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Inverter/Chargers: Pure Sine Wave Power Inverter
Photographer and cyclist and Mac expert and software engineer Lloyd Chambers is available for consulting on general Sprinter considerations at his usual consulting rates via phone, or in person in the Palo Alto, CA area. Save yourself hours and mistakes by discussing issues up-front. More about Lloyd....
Get your batteries and alternator and regulator (the whole kit!) and Xantrex power inverters from NationsStarterAlternator.com.
A power inverter converts 12V DC current from the batteries into 120 volt AC household power.
However, when feasible and convenient, it is preferable to power devices off DC power.
Choosing an inverter
Converting DC power to AC Power can be done with a cheap inverter offering power output good for basic items. But many such inverters produce what is called modified sine wave ('malformed' would be a better term) which can make some devices buzz and hum. I even had a house fan once make a loud unhappy noise continuously from modified sine way; the motor was very unhappy. On house power, it ran perfectly, with no motor noise—night and day difference.
Instead, choose a pure sine wave inverter. A pure sine wave inverter is essential for users like me with computing equipment, or any sensitive electronic device (computers, TVs, etc). For a Sprinter van or RV with a robust battery system, that means an inverter capable of at least 2000 watts.
Xantrex Freedom XC sine wave inverter/charger 817-2080
Please see this page.
I initially purchased and installed the even more robust Xantrex Freedom 3012, but it proved much too bulky for my Sprinter van, occupying critical space under my desk, making it a non-starter.
I switched to the Xantrex Freedom XC; it’s a terrific inverter that is a much more favorable choice for a Sprinter van unless there are extreme power needs which presume extra power such as shore power or a 2nd alternator.
Xantrex / Schneider Electric Freedom 815-3012 SW 3000 watt inverter/charger
I purchased my Lithionics battery and the Xantrex 3012 pre-programmed to charge the Lithionics battery properly from Adam at NationsStarterAlternator.com. As it turned out, the Xantrex 3012 did not work out for space/bulk reasons, which is why I had to go to the Xantrex Freedom XC, discussed above.
I initially purchased and installed the Xantrex Freedom 3012, but it proved much too bulky for my Sprinter van, occupying critical space under my desk, making it a non-starter. I switched to the Xantrex Freedom XC.
The Xantrex / Schneider Electric Freedom 815-3012 SW 3000 (see also the PDF specs)delivers 3000 watts while its 815-2012 SW 2000 sibling delivers 2000 watts. Both models offer surge power to twice their wattage rating. For the 3000-watt model, that’s an incredible 6000 watts.
The price difference between the two is modest, so the Xantrex 3012 looks to be the unit of choice. While the Xantrex 2012 is capable of a steady 2000 watts, a microwave can suck down 1200 watts, so what if other devices are in use, like a toaster and a computer (even if the toaster and microwave only run for a few minutes)?
When the battery system can deliver the juice, the 3000-watt Xantrex 3012 @AMAZON for about 20% higher cost. But if the battery system is modest, then the Xantrex 3012 or its Freedom HFS 2000 should be just fine. But there are challenges with being able to support the amperage required for 3000 watts; see Planning for Voltage Losses from Cabling and Battery.
With 3000 watts continuous, the 3000-watt model could draw down to 80% the largest Lithionics battery in just over 2 hours. So if you want to run a vacuum cleaner and microwave together, you’re good to go.
For battery charging, the 2000 watt model delivers 100 charging amps and the 3000 watt model delivers 150 charging amps—superb, and a big win over the Freedom HFS 2000, which provides only 55 amps. If AC power is available (shore power), it’s a nice way to charge without having to run the engine.
Note: as of July 2017, the data sheet does not list either as compatible with lithium batteries. My information is that a firmware update may be needed for lithium battery support.
Pure sine wave inverters like the Xantrex 807-2055 Freedom HFS 2000 @AMAZON also have AC-in, so that shore power (grid power or a generator or any AC source) can be used to charge the batteries, albeit at modest amperage versus a 2nd alternator (55 amps DC is only 700 watts or so, about 1/3 to 1/5 of what a good 2nd alternator can do). Still, being able to plug in shore power and get 55 amps is a big plus, and a great way to top off batteries if that power is available.
There is an argument for separating the shore power charging feature from the inverter. I don’t buy this argument, because losing either means loss of functionality. And the unit is a high quality piece of kit; at 3000 watts it will not be working hard at all in my setup. It ought to be 'bulletproof'.
The Xantrex 3012 has a 7.75 x 13.5 x 15.25 inch squarish form factor: I thought that would fit inside well enough, but it became a problem; there was just no way to mount it without losing critical legs/feet and storage area under my desk. I swapped it out for the Xantrex XC.
See specifications below.
Programming and monitoring the inverter can be done using the Xantrex Freedom SW System Control Panel (SCP). For simple monitoring, there is the Freedom 458 Basic Remote Panel.
Xantrex / Schneider Electric Freedom 815-3012 SW 3000
The second generation 2000 watt model has been completely redesigned to include many of the same great features found in its high power counterpart. A key feature enhancement is ‘Generator Support Mode’ which enables the Freedom SW to supplement a generator¹ when AC loads exceed the generator’s capacity.
The new generation models also feature improved AC transfer/AC input detection time, providing the ability to transfer AC loads to batteries in less than 10 milliseconds when the incoming grid or generator power is lost. Connected loads are almost unable to feel the power transition due to this quick transfer time. Both models are approved to UL458 with marine supplement, CSA, ABYC and FCC, Class B requirements.
Parallel stacking enables the Freedom SW inverter/chargers to double the AC output in inverter mode. Series stacking enables the Freedom SW inverter/chargers to generate 120/240 V split phase output (AC source must be split phase, requires Stacking Cable (part# 808-9005)).
- Designed for a variety of mobile applications such as commercial, emergency and recreational vehicles, marine vessels, construction and military equipment.
- Pure sine wave output to operate sensitive electronics Advanced configuration options for customized applications*.
- Parallel and series stacking capability.
- Built-in transfer switch automatically transfers between inverter power and incoming
- AC power Power factor corrected, multi-stage charger for fast, efficient charging
- Temperature compensated charging for a variety of climate conditions
- Ignition lockout feature helps prevent unnecessary battery drain when the alternator is not providing power**
- Wide operating temperature range: -4°F to 140°F (-20°C to 60°C)
- Conformal coated circuit boards for humid environments
- Dual input / Dual output AC interface for 3000 W model
- Ability to charge batteries drained to extremely low voltage.
- Compatible with the Xantrex Automatic Generator Start*** (Part# 809-0915)
* A System Control Panel is required for all system configuration and setup
** When used with the remote panel
*** Sold separately
- Battery over-voltage and under-voltage protection
- Over-temperature shutdown
- Automatic overload protection
- Short-circuit protection
- Integrated, resettable AC breakers
Xantrex 807-2055 Freedom HFS 2000
At about half the price of its bad-boy SW 3012 and 2012 siblings (more on those below), the Xantrex 807-2055 Freedom HFS 2000 delivers 2000 watts.
Charging power: shore power (grid power or a generator or any AC source) can be used to charge the batteries. The Freedom Xantrex HFS 2000 delivers modest amperage for charging versus a 2nd alternator (55 amps DC is only 700 watts or so, about 1/3 to 1/5 of what a good 2nd alternator can do). Still, being able to plug in shore power and get 55 amps is a big plus, and a great way to top off batteries if that power is available.
I do not recommend this inverter for most Sprinter owners; it is less robust than the state of the art (as of 2017) Xantrex Freedom XC.
See specifications below.
Xantrex 807-2055 Freedom HFS 2000 Specifications
The new generation Freedom HFS is equipped with quick-connect AC terminals, ignition control capability and programmable smart battery management logic. The quick-connect AC terminal on both AC input and output enables incredibly easy installation. The ignition control feature minimizes unintended battery drain. The new Freedom HFS is designed for cold harsh winter environment with consistent performance down to -20°C.
The Freedom HFS Inverter/Charger features true sine wave output and is designed to operate sensitive electronics like entertainment systems and appliances in boats, RV’s and commercial trucks. The Freedom HFS is available in two models: 1000 watts with a 55-amp charger and a 2000 watts with a 55-amp charger.
- 1000 / 2000 watts continuous AC power
- Powerful fast charging 55 amp, 12V DC multi-stage charger
- 2X continuous power surge for demanding loads
- Cold temperature performance down to - 20°C for the harsh winter environments
- Quality, reliability and safety that meets stringent CSA and UL458 with marine supplement standard
- Configurable Ignition control that helps to minimize battery drain
- Dead battery charging down to 0V DC
- Quick connect AC terminal block for fast and reliable installation
- Detachable remote panel for convenient system status monitoring
- Programmable Smart Battery Management logic to facilitate extended battery use & life.
- Overload, over temperature, under/over voltage protection