I have a solar panel installed to the roof of my van to charge the trailer batteries, also hook it up to a battery for the inverter. Yes? No? I don’t know how important that would be. Maybe I’m just complicating things.

      • Mick says:

        Hooking all the batteries together is possible but would require some large wires between the camper and trailer and a connector. I think this might not be worth the effort, but if you also put a couple solar panels on the van?
        If you will be following the sun you surely should look into solar cooking. Google again.


        • rvsueandcrew says:

          My plan is to put the solar panel(s) on the roof of the van only. Then I can park the trailer in the shade and put the van in the sun. Yes, the panel wiring to the batteries would need to be very large.

      • Gary says:

        If the trailer has batteries, it will probably have a converter (converts/changes 120vac to 12vdc to recharge the batteries) while you are plugged into shore power.

        To have solar panels on the van, you will need a charger to recharge the batteries, or an inverter/charger (changes 12vdc to 120vac). Or a generator.

        With a solar panel on the van, to charge the trailer batteries you’d need to electrically connect the van to the trailer to get the 12vdc from the van to the trailer and that will require some large diameter cable, the farther from the trailer the larger the cable required. IMO that is not feasible. I have 6 panels and 6 deep cycle AGM batteries and boondock 8+ months a year.

        The inverter in the van was probably to be able to sparingly use 120vac tools, or a coffee maker etc..

        It is a long read but you can’t find better solar advice than here;


        • rvsueandcrew says:


          You must know what you’re talking about, having boondocked over that span of time. I will have to read your post several times to have it all sink in. I don’t know why I find this topic so difficult. Anyway… Re: inverter in my van… It was used to power a computer and other office appliances because the van was used as an insurance office. Re: cord to connect solar power from the van to the converter/batteries in the trailer… I’m not questioning your advice on this…I know there is a guy who has this set-up and you’re right, he uses a wide diameter cord. He worried about the loss due to the length of the cord, but he tried it and it works for him. He said it’s a similar length of cord seen on a portable solar panel. Maybe it’s adequate because he only has a 125 watt panel and he’s only one person, low power need. ??? I’ll try to find his website again and share it here. Thanks for your concern and help. Gee, I hope you’re wrong but my instincts tell me you’re probably right.

        • rvsueandcrew says:


          I found that guy I mentioned to you who put a solar panel on the roof of his van. See what you think. He wrote on the fiberglassrv.com forum:

          More recently, last year I installed a solar panel on the roof of my Ford Aerostar minivan, which also had more than 5000 lb. tow rating but got somewhat better gas mileage, about 22 mpg without the trailer and 18 with it. After much discussion on this forum (thread found here: http://www.fiberglassrv.com/forums/f55/solar-controller-mounting-for-boler-40869.html ) , I mounted the solar panel to the van roof rack and ran the wires down the rear door seal so that it was mostly hidden, to the 7 pin van-trailer connector. I used the 12V charge terminal and the unused terminal on the trailer connector for the two wires from the solar panel. These connected on the trailer side to the positive and negative 12V inputs on the solar charge controller. The solar controller was mounted in the battery box with the battery. As a result, no wiring or panels had to be mounted on the trailer. I made up an extension cord of about 20 feet from a standard outdoor extension cord with 7 pin trailer connectors on each end which were wired only for the two wires from the solar panel. That way, when we were camping I could move the tow vehicle away from the trailer but still connect up the solar panel. Of course, the same pin arrangement could be used to connect up a portable solar panel while camping, as some people prefer.

          I should have written down his name to attach to this quote. I will edit this when I find it.

  3. Glenda Laine says:

    Hi Sue. I’m so glad to read about your adventure. After we bought our 17′ Casita LD [love it, love it, love it] in 2008, ‘home’ has never been the same. We’ve wanted to go full timing for at least 2 yrs. It took a foreclosure tho to finally push us to make that decision. It feels like ‘life’ is insisting this is what we are supposed to do now. We’re so excited about finally downsizing & moving to this new stage of our lives. I’ve had a ‘travel’ blog at http://www.CasitaEscapes.blogspot.com about our adventures since getting the Casita, but it will soon transition to the full timing adventures (& undoubtedly some misadventures). I’ve documented our modifications too on my blog (my personal passion) that hopefully will give you some ideas while you’re waiting for your ‘egg’ to hatch. We’ve always taken our dog camping (a 30# Keeshond), but will also be taking 2 cats along with us too. The idea is to follow the sun & live outside as much as possible. After this past long, deep,depressingly hard winter, we’ve planning to be somewhere warmer during the coming winters. We know this isn’t a ‘forever vacation’ nor endless travel days as we plan to work kamp & get to know an area before moving on.

    Hope to meet up with you along the way,
    ~~ Glenda ~~

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Glenda, Hi! I’ve visited your blog and found it very interesting and helpful. Great to hear you love your Casita LD. You know, I ordered mine without ever seeing the interior of any Casita. Made the decision based on the brochure and what other people said! I do hope we meet up along the way!

    • Gary says:

      Sue, I wanted solar so read about those that sell it and picked AM Solar in OR based on numerous people saying they were very good. So we trekked to OR and had the owner give us an evaluation of what we needed and opened the check book. I paid little attention to what was being done or how until work stopped and I was told they didn’t have the batteries that had been quoted, although the day before we arrived I called and asked if they had everything in stock and was told yes.

      A couple hours or so after I told him “OK, as long as you think the smaller ones will be fine, go ahead”…. I was walking around the shop and stopped to lean on a skid of batteries and all of a sudden, I’m looking at labels and there are 8 of the original (larger AH) batteries he quoted. I needed 6. I didn’t do what I now know I should have done , which was to tell him to stop, remove the smaller ones and to install the batteries he originally quoted. Mainly I didn’t do that because it would be the same as calling him a liar while he has my original batteries out along with the wiring and had installed new wire from the roof and cut holes for the monitors etc. etc., and there was no way they didn’t know they had the batteries. He had told me it might take 2-3 weeks for him to get the larger ones in, which I could not believe but when someone tells you things like that, you don’t know what he’ll do if you catch him in a lie and I knew enough about amp hours to think the smaller batteries might be fine as he said. Which has caused me to run the generator for many hours and at great expense to maintain it plus the gasoline for it.

      Anyway, the point is to not trust any dealer without having the knowledge to know what you need and how to do it or you may be taken as I was.

      • rvsueandcrew says:

        Oh, Gary, what an experience. You were “between a rock and hard place.” There’s no way of knowing whether you would have been better off speaking up about the batteries. He might have turned really mean, really fast, and your property was in his hands.

        Your last sentence is a good warning. It’s going to be difficult, because I will not be in Georgia when I get my trailer and am ready for the solar installation. See, I will drive to Texas, hook up my Casita, and head west/northwest to New Mexico, without going back to Georgia. I won’t know anyone in the area (the Southeast) who can tell me whom to avoid or whom to seek out. I’ll have to rely on the forums and helpful readers like yourself. I suppose I could throw the name of a business out into the internet and see what experiences people have had. I certainly know of a solar place in OR that I won’t go to! It makes me sick to hear what happened to you. I wonder why you were treated like that. No way to run a business.

  4. William B. Kelleher says:

    Here is a link about solar and charging batteries and inverters.
    He thinks differently than a lot of people, but it makes a lot of sense to me. ( for whatever that is worth ) LOL


    I have a 16′ Scamp

    Bill Kelleher

    Ps I would look into getting a transmission cooler installed in your van.

    • rvsueandcrew says:


      I definitely will check into handyBobsolar. Thanks to both you and Gary for posting a link for me.

      I forgot all about a transmission cooler when I found my van didn’t have a tow package. I just thought, okay, so I’ll have a hitch put on, the wiring done, brake controller, and I’m set to tow. I hope the transmission cooler isn’t too expensive…. appreciate you bringing it up though.

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