Converter vs Inverter; 7 Differences are Well Explained Here
The terms inverter and converter may be used interchangeably, but these electrical components are very different from each other. In the converter vs inverter debate, what are the differences between them? Quite a few, and making a mistake when connecting them can damage your RV’s electrical system.
Fortunately, we’re here to explain the differences between inverters and converters and the practical impact this has for RV owners.
Here are Our Discussed 7 Differences
Difference 1: Type of Power Conversion
A converter converts alternating current to direct current. The typical converter turns 110 volt AC power to the 12 volt DC power used in RVs.
An inverter converts direct current to alternating current. This will transform 12 volt DC power into 110 volt to 120 volt AC power. This means they both transform voltage but do so in opposite directions.
The converter decreases voltage, while the inverter increases voltage.
Difference 2: The types of devices
If you’re looking at converters, you can pick from ADC (analog to digital), DAC (digital to analog) or DDC (digital to digital) converters. If you’re looking at inverters, the two main choices are square wave inverters and true/pure sine inverters.
The latter is the better choice if you have sensitive electronics like smart phones.
Difference 3: The intended applications
Converters are mostly used to convert AC to DC power for DC power grids like those found in RVs and camper trailers. They can be used to detect AM radio signals or deliver the necessary voltage for welding equipment.
Inverters are overwhelmingly used to turn DC power from a variety of sources into AC power most appliances use. For example, most inverters are used to convert solar power or other renewable power into AC power your TV, laptop or blender uses.
Inverters can serve as a backup power source. For example, they can store energy in a massive battery or capacitor in addition to regulating the DC to AC conversion. This means the inverter can continue to deliver power for several minutes after the power turns off.
Depending on the device, and inverter could serve as a de facto backup power source, keeping lights and small appliances running for hours after the sun goes down or the power grid dies.
Inverters are often built into uninterruptible power sources or UPS for exactly that reason, though it means you will have ten minutes to save your work and shut down your server if power doesn’t come back up.
Difference 4: Their downsides
The average converter has lousy current overload capacity. You can pay more for smarter systems that have better regulation of current overload protection than the cheap units that rely on mechanical regulators.
The average inverter is not good at handling motor loads and inductive AC. For example, they tend to fail to meet surge power requirements of a motor or compressor starting up.
You can offset this by only turning on one device at a time or having an inverter that is dramatically oversized compared to the base load.
Unfortunately, this adds to the cost of the system.
Difference 5: The need for them by RVers
The average RV has a 12 volt DC system that powers nearly everything, and it powers everything that is essential. For example, the RV uses 12 volt power for the lights, the smoke detector, the water pump and the sump pump.
You can live without AC power or a converter to get AC power as long as you don’t want to run fancy electronics or plug-in-the-wall appliances. For RV owners, a power converter is a convenience, not a necessity.
If you have a power inverter and live in a RV, it is either as an emergency backup to a generator, a supplement for a generator, or a power source for AC appliances. The only exception is the air conditioner and TV.
For some, these appliances count as necessities, and you must have a charged inverter to make them work. RV TVs are simply smaller, less power intensive versions of the screens that sit in your home.
Difference 6: Their relationship to the house batteries and each other
The converter’s job converts incoming 110 AC voltage like shore power and converting it to DC power to recharge house batteries. In these systems, the converter will also send 12 volt DC power to various parts of the RV.
The converter may convert incoming AC voltage to DC power while sending it to the breaker panel. And it is at this point the power flow may hit an inverter to convert the power back to AC power for your air conditioner and other AC voltage appliances.
Conversely, you can disconnect various parts of the RV power grid. Then you can use the shore power through a converter to charge house batteries and just plug in the TV or air conditioner into shore power.
If you’re going to use batteries in conjunction with an inverter, 6 volt batteries are actually better than 12 volt batteries. This is because they require less maintenance and charge faster while still being able to generate 12 volt power.
Difference 7: the system level differences
Inverters are unidirectional. They can only convert power from source to load. Converters can convert power from source to load or load to source.
Furthermore, converters can convert power from one voltage/current level to another. That’s the very reason why DC to DC converters exist.
Inverters and converters may both be connected to your RV’s electrical system, but they have their own unique weaknesses, strengths and functions. That is why you should not make the mistake of confusing one for the other and blowing up your RV’s power panel.