What is Induction?
Induction uses magnetic fields to heat your pan directly, while electric or propane cookers create an indirect, external heat to cook. To work, the cookware must be made of or include magnetic material, such as cast iron, magnetic stainless steel, or some ceramic pots with an iron bottom.
We couldn’t find very much information on van dwellers using induction hobs/cooktops, but it was a must-have for us for a number of reasons:
- Safety – there’s no risk of gas leaks or combustion with induction, and there are no open flames to burn yourself on. It also turns itself off when the magnetic cookware is not touching it.
- Efficiency – cooks your food and boils water much quicker, even on a medium setting, than propane or electric cooktops.
- Convenience – one less thing we have to actively fill up (water, diesel). As long as the batteries are sufficiently charged, we can cook.
- Temperature control – using propane to cook inside the van heats the whole thing up, which can get really uncomfortable in the summer. Induction doesn’t create an external heat while cooking (heat is only transferred to the cookware) and can used indoors more often, especially when it’s buggy out.
- Weight – removes the need to carry a large propane tank that can add around 20 lb to the van
- Inexpensive – Induction hobs can be found for between $50-100, we use one by Duxtop
How to install?
To connect an induction hob to your van’s solar system, you’ll need:
- A powerful Inverter
- We use a Power TechOn 1500W Pure Sine Inverter, While the induction hob technically goes up to 1800 watts, we don’t intend to ever use it on its highest setting. Even when in an apartment, we use it on a medium setting because of how quickly it cooks. In the van, we use a max setting of 5, equivalent to 1200 watts. The 1500W inverter gives us a little wiggle room.
- Inverter switch
- Generally comes with the inverter. It allows you to switch the inverter off when not in use to conserve power.
- Solar batteries
- We use two Vmaxtanks AGM Deep Cycle 125Ah Batteries (250Ah altogether, but 125Ah at 50% draw for AGM batteries). Total usage is around 45 minutes a day, which is the time where the induction is switched on and actively cooking food. This is excluding time it takes to cut, wash, or otherwise prep the food. It would use around 75 Ah/day, which would be the highest draw of any appliance in the van.
Item Watt’s Voltage Hours per day Ah (W/V*Hr) Induction Hob 1200 12 0.75 75
- Extension outlet
- This is optional but it helps with accessibility. Since we have our inverter mounted under the bed, and don’t want to reach down to plug in the induction hob, we use an extension outlet that is stored near our van’s kitchen countertop.
To see the nitty gritty details about how this is hooked up and for more info on our solar set up, check out our post titled “Van Build: Straightforward Guide to Solar Power”
Is it worth it?
Adsolutely – the benefits definitely outweigh the extra installation work and cost (with the larger inverter and batteries). That cost will also be recouped since cooking is fully renewable now and we don’t have to pay for propane. We would do it again if we ever build a second van, and recommend it to friends who have vans.
How has it been working?
10/10 – no complaints on the cooktop for all the reasons explained above. Admittedly, propane cookers are cheap, readily available, and less complicated to set up. But they’re also clunky, less safe, and less efficient.
What would we do differently?
We’ve been considering adding an alternator, so that our solar batteries can recharge while we’re driving, giving us that extra boost on rainy/overcast days. This would also enable us to cook for longer periods if there are meals that call for that. Since we’re traveling in the summer, and normally live in California, it’s not an immediate need for us, but would be a good option for anyone traveling in places with less sunny weather.