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Should you install a campervan induction hob?

Should you install a campervan induction hob?

When converting a van, lots of people consider installing an induction hob as their campervan cooker. And why wouldn’t you? You can rely purely on solar as a free source of energy, induction hobs are pretty cheap, and you don’t need to worry about where to fill up.

However, what many people don’t realise is just how much power an induction hob uses, even when cooking for a short amount of time. Since we started our business designing campervan electrical systems, we’ve had countless people asking to include an induction hob as their campervan cooker.

That’s why we decided to write this article, to explain exactly how much power an induction hob uses, and whether or not it’s viable to install one in a campervan.

Contents

A beautiful example of induction in a van from the guys at Peachwood Co

How much power does a campervan induction hob use?

First, it’s useful to do the maths to explain exactly how much power a campervan induction hob uses. A ‘lower wattage’ camper induction hob has a maximum wattage of around 1500W-2000W. Some campervan and motorhome manufacturers such as Thetford and Sterling make induction hobs ‘so say’ specifically designed for use in a campervan. The Sterling Power IH1 single ring induction hob has a maximum wattage of 1500W, and the Thetford Topline 902 double ring induction hob has a maximum wattage of 2300W.

Sterling Power IH1 single ring induction hob

Thetford Topline 902 double ring induction hob

If you’re considering installing a domestic induction hob, a 4 ring hob can boast a whopping 6400W rating, more than double the largest 12V inverter available, so you’re best opting for a low wattage model if you do go down the campervan induction route.

We’ll calculate the power required to power a camper induction hob based on two use cases: use case 1 is someone with low usage, and use case 2 is someone with usage more similar to how you would use your hob at home. For both use cases, we’ll calculate the total watt hours needed to power the induction hob, and from that we can derive the total amp hours used. We’ll base the calculations on a single ring 1500W hob.

Use case 1 – low usage

Breakfast

Boil a pan of water for tea/coffee – 1 ring on high heat for 5 mins (where high heat = 1500W)

5 ÷ 60 = 0.083 hours

1 ring x 0.083 hours x 1500W = 124.5Wh ÷ 12V = 10.5Ah

Lunch

Sandwich – no stove required

Dinner

Basic pasta meal – 1 ring on medium heat for 20 mins (where medium heat = 1000W)

20 ÷ 60 = 0.33 hours

1 ring x 0.33 hours x 1000W = 330Wh ÷ 12V = 27.5Ah

Total power used

10.5Ah + 27.5Ah = 38Ah per day

Whether you’re cooking dinner or just making a coffee, you need a reliable method of cooking in your campervan

Use case 2 – ‘normal’ usage

Breakfast

Boil a pan of water for tea/coffee – 1 ring on high heat for 5 mins (where high heat = 1500W)

5 ÷ 60 = 0.083 hours

1 ring x 0.083 hours x 1500W = 124.5Wh ÷ 12V = 10.5Ah

Porridge – 1 ring on medium heat for 5 mins (where medium heat = 1000W)

5 ÷ 60 = 0.083 hours

1 ring x 0.083 hours x 1000W = 83Wh ÷ 12V = 7Ah

Lunch

Tin of soup – 1 ring on high heat for 5 mins (where high heat = 1500W)

5 ÷ 60 = 0.083 hours

1 ring x 0.083 hours x 1500W = 124.5Wh ÷ 12V = 10.5Ah

Dinner

Curry with tofu, vegetables & rice – 1 ring on medium heat for 20 mins & 30 mins (where medium heat = 1000W)

(20 + 30) ÷ 60 = 0.83 hours

1 ring x 0.83 hours x 1000W = 830Wh ÷ 12V = 69Ah

Total power used

10.5Ah + 7Ah + 10.5Ah + 69Ah = 97Ah per day

Wattage vs cooking time

You may think that you can simply install a lower wattage induction hob, or cook on a lower wattage to use less power. However, this is not the case. If you cook on a lower wattage, it will simply take longer to cook.

When boiling 1 litre of water on a 1800W induction hob, at the max 1800W setting it will take 4 minutes to boil, whereas on 50% heat at 900W it will take 8 minutes. This shows that it’s not a case of just using a lower setting, you ultimately need to use the setting required to adequately cook the meal you are preparing.

graph showing time to boil 1 litre of water using an induction hob in a campervan

Using a campervan induction hob on hookup vs off-grid

So now that we know how much power an induction hob in a campervan uses, we can see if it’s possible to install one as part of your electrical system. Ultimately, much of this will depend on how you plan on using your campervan. Whether you will spend your time mainly on campsites or fully off-grid will have a massive impact on your system.

For those who will exclusively use campsites, it almost doesn’t matter how much power you use (within reason). When you’re connected to a campsite hookup, your power comes directly from the campsite power supply rather than your leisure batteries. This means that you have an almost endless supply of power whilst plugged into hookup.

The caveat to make here is that campsites have hookups rated to 16A, so you will only be able to access a maximum wattage of 16A x 230V = 3680W. If you use any more than this, you will trip the campsite post (i.e. blow the fuse inside the hookup) and likely get charged by the campsite to turn this back on. Therefore, even if you plan on spending all of your time on campsites, you should ensure that your total power usage doesn’t exceed ~3000W.

However, if you plan on spending your time split between campsites and off-grid, or even fully off-grid, then you’ll need to ensure that your system has enough battery capacity and a big enough inverter to power your induction hob for a few days.

So what electrical system do you require to run a campervan induction hob?

We usually recommend to everyone spending time off-grid that they have a battery bank big enough to give them at least 3 full days of power usage without charging, as this allows for days of poor weather and little driving (i.e. no charging via solar or using the alternator). Obviously this will vary massively based on your other non-cooking power usage, but so we have something to work with, we’ll base it on an average daily power usage of 60Ah (2x phones, 1x laptop, fridge, spotlights, water pump, diesel heater, WiFi router, speaker).

If you want to spend time off-grid in your campervan, you will need a high spec electrical system in order to power an induction hob

It’s also important to explain at this point why you can’t use AGM to power an induction hob. Although it is technically possible, you will encounter something called the Peukert Effect. This means that as you increase the discharge current (i.e. you discharge the battery quicker due to a high wattage appliance such as an induction hob), the battery capacity also decreases. This is because the battery capacity specified by a manufacturer is the C20.

The C20 indicates the power a battery can deliver continuously for 20 hours (i.e. after 20 hours, a 200Ah battery would have 0Ah of charge left). So for a 200Ah battery, a 10A load would take 20 hours to discharge it. This means that if you put a load larger than 10A through a 200Ah battery, for example a 20A load, it wouldn’t take 10 hours to discharge it, it would actually take much less than this.

We recognise that this is quite confusing, however what it ultimately means is that you should only use lithium if you’re installing in induction hob, as if you install an AGM battery bank, you will be accessing much less capacity than the advertised Ah rating of your battery.

Calculating system requirements

Use case 1 – low usage

🔋 Battery capacity

If you have low usage and you’re using 38Ah per day to cook, you will have a total power usage of:

60Ah + 38Ah = 98Ah per day

graph showing daily campervan usage using a campervan induction hob with low usage

For 3 days off-grid, this would mean you would need:

3 days x 98Ah = 294Ah usable capacity

For a lithium battery bank with 95% usable capacity:

294Ah ÷ 0.95 = 310Ah lithium battery bank required

⚡ Inverter

Depending on the induction hob you install and your other appliances, you would also need to install either a 2000W or 3000W inverter.

☀️ Solar & charging

To recharge a battery bank around 300Ah, you would likely need around 300W-400W solar, depending on if you would occasionally spend time on campsites (and subsequently connected to hookup to recharge), or if you would be fully off-grid.

Total system cost

The total cost of an electrical system with this spec would be around £4,800-£6,600.

Use case 2 – ‘normal’ usage

🔋 Battery capacity

If you have low usage and you’re using 97Ah per day to cook, you will have a total power usage of:

60Ah + 38Ah = 157Ah per day

graph showing daily campervan usage using a campervan induction hob with normal usage

For 3 days off-grid, this would mean you would need:

3 days x 157Ah = 471Ah usable capacity

For a lithium battery bank with 95% usable capacity:

471Ah ÷ 0.95 = 496Ah lithium battery bank required

⚡ Inverter

Depending on the induction hob you install and your other appliances, you would also need to install either a 2000W or 3000W inverter.

☀️ Solar & charging

To recharge a battery bank around 500Ah, you would likely need around 400W-600W solar, depending on if you would occasionally spend time on campsites (and subsequently connected to hookup to recharge), or if you would be fully off-grid.

Total system cost

The total cost of an electrical system with this spec would be around £6,400-£8,600.

victron energy campervan electrical system climbingvan nomadic energy

A large lithium battery bank, a large solar array and a high rated inverter are all required to run an induction hob in a campervan

Of course, these values are fairly loose, as there are a lot of factors that affect total system cost. For someone living in their van full-time completely off-grid with other high wattage appliances such as a hairdryer, the total system cost could be higher again.

Equally, someone with much lower power usage, only using their van for weekends away and recharging at a campsite every couple of days, the cost of the system could be lower. These costs are meant to just give an indication of the cost of installing an induction hob in your campervan.

If you do want to install induction in your campervan, we can help you design an electrical system with suitable requirements for your power usage:

Induction hobs vs LPG hobs in a campervan

To give some context, we wanted to provide a comparison with cooking on gas. Although many are worried about installing gas in their campervan, provided it’s done correctly, it is completely safe. LPG can be a cheap fuel source that you can use to cook on, as well as heat water and your campervan.

If you’re worried about installing an LPG system yourself, you can pay a professional to do this for you. The cost of this is around £800-£1,000.

Filling a 25L underslung gas tank costs around £15 and lasts for around 3 months based on full-time usage for both cooking and as a heating source.

So, from a purely financial point of view, a gas campervan cooker is certainly the cheaper option, as your requirements for your electrical system will be much lower.

The other benefit of LPG is that once your gas tank is full, it lasts for many months. So you won’t need to closely monitor your battery level each time you want to cook, but can instead cook whatever you fancy, whether that’s a tin of soup or a big roast dinner.

The downsides of cooking on gas are that it can be harder to fill up when you’re on the continent, and this is the reason that some people want to install induction. We’ve been living in our van full-time for the past 7 months travelling around Europe and we haven’t had any issues filling up in France, Switzerland or Spain with a set of simple adapters. However, it is something to be aware of depending on where you’ll be travelling.

Induction hobs can also be the more sustainable option if you’re able to charge purely from solar. However, most people won’t rely fully on solar to charge, and will also use the vehicle’s alternator whilst they drive, or shore power – neither of which are that eco friendly!

We spoke to Will and Ceri from tothemountainsandback who have an induction hob in their van to find out their thoughts on using electricity to cook in a campervan.

Ceri and Will (@tothemountainsnback) opted to install induction in their van, whereas we went for a domestic gas hob in our own build

I (Ceri) was determined from the beginning we weren’t having gas so after looking into all the options available, we decided induction was the best solution. A few people thought this was crazy, especially as we travel a lot in winter for skiing, so solar isn’t always easy to come by. It definitely uses a lot of power but it’s manageable as long as you have a good electrical system. It’s also vital to have multiple charging options - we can charge via solar, from the van engine whilst driving and shore power. We drive most days as this is the kind of travel we prefer which works well for keeping our battery topped up. If we want to stay somewhere for more than a couple of days, we would need to plug in unless there’s plenty of solar. We’re huge fans and despite the above cons we’ll definitely install induction again if we ever do another van conversion!

Using induction in a campervan – the verdict

Ultimately, most people are going to sit in the use case 2 – ‘normal’ usage when it comes to cooking in a campervan, and therefore will need a very high spec electrical system to run an induction hob. It is totally possible to run induction in a van, but it just means you will end up spending a lot of money on your electrical system, and you will need to always be aware of your power usage.

If you’re cooking on induction, we’d recommend that you regularly check the state of charge of your batteries. If you have the Victron Smart Shunt or the Victron Smart Battery Monitor, you can check your state of charge via the app which is really handy. By checking the level of your batteries before and after you use your hob, you can see exactly how much power you’re using each time you cook a meal.

If your state of charge is getting low, you will need to either plug into hookup, go for a drive, or opt for an uncooked meal until your batteries have recharged sufficiently.

If you can afford the high spec electrical system required to run an induction hob and you’re aware of its limitations, then it is ultimately possible. However, for most people, it’s likely that gas will be the better option for your campervan cooker.

Thanks for reading, if you have any questions feel free to drop us a message on here or via Instagram!  

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