Question

Hello folks and welcome to ToughAssTools.com. Today we are going to do another article on the topic of power inverters. These inverters are a great tool to have installed on your vehicle or power back up system. There are many uses for inverters such as going on a long road trip with the family and wanting a television plugged in for the drive,  camping off grid and wanting to have a warm cup of coffee in the morning, or you are without power and want to run some electronics while you wait for the power to come back on.

Whatever your reason is for using a power inverter there are a lot of questions that surround these tools. How exactly do they work? What size of inverter should you buy? In this article we are going to provide you with a basic overview of how these inverters work and then look deeper into exactly what sized power inverter that you need. Let’s dive in.

How Many Watts do I Need?

Let us first understand the basic principle of a power inverter. They work by connecting directly to your vehicle’s battery. Once connected you are then able to plug-in appliances or electronics using the outlets on the inverter. The battery in your vehicle has stored direct current, or DC, energy. DC energy is what is used to start your vehicle, power the interior lights, your radio, and many other things. Appliances or electronics that you wish to run through your inverter use alternating current, or AC, energy. All of our homes and offices use AC energy for power. What the power inverter does is draw the DC energy from your battery and converts it over to usable AC energy. Once converted you are then able to use the AC energy to power your appliances.

Now that we understand the basics of these inverters let us know take a look at exactly how many watts you need in order to power your appliances or electronics. Watts are a measurement of how much power is required to run something. The higher the watts the more power it is going to take. Power inverters come in a variety of sizes ranging from a few hundred watts all the way up to four or five-thousand watts. Sizing your inverter is important as it is not always best to go big or go home and buy the largest inverter out there. If you undersize your inverter though then you will be unable to provide adequate power.

The first thing you need to do here is determine the total wattage of the appliances or electronics that you wish to power with your power inverter. This is actually a pretty easy exercise. All you need to do is review the label on the item you are wishing to power. In some cases they will have total wattage used right on the label. In other instances you will not be able to find the watts but instead only see the amperage draw. This is just as good. If you find the total amps used you can determine the total wattage. All you have to do is take the amp number and multiply it by the volts. The volts number is just a measurement of the type of plug-in the appliance uses. In our case we are going to be using the standard one-hundred and twenty volt plug-in that is found in all of our homes. So, the math becomes amps times volts equals watts. For an example let’s say we have a five amp coffee machine with a one-hundred and twenty volts. The math becomes 5 times 120 equals 600 watts.

One thing to look out for when determining total watts is what is known as starting watts and running watts. The more complex appliances will require an additional boost of power in order for it to power on. This initial boost typically only lasts a few seconds but it is needed to start the appliances. Once started the power demands settle back down to a lower constant number. This initial boost is known as ‘Starting Watts.’ When it settles back down to a lower constant wattage that is known as ‘Running Watts.’

It is vital that if your appliance has starting watts that you factor that into your total wattage calculation. If you do not then you may not be able to turn the appliance on. Some examples of a machine with starting watts are refrigerators and freezers. Each of these require a compressor to start the refrigeration cycle. This compressor requires a large boost of energy to start. Be sure to factor this in when totaling up your wattage.

Once you have determined the total watts you now need to look at the various sized power inverters. A rule of thumb here is to add an additional twenty or thirty percent to your total wattage needs. What this does is give you some wiggle room so that if you did miscalculate by mistake OR if you have another appliance that you wish to power then you have the wattage reserve to do so. With our six-hundred watt coffee machine example above I would suggest purchasing a nine-hundred or one-thousand watt inverter. This gives you plenty of room to power a phone, laptop, or other small device along with the coffee machine.

If you do end up needing a power inverter greater then one-thousand watts then it is recommended to purchase a high output alternator. The alternator is what provides your vehicle with power and is also how your battery gets recharged. If your inverter is pulling too many watts and your alternator cannot keep up then you could end up with a dead battery even while driving down the road. This is not a good situation to be in. A high output alternator will produce more watts and be able to keep up with the high demands of a larger power inverter.

The last thing to mention here is if you plan to run your power inverter while your vehicle’s engine is off then you will most likely need a secondary deep cycle battery installed. Your standard automotive battery is not meant for long term use. It is a cranking battery that provides short bursts of power to start your vehicle’s engine. If you use a power inverter off of this standard battery with the engine off then you could drain your battery after only thirty to sixty minutes. This is why it is recommended you either run the inverter while your engine is on so that the battery is constantly recharged OR you look at installing a secondary deep cycle battery. Deep cycle batteries can last for hours and sometimes even days off of one charge.

Installing a secondary battery can be a bit tricky. If you are an experienced tinkerer with vehicles the you should be able to handle it by following this guide that I found. However, if you are no as comfortable working on vehicles then I recommend taking your vehicle into the dealership or a local mechanic and tell them that you want a secondary deep cycle battery installed. If you also already have the power inverter purchased you can ask them to install it as well. Otherwise, you can install it after the fact.

Conclusion

As you can see from the content above there is a lot to consider when it comes to finding the right wattage for your power inverter. In short though just remember to add up the total wattage of whatever you wish to power and make sure that number is LOWER then the wattage of your power inverter. If you do that then you should be good.

Thanks for reading folks,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools.com

 

Power inverters are a great tool to have with you no matter the situation. It could be that you are going for a long road trip with the family and you want to power a television to keep the kids entertained or perhaps you are camping off grid and want to a warm cup of coffee in the morning. Whatever the reason you need it for a power inverter will give you a supply of alternating current (AC) power so that you can run your standard electronics or appliances that you normally find in your home. This is done by hooking the power inverter directly up to your vehicle’s battery. The inverter then draws the stored direct current (DC) energy in your battery over to the AC energy that your appliances need.

While the overall concept of power inverters is widely understood there are still a lot of questions on the topic. What size do I need? How to install them? Over the past few weeks here at ToughAssTools.com we have been doing our best to answer all of these questions in various articles. The goal being to provide our readers with a one stop source for all things power inverters. Today’s topic is exactly how safe are these inverters? What should you be concerned with when running them?

Are Power Inverters Safe?

Let me first say that power inverters are very safe. There is a very low risk of fire or other calamity when running one of these tools in your vehicle. That being said, there are a few things that can happen when running a power inverter that can have lasting consequences. Let’s take a look:

Install

Installing your inverter correctly is key to getting optimal performance as well as being safe. The power inverter you purchased should come with an installation guide that will take you step through step on how to hook up the inverter. The good news is that the installation of these tools is actually quite basic and does not take much time. Before install ensure that the cables look to be in good quality and that there is no fraying or damage to them.

Exceeding Rated Wattage

A big gotcha when it comes to power inverters is purchasing the wrong sized power inverter for your needs. Inverters come in all different sizes ranging from a few hundred watts all the way up to four or five-thousand watts. The size that you need is determined by the total wattage of the appliances or electronics that you wish to plug-in into the inverter.

In some cases the total wattage on an appliance will be shown on the product label. In other cases though the wattage is not shown. No need to worry though as you should be able to find the total amperage or amps on the label. If you have the amperage number then all you have to do is take the amp number and multiply by the volts. Volts are just a measurement of what type of plug-in the appliance uses. When it comes to power inverters you will be using a one-hundred and twenty volt plug-in.

So, the math becomes  amps times volts equals watts. As an example, lets say you want a warm cup of coffee in the morning. The coffee machine is six amps. The math is now six amps times one-hundred and twenty volts equals seven-hundred and twenty watts. Once you have the total wattage of the appliances you wish to plug-in into the inverter it is also best to add an additional twenty or thirty percent. This gives you a buffer zone so if you miscalculated the total wattage or if you want to plug-in an additional appliance you have the extra wattage.

If the wattage of the appliance exceeds that of the power inverter rated wattage then you can overload your power inverter. The power inverter you are dealing with should have a built-in surge protector. If you overload the inverter the surge protector will shut the inverter off automatically. A few seconds later the inverter will turn on again to check to see if the wattage level has changed. If it has not then it will shut down again. This process repeats numerous times until at last the inverter shuts off entirely. It is vital that you purchase the correctly sized power inverter for your application.

Length of Time

The other thing to look at when it comes to power inverters is the length of time that you can use them. This depends on how you wish to run your power inverter. If you will have the inverter plugged in and running while your vehicle’s engine off then the power it needs is going to be pulled directly from your vehicle’s battery. The standard battery in your vehicle is a twelve volt cranking battery. It is meant for short bursts of power to start your engine. It is NOT meant for long term extended use such as with a power inverter.

If you use an inverter with the engine off then you can only really expect your battery to last between thirty to sixty minutes before the battery has been drained entirely. You are then left with a dead battery with no way to start your vehicle without a jump. Even if you do get a jump start and get your vehicle running again you have permanently damaged your starting battery. These cranking batteries are not meant to fall below ninety percent capacity. Letting the battery drain below that will cause damage and shorten the battery’s lifespan.

Now if you wish to use your inverter with your vehicle’s engine on then it is a whole different story. When the engine is on the alternator is running. The alternator provides continuous power to your battery. As the inverter draws power from the battery the alternator works to recharge the battery at the same time. In essence your inverter will run indefinitely until you turn the vehicle off or your engine runs out of gasoline. In my opinion this is the best and safest way to run a power inverter.

Earlier I stated that the standard battery is only good at ninety percent capacity or higher and that they do not last long under a power inverter load. What you can do though is look at installing a secondary battery for your vehicle. This secondary battery will be charged by your alternator just like the other but it will give you an alternative source of power for your power inverter. When going this route it is key that you purchase deep cycle battery as your secondary battery.

Deep cycle batteries are intended for long term usage. They can be used for hours, sometimes even days, at a time. They can fall as low as fifty percent capacity as well. One key thing to mention here is that you will need BOTH a standard cranking battery AND a deep cycle battery. The cranking battery is necessary to start your car and the deep cycle is used to power your power inverter. Another point to mention here is that deep cycles can take a significant amount of time to charge. Because of this some folks will opt for a higher output alternator as well. Remember that both batteries have to be charged by your alternator and if you have a higher output alternator then you will be able to charge both batteries faster.

Installing a secondary battery can be a bit tricky. If you are an experienced tinkerer with vehicles the you should be able to handle it by following this guide that I found. However, if you are no as comfortable working on vehicles then I recommend taking your vehicle into the dealership or a local mechanic and tell them that you want a secondary deep cycle battery installed. If you also already have the power inverter purchased you can ask them to install it as well. Otherwise, you can install it after the fact.

Conclusion

In conclusion folks power inverters are very safe. The only things you have to look out for when running them is that you installed them correctly, you have adequate wattage to handle your needs, that you run the inverter while your engine is running, or if you run the inverter with the engine off ensure that you have a secondary deep cycle battery installed to ensure that your inverter can run for hours at a time.

I hope this article was helpful,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools.com

Question Marks

Power inverters are a great tool to have around. They can be used in a variety of applications in your vehicles, motor homes, off grid camping, or even in your boat. They all serve one purpose: Providing you with alternating current electricity. This AC energy allows you to power various appliances or electronics that you could normally run at your home or office by converting your vehicle or battery’s stored direct current (DC) energy over to AC energy.

While the overall concept of power inverters is widely understood there are still quite a few questions on the details of using these power inverters. Over the past few weeks we have been writing article after article on the topic of power inverters in an effort to answer all of your questions and to provide a one stop resource for all questions on these great tools. Today’s topic is on how and why a power inverter trips.

How & Why?

Most of us are familiar with the concept of an appliance or electronic tripping an outlet. As an example our kitchens come with standard GFCI outlets. These are the outlets with the red and black button in the center. These outlets protect us from electrical shock by detecting faulty appliances or electronics plugged into the outlet. This also applies if the plugged in appliance is drawing too much power from the outlet. If there is a surge detection the outlet will trip, or shut-off, to prevent any shock to the user.

When it comes to power inverters a similar logic is applied. Power inverters all come with a rated wattage. This is a measurement of how much power or wattage the inverter can handle. Each of our appliances and electronics come with a rated wattage as well. If what you are attempting to plug-in into the inverter exceeds the rated wattage of your inverter then you are going to overload the power inverter. For an example, lets say you have a three-hundred watt power inverter installed on your vehicle. You want to make some hot coffee in the morning so you plug in your six-hundred watt coffee machine. In this example you are massively exceeding the rated wattage on your inverter and will be overloading the tool.

The results of exceeding your inverter’s wattage will be one of two things and it depends if your inverter has a surge protector. If it does NOT then your inverter will keep running in an attempt to provide the required power. If left unchecked this will damage and perhaps permanently destroy your power inverter. This could also result in electrical and possibly fire damage. Be sure to spend a bit more money and get an inverter with a surge protector. It is the smart choice here.

If the inverter DOES have surge protection then the inverter will simply not turn on due to the higher wattage demands. The inverter will try again after a few seconds to see if the load has changed. If it has not, it will shut off. This process will repeat a number of times until the inverter finally shuts off for good. If you wish to restart the inverter after this point you will need to do so manually using the control panel on the inverter.

Most inverters can actually handle a load LARGER then what they are rated for, but only for a small amount of time. As an example, you may be able to get thirty-five hundred watts out of your three-thousand watt inverter but it would only last for a half-hour or so until the inverter shuts down. Each inverter is different though and it is best to check your owner’s manual to see how much and how long of an overload your inverter can take.

This point brings me to the topic of starting watts versus running watts. Most of us are all familiar with the concept of running watts. This is a measurement of how much power your appliance or electronic uses while running. Sometimes the appliance is labeled with wattage use, but other times they are not. If not you can still determine the watts by finding the total amperage draw of the appliance. When you have the amperage number multiply it by the volts which is going to be your standard one-hundred and twenty volt plug-in. So, as an example say you have a five amp coffee maker that plugs into a one-hundred and twenty volt outlet. Five amps times one-hundred and twenty equals out to six-hundred watts. This is the running watt number of the coffee machine.

The concept of starting watts is where it can get a bit tricky. Depending on the appliance you wish to power some of them may require an extra boost of power for them to initially startup. An example of this would be a refrigerator. Refrigerators come with a compressor that starts the refrigeration process. This compressor needs an extra boost of power just to get turned on and started. After a short amount of time, say thirty seconds or so, the starting watts are no longer needed and the refrigerator transitions to a smaller running wattage number.

Because of starting watts many folks have to purchase a power inverter with a higher wattage then they anticipated. There is some good news though when it comes to starting watts. Depending on your inverter you may be able to get away with running an appliance that has a higher starting watt number then your power inverter. Starting watts are only required for a short amount of time and if your inverter can handle the overload for that thirty seconds or so then you should be fine to run said appliance. Be sure to check your inverter’s manual before purchasing so that you know for sure.

Conclusion

To close this article out folks your power inverter will trip or shut-off if the wattage that you have plugged in into the outlet side of your inverter exceeds the rated wattage of your power inverter. This is why it is so important to know your inverters wattage rating and to add up all of the wattage of the electronics or appliances that you wish to power. When shopping for a power inverter it is also recommended to add an additional thirty percent to the wattage number of your appliances. In other words if you need to power that six-hundred watt coffee machine then I would suggest purchasing a eight-hundred, nine-hundred, or one-thousand watt power inverter. This gives you enough buffer room in case you misread the coffee machine label OR if you wish to power something additional at the same time.

Thanks for reading and I hope this article was helpful,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools.com

Question Marks

Power inverters are a great tool to have installed on your vehicle rather it be for your car, truck, motorhome, or even your boat. These tools convert the direct current (DC) energy that is produced from your alternator and stored in your battery over to what’s known as alternating current (AC). AC electricity is what all of our homes, offices, and buildings use to power our electronics and appliances. By installing a power inverter you will be able to plugin any of these appliances or electronics right into your car. This allows you to hook up a crock pot, coffee maker, television, laptop, refrigerator, or even power tools. Whatever your need is power inverters can provide you with the electricity!

Over the past few months here at ToughAssTools.com we have been writing article after article on the topic of these power inverters. The goal here is to provide a comprehensive listing of any and all questions related to these tools. In today’s topic we are going to look at the role alternators play when using a power inverter. Let’s take a look:

Power Inverters & Alternators

Before I answer your question lets first go over how your alternators and batteries interact with each other. Most vehicles are outfitted with a standard twelve volt cranking battery. This battery is used to for short bursts of energy and it is what provides the initial power to start your vehicle. When the vehicle has started the alternator takes over for your cranking battery. All electrical needs are now powered directly from your alternator. At the same time your alternator is also charging your battery to ensure that you have plenty of charge for the next time that you start your vehicle.

Now most standard alternators range from sixty-five to one-hundred amps of power. This is a measurement of how much power the alternator can produce. They also typically have wiggle room between ten to fifteen percent. What I mean by this is that you can add additional power demands to your vehicle without impacting your alternator. An example of this would be using a power inverter with an appliance plugged in.

This is where it can get a bit tricky. If you use a large sized power inverter then you could up exceeding that ten to fifteen percent window. This will result in the overloading of your alternator. When this occurs the alternator will do its best to keep up with the demand. When no more power can be produced it will look for alternative sources, such as your battery. We now end up with the reverse of what should be happening. Instead of your battery being charged while the vehicle is running the battery is being drained in an effort to meet your high power demands. This can result in your battery dying on you even while you are driving down the road. This is NOT a good position to be in as you will end up stranded with no way to start your vehicle. Along with being stranded overloading your alternator can also result in shortening its lifespan as well as wasting energy and fuel.

The good news here is that there are alternative solutions. I mentioned earlier that alternators typically range from sixty-five to one-hundred amps of power. If you plan on using a significant amount of power then I would highly suggest that you look at purchasing a high output alternator. This is an aftermarket upgrade to your current alternator. These high output alternators can produce as high as two-hundred and fifty amps of power. In some cases that is two or three times more power then your standard alternator. You also do not need to worry about going TOO high in the alternator size. Alternators only produce the power that is NEEDED. So, if you get a two-hundred and fifty amp model and only need two-hundred amps you will not be waiting energy or fuel by having the two-hundred and fifty model.  These are also not that expensive to purchase. Just make sure to buy one that is compatible with your vehicle. If you are not much of a do-it-yourselfer then I would recommend taking your vehicle to the dealership or a local mechanic and telling them you need a high output alternator installed.

So, when should you consider purchasing a high output alternator? As you know, each vehicle and each application is different so I cannot give you a definite answer here but I can give you a guideline. In my opinion if you are going to be using a power inverter that is at one-thousand watts or over then it will make sense to purchase a high output alternator. If you are under that one-thousand marker then chances are you will fall within that ten to fifteen percent window and will be fine to run whatever it is that you are intending to power.

Power inverters range from just a few hundred watts all the way up to four or even five-thousand watts. The size of inverter is going to depend on exactly what you intend to power with it. Before plugging something into your inverter you should determine exactly how many watts it will use. In some cases the label of the appliance/electronic has a wattage label. In other cases they do not, BUT if you find the total amps or amperage number you can calculate the watts yourself. As an example say you have a coffee machine that takes five amps. All you have to do is take that five amps and multiply it by the total volts. Volts are HOW the appliance is plugged-in. If it uses a standard outlet like most everything does then it uses one-hundred and twenty volts. So, the math becomes five amps times one-hundred and twenty volts equals six-hundred watts. I also recommend exceeding the calculated wattage by twenty or thirty percent to ensure you have some wiggle room.

Another point here is that the more complex the machine the more power it will require. Anything that moves, produces heat, or produces cold will require a lot of wattage. That coffee machine we mentioned earlier uses six-hundred watts. That is quite a bit but that is because of the heater element within the machine. A fifty inch television would only use about two-hundred watts. That is a significant difference and it is because of that heating feature of the coffee machine. Keep this in mind when looking at power inverter sizes. What do you want to power?

Conclusion

To answer the initial question in this article a power inverter that outsizes your alternator can end up draining your battery even while your vehicle is running. If left unchecked you could end up damaging your alternator as well. If you are in these situations the best course of action is to purchase and install a high output alternator. This will take care of you power problems and allow you to continue using the power inverter and whatever appliances or electronics that you have plugged into it.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools.com

Question

Power inverters are used all over the world today as a source of alternating current power (AC). This AC power allows you to plugin and use practically any household appliance or electronic right from the comfort of your vehicle, motorhome, or boat. These power inverters draw their energy by connecting right to your battery and pulling the direct current (DC) energy and converting it over to AC.

One of the many questions we get on the topic of inverters is what size do I need to power X? With electricity, generators, inverters, and all other tools like this the sizing requirements can be a bit daunting. They come in all different sizes and it can be difficult to discover exactly what size you need. In this article we are going to focus our attention on particular electronic, the television.

First, let me start with the good news. TVs often use very little power when compared to other electronics or appliances. The typical rule of thumb is does the appliance make something hot, cold, or have moving parts? If the answer to any of these questions is yes then the amount of power required will be much higher.

A television will typically use between one-hundred to three-hundred watts. This range depends on the overall size of the unit as well as the type of TV it is. For example, plasma TVs will use more power then a standard LCD model. While the one-hundred to three-hundred watt is an estimate it is best for you to discover the exact wattage your specific TV uses. This way there are no open questions or concerns when it comes to purchasing the right power inverter.

In most cases the TV’s wattage can be found on the label somewhere on your TV or in the instruction manual. If you cannot find the total wattage you can also look for total amperage or amps. If you find the amperage number then all you have to do is multiply that by the total volts. Volts are easy as it is just a measurement of the type of plug-in that the appliance uses. So, for example let’s say you have a 1.5 amp television with a one-hundred and twenty volt plug-in. The math becomes 1.5 times 120 equaling out to 180 watts.

By doing this math you can determine exactly what size of power inverter that you need in order to power your television. Note that it is safest to go an additional twenty or thirty percent higher then what you calculated as well. This allows you to have some extra wiggle room and also allows for additional electronics to be plugged if needed. Using this logic we would recommend a three-hundred watt power inverter to power a television. We recommend this product from AIMS on Amazon to get the job done.

The last point I want to mention here is exactly how long you can power a television using a power inverter. This definitely needs to be considered as if done incorrectly it could leave you with a dead battery. I wrote an article on this topic just yesterday that can be found by clicking here.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools.com

 

Question

There are a ton of uses for power inverters. It could be that you are tailgating outside the stadium of your favorite team and you need power for your crockpot or your television to watch the pregame show. Or, perhaps you’ve been camping off grid but would like a nice cup of hot coffee in the morning. Or, my personal favorite, you are on a long road trip and hooked up a television for the kids to watch while you drive.

Whatever the reason you wish to use a power inverter there are a lot of questions that come with them. These questions range from exactly how they work, how to install them, what size to get, and how long something can run using a power inverter. Over the past few weeks we have been writing article after article on the topic of power inverters. Our goal here is to create a comprehensive source for all things power inverters.

Today’s topic is on televisions. There are many reasons to use a television with your power inverter but one of the most common questions on this topic is how long the inverter will power a television? How much time can you expect before your battery dies? Let’s dive in and take a look.

How Long Can You Run a Television?

Before I can answer your question here we first have to  understand how you plan to use your power inverter and your television. You see there is a big difference of using the power inverter with your vehicle’s engine on or with the vehicle’s engine off. If you are using the inverter with your vehicle’s engine on then that is good news. Let me backup for a moment. Power inverters hook right up to your vehicle’s battery. The power the inverter pulls comes directly from stored direct current (DC) power in your battery. This stored power is created from when your vehicle’s engine is on. When the engine is on the alternator is running and is constantly producing direct current electricity. This DC energy is then stored in your battery.

This is why this question is so critical. If you are going to be running the inverter and television while your engine is on then you will not have any problems. Let’s say you’re on a long road trip and you’ve got the television hooked up as you go down the highway. Every bit of energy that inverter/television pull from your battery is constantly being refilled by the energy produced from the alternator. With this method you can run the television indefinitely, or at least until you turn the engine off or you run out of gasoline/diesel. The alternator takes care of things for you ensuring that your direct current supply does not run out.

Now if we look at the opposite side of this it is quite a different story. If you are at a tailgating event and find yourself wanting to watch the pregame show on a television then you are looking at a different scenario. I imagine in this situation you do not want your car idling while you watch the show. This creates too much noise, carbon monoxide, and it is just overall not good for the environment.

So, what do you do then? If you run the television with your engine off then you run the risk of draining your vehicle’s battery until it is dead. The standard cranking twelve volt automotive battery is NOT meant to power appliances/electronics for long term use. This battery is meant to give you the initial boost of power to start your vehicle. If it falls below ninety percent capacity then you could risk damaging the battery. NOTE that if you do attempt to run a television off of your standard automotive battery then you can only expect it to last about thirty to sixty minutes before the battery dies.

As I said above, it is not recommended to run power inverters off of your standard battery. There is an alternative solution here though folks. A secondary battery can be installed on your vehicle. This second battery would be charged by your alternator just like your standard battery. The big difference here is that this second battery would be a ‘Deep Cycle’ battery. Deep cycle batteries are intended for long term usage. These are the types of batteries you find on motorhomes or boats. They can fall as low as fifty percent capacity without damage occurring. If you run a television off of a deep cycle battery then you can expect MUCH longer run times. Many folks state that their inverter can run a television for up to twenty hours off of a deep cycle battery.

Installing a secondary battery can be a bit tricky. If you are an experienced tinkerer with vehicles the you should be able to handle it by following this guide that I found. However, if you are no as comfortable working on vehicles then I recommend taking your vehicle into the dealership or a local mechanic and tell them that you want a secondary deep cycle battery installed. If you also already have the power inverter purchased you can ask them to install it as well. Otherwise, you can install it after the fact.

Conclusion

Ok folks to wrap this up let’s look at what we have discovered. The first is that if you are running the television while your vehicle’s engine is on then the television can be run indefinitely or at least until you shut the engine off again. If you run the television and power inverter while your engine is off using a standard cranking battery then you can only expect a run time between thirty to sixty minutes. Lastly, if you have a secondary deep cycle battery installed then you can expect a runtime of around twenty hours. All in all it really depends on exactly how you want to run it to determine how long your power inverter will last.

I hope this article was helpful, and thanks for reading.

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools.com

There are many uses and occasions that a power inverter can come in handy. It could be that you are planning on tail gating outside of your favorite football stadium and you need a way to plug-in your crockpot. Or, you are going on a long road trip and want to bring a television or computer to keep the kids entertained. Or, it could be as simple as wanting a warm cup of coffee after camping out in the woods.

Whatever your reason for using them power inverters are a versatile tool that can provide you with needed alternating current (AC) power. AC power is what we use to power everything in our home, office, and other buildings. Your vehicles on the other hand use a different type of power known as direct current (DC) power. DC power is produced by your alternator and is stored in your vehicle’s battery. Stored DC power gives you enough power to start the vehicle, play the radio, turn on the interior lights, and other smaller things.

In order to operate an AC appliance or electronic in your vehicle you will need a power inverter. The inverter converts the DC energy over to AC energy. This is done by hooking directly to your battery on one end and on the other end having a standard one-hundred and twenty volt outlet. Over the past few weeks here at ToughAssTools.com we have been doing article after article on the topic of power inverters. There are many questions to be answered on this topic and today’s topic is just how long can you expect a power inverter to operate?

How Many Hours Can They Last?

Like with many similar topics there is not a clear cut answer here. There are many variables that have to be considered here before we can give you a timeline. The first question I am going to ask you here is how do you plan on running your power inverter? Will your engine be running while running the inverter or off? This is a KEY question as the answer can radically alter the length of the power inverter usage.

Earlier we mentioned that the alternator in your vehicle charges the battery as you are driving or while the engine is idling. The battery then stores this DC energy produced from the alternator. When you go to start the car the stored energy is used to turn everything on and then the alternator takes over again. When a power inverter is running it draws its power from the stored DC energy in your battery. If the vehicle is off while you are running the inverter then that means you are solely relying on your battery for your power source.

Your standard twelve volt automotive battery is NOT meant for long term use like this. Instead they are meant for short bursts of energy like starting your vehicle. They should not fall below ninety percent capacity. If they do then you risk damaging the battery or even killing the battery leaving you stranded. So, if you are running an inverter based on your battery’s energy then you can really only expect about thirty to sixty minutes of use before your battery dies.

Engine Off

This is exactly why I recommend not running your inverter with your engine off. If you are going to be tailgating though and will need power for hours at a time there is an alternative solution. Earlier I stated that the standard battery is only good at ninety percent capacity or higher and that they do not last long under a power inverter load. What you can do though is look at installing a secondary battery for your vehicle. This secondary battery will be charged by your alternator just like the other but it will give you an alternative source of power for your power inverter. When going this route it is key that you purchase deep cycle battery as your secondary battery.

Deep cycle batteries are intended for long term usage. They can be used for hours, sometimes even days, at a time. They can fall as low as fifty percent capacity as well. One key thing to mention here is that you will need BOTH a standard cranking battery AND a deep cycle battery. The cranking battery is necessary to start your car and the deep cycle is used to power your power inverter. Another point to mention here is that deep cycles can take a significant amount of time to charge. Because of this some folks will opt for a higher output alternator as well. Remember that both batteries have to be charged by your alternator and if you have a higher output alternator then you will be able to charge both batteries faster.

Installing a secondary battery can be a bit tricky. If you are an experienced tinkerer with vehicles the you should be able to handle it by following this guide that I found. However, if you are no as comfortable working on vehicles then I recommend taking your vehicle into the dealership or a local mechanic and tell them that you want a secondary deep cycle battery installed. If you also already have the power inverter purchased you can ask them to install it as well. Otherwise, you can install it after the fact.

Engine On

If you are in the situation where you are going on a long road trip and need a power source for a television, computer, or whatever else then you are in luck! In my opinion the best way to run a power inverter is with your engine on while driving down the road. This gives you a high number of rotations per minute which allows your alternator to produce maximum direct current electricity which is then fed into your battery. While the alternator does produce energy while the car is idling you are going to be much more efficient while driving at highway speeds.

By using the inverter while your engine is on and the vehicle is moving the power inverter will produce power to your appliances indefinitely. At least until your engine runs out of gas or the engine is turned off. This is why I recommend this approach so much as it gives the power you need and all but eliminates the risk of draining your battery while running the inverter. With the engine on your battery is constantly being recharged.

There are instances though where you can overload your alternator and your battery. Say for example you hook up a three-thousand watt power inverter to your vehicle. You do NOT have a high-output alternator and you do not have a secondary battery installed. It is a standard system with a large inverter hooked dup to it. If you are running this inverter and have thousands of watts of appliances plugged into it while driving you could actually overload your alternators output. When this occurs the alternator attempts to compensate for the overage by drawing power from your battery. If this occurs you could actually end up killing your battery as you drive down the road. Not a good situation to be in.

Sizing & Power Draw

The size of the power inverter and the appliances you will be plugging into it matter quite a bit. If you are using a three-hundred watt inverter to power your laptop as you drive down the road then you will not notice any change at all. It is a very small wattage draw. However, if you are in the situation we mentioned earlier with a three-thousand watt inverter and are trying to operate a band saw as you drive down the road… then you are most likely going to overload your alternator and battery. I sincerely hope you are not planning on doing this though…

The point here folks is that the size of your inverter along with the size of the appliances that you will be plugging into them can impact just how long the inverter can and will run. We had stated that with your engine off you could expect a standard battery to last about thirty to sixty minutes with an inverter connected to it. Well, that may be for a laptop or coffee machine… but if you plug-in a power tool then you that thirty minutes may only turn into five or ten. The amount of power you draw from your battery will determine how long it will last.

Power inverters come in all sorts of sizes ranging from a few hundred watts all the way up to four or five-thousand watts. To determine the size you need you need to add up all of the wattage requirements of each and every appliance or electronic that you wish to run off of the inverter. Some of these may have a total wattage draw label but others may not. No need to worry though as you can determine this by finding the total amperage draw on the appliance. When you have the amps simply multiply it by the volts. Volts are very easy to find, in fact if the appliance plugs into a standard out let then you have the volts. One-hundred and twenty volt outlet. As an example, let’s say you have a six amp coffee maker. Six amps times one-hundred and twenty volts equals seven-hundred and twenty watts to run the appliance.

We typically recommend going twenty or thirty percent higher then your calculations as well. This gives you a buffer in case you miscalculated or if you want to add something else later on. In the coffee machine example above you would need around a one-thousand watt power inverter factoring in the extra thirty percent. Our recommend inverter at this size is the Ampeak model that can be found on Amazon by clicking here. It is set at an aggressive price and has over a thousand reviews to ensure you get an adequate product.

One last point to mention here on sizing an inverter. If you are not using your inverter be sure to turn it off. Depending on the model it can still pull five to ten percent of its rated wattage even if there is nothing plugged into it. By turning it off you are ensuring that there is no drain on your battery when it is not in use. Always better to be safe then sorry and end up with a dead battery on your hands!

Conclusion

As you can see folks there is a lot that goes into determining just how long a power inverter will last. I wish there was a clear cut answer I could give you but inverters just do not work that way. Either way, I hope this article was able to point you in the right direction and allow you to figure out how you want to run your power inverter.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools.com

Power inverters are a versatile tool to have for your vehicle, motorhome, or even your boat. They can provide you with a source of alternating current (AC) power so that you can power household appliances and electronics like televisions, coffee makers, laptops, phones, and anything else that you could think of. This power is pulled from your vehicle’s battery. The battery stores direct current (DC) power. The power inverter will connect to your battery, pull that DC energy, and then convert it over to AC energy. This allows you to plug-in any of the appliances that we mentioned above.  

Over the past few weeks we have been doing numerous articles on the topic of power inverters. Our goal here is to provide you, the reader, with the most comprehensive information on the topic. Todays’ article intends to focus on if you can run these power inverters while driving.

To give you the short answer here folks, yes. Yes, you can run these inverters while driving. In fact, this is the way I most recommend to run these tools. You see, as we stated before, the inverter pulls DC energy from your battery. The DC energy that is stored in your battery comes from your alternator. When the engine of your vehicle is running the alternator is producing DC electricity. This DC electricity is used to power the lights, radio, and other things within your vehicle. The leftover energy goes into your battery for storage. If you were to hook up a power inverter to your car and start charging your laptop while the engine is off then you could end up with a dead battery.

The standard twelve volt battery in your vehicle is NOT meant for long term use. Instead it is intended to provide a short burst of power to start your vehicle. These batteries should not fall under ninety percent capacity. If they do then you risk damaging the battery. If you run an inverter based solely on the stored power in your battery then you may only get thirty to sixty minutes of run time before the battery dies. There are two solutions to get around this short time limit. The first is by installing a secondary deep cycle battery on your vehicle. This deep cycle battery can last for many hours, sometimes even days, with the power that is stored in it. Deep cycle batteries can also fall as low as fifty percent capacity. BUT, it takes time, money, and effort to install a deep cycle secondary battery.

The other solution is having your vehicle’s engine on. When the engine is on the alternator is producing energy which then flows back to your battery. In essence the alternator gives you an endless supply of energy until your engine runs out of gasoline. This is why it is perfectly ok to run your power inverter while driving. If anything, it is the safest way to do it as you do not have a risk of your battery dying. You can also do this while idling the car but the alternator will not produce as much power and you are also idling the vehicle for a long time which is not good for the environment. The only thing to be cautious of here is that if you have a very high wattage power inverter, saying two-thousand watts or higher, then you may want to look into installing a high-output alternator. These higher power inverters may pull more power then your standard alternator can handle. If this does happen then the alternator will try to compensate by pulling stored energy from the battery. This can result in a dead battery WHILE you are driving down the road. Not a good scenario to be in. You typically won’t have to worry about this though if you’re using a one-thousand watt inverter or under.

Conclusion

So, in conclusion folks it is perfectly safe to run your power inverter while driving. In fact I recommend it. It is the safest way to ensure that you get the power you need and that your battery strays fully charged so that you do not run into a dead battery and end up stranded. I hope this article was helpful and thanks for reading.

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools.com

Question

Hello folks and welcome to ToughAssTools.com! Today’s topic is the same that it has been for the past few weeks: Power Inverters. These are an overall great tool to have especially if you are always on the road or if you are into off-grid living. These inverters can be used to convert your vehicle’s direct current (DC) over to alternating current (AC) energy. AC electricity is what we use in our homes and offices. If you plug an appliance or electronic into your standard outlet you are using AC energy.

A power inverter will hook up directly to your battery on one end. This is where it draws the DC energy from. On the other end you will have one, two, or multiple one-hundred and twenty volt outlets. This is where you will plug-in your appliances. Now today’s question is focused primarily on refrigerators and freezers. Are you able to power these appliances with your inverter? There is not a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer to this. Instead we have to look at a variety of factors to determine if the equipment you have AND how you wish to run your power inverter will work for you.

The very first thing we need to do is determine exactly how many watts the refrigerator, or freezer, uses. In some cases the appliance will have the watts it uses right on the label. However, if you find that you are not finding the wattage number there is no need to worry. You can calculate the watts yourself by finding the total amperage draw from the machine. Once you have the amps you can take that number and multiply it times the volts. Volts are the type of plug-in the appliance takes. So, if your refrigerator plugs into your standard outlet then that is a one-hundred and twenty volt outlet. The math becomes amps times volts. As an example, let’s pretend a refrigerator you are interested in uses six amps. We take six amps multiplied by one-hundred and twenty volts for a total wattage use of seven-hundred and twenty watts.

The power inverter you purchase will HAVE to be above that seven-hundred and twenty watts number. I typically recommend going twenty or thirty percent higher then you think you need when it comes to sizing power inverters. This gives you wiggle room in case you miscalculated AND it also gives you the option to add more appliances/electronics down the road if you wish to.

There is one more point there to mention when it comes to sizing your power inverter. As you know refrigerators and freezers use the refrigeration cycle. This is the process of the refrigerant inside changing between gaseous and liquid states again and again. The cold environment is then created by removing the heat. A key part of this operation is the compressor. This compressor however requires quite a bit of energy to initially turn on. Once it has turned on the wattage demand goes down after about thirty seconds. This is known as ‘Starting Watts.’ When the unit has warmed up and begins to run normally it moves to ‘Running Watts.’

In many cases the amount of starting watts can be significantly higher then the running watts. As an example, a typical refrigerator may need one-thousand to fourteen-hundred starting watts. But when it moves to running watts it may only need two to three-hundred watts. It is VERY important that you calculate starting watts into your power inverter sizing. If you neglect to do this then your power inverter may overload as you try to turn on your refrigerator.

The last point to mention here is how long do you wish to operate your refrigerator and or freezer? Is this for a tailgating party? Or a motorhome? Power inverters draw power from your vehicle’s battery and if the engine of your vehicle is turned off then you can only expect your battery to last thirty, maybe sixty, minutes… at most. If your battery dies while running the inverter then you are going to be left with a dead battery that at minimum will need a jump. At worst you may have permanently damaged the battery.

There are two ways to get around this problem. The first is to run your inverter while your vehicle’s engine is on. When the engine is on the alternator will work to charge your battery continually. This will make up for the draw of the inverter and in essence give you unlimited power supply until your engine runs out of gas. While this is great for road trips it doesn’t really solve the problem if you are camping or tail gating.

The other solution is to install a secondary battery for your vehicle. This secondary battery will have to be a ‘Deep Cycle’ battery. Deep cycle batteries are specifically made for long term use. A typical automotive twelve volt battery is NOT meant for long term use. Instead it gives you a short burst of stored power and then the alternator takes over. If these standard batteries fall below ninety percent capacity then you will be in trouble.

Deep cycle batteries on the other hand can last for hours, sometimes days, before needing to be recharged. One of the main reasons here is that they can go all the way down to fifty percent capacity without any damage occurring. When your vehicle is turned back on the alternator will work to charge your standard battery and also your secondary deep cycle battery.

Installing a secondary battery can be a bit tricky. If you are an experienced tinkerer with vehicles the you should be able to handle it by following this guide that I found. However, if you are no as comfortable working on vehicles then I recommend taking your vehicle into the dealership or a local mechanic and tell them that you want a secondary deep cycle battery installed. If you also already have the power inverter purchased you can ask them to install it as well. Otherwise, you can install it after the fact.

Conclusion

So, in summation folks the answer to your question is yes, your power inverter can run a refrigerator or freezer. Just remember that there are a host of considerations and factors that have to be weighed before you can flip the switch and have your refrigerator up and running. I hope this article was helpful.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools.com

Question

Power inverters are a great tool to have around. There are so many uses for them ranging from vehicles, motorhomes, camping, tailgating, and even living off-grid. Whatever your reason is for using a power inverter a common question that we receive on them is what exactly happens when the inverter is overloaded? Now, ideally, you do not come into this situation. In a perfect world the inverter you have purchased is rated enough to handle the wattage of all of your needs. But, in the off chance that you are approaching the wattage limit of your inverter what will happen if and when you do exceed the rated wattage?

The results of exceeding your inverter’s wattage will be one of two things and it depends if your inverter has a surge protector. If it does NOT then your inverter will keep running in an attempt to provide the required power. If left unchecked this will damage and perhaps permanently destroy your power inverter. Be sure to spend a bit more money and get an inverter with a surge protector. It is the smart choice here.

If the inverter DOES have surge protection then the inverter will simply not turn on due to the higher wattage demands. The inverter will try again after a few seconds to see if the load has changed. If it has not, it will shut off. This process will repeat a number of times until the inverter finally shuts off for good. If you wish to restart the inverter after this point you will need to do so manually using the control panel on the inverter.

Most inverters can actually handle a load LARGER then what they are rated for, but only for a small amount of time. As an example, you may be able to get thirty-five hundred watts out of your three-thousand watt inverter but it would only last for a half-hour or so until the inverter shuts down. Each inverter is different though and it is best to check your owner’s manual to see how much and how long of an overload your inverter can take.

This point brings me to the topic of starting watts versus running watts. Most of us are all familiar with the concept of running watts. This is a measurement of how much power your appliance or electronic uses while running. Sometimes the appliance is labeled with wattage use, but other times they are not. If not you can still determine the watts by finding the total amperage draw of the appliance. When you have the amperage number multiply it by the volts which is going to be your standard one-hundred and twenty volt plug-in. So, as an example say you have a five amp coffee maker that plugs into a one-hundred and twenty volt outlet. Five amps times one-hundred and twenty equals out to six-hundred watts. This is the running watt number of the coffee machine.

The concept of starting watts is where it can get a bit tricky. Depending on the appliance you wish to power some of them may require an extra boost of power for them to initially startup. An example of this would be a refrigerator. Refrigerators come with a compressor that starts the refrigeration process. This compressor needs an extra boost of power just to get turned on and started. After a short amount of time, say thirty seconds or so, the starting watts are no longer needed and the refrigerator transitions to a smaller running wattage number.

Because of starting watts many folks have to purchase a power inverter with a higher wattage then they anticipated. There is some good news though when it comes to starting watts. Depending on your inverter you may be able to get away with running an appliance that has a higher starting watt number then your power inverter. Starting watts are only required for a short amount of time and if your inverter can handle the overload for that thirty seconds or so then you should be fine to run said appliance. Be sure to check your inverter’s manual before purchasing so that you know for sure.

Conclusion

In short folks, it really depends on what type of inverter that you have. Do you have surge protection or not? My advice is to purchase an inverter that exceeds your power needs by at least twenty or thirty percent. Factor in your starting watts into this number as well. So, you should exceed twenty or thirty percent ABOVE your starting watts. This is needed so that if you miscalculate a wattage requirement OR if you wish to add something additional down the road you are not at the peak of your inverter’s wattage. The twenty to thirty percent gives you a buffer and helps to prevent an overload.

Thanks for reading and I hope this article was helpful,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools.com