What is the Difference Between an Inverter and a Converter


Question


What is the difference between an INVERTER and a CONVERTER?

Submitted via email


Answer


A converter is basically a battery charger that is connected to the distribution center either as an “all in one” unit or a separate unit in newer rigs. 120-volt power comes into the rig from the shoreline cord either plugged into the campground source, or by generator. That power goes to the distribution center just like your home and powers 120-volt appliances such as the air conditioners, outlets, refrigerator on AC, and other appliances. These all have circuit breakers in the distribution center. One of the circuits sends 120-volt power to the converter which is a battery charger connected to the house batteries.

An inverter is a separate component that is usually placed in an underfloor location and will take 12-volt power from the house batteries and provide 120-volt power to appliances. Smaller inverters can be found in the entertainment center for the TV/DVD player. Larger ones will have 2000 + watts to power the refrigerator on 120-volt power and other appliances. These will also typically replace the converter as they have multi-stage chargers like the Freedom 2000, some from Xantrex, and others.

Hope this helps!

Related video: How To Use An RV Inverter

You might also be interested in:
RV Power Converter Troubleshooting
Essential Guide To 120-Volt Power Converters For RVs

Do you have an RV repair question you’d like answered by an expert? Email your question to editor@rvrepairclub.com or reach out to us on Facebook.

Please note: questions may be edited for clarity and relevance.


Pre-Trip Checklist
Discussion
  • (will not be published)
  • If your questions pertains to a specific component or appliance, please fill out the info below:

48 Responses to “What is the Difference Between an Inverter and a Converter”
  1. John Olsen
    John Olsen

    RV Make: Fleetwood, RV Model: Bounder, RV Year: 1999

    White water tank where are the shut off valves to keep the water in?

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hey John,

      Great question! I would be happy to submit this to our team of experts for their input, but I do need some additional info from you.

      What is the year/make/model of your RV?
      What is the year/make/model of your water tank?

      If you have any questions or concerns, please chat, email or call us at 1-855-706-3536.

      Best,
      Madeline
      RV Repair Club Video Membership

      Reply
  2. Milton Brehmer
    Milton Brehmer

    RV Make: Keystone , RV Model: 3950br, RV Year: 2018

    While watch tv last evening it started going on and off. Then it finally stayed off and the refrigerator, fan and my recliner. I don’t know what connects all these things.

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hey Milton!

      That’s a great question. I would be happy to submit this to our team of experts, but I need more info first:

      What is the year/make/model of your RV?

      If you have any questions or concerns, please chat, email or call us at 1-855-706-3536.

      Thanks!
      Madeline
      RV Repair Club Video Membership

      Reply
  3. jerryj joyce
    jerryj joyce

    RV Make: Fleetwood, RV Model: American tradition , RV Year: 2000, Brand: Fleetwood , Model Number: American tradition

    Tried to start my coach, waited for the dash lights to disappear. Turned on the ignition switch to start and nothing happened. I remembered the switch at the rear was off. I left the ignition on and went to the rear of the coach to turn that switch on. After I turned the switch on I heard something trying to start. Not knowing what was happening I turned the rear switch off. I then went back to the front and turned the ignition switch off. I went back to the rear & turned that switch on and then went to the front and tried to start the motorhome. All the dash lightrs came on & closed. The vehicle was in park with the brakes on. The diesel genererator started OK. When I turned the ignition switch to start there was nothing. It made no attempt to start.

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hello Jerry,

      Here is the response for our expert:

      It is possible there might be a blown fuse but if the switches and everything are in the proper position it could be the starter as well. It is possible there is something wrong with the switch as well. Really the only way to know is to remove the switch and test for continuity between the terminals. You said the lights went out on the dash, could it be a low battery issue? You might have the battery selector switch in the wrong position or it is possible the starting battery doesn’t have the load capacity to start as well. Most likely the issue you have is an electrical one as opposed to a single component but tracing it could be difficult. The best thing to start with is double checking and making sure everything is in the proper position and setting and make sure the battery is fully charged with clean terminals. After that you want to check the fuses for the chassis and then test the switches. I hope this helps narrow it down!

      Sincerely,

      Dan
      RV Repair Club Technical Expert

      Reply
  4. Gordy Smith
    Gordy Smith

    RV Make: Fleetwood, RV Model: Discovery, RV Year: 2013

    Do you have to remove the ceiling to change roof top AC units

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hello Gordy,

      Thank you for your patience while I asked the expert, here is the reply:

      No, thankfully they are fairly easy to do. It depends on what type of AC unit you have but there are typically two ways of removing the AC. If you have the standard AC with the vent and return air filter in the center of the ceiling you should be able to remove the vent cover to gain access to everything. With the cover fully removed you should see the wiring for the AC control panel and it needs to be unplugged. You then need to look at the 4 corners for 5/16″ hex bolts. These are the bolts that hold the AC to the roof. Remove them and the AC will be free to take off of the roof. If you have a low profile AC unit and your return air filter are on the sides of the ceiling and not in the center, all of this is done on the roof. Remove the shroud of the AC and look for screws or bolts holding it into place, there will be four and can sometimes be hard to find but they are there. Once they are removed you can tilt the AC on its side and disconnect the wiring and then remove the unit from the roof. Taking the AC unit on and off the roof is the hardest part about replacing them. I hope this helps!

      Sincerely,
      Dan

      RV Repair Club Technical Expert

      Reply
  5. Don Colicchio
    Don Colicchio

    RV Make: Keystone Springdale, RV Model: 38FL, RV Year: 2020

    When I empty my Black tank, on the panel , senor reads 1 light indicating empty. When I treat my Black tank using the GEO METHOD…mix Boraxo, dawn dishwater soap, Calgon and pinesol and mix with Warm water with 1 gallon of toilet water and add my orange treatment. When I go to the panel, it will read 2 or 3 lights. Are the chemicals giving me a false reading? Not sure why it is reading 3/4 the full .

    Can you explain?

    Thank you
    Don Colicchio
    Member of RV Repair Club
    (814) 440-4499
    Erie, PA 16510

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hello Don,

      Thank you for contacting us. I’m sorry for the inconvenience but can you resubmit your question and include the make, model and the year of the RV. The experts will need that information in order to assist.

      If you have any other concerns, please contact us at 1-855-706-3536, or chat with us on our site.

      We greatly appreciate your business!

      Sincerely,

      Joan
      RV Repair Club Video Membership

      Reply
  6. David Blanton
    David Blanton

    RV Make: Surveyor, RV Model: Forest River, RV Year: 2015, Brand: Legend, Model Number: 252RBLE

    Got my new RV home plugged it into a 30 amp outlet made for an RV and my inside breaker bid started to smoke. Any ideas, and is something ruined?

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Anytime there is smoke that is not good. That is from heat build up which is usually caused by a loose connection. Typically the damage is confined to just that area but you should inspect everything else as well. There could be an issue with the outlet you are plugged into, the shore cord or the wiring at the breaker itself. This can be dangerous so it is important to check over the wiring of the system and make sure nothing else was damaged.

      Sincerely,

      Dan
      RV Repair Club Technical Expert

      Reply
  7. Heather Wilson
    Heather Wilson

    RV Make: toyota, RV Model: coaster , RV Year: 1993

    Hi can you do a video on how to replace the bailey channel in my sliding g windows on my bus.
    How to take the windiws and channel out along with the windows and how to replace them thank you in advance. Heather

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hello Heather!

      I will forward this to our content team as feedback for future creations!

      Thank you!

      Jessica
      RV Repair Club Video Membership

      Reply
  8. Dallas Engel
    Dallas Engel

    RV Make: Holiday Rambler, RV Model: Endeavor le, RV Year: 1996

    where is the best place for an inverter on my HR thinking of a 2000 watt, will the batteries handle that?

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      You want the inverter in a storage compartment close to the batteries. The inverter wattage just tells you what wattage it can use up to so it is important to know how much wattage is needed for what you are trying to operate. The batteries can handle any wattage, the more wattage just means the batteries will drain faster. It depends on what you want the inverter to run and how much wattage you will need to operate that component.

      Sincerely,

      Dan
      RV Repair Club Technical Expert

      Reply
  9. Dorene Bevins
    Dorene Bevins

    RV Make: Lance, RV Model: 1020, RV Year: 2000, Brand: Dometic, Model Number: Royal 3 way

    My eyebrow will not light up, so I can’t turn on or off. 5amp was blown, replaced, 3 weeks later still good. Could the electric panel behind on switch need replacing?

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hi Dorene. Yes these panels fail and if the fuse is now good, most likely the panel will need replaced. I would first make sure you have voltage just to be sure but if there is voltage to the fridge, the panel most likely needs replaced.
      Thanks
      Dan-RV Repair Club

      Reply
  10. Steve Wilton
    Steve Wilton

    RV Make: Forest river, RV Model: Sunseeker 31ft, RV Year: 2007, Brand: Guardian RV GENERATOR, Model Number: Quietpact 40g

    I have a guardian RV generator is a 3600 watt units the model is a quiet pact 40g.

    I am new to rving and new to this rig had it out for my first week and ran into troubles with the generator

    I could get it started I gave it time to get warm up and then I added stuff like my AC etc

    after a few more minutes it would shut down

    There’s oil in the machine there’s more than a quarter tank of fuel in your RV

    it would be difficult to start requiring me to fire the vehicle backup does anybody know what’s causing it to not continually to run.

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hi Steve!
      There are a few things that can cause this. It can be a clogged fuel filter, the quality of fuel, clogged air filter, old oil, clogged spark arrestor or varnish build up inside the carburetor. Most of the time a good tune up helps, changing the oil and filters and cleaning out the arrestor is the best place to start. If that still doesn’t help cleaning out the carburetor is the next thing to do. It is best to have a professional do this if you don’t have experience with it yourself as it has many small parts and gaskets that need to be cleaned and put back together.
      Sincerely,
      Dan RV Repair Club Technical Expert

      Reply
  11. Mike Brooke
    Mike Brooke

    RV Make: National, RV Model: Seabreeze, RV Year: 2000, Brand: bcc, Model Number: 111979

    Please help..

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hello Mike!

      How can we help?

      Thanks!

      Jessica
      RV Repair Club Video Membership

      Reply
  12. Obadiah Israel
    Obadiah Israel

    RV Make: Georgie Boy, RV Model: Cruise Air II, RV Year: 1989

    I am totally new to fulltime RVing. I am renovating a 1989 Georgie Boy Cruuse Air II and I need to know where is a good online source for ordering. Appreciate the help

    Reply
  13. Alex Sumeri
    Alex Sumeri

    RV Make: Fleetwood , RV Model: Bounder , RV Year: 1991

    How can one empty old gasoline from the tank?

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hi Alex,

      Thank you for reaching out. Looks like your question has been submit.

      Sincerely,

      Shelley
      RV Repair Club Video Membership

      Reply
  14. COLETTE
    COLETTE

    RV Make: Forest River, RV Model: GeoPro17Pr, RV Year: 2018, Brand: Suburban, Model Number: NT-16SQ-NT-20SQ

    The furnace refuses to stay lit, when I turn the thermostat on it doesn’t engage the heat from the propane so I am thinking that The internal light is out? I know not to light anything, I was just wondering is it something You/I can fix? Thanks

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hello Colette,

      Great question! I will need more information from you. Please resubmit your question and include the year, make and model of your RV? Also the make of the furnace.

      Sincerely,

      Joan
      RV Repair Club Video Membership

      Reply
  15. Peter Bartlett
    Peter Bartlett

    RV Make: Tiffin , RV Model: Allegro , RV Year: 88

    The RV has been in storage since 1996 and I just purchased it and I cannot figure out how to get the 12 volt system to work

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hi Peter,

      Great question! I will need additional information from you to get your question answered. What is the year, make and model of your RV.

      If you have further questions, please chat, email or call Customer Service at 1-855-706-3536.

      Sincerely,

      Shelley
      RV Repair Club Video Membership

      Reply
  16. Peter Bartlett
    Peter Bartlett

    RV Make: Tiffin , RV Model: Allegro , RV Year: 88

    Where is the converter on the 88 Allegro?

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hello Peter,

      I unfortunately don’t have access to schematics so I can’t give you an exact location. The converter is usually behind the main power distribution center, most of the time it has to be pulled out to gain access unless there is another access point to that area. The converter connects to a breaker and also to the fuse panel so the best way to find the converter is to trace the wires from there to its location.

      Sincerely,
      Dan, RV Repair Club Technical Expert

      Reply
  17. Calvin Hogg
    Calvin Hogg

    RV Make: Durango gold , RV Model: 38FL, RV Year: 2016, Brand: Wfco , Model Number: Fp-01

    Had to change my converter which had no fan but my
    Trailer is wired like a house to the converter woth fan now everything is acting crazy.you can’t get the WFCO FP-01 now it gives you regular style 60 amp converter I stead when you look it up. Need help as my washing machine is now burnt up and not sure what’s going on .

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hi Calvin. There are two different style converters, open converters which will look like a computer circuit board with a lot of components on it and usually has a fan and then there are closed converters which are just a solid box with a vent on one side. These are both the same just one has a housing. Typically the open converters attach to the housing of the distribution center itself, usually slid into the bottom or side. The closed converters are usually installed on the rear of the power center as they are larger systems and better to be isolated rather than attached. All converters attach to a breaker on the 120v side and then have wires that connect to the fuse panel to power the 12v system. If you have an open converter you can replace it with a closed model, you will just have to make room for it elsewhere. You also have to make sure you are connecting the wires to the proper places as there are 120v wiring and 12v wiring. The model you provided WFCO FP-01 is not a model number. WFCO is a manufacture but they use a series number, 3000, 5000, 8900, 9000 etc. The FP-01 just means what filler plate was used for the breaker space. You will need to find the series number to find the correct converter for the system. As for the washing machine, these work off of 120v and not the 12v system so the converter doesn’t come into play when operating a washing machine. If a different converter was installed then there could be an issue with the wiring if it damaged components. Make sure to check the wiring diagrams and connections to make sure everything is correct.
      Dan
      RV Repair Club

      Reply
  18. Joseph Jablonski
    Joseph Jablonski

    RV Make: Thor, RV Model: Hurricane, RV Year: 2010, Brand: Fridge DC power

    Ticket# 35404 I’m replacing my factory fridge/freezer with a 120 vac 1 amp 6 cu ft New unit. The 12 vdc power to my fridge measures only 7 vdc, but I have 12 vdc at the Batteries and coming into the converter. What should I look at for the only 7 vdc coming in at the refrigerator? What size inverter do you recommend from my fixed 12 vdc to the fridge?

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hello Joseph,

      Thank you for contacting us. Here is the experts response:

      If there are only 7vdc at the wires to the fridge then there is a loose connection in the wiring or the fuse panel is only putting out 7vdc. I would start at the fuse panel and test the voltage there as well to make sure it is at least 12v. If it is then you have to trace the wiring to the fridge, see what else is on that circuit and check all connections. Somewhere there is a voltage loss. If the fuse panel reads low but the battery reads good, make sure you have good connections at the battery and to the panel. Is the old fridge you are removing 12v only? Typically they are controlled by 12v but operate off of either propane or electric (120v). Most of the time there should be an outlet to plug the new fridge into. If you don’t have an outlet then yes you would need an inverter. Since the amp draw of the new fridge is low you would technically only need a 200w inverter to be fine. It can be larger, it will only use what is needed
      https://www.rvrepairclub.com/article/what-is-the-diff…-and-a-converter/

      Sincerely,

      Dan
      RV Repair Club Technical Expert

      Reply
  19. Deborah Fennell
    Deborah Fennell

    RV Make: Forest river, RV Model: Coachmen ds, RV Year: 2020

    My rear driver side jack won’t retract

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hi Deborah,

      Thank you for contacting us. Please resubmit the question with the make, model and the year of the RV. This is something the experts will need in order to help.

      If you have any other concerns, please contact us at 1-855-706-3536, or chat with us on our site.

      We greatly appreciate your business!

      Sincerely,

      Ayan
      RV Repair Club Video Membership

      Reply
  20. David Dorsey
    David Dorsey

    RV Make: Fleetwood, RV Model: Discovery, RV Year: 2005, Model Number: 39J

    When storing for and extended period of time on a gravel pad should i let down the stabilizers or just leave the weight on the tires?

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hi David! To get the best possible answer for you from our experts can I please have you send over the year, make, and model of your RV?
      We’ll be glad to help further when we here back.

      Sincerely,
      Codi
      RV Repair Club Video Membership

      Reply
  21. Tim Ketchum
    Tim Ketchum

    RV Make: Winnebago, RV Model: Vista, RV Year: 2009

    Does the engine alternator also charge the deep cycle batteries when you are driving down the road? Thanks

    Reply
  22. John Bolen
    John Bolen

    RV Make: COACHMAN, RV Model: CHAPARRAL, RV Year: 2020, Brand: WF, Model Number: WF-5110R

    I HAVE TWO 110V CABLES COMING OUT OF MY INVERTER. ONE GOES TO MY RESIDENTIAL FRIDGE, BUT THE OTHER ONE I CAN NOT DETERMINE WHERE IT GOES. IVE TURNED OFF THE SHORE POWER AND CHECKED EVERY OUTLET TO SEE IF IT FEEDS ANY OUTLET, BUT DOES NOT SHOW UP ANYWHERE. HOW CAN I TRACE THE AC LINE COMING FROM MY INVERTER?

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hi John,
      Here is what our expert had to say:
      That is actually going to go to the breaker at the main power distribution center. This is so when on shore power the inverter is connected to the breaker for protection as the inverter is also a charger for the batteries as well. The fridge will also go off of this breaker when on shore power. The inverter will not power anything else, only the fridge.

      Sincerely,
      Dan RV Repair Club Technical Expert

      Reply
  23. Marc McDougan
    Marc McDougan

    RV Make: Forest River, RV Model: 350DS, RV Year: 2007, Brand: Georgetown, Model Number: 350DS

    I have a Generac Guardian 6500 generator and I’m looking for some advise and guidance on how to fix the transfer switch. Can someone help please.

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hi Marc. The transfer switch has levers and relays to switch between the power sources. There might be some components that can be replaced inside of the transfer switch but most of the time if the switch is faulty it is best to replace with a new transfer switch. If you could give me some more information on what is wrong with it I might be able to help tell you what can be done but like I said, most of the time the transfer switch would need replaced if faulty. You want to make sure it has good connection and voltage from the sources before replacing anything though. If the generator is not sending proper voltage the transfer switch might not activate and allow voltage through.
      Dan
      RV Repair Club

      Reply
  24. David Tinsley
    David Tinsley

    RV Make: Keystone, RV Model: 295re, RV Year: 2011, Brand: Suburban , Model Number: Sf30f

    I’ve had the furnace out and replaced the sail switch…. now the wall mount thermostat won’t turn furnace on……

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hello David,

      Thank you for contacting us.

      What is the year, make, and model of your RV?

      If you have any other concerns, please contact us at 1-855-706-3536, or chat with us on our site.

      We greatly appreciate your business!

      Sincerely,

      Lindsay
      RV Repair Club Video Membership

      Reply
  25. Allan Vannan
    Allan Vannan

    RV Make: Fleetwood, RV Model: Southwind, RV Year: 1998, Brand: Dometic, Model Number: RM3862

    Ticket 36625 The converter in my rig is a Inteli Power 9100 according to the owners manual. I bought unit second hand last year and all in excellent shape. From all that I’ve read it appears that the converter supplies power to the fridge when plugged into 120v , but can’t find literature on how the fridge will run when travelling. The fridge has a 2 way control panel that only allows for “auto”, which allows for the 120v operation when plugged in, or LP gas. Apparently older fridges had a 3 way system that allowed for adequate fridge operation when travelling. From what I’ve read the newer fridges (after early 90’s) are only 2way. Question: How can the fridge work if the converter only supplies 120v elec power when plugged in not when travelling? If the LP gas is shut off when travelling (legal purposes), how can the fridge be kept cold? There is a 3000w inverter, but it only supplies the one 120v coach plug outlet for small appliances (blender, coffee pot, etc.). There is also solar that keeps the batteries charged up. If no 120v from converter to fridge when travelling, can I run an extension cord from inverter to fridge compartment plug box for 120v power when travelling?

    Neil

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hi Neil,

      It looks like your question was submitted via Customer Support email, we have sent an answer to your question to your personal email, I will also copy the expert’s response here:

      In the USA there is actually no law against driving with open LP containers. There are certain areas like tunnels, on ferry’s and at gas stations where it is not allowed but technically you will not get into trouble running the fridge in gas. It is not recommended by most mainly because of the open LP containers. If you were to run over a stick or rock and it kicks up and hits the gas line and opens it you would have constantly leaking gas. The same could be on the inside as well. If a fitting came loose during travel and leaked gas inside you wouldn’t know and it could create a dangerous situation. I know many people that do run the fridge on gas during travel but many don’t recommend it. For your fridge this is really the only option. When RV’s come with an inverter to run the fridge it is because they have a residential 120v fridge, not an RV fridge. The inverter allows them to keep it cold during travel. There used to be more 3 way fridges but these were smaller fridges. These are still found in pop up and truck campers but are not regularly found in most RV’s. It is hard to run the larger fridges off of battery power because it requires a lot of DC voltage. The larger fridges would be tough to keep cool and still have a strong battery when getting to the destination. For your fridge, if you were set it to auto it goes off of the main power supply. When plugged into shore it will run on electric. If there is a power loss or you unplug it will go to gas to keep it running. When you restore power it will switch back to electric. It will not run on battery. You do have an inverter that can be used to power an outlet but it will not work the fridge how it is setup. You could find a way to connect the power cord from the fridge to your current inverter to run the fridge on electric while traveling. This would make it work and you don’t have to use gas to operate while traveling, it would be much safer. If you are only traveling a few hours away you really don’t need to run the fridge. Dave and others have tested this and the fridge only goes up a few degrees after 4 hours. This is if you get the fridge cold the day before and have everything inside cold. The fridges are well insulated and as long as your door seals are good and have a lot of cold items in the fridge it will stay cold during travel from place to place. If you drive more than 10 hours then it might be worth looking into something to keep the fridge running but really it isn’t that necessary.
      Sincerely, Dan RV Repair Club Technical Expert

      Let us know if other questions come up!
      Sincerely,
      Codi
      RV Repair Club Video Membership

      Reply