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Induction Cooktop In A Camper Van: Why It’s A TERRIBLE Idea!

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As technology advances and battery prices continue to come down, induction cooktops for camper vans are becoming increasingly popular. This involves replacing the traditional propane stove with a compact induction cooktop and cooking meals entirely from electricity. No propane or any other type of gas required.

By switching to an all-electric stove, you can become fully energy independent and it’s a much safer option than carrying a propane tank inside your camper. Sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it?

Well…we’re not 100% sold on the idea just yet.

While using an induction stove may be beneficial for some camper van builds, we’re still not convinced of the idea that cooking with electricity is a good choice for the vast majority of us.

In fact, we still think choosing an induction stove is a terrible idea for most. Keep reading our post to learn why.

So if you’re ready, let’s get to it!

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    Best Cooking Pick
    Coleman Gas Camping Stove

    We've been using our Coleman stove for 4+ years and love it. It's efficient with gas (11lb tank lasts us 6 weeks) and easily packs away under our sink when we travel.

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
    09/16/2023 02:46 am GMT

    You'll Need a (Very) Large Battery Bank

    Large lithium battery bank to power induction cooktops

    This is the most obvious reason an induction cooktop isn’t worth it for most camper vans. The amount of electricity you will need to regularly power that electric stove on a DAILY basis is enormous. And that means you’ll need a large battery bank to provide that power.

    And if you’ve already done your battery research, then  you’ll know that batteries aren’t cheap. Especially if you plan to go with lithium (LiFePO4) batteries.

    In our camper, we have three 100 amp-hours (aH) of lithium (LiFePO4) batteries, for a total lithium battery bank size of 300aH. This is roughly the equivalent of 600aH of lead-acid (AGM) batteries.

    But even with our relatively large battery bank, we still wouldn’t consider an induction cooktop.

    Why is that???

    Let’s do the math:

    An induction cooktop, like this one, has a max output of 1800w. But let’s be conservative and say you only cook on medium heat. Therefore, you’d only be using 900w.

    Now let’s say, on an average day, you’re using the induction stove for the following times:

    • Coffee for breakfast: 5 min
    • Lunch: 15 minutes
    • Dinner: 20 minutes

    Using the equations from our battery calculator post, the induction cooktop would consume roughly 50aH every day.

    Sounds doable, right? But just remember that you still need battery power to run all your electronics, like the lights, the fan, and to charge your phone and laptop.

    To power all the electronics in our van (with no induction stove) we consume roughly 60aH of power every 24 hours. So if you add an additional 50ah for the induction cooktop, we think this is unsustainable for long term van life.

    You would, very likely, be running out of battery on a regular basis.

    By the way: Consistently draining your batteries down to 0% is a sure-fire way to kill your batteries prematurely).

    "But You Have 300aH Of Battery! Isn't That Enough?"

    If you did the math, you might realize that the 110aH we would theoretically be using with an induction stove is roughly only 37% of our total 300aH battery bank.

    Shouldn’t we be fine using an electric stove?

    In theory, yes! But there’s two assumptions that we don’t feel comfortable strictly adhering to.

    • Assumption 1: Batteries are charged back to 100% daily
    • Assumption 2: Cooktop is only used during meal times

    Below, we go into more detail about why we don’t believe you can rely on these two assumptions based on our 3+ years of van life experience.

    So keep reading below to learn more.

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    Electrical Wiring eBook For Camper Van Conversions

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    Solar Charging Is (Likely) Not Enough

    Two solar panels on a camper van

    For most of us van lifers, relying on solar panels is the primary method in which we power our electronics. But if you are planning to rely on solar to power your induction stove, we urge you to check your solar array size calculations.

    That’s because when it comes to solar sizing, calculations on paper are often overly optimistic. You don’t harvest nearly as much power from the sun as you might think.

    Three reasons why:

    1. You need perfectly sunny days, every single day.

    To harvest the amount of energy that you’ve probably calculated for your solar array, your panels will need to see nothing but the most perfectly sunny days, day after day. Is that realistic? How often do you see nothing but blue skies?

    2. Can’t camp in shaded areas

    Many of the most beautiful spots we’ve camped at (think National Parks & Forests) had at least some sort of shade cast upon our van. Shade from overhanging trees and nearby mountains is incredibly common. And if you don’t know already, even if only 5-10% of your solar panel is covered in shade, solar production can drop by as much as 50%.

    3. Winter & Rainy Seasons are detrimental

    Forget about traveling during the winter and rainy seasons where shorter days and constant cloud cover drastically reduces solar harvesting. The amount of ‘good quality’ sun that your solar panels will see will be a fraction of that during the summer.

    Non-Meals Are (Power) Costly

    Remember the example we used to determine how much daily power an induction cooktop would require? That example only considered conservative cooking times for lunch, dinner, and coffee for breakfast.

    But what if you want to use the cooktop for other things? This could include:

    • Making an extravagant pancakes & egg breakfast,
    • Having friends over for coffee
    • Toasting bread for dessert
    • Boiling water for tea during cold weather

    We’re always boiling water for tea and coffee when traveling in cold regions to help keep us and the van interior warm. So being hesitant to use an induction cooktop for the sake of saving battery is not a position we want to put ourselves in.

    You May Eat Out More ($$$)

    If your batteries do run out of power, you inevitably can’t cook with an induction stove. So, if it’s dinner time and you can’t make a hot meal, your two options are 1) eat cereal or some other cold meal or 2) pay to eat out.

    And eating out is usually one of the biggest expenses in a van life budget. It’s at least $7-10 per person per meal, and easily more.

    That’s why we don’t believe that “saving money on propane” is a realistic argument for getting an electric stove for your camper van. Eating out even just once due to induction stove problems eliminates any cost savings against propane.

    And what if you have electrical problems in your camper van? That’s zero meals you’ll be making until you can identify & fix the problem.

    Propane is Cheap!

    Living With Propane - Most dangerous camper van conversion mistake

    Propane is ridiculously cheap (if you don’t rely on those small 1lb camping bottles). We carry an 11lb tank in our van and our tanks lasts us at least 5 weeks of constant use.

    And filling our tank has never cost us more than $12. For us, that’s less than $0.35/day.

    Recommended Tank
    Flame King 11lb Propane Tank (With Pressure Gauge)

    An 11lb propane tank lasts us about 6 weeks. The 11lb 'squatty' design makes it easy to store in tight spaces. The pressure sensor is a great addition and tells us when it's time to refill the tank.

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
    09/16/2023 02:51 am GMT

    And Readily Available...

    Propane distributors are also ubiquitous. We use Google Maps and the iOverlander app to locate the nearest propane supplier near us. Finding a place to refill our tank is never a problem.

    You'll Need A Larger Inverter

    3000w Renogy inverter

    There is also a hidden cost to cooking with an induction cooktop in your camper van. And it’s that you’ll need a large inverter to power the electric stove.

    Realistically, you’ll need to invest in a 3000-watt inverter, even if you plan to run your induction stove on medium. Not only are larger inverters more expensive, but they’re also bulkier and take up more valuable space in your van.

    Need a second opinion? Sydney from ‘Divine On The Road’ also considers her induction cooktop a huge mistake.

    When An Induction Cooktop In A Camper Van Could Work

    Although we wouldn’t use an induction stove in our own camper van, we wouldn’t say we’d never use one in the future.

    In fact, we can think of 3 scenarios in which having an induction cooktop in a van could work.

    1. Abundant Shore Power

    If you plan to spend extended amounts of time with access to shore power (like at an RV park), cooking with an induction stove would absolutely work. When connected to shore power, the induction cooktop would bypass your batteries completely. So you wouldn’t need to carry such a large battery bank in your van.

    2. Large Budget For Large Batteries & Solar

    If you had the money to spend on a large battery bank and solar array, you could certainly power an induction stove. However, as a bare minimum, we think you’ll need at least 400aH of solar and 600w of solar.

    3. You're Always On the Move

    If you love driving and never spend more than a couple days at a single location, you could easily recharge your house batteries while driving. This assumes you’ve connected your van’s starting battery to your house battery bank.

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    Benefits of Induction Cooktops For Van Life

    Though it may not be our choice, going with an induction stove brings multiple benefits.

    1. Complete energy independence This assumes you’re not relying on shore power to run the cooktop. But if you can sufficiently power your induction stove from your batteries, then you may very well be completely energy independent (except for the gas/diesel to power your van). That certainly is something to brag about!
    2. Space efficient cooking solution – Portable induction stoves are relatively small and can easily be stowed away when not in use. This means countertop space is freed up when you’re not preparing meals. In our opinion, maximizing countertop space is a critical factor when designing your camper van interior.
    3. Safer Than Propane There is always a risk when traveling with a propane tank (think gas leaks). This is especially true when the propane tank is stored inside the van, like ours is. But with an electric stove, you don’t have the same level of risk. For some, this peace of mind is worth the investment for an induction stove.

    Best Induction Cooktop Models For Van Life

    If we ever felt like the time was right to move to an induction cooktop, we would have gone with this double induction cooktop. Having a double burner is so much more convenient for cooking than just a single burner. This is so that you can, for example, boil your pasta and cook the sauce at the same time.

    Ever cooked a meal on a single burner? We have and it’s FRUSTRATING!

    Popular Cooktop Model
    Duxtop Portable Induction Cooktop (1800W)

    For those with sufficient battery and a large inverter, the Duxtop Induction stove is a popular choice. It's a portable stove, allowing you to pack it away when it's not needed. It's 1800W max, but you will need a 3000W inverter to properly operate it.

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
    09/16/2023 02:25 am GMT

    But if you do go with induction. You’ll need a substantial battery bank with lithium batteries. Read our Li Time vs. Redodo lithium battery review to see which budget LiFePO4 we recommend.

    However, if we have convinced you that an induction stove just isn’t worth it for van life, then we recommend using the Coleman Triton camping stove. This is what we use.

    Best Cooking Pick
    Coleman Gas Camping Stove

    We've been using our Coleman stove for 4+ years and love it. It's efficient with gas (11lb tank lasts us 6 weeks) and easily packs away under our sink when we travel.

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
    09/16/2023 02:46 am GMT

    Just like with the induction stove above, it’s a portable unit that easily stows away when not in use. And the Triton version is thinner than the base Coleman stove model, making it even more space efficient. We’ve been using our camping stove for almost 3 years, and it still works perfectly after constant daily use.

    Enjoyed reading? Check out our “electrical system” page for more similar content.

    Conclusion: Is An Induction Cooktop Worth It For Van Life?

    In the end, only you can decide if getting an induction stove for your camper van is right for you. Everyone’s needs and requirements are different.

    But before you do decide to purchase one, it’s important to under the limitations of an induction stove as it pertains to van life and what is required to effectively power this kind of cooktop on a daily basis.

    If you found this article helpful, please let us know in the comments section below or by sending us an email on our contact page.

    Happy building!

    Thank You For Reading!

    We’re Yuko and Eric! We both grew up in Asia ( Japan & Hong Kong ), we left our jobs and homes in 2018 and started traveling full time from Canada to Argentina in our self-converted camper van since end of May 2019. “Asobo” means “Let’s play” in Japanese. We named our site “Asobolife” because the life is always uncertain and we live only once so it’s important to always keep positive, playful mind and enjoy the moment you are in the present. We also want to use this website to share our road trip and van building experiences to inspire our readers. We hope you enjoy!

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