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For many, the narrowboats aren’t just a pleasure cruise vehicle: they are a way of life.  These boats have traveled long and winding waterways for hundreds of years and can be found on nearly every continent.  

If you view your narrowboat as a way of life more than a sunny Sunday cruise machine, you’ll need to outfit your boat with the gear and devices that allow for the activities of daily living. 

And, behind these devices and machines, you’ll need to invest in the best inverter for narrowboats to ensure efficient power management on your boat.

In this article, we’ll explain what an inverter is and why you need one on your canal boat.  We’ll also demystify some of the terms and lingo surrounding inverters to make the purchasing process much more user-friendly.

What is an inverter?

Inverters are a key part of your narrowboat’s power management system.  Most narrowboats run on a 230-volt electricity grid, but you won’t want to connect household appliances to this every main. 

Inverters are engineered to convert the power from a battery and provide these appliances the necessary energy they need to run. 

With an inverter, you can enjoy the conveniences of your appliances without plugging into shoreline power or the hassle of a generator.

Inverters are necessary for narrowboats that aren’t outfitted with an onboard AC generator. 

Unless you have a generator on board, you’ll need an inverter to draw the 12v DC energy from your service battery bank and convert it to the 240v AC energy most appliances require for operation.

There are many devices that require an inverter to run unless you have an AC generator on board. 

Televisions, hair dryers, blenders, and vacuum cleaners are just a few examples of the household appliances you may want to run if you spend  long periods of time on your boat. 

For owners who spend periods of time living on their narrowboats, such as for long distance trips, these appliances and creature comforts can make your boat feel like a home.

Modified vs Pure Sine Wave inverters

There are two basic types of inverters based on the type of electrical output they generate.  Most inverters are either pure sine wave inverters or modified sine wave inverters.  

Pure sine wave inverters are built around complex electrical systems that more closely approximate your main grip power.  Less expensive and less complex. Modified sine wave inverters are also the less powerful option.

The output of an inverter influences the performance of the appliances run off this energy source. 

There are peaks and valleys produced by the size waves of each inverter, but the pure sine wave inverter creates smoother transitions between these wave points. 

The stepped platform structure of modified sine wave inverters can create a rest that does not support motors and devices that contain sensitive components such as speed controls and light dimmers.  

On the other hand, modified sine wave inverters can be the best choice if you are interested in running appliances and equipment that consume lower amounts of power and intend to run them for longer stretches at a time. 

Televisions and computers, for example, require low energy to run and may be best paired with a modified sine inverter for enhanced energy efficiency and economy.

How to choose the best inverter for your narrowboat trips

If you are new to narrowboats and preparing for your first adventures, you’ll want to make sure you have an inverter capable of meeting your power needs. 

Thinking about your power needs is an important first step towards equipping your boat for longterm comfort.

Inverters range from very small units capable of supplying energy sufficient for running a laptop computer, to very large devices capable of supplying power to run electric galleys and refrigeration systems.

Considerations when choosing your narrowboat inverter

Inverters produce a finite supply of usage energy for appliances, and this energy availability may not be sufficient for highly sensitive electric motors. 

Electronic equipment and computers require a higher-quality inverter capable of greater and more consistent load that inverters used intermittently for more traditional household appliances.

If you’re buying a fully fitted boat, an inverter may be included with your purchase.  Take some time to speak with the boat’s previous owner about the power supply and do some research into the make and model of inverter installed on your boat.  

It is important to compare your inverter and any electrical devices you plan to connect prior to plugging anything in. 

Connecting your inverter to a device that draws more wattage than your inverter is rated for is a quick way to damage both your inverter and the electrical device you’ve plugged in!

If you are looking for a system capable of running a computer, television, and microwave at the same time, you will need an inverter built to deliver 1200W of continuous power. 

Whichever model you choose, you’ll want to base your choice on peak power needs to run the most appliances that you can imagine using at one time. 

This will cover you for peak use and comfortably supply necessary energy even when you aren’t using all of your appliances at once.

Best Inverter for Narrowboat

Giandel 5000W Heavy Duty Modified Sine Wave Power Inverter 12V DC to 110V 120V AC with Remote Control and 4 AC Outlets & USB Port for RV Truck Boat

If you need a heavy duty power supply system, the Giandel 5000w may be a good option.  This is a heavy duty modified sine wave power inverter built for long term use in RVs, trucks, and for use on boats like narrowboats. 

It is built for durability and features an isolated input/output design. 

Outside housing for this device is made from aviation-grade aluminum with alloys chosen for their excellent heat dissipation properties. 

A cooling fan improves the system’s efficiency and protects internal components from heat damage as well as minimizing ambient temperature increase.

This inverter is capable of providing 5000W of continuous power and is rated for 10,000W peak power.   

It comes equipped with soft start technology and protective mechanisms that ensure the inverter works consistently, such as  polarity reverse protections and an auto-restart function.  

Giandel’s 5000w converter comes with a convenient remote control that allows you to monitor the battery level and control the system from a distance. 

This can be extra helpful when the device is installed as part of your boat’s energy grid.  

Pros:

  • Remote control with cable allows you to control the inverter from 15 feet away
  • 5000W rated with a 10,000W peak rating
  • Built with enhanced protections to provide durability and consistency

Cons:

  • Be sure to disconnect this inverter when not in use – especially if you connect it with a batter you need for other functions on your narrowboat to ensure the battery is not drained.

SUNGOLDPOWER 6000W Peak 18000W Pure Sine Wave Split Phase Power Inverter with Charger 60A,Solar Wind Power Inverters DC 48V AC Output 120V 240V Converter

If you’re looking for a pure sine wave power inverter, Sungold Power’s 6000W Pure Sine Wave Split Phase Power Inverter is a convenient option suitable for all kinds of loads because of its low frequency. 

This unit features an automatic generator start function that will start up a generator when the battery voltage gets too low, ensuring continuous power for your appliances. 

It also features an LCD display and remote control that comes with a 33 foot connection cable for convenient operation of the inverter..  

There are several options built into this unit that allow you to customize an energy solution – and to change as your energy demands and power availability changes. 

The built in liner switch creates an adjustable charging current option that allows you to adjust the max charge current from 0% up to 100%. 

This inverter is designed with AC priority. 

When An Ac current is present, the battery will charge first and the inverter will transfer the input AC to best power the load attached to it. 

If this doesn’t work for your energy plan, the Sungold POwer 6000W can be converted to a battery priority configuration because this unit is built with a DIP switch that allows you to determine the energy source the inverter works with.  

Pros:

  • Combination device includes inverter, battery charger and AC auto-transfer functions
  • Adjustable charging current setting allows you to use inverter even with small capacity battery banks
  • Auto generator start function starts up generator when battery runs low for continuous power coverage

Cons:

  • Be sure the output voltage is never connected to the AC terminal to prevent overload or damage to the unit.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is not intended as professional advice. Always contact an industry professional before using any new product.

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