RVelectricity: Boondocking power requirements – Part 3 of 4


By Mike Sokol – RVelectricity and the No~Shock~Zone

Brought to you by CarGenerator.com 

Hurricanes and Power outages – A word from our sponsor CarGenerator  

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Hybrid Inverters are a total game changer!

While you could just move to a cabin in the woods and live totally without electric power like humanity did 100 years ago, few of us want to give up our current lifestyles. So if you want to camp without shore power from a campground pedestal or run a generator all day, there are some special technologies needed if we want to maintain our electrically charged lifestyle while off the grid. Enter the hybrid inverter – which is the topic of Part 3 of this series.

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Standard Inverter/Chargers

As you probably know, an inverter in your RV has the job of changing 12-volt DC power from your house batteries into 120-volt AC power for things like your microwave oven, residential refrigerator, and even your air conditioner (for a limited time if you do everything else correctly). And most of them are wired with some sort of internal transfer switch so that you can select if you want to run from shore/generator power, or switch over to running from your house batteries. Up to now this has been an either/or decision. You can run from shore power, or run from house batteries and the inverter.

Trojan 6-volt batteries

But the latest hybrid inverters offer a third option. How about if you could run off of mostly shore power and have your RV batteries supply the extra power needed to turn on a few more appliances, all without tripping any breakers? And how about if you could run from mostly batteries through the inverter but add in whatever shore amperage was available, then have it charge your RV batteries automatically when you have more shore power than needed?

AC Traffic Intersection

You can think of this as sort of an AC traffic intersection that allows traffic to merge at full speed. Let’s say you’re mooch-docking at a friend’s house and only have a 15-amp outlet to get power while you’re in his driveway. Maybe it’s just enough to keep your 13-amp air conditioner running (especially if you install a SoftStartRV controller). But when your residential refrigerator kicks in, that extra 5 amperes of current feeding into the on-ramp could be enough to trip that 15-amp circuit breaker from your shore power. Or you’re plugged into a 30-amp campground pedestal running your air conditioner and electric water heater, which is about 30 amps, and you want to run your microwave for a few minutes. You can do it without overloading the campground plug.

With a hybrid inverter it’s simple to set the maximum shore power amperage to maybe 14 amps, which is perfect for running just your air conditioner. Then when the refrigerator kicks in, the hybrid inverter instantly adds in the extra 4 or 5 amperes of 120-volts AC current from your house battery. Yes, it’s actually using 40 or 50 amperes of battery current at 12-volts DC, but does all the voltage boosting and frequency sync needed to run in parallel and automatically blend in shore power.

If you have a 3,000-watt hybrid inverter it could make up another 14 amps or so at 120-volts AC to allow you to run the microwave AND air conditioner at the same time from a 15-amp outlet. Wow! Now, it will begin using up your battery capacity while the microwave is running, but afterwards it will then start recharging your batteries with however much current is left over above your AC power set point. Then when your air conditioner’s compressor shuts off and it’s only drawing 4 amps for the fan, the other 10 amps of available current starts charging your RV house batteries with up to 100 amperes of 12-volts DC.

Enter the CarGenerator Hybrid Inverter

Our friends at CarGenerator will soon be supplying an affordable Hybrid Power Inverter to North America for aftermarket RV installations, something that you could do yourself if you or your electrician are used to working safely with 12-volt and 120-volt systems.

Jonathan Schloo, the inventor of CarGenerator, installed this new Hybrid Inverter in his personal RV and loves it so much they are going to private label it to bring this innovative power solution to help RV owners everywhere.

What else can it do?

Well, it’s possible to run your RV air conditioner, for example, using 1200 watts (10 amps AC) from a combination of a CarGenerator and your house batteries. Or use a 2,000-watt generator to power your RV while using up to 3,000 watts of combined 120-volt AC power. That means you can run your air conditioner AND microwave AND/OR electric coffee pot all at the same time from a 2,200-watt inverter generator. Of course, while your RV is drawing more than the 16 amps that your hybrid generator can supply continuously, your RV house batteries are making up the difference. But then they’re automatically recharged when all 16 amps of 120 volts aren’t needed immediately.

Blends in Solar Power Automatically

If you have, say, 300–500 watts of solar panels on the roof directly connected to your batteries, this power will be automatically blended in to offset the draw from your batteries.   So, for example, running a 13.5Kbtu air conditioner uses 140 amps DC, CarGenerator and your vehicle is supplying 100 amps DC, and your batteries are providing 40 amps DC of power: If you have 30-amps DC of solar coming in, you are now only removing 10 amps from your batteries! So your vehicle is supplying the lion’s share of the power needed for your air conditioner so your batteries will last much longer.

It’s like a genie in the bottle who automatically moves energy back and forth between 120-volts AC and 12-volts DC, depending on the power demands of the moment. And like any good genie, you don’t have to do a thing. Once you select the maximum current your shore power or generator can supply, you just turn your appliances on and off at will, and the hybrid inverter does the intelligent switching and blending of power.

Why am I excited?

Well, I just received a CarGenerator SL-2000 Hybrid Inverter yesterday, and it’s going to be the inverter/charger/controller for the battery-powered air conditioner experiments I’m beginning this week. By combining this CarGenerator 2,000-watt hybrid inverter with a SoftStartRV controller, Briter Products Lithium Battery, REDARC Solar DC-DC charger, and Xantrex solar panels, I should be able to run a Dometic Penguin II air conditioner from a combination of solar panels, limited 120-volt shore power, and 12-volt battery power.

Of course I’ll document everything with HRDL (my High Rate Data Logger) so we can watch the interplay of charging and makeup currents, as well as monitor the system for any dropouts or other glitches. But I have high hopes for this technology as a way to get more performance out of limited power systems.

CarGenerator Facts and Fiction

  1. No, CarGenerator™ does not use a lot of gasoline. In fact, it uses about the same amount of gasoline per hour as a portable inverter generator. A typical diesel engine idling uses 1/4 to 1/3 gallon of fuel per hour.
  2. Yes, CarGenerator™ is as quiet as any inverter generator. I’ve only done casual testing so far, but it appears that a normal vehicle at idle is quieter than any of my Honda inverter generators. I’ll publish a full study on this later.
  3. No, CarGenerator™ is not a good choice or substitute for a portable dedicated generator if you want to run your RV air conditioner continuously. To do so would require the 2,000-watt version of CarGenerator, a heavy-duty alternator in your car, and a high-idle controller. However, if you have a pair of lithium batteries and a 2,000-watt inverter in your RV, you just might be able to run your air conditioner for a few hours in the evening to cool down your bedroom before going to sleep, and then use CarGenerator to recharge your house batteries in an hour or two of running. Watch for another report on this later.

Read more or purchase a CarGenerator™ HERE

For more info on the SL-2000 Hybrid Inverter click HERE

For more info on the SL-3000 Hybrid Inverter click HERE

Brought to you by CarGenerator.com

Read Part 1 of this series HERE and Part 2 HERE.

Let’s play safe out there….

Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 50+ years in the industry. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at Amazon.com. For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.

For information on how to support RVelectricity and No~Shock~Zone articles, seminars and videos, please click the I Like Mike Campaign.


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Jonathan Schloo
3 months ago

there is zero chance of backfeeding, the hybrid inverter continously monitors the incoming AC household power and instantly shuts down and disconnects when external AC power is lost. Power is never ever backfed into the house or grid or campground etc. thanks.

4 months ago

I have one concern on using household current and the synced inverter. This would be similar to a generator connected to the house, there is the potential of back-energizing the powerline. If a lineman would open the high tension fuse on the HV transformer, this inverter could back energize the system (if it could supply the necessary current).

4 months ago
Reply to  WEB

Definitely an issue people need to be aware of. Just shut off the Main Circuit Breaker switch, so that the house is isolated from the main Power grid first, before ever connecting a generator or this inverter. Always a first step!

Jonathan Schloo
3 months ago
Reply to  WEB

there is zero chance of backfeeding, the hybrid inverter continously monitors the incoming AC household power and instantly shuts down and disconnects when external AC power is lost. Power is never ever backfed into the house or grid or campground etc. thanks.

3 months ago

Outstanding! Thank you Jonathan for all your research and engineering associated with this type of power source! It solves so many of our power needs!

4 months ago

Thanks again for this research and reporting Mike. This is exactly what I am looking into now, so for me this is timely. We look forward to your analysis and reports. (note: Yes, I have the SoftStart installed) It would be perfect to have a quiet way to utilize power during those early mornings and after quiet hour times of the day when we don’t want to disturb others.