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Induction Cooktop in a Camper Van: Is It Really Worth It?

Installing an induction cooktop in a van conversion was unthinkable in the not-too-distant past. Nobody recommended it because electric stoves demanded too much power. You would need a complicated and expensive electrical system to regularly power a cooktop daily. Although it wasn’t preferable, cooking with natural gas, like propane, was the only realistic solution.

However, as technology advances and battery prices decline, induction cooktops for van conversions are becoming increasingly viable and popular. But do we think induction stoves are best for most camper vans?

It MIGHT be, depending on your situation. We’re not entirely sold yet.

In this post, we want to discuss whether induction cooktops are worth it for van conversions, what kind of electrical system you will need to support an electric stove, and which cooktop solutions we ultimately recommend. Let’s get to it.

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Why Induction Cooking In A Van Is Tricky

Cooking a single meal in a camper van with an induction stove isn’t hard because one meal alone doesn’t require that much power. What makes induction cooking difficult is having enough power to operate the stove for multiple meals a day, every single day.

Yes, you need to have a sufficient amount of batteries to run the induction hob. But you also need a strong battery recharging solution to ensure the batteries receive enough charge to power the cooktop again the following day.

And then again the next day. And then the next day after that.

So, to make induction cooking in a van viable on a daily basis, it’s essential to install a robust battery charging solution. We discuss in greater detail our recommended minimum electrical requirements further down in this post, but for now, the important takeaway is that it’s not just about the battery size. It’s also about being able to replenish those batteries each day.

Pros & Cons Of Induction Cooktops For Vans

Couple cooking in a camper van
Cooking together in our camper van

We’re not entirely sold on using induction cooktops in a van. But we know that having these hobs in van conversions is becoming more popular. While there are benefits, such as energy independence and safety, substantial issues exist. Below, we list the pros and cons of relying on induction cooktops for van life.

Pros

  • Energy independence: Cooking using your own electricity increases your self-sufficiency. You aren’t dependent on buying natural gas from suppliers.
  • Clean energy: Relying on electricity to cook is environmentally friendlier and cleaner than relying on burning propane or other fossil fuels.
  • Safer than gas: Unlike cooking with gas, induction stoves don’t require storing combustible, pressurized tanks inside or around your van. Propane can also leak out from the tank while you sleep if the valve isn’t closed properly, which is a suffocation hazard.
  • Better for your health: Cooking with propane lowers indoor air quality by emitting nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which, if not properly vented out, has been linked to lung irritation and asthma. This does not happen with induction cooking.
  • No reoccurring costs: Once you’ve invested in an electrical system, the ongoing cooking costs are minimal. Cooking with gas requires regular propane fill-ups.

Cons

  • High initial cost: Induction stoves are power-hungry devices that require a substantial electrical system, which includes a big battery bank, large solar panels, and a powerful inverter. This won’t be cheap to build.
  • No power = no cooking: If your batteries aren’t sufficiently recharged throughout the day, you won’t have power to cook.
  • Electrical malfunction = no cooking: If just one of the many components in the electrical system breaks, you won’t have power to cook.
  • Other unforeseen costs
    • Eating out more: You may eat out if caught in a situation with no power and no way to recharge (e.g., consecutive cloudy days). And eating one restaurant meal can negate 1-2 months of propane expenses.
    • Greater wear and tear on the electrical system: Induction cooktops require lots of watts for substantial periods of time. This can shorten the lifespan of your inverter and batteries and force you to replace them earlier, costing you additional money.

How Much Power Do Induction Cooktops Use?

Seven lithium 12-volt batteries.
Lots of battery power will be required to power an inverter

We always hear that cooking with induction stoves requires substantial energy. But how much power is needed depends on several factors, including what you’re cooking and how often you’re cooking. We’ll discuss these factors in this section and create several scenarios to help you estimate how much power you’ll need to use an induction hob.

Factors That Determine Power Consumption

The type of food you plan to cook has an outsized influence on how much power your induction stove will demand. Unsurprisingly, cooking a steak with a side of sauteed vegetables requires considerably more power than frying eggs. Below are three essential determinants for induction stove power consumption.

  1. Cook time: The longer a food needs to cook, the more power is required.
  2. Power level: The higher the temperature a food needs to cook, the more power is required.
  3. Complexity of dishes: More complex dishes generally require longer cooking times, which requires more power.

Summary: To limit an induction stove’s power consumption, look for simple foods that cook quickly on a low to medium heat setting.

Average Food Cooking Time & Power Requirements

We had access to an induction stove for several weeks. During this time, we experimented with different foods and recorded how long it took to cook the meal and under what heat intensity. We also list approximately how much power was required to cook each meal. The table is a summary of our findings, but to review our complete power calculations, scroll down to the appendix.

Note: For simplicity, we list the required power in Amp-hours (Ah) for a 12-volt system. If you are installing a 24-volt battery system, you should halve the above Ah results.

Example Cooking Scenarios

Not everyone will cook with the same frequency. Some may choose to cook for every meal, while others may opt to eat out more often. We look at three different daily cooking scenarios to show how much power your induction cooktop might demand depending on how much you use the stove.

1. Occasional Cooking

This is for people who use their induction stoves infrequently. Maybe to make a coffee in the morning and a quick meal at night. You would be eating cold breakfasts in the morning and dining out for one other meal during the day.

Power required: 27.05 Ah daily.

2. Normal Cooking

Under a more realistic cooking situation, we look at how much power it could take to cook a modest breakfast of coffee with eggs and a pasta meal for lunch or dinner. We also include boiling water at night for tea. This scenario still assumes you eat out on average once daily or make a meal that doesn’t involve the induction stove.

Power required: 45.45 Ah daily.

3. Frequent Cooking

We look at how much power an induction stove would demand for travelers who intend to cook every meal in their van and not eat out.

Power required: 68.57 Ah daily.

How to Save Power When Cooking With An Induction Cooktop

It’s difficult to accurately predict how much power an induction stove will require each day because there are many different factors. But when sizing your battery bank to accommodate an induction stove, we recommend overestimating your power consumption and finding ways to save power later. Better to be safe than sorry. Below we look at several easy ways to reduce your induction cooktop’s power consumption.

  • Cook in bulk: Making multiple meals at once is a great way to reduce cooking time.
  • Cook at campgrounds: With unlimited shore power, you can cook multiple meals in advance and then use minimal power to reheat these meals when traveling.
  • Cook during the daytime: If it’s sunny out and your batteries are fully charged, you leave potential energy on the table. Use this time to cook your meals and let your panels replenish the power back into your batteries.
  • Instant foods: Buying instant oatmeal, rice, or sauces can shorten the cooking process and reduce the power required by the induction stove.
  • Plug the stove in at Starbucks: Just kidding! Please don’t do this.

Recommended Induction Cooktops For Van Conversions

Several different styles of induction cooktops exist. There are single burner and double burner stoves. There are portable stoves, which are great for storage and cooking outside. And then there are stoves that must be installed into the countertop.

Which induction stove do we recommend?

In general, when furnishing a camper van, we look for products that are space-efficient and replaceable if they were to break. This is especially true when shopping for electric stoves. Below are what we would look for when choosing an induction cooktop.

Portable vs. Built-In Stoves

The problem with built-in stoves is that they’re permanently installed in the countertop. But what if you change your mind later and decide you don’t want to cook with induction? Or what if your stove breaks? If that happens, you are left with a stove that you don’t use AND takes up valuable countertop space.

That’s why we recommend getting a portable stove. We travel with a portable camping cooktop (although it uses gas), and we love that the stove only takes up countertop space when it’s being used. Otherwise, it’s conveniently packed away under our sink. And if we ever decide to migrate to an induction stove in the future, we can easily swap out our old cooktop for the new one.

Being able to cook outside is also a huge plus for portable stoves.

Single Burner vs. Dual Burner

If ultra-space efficiency is important for you, go with a single-burner stove. They are less bulky and take up less space when stored. Also, with our two-burner stove, we rarely utilize both burners simultaneously. This is wasted space.

If you do opt for a dual burner cooktop, look for stoves where the burners are laid out vertically instead of horizontally. The vertical layout takes up less space on your countertop, leaving you more room for cutting, washing, and other food prep.

A vertical dual-burner induction stove on the left and a horizontal dual-burner stove on the right.
The left stove gives you more room counter space for food prep

Our Recommendation

We recommend the induction cooktop options below. Both are portable units that can be taken out and stored away, which is an essential feature for van life. We prefer the single-burner stove since it is more space-efficient, but we also list a vertical two-burner option below.

Recommended Electrical Setup

Induction cooktops demand a lot of power. Not only will you need to have a substantial battery bank to store and provide this power, but you also must have a sizeable solar array, DC charger, and inverter. Below are what we consider to be the MINIMUM electrical requirements to run an induction cooktop on a regular, daily basis.

Lithium Battery Size: 300Ah (12V)

The more batteries you have, the more power you can store and the longer you can operate an induction stove. Assuming you will build a 12V electrical system, we recommend a minimum of 300 Amp-hours (Ah) of battery. This can be a single 300Ah battery or three 100Ah batteries wired in parallel. With this minimum setup, you can cook a couple meals on the stove, and you won’t completely drain your battery.

We recommend Li Time’s lithium batteries. The “TM” model is solidly built, has a battery management system that rival’s BattleBorn (including the all-important low-temperature cutoff), and is sold at a fraction of the price.

Learn more: Read our Li Time battery review.

Best Budget LiFePO4
Li Time | Lithium Battery (100Ah)

Our top lithium battery recommendation! The Li Time "TM" packs a serious punch in a compact enclosure. Wide-ranging BMS with low-temperature protection. And superior shock resistance.

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Inverter: 2000 Watts

Since most portable induction hobs have a max rating of 1800W, you will need at least a 2000W inverter to power the stove. With this inverter, you will be able to CONTINUALLY power the cooktop at low to medium levels. However, at peak levels a 2000W inverter may have trouble and eventually switch off.

Although a 3000W inverter is preferable, you could still cook your meals with this smaller inverter. The Victron unit we recommend below is what we use and love it’s durability. It’s been abused the last four years and still works great. The inverter is also a battery charger, so you can hook it up to shore power to charge your batteries.

Victron | 2000W Inverter & Charger

We love our Victron 2000W Multiplus. It's built tough, and we've had no issues during our 65,000 miles to Argentina. This unit powers our Instant Pot, water kettle, hair dryer, and toaster oven. This inverter will also charge the batteries when connected to shore power.

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Learn more: How to install an inverter in a van.

Solar System: 400 Watts

Solar panels should be your primary battery charging solution. But you are going to need more than a small 100W panel to replenish your batteries. We recommend a minimum of installing two 200W solar panels for a total of 400W of solar. This would be sufficient to cover basic induction cooking. The more watts you install, however, the longer the stove can be used.

We use Newpowa panels in our van and are happy with their construction quality. Newpowa is also one of the lowest cost panel producers ($ per watt) online.

Learn more: How to install a solar system in a van.

Newpowa | Solar Panel (200W)

We use Newpowa panels on our van, and they've been working great for over five years of van life. Newpowa also tends to sell the lowest cost panels, dollar-per-watt.

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Free download: Solar wiring diagrarms.

DC-DC Charger: 30-Amp Rating

Installing a DC-DC charger allows you to charge your batteries while driving. It is essential to have this second charging solution in case the solar panels don’t receive enough sunlight during the day (e.g. cloudy days or parked in shade).

The amount of power a DC-DC charger can put back into the batteries depends on how long the vehicle’s engine is running. Driving for five minutes down the road to the grocery store won’t recharge the batteries as much as driving for several hours on the highway. That’s why it’s important to get a strong DC charger that can put more power back into the batteries in less time.

The greater the DC-DC charger’s amp-rating, the faster it can charge the batteries. We recommend getting a charger that is rated for AT LEAST 30 amps. We use the Victron Orion Charger, which is rated for 30A, and love the speed at which it recharges our batteries. The device is also Bluetooth-enabled, which allows us to view instantaneous charging statistics on our phones.

Victron | DC-DC Charger (30A)

Charge your leisure batteries quickly with Victron's 30A DC-DC charger (up to 360W). Works great for both lithium and AGM batteries. But the highlight is the charger's Bluetooth connectivity, which pairs with Victron's UX-friendly smartphone app.

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Learn more: How to wire a DC-DC charger.

Complete Electrical System Recommendation

If you want to build a system that meets our recommended minimum requirements, download and follow our electrical wiring diagrams. This system will allow you to cook with an induction stove in most situations and includes multiple charging solutions to help replenish your batteries each day. We also include all the tiny components and wire sizes you’ll need to complete your system. Our wiring PDF is completely free to download and use.

Complete camper van electrical wiring diagram connecting leisure batteries to 12V devices, solar panels, inverter, and DC charger
Complete camper van electrical wiring diagram

Induction vs. Gas Cooktops

There are substantial differences between cooking with gas and electricity. Each comes with its unique pros and cons. We break down these differences in the table below.

Do We Prefer Induction Or Gas?

The benefits of cooking with induction are intriguing. We love the idea of being completely self-sufficient and living “greener” without relying on natural gas. However, because of the large upfront costs involved and the unpredictable nature of van life, we still doubt whether relying on induction can be a reality for most van lifers over the long run.

If you have thousands of dollars to invest in a large battery bank and solar array, then cooking with induction is a viable option. But if you can only afford a modest electrical setup, going with a standard propane stove is the better choice. We’ve been using a Coleman Triton cooktop in our van for over four years. It’s gas-efficient, and its thin profile means it neatly packs away under our sink.

Coleman | Gas Camping Stove

We've been using our Coleman stove for five 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.

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A Hybrid Solution

But just because we use a propane camping stove doesn’t mean we don’t use electricity to cook. Our small 11-pound gas stank lasts us almost three months because we rely on an electric water kettle and an Instant Pot to reduce our reliance on propane. We use our kettle to boil water for coffee and even to preheat pasta water. We use the Instant Pot for making soups, stews, and rice. While neither of these devices technically uses induction technology they still use electricity to function, instead of gas. And for us, this hybrid solution of gas and electricity, has worked very well.

Recommended Induction Cookware

Since an induction stove relies on magnets to heat up the cookware, not every pot and pan will work. If it isn’t magnetic, it won’t get hot. That includes cheap aluminum pots and pans.

Common cookware materials that work on induction are cast iron, stainless steel, and carbon steel. If you have any of these in your house, you’re good to go. If not, we recommend the below induction-compatible cookware set. They also come with a detachable handle, which makes it easier to wash and store these pans.

Induction Cookware (With Detachable Handle)

Induction-compatible cookware with a detachable handle for ultra-packability and space efficiency. Black granite, non-stick coating makes cooking eggs a breeze.

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FAQ

Are induction cooktops good for camper vans?

Induction cooktops are a great cooking option for camper vans, provided that there is enough battery power, a capable inverter, and sufficient battery charging solutions. Induction stoves don’t reduce indoor air quality and don’t rely on natural gas to function.

Is There A 12V Induction Cooktop?

At present, there are no 12V induction cooktops. Current models only operate at 120V and 240V. If you plan to power an induction stove with 12V batteries, you will need an inverter to upcharge the voltage.

How Much Battery Do I Need For Induction Stove?

We recommend a minimum of 3,840 Wh of battery to reliably operate an induction cooktop daily. This is equal to 3×100 Ah batteries that operate at 12V. Adding more batteries to this minimum setup will give you greater flexibility to use the induction hob when you want.

Do Induction Cooktops Require Special Wiring?

Assuming you have sufficient battery power and a capable inverter, no additional special wiring is required to operate an induction stove. We recommend a minimum of 12-gauge wire when connecting the inverter to the stove. Download our electrical wiring PDF for more information.

Will A 2000W Inverter Run An Induction Cooktop?

A 2000W inverter will run a standard induction cooktop. However, the inverter might only power the stove at low to medium heat levels. A 2000W inverter may struggle and eventually switch off when cooking on high.

Conclusion

The key takeaway here is that cooking with induction in a van is very possible, but it requires planning and building an electrical system that can handle the load daily. If you’ve done your homework, we’re confident you will have a positive experience with an induction cooktop.

If you’re unsure how to begin with installing an electrical system in a van, check out our van electrical guide. It starts from the very beginning and provides all the information and product recommendations you’ll need to build a system that meets your power demands.

Please let us know in the comments section below if you have any questions.

Happy building!

Appendix A – Induction Power Calculations

Boiling Water

  • Boiling two cups of water takes 3.5 minutes on high.
  • 1500 Watts (W) * (3.5 min/60 min) = 87 Watt-hours (Wh)
  • 87 Wh/ 12 Volts (V) = 7.3 Amp-hours (Ah)

Fried Eggs

  • Cooking two eggs takes 3 minutes on medium.
  • 800 W * (3 min/60 min) = 40Wh
  • 40 Wh/ 12 V = 3.3Ah

Oatmeal

  • Cooking oatmeal takes 2 minutes on medium and 8 minutes on low
  • 800 W * (2 min/60 min) = 27 Wh
  • 400 W * (8 min/60 min) =53 Wh
  • 27 Wh + 53 Wh = 80 Wh
  • 80 Wh / 12 V = 6.67 Ah

Rice

  • Cooking rice takes 5 minutes on medium-high and 10 minutes on low
  • 1000 W * (5 min/60 mins) = 83 Wh
  • 400 W * (10 min/60 min) =66 Wh
  • 83 Wh + 66 Wh = 146 Wh
  • 146 Wh / 12 V = 12 Ah

Stir Fry

  • Cooking stir fry takes 7 minutes on medium
  • 800 W * (7 min/60 min) = 93 Wh
  • 93 Wh / 12 V = 7.75 Ah

Pasta

  • Cooking rice takes 5 minutes on high and 10 minutes on medium-low
  • 1500 W * (5 min/60 min) = 125 Wh
  • 600 W * (10 min/60 min = 100 Wh
  • 125 Wh + 100 Wh = 225 Wh
  • 225 Wh / 12 V = 18.75 Ah

Pasta Sauce

  • Cooking pasta sauce takes 8 minutes on medium
  • 800 W * (8 min/60 min) = 106 Wh
  • 106 Wh / 12 V = 8.8 Ah
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