Written By
Published Aug. 5, 2019

Owning an RV comes with its own perks and opens the door wide to adventures and hidden getaways. Nowadays, going on road trips is easy thanks to the wide array of devices and appliances that you can use to upgrade your ride. RV converters are one example of an essential unit that will power everything from fridges to LCD televisions. Charger-converter combos are your two-in-one solution when it comes to charging batteries and supplying DC power 24/7. Our guide below is the ultimate shortcut to the best converters on the market right now, so read on to find out more about their different features.

The Best RV Power Converter

Our top pick is an RV converter that caters to travelers who need a reliable source of 12V DC power. The PowerMax PM3 is built to last and is a durable product that will both charge and power your electric appliances and batteries during road trips and other fun excursions. This unit is a great pick if you are in dire need of an upgrade and includes three charging stages and fixed signal output modes. Matching your appliance needs with the right converter is incredibly important, and luckily this series offers you the choice between three versions of the same unit. The 24V, 48V and 12 Vdc – 220 Vac are three options that cater to different power requirements. You can also increase the power output by simply wiring two units in Series or Parallel and use multiple appliances simultaneously. In addition, the automatic shutdown feature in this unit is triggered in the event of an overload or a short circuit.

Key Features
  • 12V DC power unit with 3 stage charging feature
  • Cooling fan to prevent unit from overheating
  • Auto shutdown in case of overload and short circuits
  • Fixed single output modes
Specification
  • Brand PowerMax
  • Model PM3-55
  • Weight 7 pounds
PROS

Easy to install

Available in 3 different sizes

Auto shut down feature

CONS

Noisy fan

WFCO has been manufacturing durable RV components for over 40 years. Its WF-9855 55 RV power converter is versatile and very popular with users. The unit was designed to provide DC power to recreational vehicles of all sizes with a range of 35 to 75 amps. You can easily charge your batteries and keep all appliances inside your RV in tip-top shape with a steady and reliable power supply. The innovative three-stage charger is another great feature that helps contribute to the health and longevity of the batteries. Noisy fans and an overall loud unit can stand in the way of your silent getaway, and that is why this converter is equipped with a cooling fan that only works when needed. Moreover, the DC connections are easy to install and insulated. 

Key Features
  • Offers DC power ranging from 35 to 75 Amps
  • Open top design for easy, hassle-free installation
  • Built-in 3 stage charger
  • Cooling fan to prevent overheating
Specification
  • Brand WFCO
  • Model 0318.1496
  • Weight 4.3 pounds
PROS

Quiet operation

Wide Amp range

Easy to install

CONS

Unclear installation instructions

Number three on our list is the PD9260CV Inteli-Power 9200 Series from Progressive Dynamics. This RV converter charger is packed with many features that contribute to its overall safety and durability. Battery management comes in the form of a Charge Wizard that regularly checks the voltage status and makes the necessary changes automatically. This feature is accompanied by reverse battery protection and electronic current limiting. The latter decreases the voltage once maximum capacity has been reached, while reverse battery protection will save you money in the long run. Voltage spikes can also become a problem and damage expensive appliances, especially if they surpass 135 V. Luckily, this unit features high-voltage protection to stop this from happening. The 9200 Series has an auto shutdown feature that is triggered if there is not enough input voltage to power RV electronics.

Key Features
  • 60 Amp converter with reverse battery protection
  • Charge wizard manages battery and monitors voltage
  • High voltage protection in case of dangerous power surges
  • Auto shutdown feature in case of low input voltage
  • Auto thermal protection against overheating
  • Cooling fan with multiple speeds  
Specification
  • Brand Progressive International
  • Model 7 pounds
  • Weight PD9260
PROS

Charge wizard keeps tabs on the battery

Packed with protective features

Easy to install

CONS

Unit has a noisy fan

IOTA engineering has decades of experience under its belt, and its RV converter charger unit showcases its expertise and delivers clean DC power to suit your everyday needs. From powering your microwave and vent fans to charging your RV batteries, the IOTA converter is durable and easy to install. This model was designed with overheating and overload in mind and has established limits in place. This feature also applies to the battery and helps prolong its life. The current will automatically drop when the battery enters its fully charged phase. Moreover, the unit is compatible with the IOTA IQ4 charge controller. This device is ideal for RV owners who want to keep their batteries in mint condition even when their vehicle is not in use.  

Key Features
  • 12V converter charger with 55 Amp limit
  • Operates at a low temperature
  • Thermal and overload protection
  • Works well with the IOTA charge controller
Specification
  • Brand IOTA Engineering
  • Model 5 pounds
  • Weight 0318.1402
PROS

Automatic 3 step charging feature

Compatible with lead acid batteries

Limits established to prevent overheating

CONS

Cables tend to overheat

The PowerMax camper converter is a premium offering from a company with 15 years of experience when it comes to these essential RV units. The PM3 35 is easy to install and has built-in mounting flanges and an AC cord that can be connected to any regular 110/120V outlet. You also receive a stable and reliable supply of DC power during your road trip and keep the batteries charged thanks to the three-stage charger. This unit is available in three different sizes ranging from 35 amp to 100 amp. Reverse battery protection is also included in this model and so is a smart current limiting feature that shuts down the unit automatically in the event of a short circuit or power overload.

Key Features
  • 12V converter charger with built in mounting flanges
  • Includes reverse protection and current limiting features
  • Built in 3 stage charger helps preserve battery
  • Available in 35, 45, 75- and 100-Amp sizes
Specification
  • Brand PowerMax
  • Model PM3_35
  • Weight 6.9 pounds
PROS

Durable

Auto shutdown safety feature

Easy to install

CONS

Noisy cooling fan

The 4600 series converter-charger combo from Progressive Dynamics showcases its expertise at manufacturing power converters and battery charging systems. This series makes upgrading and replacing your old converter easy and hassle free. The four-stage charger helps preserve the battery and prevents the cells from overheating. The integrated wizard monitors the battery voltage and ensures efficient and safe charging as well.  The 4600 series has three models, so you can choose the size that best complements the number of appliances in your RV.

Key Features
  • Built in 4 stage charge wizard
  • Prolongs battery life and prevents overheating
  • Available in 45 Amp – 35 Amp and 55 Amp
Specification
  • Brand Progressive International
  • Model 0318.1348
  • Weight 9 pounds
PROS

Built in charge wizard

Preserves the batteries

Easy to install

CONS

Unit tends to be noisy

12V devices of all shapes and sizes can be easily and safely powered using the P.I Auto Store unit. The converter allows you to power appliances such as seat warmers and portable fridges with a maximum limit of 120W and a limited current of 15 amp. There are several features related to safety in this model, and these include overheat protection as well as voltage protection. This durable unit has an LCD screen and comes with a 110V cable that can be connected to the housing to further enhance the safety and reliability of the unit. This versatile product can also be used to power tire inflators, making it the ideal companion on RV road trips.

Key Features
  • 12V converter with 15 Amp maximum limited current
  • Built in safety features include short circuit and voltage protection
  • Includes durable 9 ft. cable that can be used with power extensions
  • Complies with ESR regulations 1994
  • Compact and can be easily transported anywhere
Specification
  • Brand P.I. AUTO STORE
  • Model HTY1210000
  • Weight 15.5 ounces
PROS

Compact

Affordable

LCD screen

CONS

Loud

Not durable enough

The WFCO converter charger is another great choice for RV owners, and it delivers 55 amps of DC power without generating any noise. This convenient silence is accompanied by many other features, including cooling fans that prevent the unit from overheating and a three-stage battery charging system. The three voltage output modes include a float mode with a 13.2 VDC range, an absorption mode with a 13.6 VDC range, and a third and final bulk charge mode. This unit has an auto shutdown feature that prevents it from working in the event of an overload. This model is also FCC Class B compliant and does not interfere with radio and television signals. Durability and safety are also present in the form of fully insulated DC connections, and the unit itself has an open-top design that makes installation easy and hassle free.

Key Features
  • 3 stage battery charging system with 55 Amp DC output
  • Silent cooling fans that only work when needed
  • Insulated DC connection for additional safety and durability
  • Easy to install open top design
Specification
  • Brand WFCO
  • Model WF8955PECB
  • Weight 8.75 pounds
PROS

Easy to install

3 stage battery charging

Silent operation

CONS

Issues with cooling fans

IOTA engineering has another unit in its premium collection, and this model is compatible with 12V lead acid as well as gel cell and absorbed glass matt batteries. The tightly controlled regulation means RV owners can run a nominal 12 VDC load up to 30 amps. The 12V battery charger is also great and allows the battery to remain in use even when its capacity decreases. Similar to other devices on this list, the IOTA DLS30 series will generate a maximum current for a limited window of time in order to reduce battery stress and prevent the cells from heating up. This makes a world of difference to the battery in the long run.

Key Features
  • 12V charger and converter
  • Ideal for lead acid, gel cell and glass matt batteries
  • Line-load regulation and low voltage tolerance
  • Limit and thermal-overload protection
Specification
  • Brand IOTA Engineering
  • Model DLS30
  • Weight 3.5 pounds
PROS

Silent operation

Clean DC output

Reverse battery protection

CONS

Signal output issues

Our final pick is the Pyle DC step down converter that allows you to power 12V appliances in RVs that normally deliver 24 Volts. The Pyle converter is versatile and decreases the voltage while increasing the current from its input to its output, and this makes it the unit of choice in surveillance, electric and automotive systems. This feature is accompanied by a constant and uninterrupted power supply of 360 Watts that can climb up to 720 Watts. This unit can be installed in your RV of choice and it is also compatible with trucks and buses as well as SUVs. Powering 12V car stereos, dashcams and other electronic devices is also possible. The Pyle converter is also incredibly convenient in terms of its compact size, and it has an 85-percent conversion efficiency as well.  

Key Features
  • 12V charger- converts 24V to 12V
  • Delivers up to 720W on a regular basis
  • Universal design can be used in SUVs, buses and in cars
  • Short circuit – overload – low voltage and high voltage protection
Specification
  • Brand Pyle
  • Model PSWNV720
  • Weight 1.32 pounds
PROS

Compact

Affordable

4-way protection

CONS

Not ideal for solar powered RVs

Best RV Power Converter Buying Guide & FAQ

Knowledge is power, and this section below is going to help you learn more about these devices, their different types and how you can install your very own converter charger unit. We will also answer some of the frequently asked questions related to converters.

power converter for rv

What to Consider When Choosing an RV Power Converter

  • Output Size

Output matters a great deal when it comes to converters and this is measured in Watts. The amount of power you need to supply the appliances you own will most definitely dictate the size of the converter you need to purchase. If you install a small unit then you risk overloading it and this mistake can be avoided by simply calculating your wattage. This can be done by crunching wattage numbers and calculating the overall consumption of all RV appliances and adding an extra 15 percent for good measure. The resulting total is the answer to your converter size question.

  • Overload Protection

Road safety is not just about wearing your seatbelt and following the rules. The quality of the devices installed within your recreational vehicle also matter. Purchasing a converter with safety features is money well spent. This includes overload protection that automatically shuts down the unit if too much current is flowing through the wires. Overload can result in fire and this is the last thing you need while traveling onboard your RV.

  • Appliances

High powered appliances such as microwaves and irons require an equally powerful converter that can supply them with clean DC power on a regular basis. Therefore, you need to make a list of the appliances you have and proceed accordingly. Coffee makers and power tools have different needs compared to smaller non-heating appliances. This translates into a higher peak rating. You need to keep this in mind when shopping for efficient, high performance units that will supply you with enough power without breaking the bank.

  • Efficiency

Energy loss can cost you money in the long run and this is the last thing you need while embarking on your annual road trip. Heat waves in summer can force you to turn on the air conditioner, resulting in additional power consumption during your journey. The best RV converters will have energy efficient features to help you cut back on excessive power consumption. These units typically produce heat during the conversion process and purchasing the right unit will help curb this energy loss. It is important to note that RV converters tend to use up battery power even when they are disconnected from RV appliances, so it is recommended to switch it off rather than letting it consume more energy in your absence.

  • Battery Power

Battery power is another important factor that you need to consider before making your purchase. You will need to make some simple calculations to determine the expected power consumption in Amps. Just divide the total power consumption in watts by ten and you will receive your answer. For example, if the total wattage amounts to 700 Watts, the expected battery power will be 60 Amps.

  • Operating Time

The battery capacity dictates the operating time of an RV converter and this is measured in Amps per hour. You also need to consider the total wattage of the appliances found in your recreational vehicle. In order to calculate a rough estimate of this operating time, you will need to divide the battery’s Ah rating by the electric current needed by the converter in order to power all appliances at the same time.

Benefits of RV Power Converters

  • Consistent Power Supply

Consistency and stability matter a great deal when it comes to powering your appliances. Laptops and television screens as well as air conditioners can be incredibly sensitive to current changes. Therefore, you need a reliable source of DC supply that will help preserve the quality of your appliances old and new. Even distribution of power is a quality you need in abundance when it comes to RV converters. This involves the DC and AC circuits installed inside your recreational vehicle. These units are basically in charge of sending out primary power from generators to the many branch circuits in a balanced manner.

  • Battery Charging

Another advantage to having a charger converter unit while traveling is being able to charge your house batteries when needed. Spending your vacations on the road is not complete without your everyday use kitchen appliances. Adequate lighting especially at night is also a must and you need a charger in order to keep the RV running like clockwork.

rv camping

Types of RV Converter Chargers

Not all RV owners have the same power consumption and vehicle size, which is why you will find different makes and models when it comes to RV converters. Knowing the difference between each one allows you to make an informed decision and makes the shopping process a lot easier.

  • Multistage Converter

This type is ideal for RV owners who are searching for a unit that can charge different batteries including lead acid batteries. These converters are on step above old fixed voltage converters that had a single stage design. Now, you have a more advanced system that is more compatible with the equally state-of-the- art recreational vehicles of today. Moreover, multistage chargers are known for their clean DC voltage output and efficient charging time. Your RV batteries will definitely reap the benefits of having this unit installed.

  • High Output Converter

This converter is ideal for RV owners who have a higher power consumption and who require a unit that will not crash and burn and leave you stranded without a converter somewhere along the highway. Durable high-power converters can deliver up to 80 – 90 amps to meet your increasing power demands while on the road. Using this type of converter can also come in handy during summer heat waves and in hot desert conditions since they can charge your batteries while preserving them at the same time.

  • Deck Mount Converter

This unit can be easily mounted on a sidewall or wherever instructed. You can install deck mount converters inside the cabin and even under any of your RV seats. Just keep in mind that you need to mount it in a location where it is possible to reroute the power supply.

  • Distribution Panel Converter

These converters are ideal for avid travelers whose factory unit is in dire need of an upgrade. This type can easily replace the old model and can also be installed in the exact same spot. Distribution panel converters have a sizable panel, are silent and reduce energy loss. They are also capable of charging batteries more efficiently compared to old noisy models.

How to Install a Power Converter in an RV

  • First, make sure that your RV is not connected to the shore power. The cord must be removed from its outlet as well. RV owners who use generators must shut them off before the installation process begins.
  • Disconnect the ground cable that belongs to the coach battery using a wrench from your toolbox.
  • Convertors dissipate heat, so you need to choose a location that allows this to happen. Make sure that there is enough room for the cooling fan to operate as well. Mount your newly purchased unit via the side holes found in the flared panels or brackets.
  • Follows the instructions concerning the electrical connection and keep in mind that the average converter has 4 terminals in total. Two are for the 110V wires coming from the shore power source and one for the coach battery hot wire and the final one is the terminal for a white 12V negative ground wire.
  • Reestablish the negative connection belonging to the coach battery.
  • Connect the RV cord to the shore power source.
  • The final step involves testing the converter and this is done using a voltage meter. Use the meter to check the output across both the DC and ground wire terminals.

Best RV Power Converter FAQ:

Q: What is an RV converter charger?

Converter charges are synonymous with supplying power to all appliances big and small inside recreational vehicles of all shapes and sizes. These devices convert 110 Volt AC power to 12Volt DC power while charging the RV batteries.

Q: How does RV converter work?

An RV converter is usually plugged into a power source such as a generator for example and this source allows it to convert AC to DC voltage efficiently and without delay. Converters also function as battery chargers in the absence of a generator so all you need to do is plug them into your RV to keep the batteries functioning normally.

Q: What size RV converter do I need?

The appliances and electronic devices found in your RV will dictate the converter size in most cases. Therefore, you need to calculate your overall power consumption and choose accordingly. Keep in mind that the unit must be able to power many appliances simultaneously without losing power or overheating and breaking down. Make sure to check the power ratings of each appliance before you make any purchasing decisions.

 Q: What is the warranty?

The average warranty period for reputable converters is somewhere between one to five years. This number is an estimate and some brands offer longer warranties than others. Therefore, it is better to read the description provided by the manufacturer before making a final decision. Serial numbers are also a must, so make sure that your newly purchased device has its own valid serial number.

Our Top Pick

PowerMax 110 Volt to 12 Volt DC Power Supply Converter

The number one converter on our list has all the essential features packed into one durable device. The PowerMax PM3 is your two in one solution for powering appliances and charging RV batteries. This unit is the ideal upgrade with three charging stages and an auto shutdown feature for safety. It is also available in three different sizes so you can easily calculate your overall power consumption and match it with your desired size.  This top-rated converter is also on the Amazon’s Choice list and has reverse battery protection as well.

rv accessories

Conclusion

Upgrading your RV camper power converter is made easy now that you have all the info you need. Just make sure to pack all your road trip essentials and do not forget to install your brand-new unit in a well ventilated and easily accessible location.

Sources:

  1. How to Install a Power Converter in an RV – It Still Runs
  2. How Auto-detecting Power Converters Work – How Stuff Works
  3. Converters Transfer switches Batteries Inverters – Progressive Dynamics Inc
  4. RV Electricity Basics – Outdoorsy

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