An Early Christmas Present -> Our New MSH3012 PSW Inverter
We’ve been scheming to upgrade our charger/inverter system for a few years now. The Magnum 2012 Modified Sine Wave charger/inverter that came with our coach worked OK, but being the geeks that we are we’ve been drooling over newer technology for a while. Thanks to a “perfect storm” combo of some new, snazzy technology, a sweet price deal and the opportunity to install it at AM Solar we now have a system which will get us into the technological new age, as well as set us up for some super-secret solar upgrades in the future.
For those not in the know chargers/inverters are devices that do two things:
- Charging = they help charge your house batteries. Basically they convert AC from shore power or a generator to DC that your house batteries can take. Pretty much all RV house batteries are deep-cycle batteries which require 3-stage charging, so the charger has to be smart enough to do this.
- Inverting/Powering = they help power your internal AC connections when you’re off in the boonies (i.e. not connected). Basically this means they invert the DC power that is stored in your house batteries to AC power that your interior appliances/electronics can run on.
The Old Debate of MSW Vs PSW
Our old model was a Modified Sine Wave (MSW) inverter which puts out a quasi-square-type form of AC power that is sometimes commonly called “dirty” power. The best type of power is a smooth sine curve, so a simplistic way to look at it is that the MSW is kind of like fitting a square plug into a round hole -> it can be done, but just not that “cleanly”. MSW runs most stuff fine, but there’s some appliances that don’t like it, and we’ve seen this in the RV over the years -> our microwave has fried a few times, batteries on computers go quicker, speakers buzz, GFI outlets buzz, motors don’t like it etc. It’s fine, but it’s just not optimal. Despite this, we’ve never been that motivated to upgrade. After all upgrading is kind of pricey, and we’ve run the past 5 years on our MSW with a lot of boondocking and few negatives. So, why bother?
Well, that’s how we felt until…..hybrid technology & lithium batteries hit the market.
Now, I should start by saying that NONE of the stuff I’m about to write about is essential to boondocking. Many folks run just fine on MSW inverters and will never need any of this fancy stuff. But it is most DEFINITELY geeky cool, and being total geeks we are drawn to this like zombies to human flesh (had to put a little Halloween reference in there, ya know). So, here’s the geek stuff:
The Coolness Of Hybrid Technology
Hybrid technology (often called “load support” or “load sharing”) is a super-cool idea. Magnum came out with its first hybrid charger in 2013 and since it’s a drop-in replacement to our old model that’s when we really started to perk up. Typical inverters take power from one source (your RV DC batteries) and convert them to AC to power your internal rig AC systems. Hybrid technology inverters are able to take power from a combination of two sources -> external AC power and/or RV DC batteries, and do the same thing. The cool feature is that you can manage or prioritize those two sources as you wish essentially “boosting” power when you need it and creating some interesting scenario’s. So, for example:
- Moochdocking boost -> When moochdocking (= driveway surfing) with friends, you can hookup to a regular house cord (the Magnum can be dialed down to a minuscule 5 Amps) and your system will manage draw between shore power & your house batteries so that you can run everything you need in your RV without tripping your friend’s circuits.
- Paid RV Park boost-> If you have solar power and you’re staying in an RV park with paid electricity you can tell the system to prioritize your RV batteries over shore power so that you minimize your electric bill.
- Generator boost -> You can carry a smaller generator and rely on the load-share feature to handle power spikes (e.g. when your air-con starts up) with your batteries when you need it.
- Tie-In to AGS -> Lastly you can tie everything into AGS (auto-start on your generator) so that if your batteries fall too low your rig will default to the generator. All you do is set your limits and the system automatically manages the rest. Coooool!
The Draw Of Lithium Batteries
There’s no doubt lithium batteries (specifically LiFePO4) are the future of RV’s. I’m not going to go through the nitty gritty details of lithium technology (Technomadia already did plenty of in-depth articles about this & I recommend you read them if you’re interested in the tech side), but I am going to tell you why we want them.
Lithium batteries are lighter (so, you can pack more amp hours into your battery compartment), they charge much, much faster (you don’t have to wait for the never-ending absorb cycle of lead-acid batteries), you can use more of them (you can draw them down to 20% rather than the meager 50% of lead acid) and…well…they’re just coooool!
The problem is they charge totally differently from regular lead-acid. Instead of a 3-stage charge cycle they only need 2-stage and the voltages are all different so this means your charger either has to support lithium or be custom programmable. We have lithium somewhere in our future, and our old charger/inverter could not handle them. The new MSH 3012 most definitely can.
Aaaand Bringing It All Together…
There’s a few other reasons the new charger/inverter is cool, but those were our biggies. The stock price for the MSH3012 is ~$2,200, but iMarine.com was selling the device for a steep discount just under $1,600. We nabbed one in Cape Blanco together with the new geeky ARC50 control panel, but hadn’t gotten around to installing either. By pure chance AM Solar had a cancellation while we were here and managed to fit us in for the install. “Awesome Aldan” was our designated guy and created brand new cabling (we needed a few thicker cables) as well as completing a meticulous and beautifully neat install (they really do provide attention to detail here at AM Solar -> drool-worthy cable stuff if you’re into that kind of thing).
So we’re now ready and upgraded for our future. Who knows what the next months will bring 🙂
P.S. If anyone is interested in a screaming deal on our former MSW2012 together with free control panel, contact us via e-mail. A MSW inverter/charger is fine for a starter system and ours is in perfect, working order. These things still sell new for ~$1,500. We’ve been happy with it for all our boondocking these past years.
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