12V and 24V are common voltages used in mobile and off-grid DC power applications. Each has its own application but the most common is 12V. So what should you use 24V electricity for, and how do you convert 12V to 24V? Let’s explore this electrifying topic. 

What Does 12V to 24V Mean?

12V to 24V refers to the process of converting 12-volt electric power sources to 24 volts. The reverse can be done too where 24V is converted to 12V and is a more common conversion. In the common analogy for electrical systems, voltage is kind of like a pipe’s water pressure. Increasing the voltage is the equivalent of increasing the water pressure. 

When applied to RVs, your rig’s house batteries deliver 12V electricity, which you can change into 24V electricity by using a certain wiring configuration or converter device.

victron orion 12v to 24v converter

Why Would People Want a 24V System?

The primary reason to use a higher voltage system is when the batteries are being used for large power applications.

Twenty-four-volt systems offer distinct advantages over traditional 12V power. To understand them, keep the equation for calculating volts, amps, and watts in mind. When you’re considering items that use a fixed wattage, it can be expressed as amps = watts / volts. Here, you can see how increasing the voltage of your electrical system can decrease the total amps used. 

For example, a device drawing 60 watts on a 12V system will require five amps. But the same 60-watt device on a 24-amp system will only draw 2.5 amps. The energy used is the same but the current is lower which has a few significant benefits. First, it allows the use of smaller and easier to run wires. In addition, wire runs can be longer without as much voltage drop. Devices using less current run more efficiently and generate less heat.

Systems that have inverters larger than 3000 watts, or solar exceeding 2500 watts can usually benefit from running a 24V system.

Can You Convert 12V to 24V?

Yes! you can step voltage up or down for various uses. It’s possible, using your normal 12V batteries or a converter device, to convert 12V to 24V. However, keep in mind that the easiest way to achieve 24V is simply by buying a 24V battery or putting two 12V batteries in series.

12 to 24 volt converter
The Sterling Converters are a good option for converting from 12V to 24V as in charging a 24V battery bank from a 12V alternator.

How Do You Convert 24V to 12V?

Converting 24V to 12V is the most common conversion type as they are usually used for stepping down a 24V main power system to 12V for more traditional vehicle systems. To do this an electronic converter needs to be used. This converter uses electronics to efficiently change the voltage.

Using a converter to run 12V appliances is not a bad idea because it holds the voltage constant no matter what the batteries are doing and can help electronics last longer.

In a pinch, 12V can be obtained using resistors to drop the voltage but can waste up to 50% of energy converted compared to an electronic converter that runs near 98% efficiency.

octo gx, 12v to 24v converter, and mppt charge controller
The Orion box here is a 24V to 12V converter to run the 12V appliances of an RV.

Are There Cons in Going to a 24V System?

Like any equipment choice, the decision to convert your RV from 12V to 24V comes with some downsides. The biggest and most obvious is a reduced selection of appliances and devices. 12V is by far the most common power system for RVs, meaning you may have more difficulty tracking down fixtures that will work on a 24V system. 

This could potentially make unexpected repairs a significant hassle. It could also slow down or add costs to planned upgrades. Of course, it’s possible to use a 24V to 12V converter as we mentioned above. This is an easy effective way to provide 12V power as needed but get the benefits of 24V for larger power needs.

Is Going from 12V to 24V Worth It?

If you need lots of power generation and use, then a 24V system conversion is worth it. As a rule of thumb, Solar power exceeding 2500 watts or inverters exceeding 3000 watts will benefit from a 24V system. A 24V to 12V converter is almost always necessary and incurs some loss, but the added efficiency and benefit of a 24V system will exceed it.

Ultimately, you don’t need to be an electrical engineer to understand these key concepts about the different types of RV systems and how to convert 12V to 24V. Keep them in mind as you consider your power needs and whether a switch could improve your electrical situation on the road.

off-grid electrical system with a 12v to 24v converter, inverter, octo-gx, and solar charge controllers

Want To Learn More About Electrical Systems and Lithium Batteries?

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