Of all the electronic devices found in today’s RV, few are more essential than the modern inverter. This is especially true for those of us who prefer to camp off-the-grid and still work. My truck camper serves as my office when I’m away from home. Most of the office equipment I use still requires 110 volt AC power. The inverter, which converts 12 volt DC power to 110 volt AC power, allows me to efficiently run these devices no matter where I’m located. This is a review of the Go Power GP-600 Modified Sine Wave Inverter.
At this point you may be wondering, why buy and go through the hassle of installing an inverter instead of running a generator, they basically do the same thing, right? Primarily because of the noise and the deadly fumes that a generator generates. Not only that, but hauling around a large and heavy generator with a gas can takes up valuable storage space. I simply don’t have the room. For my solar-powered truck camper, I prefer to keep things clean, quiet and simple, an inverter allows me to do this.
There are basically two types of inverters that you can buy for your camper: a modified sine wave and a pure sine wave. The latter replicates what you use in your home and is the best wave form for running all types of electrical devices, including sensitive electronic devices. The high cost and large size of the pure sine wave inverter, however, makes them problematic for many truck camper owners who have very little space to mount one. Fortunately, the devices I need to run, like my laptops and my wife’s hair dryer, operate just fine on a smaller, modified sine wave inverter.
When it comes to inverters, you can buy junk or you can buy quality. The best, most efficient inverters connect directly to your batteries rather than those that connect to a 12 volt “cigarette lighter” outlet. Some inverters feature AC outlets on the unit itself, like the Go Power GP-600, while others, like the Morningstar Suresine 300, requires outlets to be wired to the unit in order for it to operate. Some of the larger, more expensive pure sine wave inverters can even tie-into your RV’s 110 volt AC electrical system via a transfer relay, thus allowing you to use your RV’s AC outlets. Five years ago, I installed one of these in my last Airstream and loved it. The highest rated inverter manufacturers include Xantrex, Magnum, Go Power, Zamp, and Outback. You can’t go wrong getting an inverter from any of these manufacturers. They’re all fine companies.
The size and wattage of the inverter that you need is based upon the loads or electrical devices you intend on using. For instance, if you need to run a 900 watt microwave, then you’ll need at least a 900 watt inverter with a high enough surge rating. For us, a power survey revealed that 600 watts would provide more than enough “juice” to power the devices we planned on using. Based upon our needs and the space constraints in our truck camper, we decided to buy a Go Power GP-600 Inverter for $60 on Amazon.com.
The Go Power GP-600 is a fine little unit. It weighs 4.6 pounds, is 11.4 inches long and 2.9 inches high. It generates a modified sine wave, with a 60 HZ frequency deviation of plus or minus 1 percent, and offers a 90 percent efficiency rating. The inverter is air-cooled, comes with overload and over thermal protection, and offers a 950 watt surge rating. More importantly, the Go Power GP-600 is easy to install, can be mounted in any direction, and comes packaged with two 8 gauge cables that are 3 feet, 4 inches long. The only things I needed to provide for the installation were four mounting screws and one class “T” 110 amp fuse to protect the inverter from shorts and overloads.
Installing an inverter is actually pretty simple. The job itself only takes about an hour. You’ll spend more time planning for the job than actually installing it. The Go Power instructions state that the inverter should be mounted no more than 10 feet from the batteries and should be mounted in a place that has sufficient air flow for cooling. These requirements eliminated any closed compartment from the mounting list because of insufficient air flow and because the inverter doesn’t have a remote operating switch. This left me with external mounting surfaces. In order to minimize current losses, I decided to mount the inverter on the opposite side of the battery compartment, a wiring distance of less than 3 feet.
Truth be told, I’m not 100 percent happy with the inverter’s mounting location. I would’ve preferred a location that was “out of sight, out of mind,” but there was no way to doing that without exposing the large, 8 gauge wires and having a wiring run that was 12 feet long. Neither option was acceptable. Often we are left with less than ideal options when it comes to projects like these. Still, this spot is easy to reach and provides a location that is centrally located in the camper.
As for the integration with the rest of the camper, I decided to keep things simple with this installation. We will use the outlets mounted on the inverter only. This means no automatic relays to access the existing AC outlets and no dedicated outlets. With the inverter’s central location, this turned out to be the best option for us. I may change things in the future, but for now this works for us.