Inverter Upgrade: Xantrex 3000-watt Pure Sine Wave

TheRVgeeks Electrical, Updates & Upgrades 19 Comments

Our RV’s original inverter/charger has been acting up a bit lately. So when Xantrex asked us if we’d be willing to test out one of their Freedom series Pure Sine Wave models, we said “Sure!”

Since we’d had a trouble-free experience with a Xantrex inverter in our first RV, and they’re now included as standard equipment on top-of-the-line Newmar coaches, it’s not like we were concerned about installing some unknown brand. Far from it.

Since this job involves a little heavy lifting, some minor modifications to the original installation… and electricity, we didn’t make this a step-by-step “How To” video. We just covered a few of the high points. This job is probably best tackled by fairly confident, experienced DIY RVers who most likely don’t need our help anyway. It’s not that it’s particularly difficult, but when electric power is involved, an extra level of care is warranted.

We’re only a week in, but so far, we’re really pleased with the results of our inverter/charger upgrade. We’ll be reporting back with an update, along with the installation of the optional AGS (Automatic Generator Start) system in an upcoming video.


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Comments 19

  1. Hello, Did you have to upgrade your battery cables and fuse rating? I was told that if I went from a 2000 watt IC to a 2800 IC I need to upgrade the cables and fuse. Cables needed to be at least 0004. Any thoughts on this?

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Dick,

      Since our RV came from the factory with a 2,800W inverter-charger (IC), all of our cables & fuses were appropriately sized already. Going to a 3,000W IC wasn’t that big of a jump. But if your RV has a 2,000W IC, it likely has smaller cabling and fuses. So we’d suspect they’d need to be upgraded. If in doubt, check the installation instructions for your new IC… it will most likely include minimum requirements for the cables & fuse so that you’ll know for sure.

      Hope this helps!

  2. Although this is an old post, I have the same inverter and lifelines. I would appreciate it if you posted the setting for lifelines. Xantrex documentation regarding programming the scp is lacking. Thanks

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Robert,

      Seems like the more high-tech something is, the smaller the documentation that comes with it! LOL!

      The System Control Panel (SCP) manual is fairly generic… showing you HOW to change things, not what to change. Check out the Owner’s Manual for the Freedom SW (PDF available here) for some more detail about the settings you can change… and what you can change them to.

      The settings we changed on our Freedom SW Inverter (made using the SCP) were to the battery type… switching it from one of the preset default options (“Flooded”, “Gel” or “AGM”) to “Custom” so that we could configure all of the charging voltages to match Lifeline’s recommendations.

      This isn’t a complete step-by-step instructional… but should be enough to get you through the process of changing your settings (double-check with Lifeline for your batteries to be sure the voltages we’re listing are the same for yours):

      1. From the main screen on the SCP, press the “Enter” button to access the “Menu”
      2. Use the arrows to scroll down to your Freedom SW Inverter Charger (ours is listed as “FSW3012 00”) and once highlighted, press the “Enter” button to access it’s settings
      3. While viewing the settings for the Freedom SW, use the arrow keys to scroll down. If you see an option for “Advanced Settings”, highlight it and press “Enter”… if you don’t, you need to enable access to the “Advanced Settings” by pressing the following three keys simultaneously: “Enter” + the Up arrow + the Down arrow… then press the down arrow again to highlight “Advanced Settings” and press “Enter” to access it.
      4. Select the “Charger Settings” option and press the “Enter” button
      5. Select the “Battery Type” option and press the “Enter” button to start editing the setting… use the arrow keys to scroll until “Custom” is displaying and then press the “Enter” button
      6. Once “Custom” has been set as the battery type, scroll to and select the “Custom Settings” option. You should now see the list of options you can customize for the “Custom” battery settings:
        • “Eqlz Support” — “Enabled”
        • “Eqlz Voltage” — 15.5V
        • “Bulk Voltage” — 14.3V
        • “Absorb Voltage” — 14.3V
        • “Float Voltage” — 13.3V
        • “BattTempComp” — -27mV/C (this was the default as we recall… and didn’t change it)

      Page 58 of the above-linked PDF for the Freedom SW 3012 Owner’s Manual lists out the charge profiles of the three pre-set options available for “Battery Type” (with “Bulk” voltage being the same as “Absorption” voltage). You may be able to just set the “Battery Type” to “AGM” if your Lifeline batteries require a close enough voltage profile that it will work for you (Lifeline changes their recommendations over time).

      Hope this helps!

    1. Post
      Author

      Craigslist WAS indeed our plan…. sold it on Craigs a few months ago. The guy who bought it lives on an island off the Canadian coast, totally off the grid, and needed more power from his battery bank. He came across on the ferry just to meet us in Vancouver to buy it. Sorry if you were looking for it.

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  4. Guys, as always, I love to see MY 2005 Mountain Aire 4304 enhanced (vicariously) through YOUR efforts! Well, we still subsist on the original Magnum 2012 inverter/charger. I assume it’s modified sine wave since our microwave grumbles to beat the band when we try to run it off the inverter at a truck stop for lunch, for example. I hope I’m not slowly bludgeoning it to death by doing so. We currently don’t do a lot of dry camping, although are anxious to try it. We’re still early in our full time RV experience (nine months downrange).

    I’ve popped my puny little 30A breaker a few times ON the inverter/charger when just running a couple of high draw appliances (e.g., a space heater and the microwave) even though this is a 50A coach. We’re now successfully avoiding that annoyance. Does your new invert/charge unit have a 50A breaker (please!)? Also, someone told us about “full passthrough” and I believe I heard or saw that word somewhere in your video or narrative. Can you help a green noob understand what that means too?

    Thanks, you guys. You do indeed “rock”!

    Gene

    1. Post
      Author

      Hey Gene… it’s our pleasure to demonstrate these things for our fellow Mountain Aire owners! And you are correct… your Magnum 2012 inverter is modified sine wave (MSW). It’s not unusual for devices (like your microwave) to sound different when running on MSW power, but we would assume that Newmar chose units that would be alright being powered that way (plus the fact that it has lasted this long indicates that it has handled it OK this whole time).

      And while it’s true that your coach is 50A… your inverter isn’t. A Magnum 2000W inverter provides 16.7A of power (2000 watts divided by 120V = 16.66666667A). So, in all likelihood, the breaker(s) mounted on the inverter are actually 20A capacity (to handle the surge capacity of the inverter), not 30A. Our Xantrex SW3012 has a 30A breaker on it (3000 watts divided by 120V = 25A, again with surge capacity on the 30A breaker). And your inverter doesn’t really NEED to be 50A, since they don’t power everything in your coach. In Newmar’s installation, the inverter only power the outlets, not the larger amp-draw devices (like air conditioners, water heater, block heater, washer/dryer, etc). Which is good! Those power-hungry devices would drain your battery bank in just a few minutes if they were! 😳

      Running a 1,500W electric heater probably pulls around 12-13 amps through the circuit. And if you then fire up the microwave, you could easily pull another 13-15 amps. So you could be pulling as much as 28 amps of power, just from those two devices… way exceeding the 20A breaker built into the inverter. The fact that it pops is a good thing… it’s protecting you from drawing too much power through a circuit that wasn’t designed to handle it.

      Over time, repeatedly popping the inverter’s circuit breaker could have weakened the breaker… which just makes it more susceptible to popping when it nears it’s maximum capacity. You could have the breaker replaced, but we’d also recommend that you always be aware of your loads on the inverter, and make sure you keep them below that threshold (which it sounds like you’ve been doing) by turning the space heater off before running the microwave.

      Finally, we haven’t heard the term “FULL pass-through” in relation to an inverter (Basement storage? YES! Inverters? No!). Both the Magnum AND the Xantrex have an AC pass-through feature. What that means is that they allow 120V power from the shore connection (or the generator) to pass through them to the circuits connected to the inverter, so that when one of those two sources of power are available, the inverter doesn’t need to be on for you to have power at those outlets. If they DIDN’T offer pass-through of the AC power, your inverter would be the ONLY way to get 120V power to those outlets… which would mean that when you were plugged into shore power (or when running the generator) your inverter would still be pulling power OUT of the batteries to power the outlets… and you’d have to turn it off to stop that… which would mean you wouldn’t have power at those outlets any more.

      Upgrading to a larger inverter would eliminate a lot of the concern about popping the breaker (but not all… again, you’d need to make sure you don’t pull more power through the inverter’s circuit breaker than it can handle). And upgrading to a pure sine wave model would most likely improve the sound of your microwave when it’s running. But if you don’t NEED the extra power, and you’ve adjusted to what your microwave sounds like when running on the inverter, there’s really no need.

      Hope this helps! Maybe we’ll see you somewhere out on the road.

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  8. Ok guys, once again you’ve grazed an issue I have been very curious about for a while without directly addressing it!😊 Until recently (great trips to Sequoia NP and Yosemite NP) we have had very little experience dry camping or boondocking for extended periods of time and would like you to do a “dry camping 101” session on maximizing battery life with a standard setup RV.
    At both Sequoia and Yosemite they had generator hours that allowed us to keep the batteries charged, but, like you, wanted to run the generator the minimum amount necessary. With a typical solar panel, battery bank, lights appliances, etc., how can a typical dry camper maximize their potential?
    One specific question from my recent dry camping experience has to do with accurately determining your battery condition. My Newmar has 3 different ways to measure battery condition, Xantrex inverter control panel, Intellitec battery disconnect panel and the Newmar control panel that shows battery, fresh water, grey water, black water and LPG. Often I would get sizable different readings on battery condition from these three meters. Which do you trust more?
    Thanks for your great information!

    1. Post
      Author

      Hey Peter! Yosemite & Sequoia are fantastic…. both in our Top 5 National Parks. But solar panels aren’t likely to be as useful in either of those places due to the forested settings. So that leave even those of us with solar panels in the same boat: running the generator more than we’d like.

      Here’s some things you can do to reduce generator usage: Install LED lighting to reduce demand; cook using propane instead of the microwave; when possible, choose an RV fridge (propane/electric) instead of a residential one (the single biggest power hog); go the bed earlier to reduce need for lighting after sunset; increase battery bank size if you have the space for it; combine tasks (if you need to run the genny to charge batteries, maybe do it when you also need power for other tasks, such as on a hot afternoon when A/C is also needed, or when prepping that occasional microwave dinner).

      As far as getting the most accurate battery reading, the Newmar panel with the tank readings is the absolute LEAST useful method. We NEVER use that. The Xantrex reading should be the most accurate, as long as it’s not currently under heavy load or charging the batteries. During those times, the batteries are not “at rest” so they show lower (under heavy load) or higher (while being charged) than they actually are.

      1. “As far as getting the most accurate battery reading, the Newmar panel with the tank readings is the absolute LEAST useful method.”

        Watched another video and learned another gem of information.

        I’m still reading up on everything this new-to-us RV has, including about the Magnum MS Series Pure Sine Wave Inverter. Interestingly I found the Remote Control; it was not installed upstairs but sitting on a basement shelf near the inverter! So obviously the previous owner relied on the Newmar panel.

        But this coach has 1830 watts of solar panels and the previous owner also said he seldom used the generator. He advised that the solar set up was ‘fine tuned’ by a solar person and he’s never had to tinker with it.

        So, because “everything is automatic”, perhaps the previous owner also never had the desire to install the inverter remote control. I’m thinking I would like to be able to see exactly how the batteries are doing so installing that remote will be done sooner rather than later.

        One quick question: did you really lift that new inverter up on the first try without pinching any fingers or parts of your hands?

        Thanks again for another informative video.

        1. Post
          Author

          1830 watts of solar! Whoa! That’s a lot. Since the Magnum panel wasn’t installed, we’re guessing that the rig did not come with it from the factory? Either way, your biggest challenge might be running the wire from the basement up into the RV. We’ve done that a few times, and that’s why we were so glad that Xantrex had those two adapter cables. It can be a real hunt to find a good route.

          If your RV DID originally come with that inverter, and they moved the control panel to the basement for some reason when the RV was modified, you might want to look in your control panel for the end of a 4-wire cable (like a telephone jack). If it’s already run, it will save you a headache.

          And yes, that inverter did indeed go up there in one shot, exactly as shown (hence the high-five as our immediate reaction LOL). It was the part of the job I was the most worried about since I didn’t want to get my face or chest crushed, so I guess the adrenaline was flowing through these scrawny arms. ;-)

          1. I think that the inverter and Magnum panel are OEM but, since there are two “Newmar” information panels installed that already show the battery/charger/shore power information, perhaps they (Newmar) thought enough was enough.

            Besides, according to some paperwork I found, this RV was shipped with 16 remotes. (YES 16!) Perhaps Newmar thought just the entertainment system would take months to figure out and so the Magnum inverter panel was deemed superfluous.

            Going to love showing you this RV.

          2. Post
            Author

            We’re just warning you in advance that if you let us near that King Aire, we may have no choice but to hit you over the head and abscond with it. Just sayin’ ;-)

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