Question Marks

Power inverters are a great tool to have for your vehicle rather it be your daily driving car, truck, motorhome, or even a boat. Whatever application you have in mind the purpose of power inverters remains the same. They provide you with a source of alternating current (AC) power so that you are able to run appliances or electronics that you would normally run at your home or office.

These power inverters will hook up directly to your vehicle’s battery and on the other end will typically have one or two one-hundred and twenty volt outlets. These are the same outlets found in your home. The inverter draws its energy from the power stored in your battery. If the vehicle’s engine is turned on then the battery will be constantly recharged through the alternator. However, if your engine is off then you are relying on the battery and the battery alone to provide you with a source of power for your inverter.

A common question here is exactly how long you can expect your vehicle’s battery to last with the engine off and the inverter drawing power. Now there is no magic number here. There are so many variables it is difficult to give you an exact time. Think about it for a moment, there are all different sizes of power inverters out there. There are different sized batteries out there. Each battery can have a different charge level as well. All of these points factor into how long the battery will last.

Now, that all being said what I can do is give you an estimated time. Your standard battery found on a vehicle is meant to store enough energy to give a short burst of power to start your vehicle. These twelve volt batteries are not meant for long term use but instead short bursts. It is recommended to not let the charge on these batteries drop below ninety percent capacity. If that does occur then you risk damaging the battery or perhaps even ruining it.

With that in mind your vehicle’s battery can expect to last between thirty to sixty minutes when providing power to your inverter. As I stated before, this is an estimate and each application varies. If it was me though I would not run the power inverter with my engine off. The risk is high that you could end up draining your battery until it is dead and then your vehicle will not start and you are stranded.

Alternatives

If you have your heart set on running your power inverter while your engine is off then there is an alternative option. Perhaps you wish to do a tail-gating event. Or, you plan on camping and would like to have warm coffee in the morning. Whatever the reason is you should know there is another option out there that allows you to run power inverters from your vehicle while the engine is off for hours at a time.

This alternative method is installing a secondary battery on your vehicle. This secondary battery would have to be a ‘Deep Cycle’ battery. These deep cycle batteries are meant for long term use and their capacity can drop as low as fifty percent without damaging the battery. These are the type of batteries found in motorhomes and recreational vehicles. These batteries can last for hours and sometimes even days.

The secondary battery is charged along with your standard twelve volt battery by the alternator while your engine is running. When the vehicle is off the power inverter will draw power from the secondary battery and preserve the energy stored in your main starting battery. This will help to prevent the scenario with a dead battery and your car will not start.

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

To close out this article folks and to answer your question your car’s battery will last between thirty to sixty minutes when running a power inverter with the engine is off. This is an estimated time though and there are many factors that can impact these numbers. If you plan to run your power inverters for an extended period of time then you should either run it with your vehicle’s engine on or you should look at installing a secondary deep cycle battery.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools.com

Question

There are many times that we wish we could plug-in something to our car or other vehicle while driving. It could be that you wish to charge your laptop, your phone, or perhaps even have a small television plugged in for long road trips. Whatever it is that you wish to power you will need a power inverter installed in your vehicle in order to provide the necessary one-hundred and twenty volt plug-ins needed for these appliances and electronics.

Power inverters take your vehicle’s direct current (DC) power and convert it over to alternating current (AC). AC power is what all of the electronics and appliances use in your home today. The inverter will connect to your battery directly on one side and on the other side it will have one or two one-hundred and twenty volt plug-ins just like what you would find at your home.

Over the past few weeks we have been writing numerous articles on power inverters in an effort to cover all of your questions. In today’s article we are going to be focusing on the common question of, are power inverters bad for your car? Let’s dive in and take a look!

Are They Bad for Your Car?

When it comes to using power inverters there is only really one thing on your vehicle that it can damage, and that is your vehicle’s battery. Most vehicles come with a standard twelve volt battery that is used for starting your vehicle. It can also provide power for your radio, clock, and interior lights for small periods of time while the engine is off. As I said before, power inverters connect straight to your battery and draw the DC power from your battery.

If you run your power inverter while your vehicle’s engine is off then you will be draining the battery. If left unchecked you can drain the battery until it is dead. You are then left with a dead battery and at the minimum will need a jump from another vehicle just to get your car going again. You also may or may not have permanently damaged your vehicle’s battery. Standard vehicle batteries are only meant to give that initial boost of power when turning the vehicle on. They are not meant for long term use. If their capacity falls under ninety percent then you could end up shortening the lifespan of the battery.

There are alternative solutions here to allow you run inverters while the vehicle’s engine is off, but before I get into that lets first take a look at what happens when your vehicle is running. If you have your inverter powered on while you are driving down the road, or even just idling, things are a bit different. When running your vehicle’s alternator is constantly producing power for the vehicle’s electronics and also to charge the battery. So, if you have a power inverter running and draining your power from your battery your vehicle’s alternator will be recharging your battery at the same time.

Now in most cases the alternator will be producing more power then the power inverter is drawing. In these examples you can run the inverter the entire time you are driving with little or no issues. If you have a larger power inverter hooked up though, say two-thousand watts or higher, then you could run into instances where the power inverter is drawing more power then the alternator can produce. When this occurs the alternator will try to leverage some of the stored power in the battery to make up for its shortcomings. This will result in your battery being drained completely even while you are driving down the road.

This is why it is so key to know the wattage of exactly what you are trying to power with your inverter. Some appliances have their wattage draw on the labels but some only have amperage. Not to worry though as you can still figure out wattage rather easily. All you have to do is take the amperage number and multiply it by the volts. Volts are what type of plug-in the appliance uses. Most will end up using the standard one-hundred and twenty volt plug-in. So, what you have here is amperage times volts equals watts. As an example let’s say you have a coffee machine rated at five amps. Five amps times one-hundred and twenty volts equals out to six-hundred watts.  It is also best practices to go twenty or thirty percent higher then your calculated power requirements. This gives you a buffer zone so that if you did miscalculate or if you have additional equipment that needs powered you have the room.

Not only is it important to know the wattage requirements and the amps produced by your alternator it is also key to understand what sized of inverter you should buy. So, again going with that coffee maker you would need one-thousand watt inverter. (Adding thirty percent to the six-hundred watt number gets us there.)

Alternative Solutions

Now if you wish to only power your inverter while driving and only using one-thousand watts or less then you should be fine to use your vehicle’s existing equipment. You most likely will not have to make any modifications. However, if you aim to power high wattage equipment while driving or if you wish to power smaller equipment for long periods of time while your vehicle is off then it is time to look at some alternative mods you can do to your vehicle.

As I said, there are two situations here. First lets look at powering high wattage equipment, say two-thousand watts or more, while your vehicle’s engine is on. Without modifications you can run into the issue we stated earlier where the alternator cannot produce enough energy and the battery ends up getting drained as you are driving down the road. The solution here is actually quite simple, all you need to do is purchase a high capacity alternator. Alternators have a maximum amperage that they can produce. By purchasing a high capacity alternator you are increasing the amperage limit which in turn increases the amount of power that the alternator can produce. Now there are many examples of high capacity alternators out there today and as you know each vehicle will require different fitting parts. So, I will not go as far as recommending a product here but instead suggest you consult with your dealership or local mechanic. Before consulting with them it is best to know your current alternator’s amperage limits. You can then begin to determine exactly what size high output alternator you will need.

The other scenario is that you may not be using a large amount of power but you DO want to run the power inverter while your vehicle is off. With your standard twelve volt battery you can only really get about thirty to sixty minutes of runtime before your battery is dead. To get around this you can install an alternative battery or a second battery for your vehicle. This second battery should be a ‘Deep Cycle’ battery. These deep cycle batteries are meant to last much longer then your standard automotive battery. Remember earlier how I stated that the battery cannot fall under ninety percent capacity? Well a deep cycle battery can drop as far as fifty percent! That is a significant difference.

The deep cycle battery will be charged just like your other battery is. When the vehicle is running the alternator will charge both batteries as you drive. Then when you shut the vehicle off you will be ready to hours of charge time on your deep cycle battery. If you do notice that the batteries aren’t charging as fast as you like you may also look into the high output alternator we mentioned above as well.

Again, I will not get into the install process of adding an alternative battery to your vehicle. Instead I recommend this guide I found. It gives you a basic understanding of what needs to be done. If you find you are still confused on how to do it then I recommend visiting your dealership or local mechanic and asking for heir assistance.

Conclusion

So in closing folks power inverters are not really bad for your car. The only thing to watch for, or look out for, is your car’s battery. If left unchecked or if you did not measure how much wattage you are drawing from the battery then you could end up with a dead battery. When selecting power inverters remember to get the proper size and to also understand how you wish to run the inverter. Will you be using it as you drive down the road? Or, will it be used with the vehicle off perhaps at a tail gate party? Determining this will allow you to figure out the next steps and if you need to move forward with an alternative solution for your vehicle.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools.com

Power inverters are a great addition to add to your vehicle. It could be your car, truck, RV, or even your boat. These simple devices allow you to power nearly any kind of electronic or appliances straight from the comfort of your vehicle. Perhaps you are going on a long road trip with the family and you’d like to setup a television for the kids. Or, perhaps you are going on an off-grid camping trip and you’d like some warm coffee in the morning. A power inverter can solve all of these problems and more.

While setting up a power inverter is relatively easy there are still a lot of questions that surround these tools. Over the past few weeks we here at ToughAssTools.com have taken the time to answer most, if not all, of these questions. Today’s topic is how power inverters and your vehicle’s batteries work together. Let’s dive in and take a look.

Power Inverter & Batteries

To understand power inverters we first need to understand the main types of electricity. There are two different types of electricity. The first is known as alternating current, or AC. This AC is what is used in all of our homes and is what all of our standard appliances and electronics plug into. The second type of electricity is known as direct current or DC. DC is what is found in vehicles such as cars, trucks, motorhomes, and even boats. This power is driven from the alternator in your vehicle and then storing that power in your standard twelve volt battery. The power inverter works to convert that DC energy over to AC energy so that you can use appliances and electronics in your vehicle.

To answer the question of this article, yes, running a power inverter will drain your battery. But, there is more to it then that. First, do you plan to run this power inverter while your vehicle’s engine is running or do you plan to run it while the engine is off? This is a BIG difference as far as battery life. If you plan to run this inverter while you are driving down the road then the chance of draining your battery goes way down. This is because that while you are driving the vehicle’s alternator is running. The alternator is what produces electric current in your vehicle. This current is then used as needed and the rest is sent to charge your battery. If you are using the inverter while driving then the alternator is continuing to provide you with power so that the battery does not drain. In theory you could run in the inverter as long as your vehicle is running.

That being said, there exceptions when using a power inverter while the engine is running. If you purchase a very large inverter, say two-thousand watts or higher, then you could end up exceeding the amps of your alternator. In other words, you are asking for so much power that exceeds what your alternator can produce. When this happens the alternator will try to keep up but what will end up happening is your battery will begin to drain WHILE you are driving down the road. If left unchecked this will eventually cause your entire vehicle to shut down as you are driving. Once you pull over to the side of the road you will be left with a dead battery.

This is why it is important to consider purchasing an aftermarket high amperage alternator. These high amperage alternators can produce much higher amounts of direct current energy then your standard OEM alternators. By installing one of these you can ensure that you will be able to run whatever you need on your inverter without the alternator being overloaded. If you are not familiar with installing one of these then I suggest visiting your local repair shop.

The other side of the coin here is running your power inverter while the vehicle’s engine is turned off. When you are doing this you are solely relying on the power stored in the vehicle’s battery. The alternator is NOT running in this scenario so it is only the battery that can provide you with power. I will tell you right now that standard twelve volt automotive batteries are NOT meant to power things long term. They are instead meant to give you the initial power to crank the engine and get your vehicle going. If these batteries fall below ninety percent capacity then you could end up permanently damaging the battery. This is why if you do choose to run a power inverter off of just your vehicle’s standard battery you can only really do so for an hour or two. Anymore and you risk having a dead battery.

There is another option here folks. If you do plan to run power inverters for a substantial amount of time while your vehicle is off then it is recommended to install what is known as an alternative battery. This is a second battery installed in your car so that when the vehicle is on it not only charges your main battery but it also charges your secondary battery. If you go this route be sure to purchase a deep cycle battery as your secondary. Deep cycle batteries are what’s used in motorhomes and recreational vehicles. They are meant to last a long time and provide a long charge. While the twelve volt battery cannot fall below ninety percent capacity a deep cycle can go as low as fifty percent. That is a BIG difference and gives you many hours, sometimes days, of power to work with.

If you do end up going with the deep cycle battery then I would also look into purchasing a higher amperage alternator as well. It may not be one-hundred percent needed but it will give you a faster charge and also ensure that you have enough power to charge both batteries.

The last thing to mention here is that once you are done with your power inverter and you are leaving your vehicle be sure to turn it to the off position. If the power inverter is left on then you could still end up draining power from your batteries. This is true even if there are no plug-ins connected on the AC side of the power inverter. The inverter can still draw five to ten percent of it’s rated wattage. It is always safest to just turn it off when done so that you do not come back to a dead battery.

Conclusion

In conclusion folks, yes power inverters will drain your vehicle’s batteries. The power has to come from somewhere and when it is being used it will pull from your batteries. If you are using the inverter while your vehicle is running then the alternator will recharge your battery. This will in effect give you endless power as long as your vehicle is running. On the other hand, if you are running your inverter with your vehicle’s engine off then watch it carefully and time the use. Eventually your battery will be drained to the point of no return.

I hope this article was helpful and thanks for reading.

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools.com

Power inverters are a great tool to have around rather you are an experienced RVer or if you just wish to have some extra power during a long road trip. They provide you and your vehicle with alternating current (AC) power that allows you to power basic appliances like laptops, television, gaming systems, coffee makers, and so much more. They also come in a variety of sizes so that you can ensure that you can power whatever you need.

This power doesn’t come from thin air though. It comes from your vehicle’s batteries or your vehicle’s alternator. For an example, lets say that your vehicle’s engine is turned off, the power inverter is plugged in, and you have your laptop plugged into the inverter. The power inverter will provide your laptop with the needed power to charge but that charge has to come from somewhere. This charge comes from your vehicle’s battery. If left unchecked the power inverter can drain your battery to the point of where it is dead. This will leave your car unable to start without a jump and could also leave you stranded. This is not a good place to be.

Your standard twelve volt automotive battery is not intended for the long term use from a power inverter. Instead, they are meant for quick burst of energy to start your vehicle’s engine and electrical systems. Because of this the battery will not last long under the long term load of a power inverter. Some folks opt for installing a secondary or alternative battery known as a deep cycle battery. These deep cycle batteries can last much longer then your standard battery but even they will eventually drain to the point of no return.

It is important to monitor how long you have appliances plugged into your inverter so that you do not wind up with a dead battery. It is also important to recognize that your power inverter can still drain energy from your vehicle even when nothing is plugged into the AC side. (The AC side is where your laptops or other appliances would plug into.) When the power inverter is left with no AC connections plugged in it can still end up drawing five to ten percent of its rated power. So, if you had a one-thousand watt inverter connected it could end up drawing fifty to one-hundred watts of power even with no AC connections plugged in.

While this will be a much slower drain then if you had appliances plugged in it is still a drain of power that can leave you in a bad situation. Let’s say for example you took your truck out for a weekend camping trip. You had the inverter plugged in and it worked fine. When you got home Sunday night you put the truck away and went about your business. The power inverter had the appliances unplugged BUT it was still on and connected to your vehicle’s battery. The week passes and come Friday night you want to take the truck out again. You go to start only to find that the battery is dead.

This is a prime example of what can happen when power inverters are left on. The lessen from this short example and from this article is to always always turn your power inverter OFF when you are done with it. Some folks will go as far as disconnecting the battery connection from the inverter as well. In most cases this is not necessary. Having the inverter switched to OFF will be enough to ensure that there is no further power drain on your vehicle.

Conclusion

In short folks, to answer the question of this article, yes power inverters can still draw power when there are no appliances or electronics connected to them. If the inverter is connected to your vehicle’s battery and the inverter is left on it can draw five to ten percent of that inverter’s power. This will equate to a slow drain, but it is still a drain on power. When you are done with your inverter be sure to unplug everything and to turn the inverter to OFF before leaving your vehicle.

There is ONE more thing to mention here before I close this article and that is RVs or motorhomes. These types of vehicles can get power from both your standard DC alternator/battery but ALSO from AC current like that of a generator or a plug-in connection at a campground. In most cases these vehicles also have what is known as a Converter. A converter works the opposite way that a power inverter does. The converter will convert the AC energy coming into your vehicle into DC energy. This converted DC energy will actually charge your batteries. It is in these cases where you CAN leave the power inverter on without worry as the batteries of your vehicle are being charged so there is no risk of the batteries dying from the inverter’s power demand.

I hope this article was helpful and was able to answer some of your questions.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools.com

Question

Power inverters are a great tool to have on your vehicle rather it be a car, truck, motorhome, or even a boat. They are able to provide you with a source of alternating current (AC) power so that you are able to run common household items such as laptops, coffee makers, televisions, or whatever else is needed. In most cases they will have to be installed by hooking directly to your vehicle’s battery and then routing the inverter cables through your car’s firewall. Smaller sized models though can typically plug right into your vehicle’s built-in dash charger.

One of the most common questions we get on power inverters is what size of inverter should you purchase? Now inverters come in four main sizes. The lowest, or smallest, is between two-hundred to four-hundred watts. These are the units that can plug into your car’s dashboard without any real setup. The downside here is that four-hundred watt limit typically does not have enough capacity to power larger or more complex appliances. The other common sizes of inverters are one-thousand watts, two-thousand watts, and three-thousand watts. There are some four-thousand watt and larger models out there, but these are rarely needed.

When it comes to choosing a power inverter’s size bigger is not always better. The larger the unit the more power that is going to route through it which means the more power you will need either from your vehicle’s alternator or battery. With these really large units you will most likely need to either have a high capacity alternator installed or an alternative deep cycle battery installed. In some cases it is recommended to have both installed so that your vehicle can handle the large power loads required for a three or four-thousand watt inverter.

Determining the correct size power inverter for your needs is actually quite easy. All you need to do is add up all of the wattage requirements of the appliances you wish to power. For example, if appliance A has a wattage of four-hundred and appliance B has a wattage of three-hundred then it would make sense to purchase a one-thousand watt inverter. If you find that you are unable to find the wattage requirements on an appliance then you can also look at the appliance’s amperage draw. This is typically labeled as ‘5 Amps,’ or something similar.

Once you know the amperage you can find the watts very easily. Just take the amperage amount times the volt. Volts are determined by the type of plug-in the appliance has. If it plugs into the standard outlet found throughout your home then it requires one-hundred and twenty volts. The math would be amperage times volts. An example would be a coffee machine that requires six amps. Six amps times one-hundred and twenty volts equals seven-hundred and twenty watts required.

When you have the total wattage needs calculated it is also safest to add an additional twenty to thirty percent to that number. Using the same example from above with the coffee machine we have a wattage amount of seven-hundred and twenty required. If we add thirty percent we get an amount of just over one-thousand. There is your number. To run your coffee machine along with a twenty/thirty percent addition you would need a one-thousand watt inverter.

Conclusion

Simply repeat this process for however many appliances you wish to power with your vehicle. Remember though folks that you need to be aware that the power routing through your inverter comes from your vehicle. If you are not careful or if you do not install an alternative deep cycle battery then you could end up with a dead battery due to the power draw. Not will the battery need jump started but it could also shorten the life span of that battery.

For more on this topic I recommend checking out our power inverter’s buying guide which can be found by clicking here.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools.com

Question

Over the past few months here at ToughAssTools.com we have spent a significant amount of time writing about the ways to obtain power through non-traditional means. What I mean by that is receiving power from a portable generator, a standby generator, or even from wind or solar energy. There are so many ways to get the power we need nowadays that it can be a little boggling. One option for power that we have not covered yet is power inverters.

Many folks are not familiar with power inverters or exactly what they are used for. To understand them first we need to understand the different types of electrical power that are available today. In your home, office, or garage you will be using what is known as alternating current, or AC, power. This AC power is the standard power used for these stationary applications and is sourced from the power grid. Anything that plugs into a standard one-hundred and twenty or two-hundred and forty volt outlet is using AC power.

The other form of power is known as Direct Current, or DC, power. Direct Current is found in any kind of mobile application. Examples of this would be your car, truck, jeep, motorhome, or even your boat. This DC is powered by your engine’s alternator. The alternator generates electricity which is then in turn stored in your vehicle’s battery. This is how your vehicle starts and how other electronics in your vehicle can run. Think of your car’s radio or indoor lights as an example of DC powered applications.

Now, let’s pretend that you and your family decide to do a tail gating event for your favorite local sports team. Here in Kansas City it’d be for that great Chiefs team and Mr. Mahomes! At that tail gating event you wish to power some basic appliances such as a crock pot or other other kitchen applications. To do this you would need to have a source of alternating current energy even though your car only produces direct current energy.

This is where a power inverter comes into play. A power inverter converts DC energy over to AC energy. When looking at an inverter you will see on one end there are wires and a connection point to your vehicle’s battery. On the other end of the inverter there are one or two one-hundred and twenty volt outlet plug-ins. Once you hook the inverter up directly to your battery you will then have a source of alternating current power that will allow you to run a crock pot, charge your laptop, or run a television to watch the pre-game show.

Sizing

If you wish to purchase an inverter please note that you will need to make a few considerations before purchasing. The first is exactly what size of inverter that you need. Inverters come in a variety of sizes ranging from a few hundred watts all the way up to four-thousand watts or higher. Now, the most popular sizes are one-thousand, two-thousand, and three-thousand watts. It is vitally important that you buy the right size for your needs.

You can determine exactly what size of inverter you need by adding up all of the required wattage of the appliances you wish to power. If the appliance you are wanting to power does NOT have a total wattage number then there is no need to worry. Chances are it does show the number of amps it requires. If you have the amps number then all you have to do is take that amperage number and multiply it by the volts. The volts is the type of plug-in that it uses. If it is a standard plug-in then multiply the amps by one-hundred and twenty volts.

Let’s look at an example. Say a coffee machine requires six amps and it uses a standard one-hundred and twenty volt plug-in. So, the math problem is six amps times one-hundred and twenty volts equals seven-hundred and twenty watts. It is also recommended to always go twenty or thirty percent higher in inverter size then what you have calculated. This gives you some leeway in case you want to add something additional down the road or if you miscalculated something slightly.

Batteries

Another point to mention here when dealing with power inverters are your vehicle’s batteries. The power inverter draws power from your battery in order to power your appliances. There are two ways to run an inverter. The first is with your engine on. When your engine is on the battery is constantly being charged by your vehicle’s alternator. The alternator is then powering your battery and your power inverter. Having the vehicle on when running a power inverter is the safest option as you do not have a risk of draining your battery.

The other option to run your inverter is with your engine off. In this case your inverter is directly drawing power from your vehicle’s battery. If left unchecked the inverter will drain your battery. This will leave you with a dead battery and not able to start your vehicle. The good news is that there is a way around this. Let’s say that you wish to have power from your inverter for a significant amount of time. What you can do is install an alternative battery in your vehicle. If you install an alternative deep cycle battery in your vehicle then your inverter will be able to run for hours without draining your main battery to the point where it is dead.

Conclusion

So folks, in closing a power inverter will convert your vehicle’s direct current power over to alternating current which will allow you to power appliances or electronics while in your car, truck, motorhome, or boat. They are great appliances to have around for tail gating, camping, or even a long road trip. Just remember that they do drain power and you should be mindful when running them so that you do not end up with a dead battery!

Our recommended power inverter is this model from Ampeak. It comes in one-thousand and two-thousand watt sizes which should give you more then enough power to get what you need powered. Click here to visit the product on Amazon.com.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools.com

Question Marks

Power inverters are a great tool to have in your car, truck, RV, boat, or any other mobile vehicle. They can provide you with that much needed power to run a coffee maker, charge your laptop, or even run your television. Whatever your need is the power inverter can help you out.

The question though is that when you are looking to purchase a power inverter what exactly should you be looking for? There are a lot of questions on power inverters and what exactly they do, how they work, and what you can expect when purchasing. This article aims to tackle all of these questions and also provide you with a full buying guide. Let us dive in and take a look!

How They Work

I will not bore you with all of the technical details here but instead give you a short abridged version on how power inverters can work for your vehicle. First we need to understand that there are two main types of electricity in today’s world. There is the alternating current, or AC, and there is the direct current, or DC. Now AC electricity is found in your home, office, or other environment. If you plug something into the wall at your home you are using AC electricity. DC electricity is found in any mobile application such as a car, truck, boat, motorhome, or any other kind of vehicle.

AC gets its power source from the power grid and nearby power plant. DC energy get its source from your vehicle’s engine and alternator. While the engine is on the alternator runs and produces electrical energy. A power inverter takes this DC energy produced by your alternator and converts it over to AC energy. Typically a power inverter will have a connection point on one end to your vehicle’s battery and then one or two one-hundred and twenty volt outlets for you to plug-in appliances.

When installed you are now able to plug-in your laptop, television, or whatever else you wish to power. It is that simple.

Wattage Requirements

Before purchasing a power inverter there are a few main things you need to look out for. The first is the overall wattage of the power inverter. This example inverter is a very basic model that comes in at only three-hundred watts. This three-hundred watt unit is one of the smallest units out there. Some of the most common inverter sizes are one-thousand watts, two-thousand watts, and three-thousand watts. You can find some four-thousand watt models, but they are rare.

It is not always best to go big or go home when it comes to purchasing an inverter though. You should first ask exactly what am I trying to power with it? This will give you a guide as to what size you need. Once you know what you want to power you then need to determine the wattage requirements of that appliance or electronic.

Now many appliances do not show actual wattage but instead show you amps or amperage usage. Not to worry though as you can still find the watts rather easily. The only thing you need to do is take that amperage number and multiply it by the volts. Remember, that volts are the type of outlet that it plugs into. So, let’s say for example you wish to charge your laptop computer. Charging a laptop will typically use around 0.5 amps. You will plug that computer into a one-hundred and twenty volt outlet. The math becomes 0.5 amps multiplied by 120 volts which results in 60 watts used.

The three-hundred watt inverter we linked above will be more then enough to power your laptop. That is because powering a laptop is a very low power function. If you were to power something that has movement to it, produces heat, or produces cold then you are going to require a lot more power. This is seen as the ‘Golden Rule’ with power inverters. If there is movement, it produces heat, or it produces cold then you can expect a lot more power requirements. An example of this is a coffee machine. While a coffee machine may seem simple you have to remember that it has to heat the water before creating the coffee. This heating action requires a lot of amps.

Again, lets look at an example. A standard coffee machine can use anywhere between six to eight amps. If we perform the same math as before we end up with 6 amps times 120 volts equaling out to 720 total watts required. The three-hundred watt inverter we recommended above would NOT be enough to power your coffee maker. This is why it is so important to accurately determine the wattage you will need before purchasing. If you do not then you could purchase too small and end up wasting your money.

It is also recommended to go at least twenty or thirty percent higher then what your wattage requirements are. This gives you some leeway in case your calculations were slightly off OR if you wish to add more appliances down the road. In the example of the coffee machine I would suggest going with a one-thousand watt power inverter. An example model from Amazon can be found by clicking here.

Batteries & Alternators

The first question I have to ask in this section is how do you plan to run your power inverter? Is it intended to be on and running while you are driving and your vehicle’s engine is on? If so, then you most likely will not have to add an alternative battery to your vehicle. When the engine if your vehicle is on the alternator generates electricity which powers the electronics in your car, charges your battery, and will power your power inverter.

The thing to look out for here is that you are not asking for too much power from your alternator. If you have a ton of high wattage appliances plugged into your inverter then you could end up exceeding your alternator’s capacity. When this happens the alternator will begin to drain your vehicle’s battery as well in order to compensate for the large power demand. If this happens then your battery could end up completely drained and the engine could end up shutting off. You are then left with a dead battery and your vehicle not running. This is NOT a good position to be in.

If you do expect to use excessive wattage while driving, say over one-thousand watts, then I would suggest purchasing an aftermarket high capacity alternator. These replacement alternators are able to create more electricity to handle your vehicle’s demand. A standard alternator produces anywhere between forty to one-hundred and twenty amps. A high output alternator can produce up to two-hundred and fifty amps. Be sure to find the right high output alternator for your vehicle before purchasing!

Now if you plan to run your power inverter while your vehicle’s engine is powered off then that is a whole different story. You see when the vehicle is turned off you are relying on the vehicle’s battery to power your inverter. This is the same battery that allows you to listen to the radio or have the lights on while the engine is off. These standard twelve volt batteries are very limited. Their intended purpose is to start the vehicle and they are NOT supposed to fall under ninety percent capacity. If they do then you could end up damaging the battery or shortening its lifespan.

This is why it is highly suggested to install an alternative battery on your vehicle. These alternative batteries can be installed easily enough by adding a mounting plate, securing the battery, and then hooking up the wiring properly. I will not get into all the details here, but for a guide on how to setup alternative automotive batteries I recommend this article found by clicking here. If you decide to go the alternative battery route then I highly suggest that you purchase what is known as a deep cycle battery for your alternate.

Deep cycle batteries are intended to run for a long time without power. While the standard twelve volt battery is not meant to fall under ninety percent capacity a deep cycle can fall as low as fifty percent, or more, without damaging it. You typically see deep cycle batteries installed on RVs or motorhomes already as alternative batteries. The deep cycles allow you to power the RV while the engine is not running. NOTE that if you do plan to install an alternative battery you will also need to install a battery isolator as well. This isolator acts as a switch between the batteries and allows both batteries to be used.

Now if it was me and I wanted to be one-hundred percent safe here then I would install both a high capacity alternator AND a deep cycle alternative battery. This will give you all of the power you need without risk of draining your battery.

Hook-Up

Now one of the last questions here on power inverters is how to hook them up to your vehicle. This really depends on size. If you are purchasing a smaller three-hundred watt model then in most cases all you need to do is plug it in to the cigarette lighter or other power connection found right in your dash.

However, if you are purchasing a larger inverter model then you will need to hook it up directly to your battery under the hood of your vehicle. You will then need to route the wiring through your vehicle’s firewall and into your cab. This is not the easiest of tasks and if you are not already a do-it-yourselfer then you may ask for a mechanics help. For a guide on this I recommend this YouTube video. It walks you through the steps and also answers most questions. Click here for the YouTube link.

True Sine or Modified Sine?

This topic gest a bit tricky as it dives into electricity knowledge and how it all works together. In short a power inverter can produce two types of waves for it’s electrical output. These are Modified Sine Waves and True Sine Waves. The Modified Sine Wave models are the most popular when it comes to power inverters. They produce the consistent power that is needed to power most devices.

A True Sine Wave power inverter are going to be the most expensive out of the two. These are the luxury models. The main difference between them is that a True Sine Wave inverter will deliver the highest quality and consistent power source to your appliances. Some sensitive equipment like laptop computers, medical equipment, or very specialized tools require True Sine Waves to operate correctly. If powered by Modified Sine Waves the appliance could end up damaged.

In most cases you will be ok with Modified Sine Waves but if you have questions then it is recommended to review the product’s instruction manual for details on what type of waves are needed. If you are still unable to find the information then it is recommended to call the manufacturer to be one-hundred percent certain.

Conclusion

As you can see folks there is a lot that goes into installing a power inverter. But, it really depends on what you are planning to use it for and exactly how much power you plan to use. If you are just powering a laptop, phones, DVD players, or other small electronics then you can most likely get away with the simple three-hundred watt inverters. These are much easier as you typically do not have to route any wiring or even install alternative batteries. Just be aware that if you are running the inverter with your engine off you COULD drain your battery.

On the other hand if you plan to use a lot of power be sure to follow our guide above.

Lastly, note that working with car batteries can be dangerous due to the acid that they contain. Please take all necessary safety precautions when working with them. We here at ToughAssTools are not liable for any damage or injury caused from working with these products.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools.com

Question

Power inverters are a unique type of tool that many of us know very little about. But, once you understand what they are and what they can offer many folks end up purchasing one to have around, just in case. Before I explain power inverters let me first explain that there are two forms of electricity. There is what is known as alternating current, or AC. AC electricity is what our homes, offices, and garages use. These are your standard one-hundred and twenty and two-hundred and forty volt outlets. This is the type of power that your computer, television, microwave, and everything else in your home plugs into.

The other form of electricity is known as direct current, or DC. A DC current is what you are going to find in all of your ‘mobile’ applications. When I say mobile I mean your car, truck, motorhome, recreational vehicle, or even your boat. This DC power is derived from your batteries. As DC power is used your batteries are drained. The batteries can be recharged either through your vehicle’s engine, a gas generator, solar panels, or even through wind power. The most common of course though is the using of your vehicle’s engine.

Ok, so now we know that your vehicle uses DC power and all of your standard household appliances and electronics use AC power. So, what happens if you want to run an AC powered appliance in your vehicle with DC power? This my friends is where a power inverter comes into play. A power inverter in short converts the DC energy over to AC energy. One side of the inverter will connect to your vehicle either through a power port in the dash or directly to the battery itself. The other side of the inverter will have one or two one-hundred and twenty volt outlets just like what you would find today at your home. This is where you can plug in your appliance.

Things to Consider

Now, there are a couple things to mention here when running a power inverter in your vehicle. The first is that they will drain your battery and most often will drain your battery faster then other DC applications in your vehicle. Most of the time you will be able to run small electronics such as laptops, phones, DVD players, and even small televisions while the engine is running. In these instances the alternator will be doing the heavy lifting. It will provide power to your car and your inverter electronics as well as charge the battery. The problem can occur though if you are running electronics while your engine is off. When doing this you are relying on your vehicle’s battery to provide all of the power. If left unchecked this can result in a dead battery which in the best of scenarios will just need a jump and in the worst the battery may need to be replaced.

The other point to consider here is that if you are planning on running a significant amount of electronics or appliances with high wattage requirements then you may end up exceeding your alternator’s capacity. When this happens your battery will begin to drain EVEN as you are driving down the highway. This can result to the entire engine shutting off and leaving you with a dead battery. It is important not to overload your vehicle with power requirements.

If you do plan to run high power requirement applications from your vehicle then you either need to invest in a high capacity alternator OR an alternative deep cycle battery. If you plan to run these electronics while you are driving and the engine is on then a higher capacity alternator will do the trick. This alternator will produce MORE power then your standard unit and will allow for all electronics to be run and have your battery charged at the same time.

If you plan to run these electronics while the engine is off then it is recommended that you have an alternative battery installed on your vehicle. Now an RV or motorhome will already have a setup similar to this. An RV has your standard twelve volt automotive battery. This is a similar battery that we have to start our cars or other vehicles. It gives the initial burst of power we need and then the alternator takes over. RVs also have another set of batteries known as deep cycle. These deep cycle batteries are meant for long term use and are able to provide power for hours.

Adding a deep cycle alternative battery to your vehicle as an alternative battery can be done. I will not get into all of the details on HOW to do this here but if installed correctly you can then begin to run electronics for hours with the engine off while not having to worry about draining your primary battery dead. For a guide on how to setup alternative automotive batteries I recommend this article found by clicking here.

Conclusion

So, in short folks a power inverter converts the DC energy in your vehicle over to AC energy which in turn allows you to run an AC appliance or electronic in your vehicle. An example basic power inverter can be found by clicking here and going to Amazon.com. Power inverters come in all shapes and sizes. You can find basic ones at around three-hundred watts like the one I linked earlier, or you could find sizes ranging from one-thousand watts all the way up to three-thousand watts. An example three-thousand watt inverter can be found by clicking here.  These larger watt inverters will be able to power A LOT of electronics and equipment… but only if your battery or alternator is up to the task!

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools.com

Question

Having the power go out in your home is never an enjoyable time. Our lives are so dependent on electricity nowadays that many times when the power does go out we have no idea what to do with ourselves. Luckily, most power outages only last for a short time. Typically the power comes back on after an hour or two of it being out. But, what happens when you experience frequent power losses at your home? Or, when you do have a power loss it lasts for days instead of hours?

These power loss situations go from being an inconvenience to a big hassle. With a prolonged power loss you risk losing all of the food in your refrigerator or freezer. If you are in an extreme climate then you risk not being able to cool or heat your home. If you work out of your home or run a small business then you are unable to work. All of these are reasons to look into a standby generator.

Using a portable generator is an option, but they can be a hassle. With a portable system you have to roll it out away from your home, fill it up with fuel, route the connection extension cords, then turn it on. Then hours later you have to refuel it. It is a pain. A standby system though does it all for your automatically. When the power does go out in your home you will just see a slight flicker of the lights and then presto! Your standby system is now on and running.

Over the past few weeks we have been writing numerous articles on the topic of standby generators. This is being done due to the complexity of these machines. A portable generator can be bought online without much consideration. You determine the wattage you need and then find the one to suit your needs. Purchasing a standby generator is a bit more complex. Standby systems are not only significantly more expensive then portable systems but they also require professional installation.

Where Can I Buy Standby Generators?

Now there are many places where you can purchase a standby system, but you should be aware of the pros and cons of each. Let me first start with online shops such as Amazon.com. While you can purchase standby systems on this site I would not recommend it. In my experience a standby system should be bought only after talking with an expert in the topic. These experts can be found in various areas.

In my opinion the best place to purchase a standby system is going straight to your local dealer. While you will get a sales pitch you will also get to interact with experts on the topic. These folks deal with generators every day and know what they are talking about. If you have your heart set on purchasing a unit online then I would still recommend visiting one of these dealers. Chat with them and learn exactly what type of generator that you need. Once you have educated yourself on the topic then you can purchase online with your newfound knowledge.

However, I am still going to steer you away from online purchases when it comes to standby units. You are investing a significant amount of money on this machine and I would hate for something to go wrong and the company you bought from is unresponsive. When purchasing through a dealer you know where they are. You know who to complain to. You also will most likely get offered installation services from them as well.

That is another point that has to be considered. How are you going to have this generator installed? You not only have to have a transfer switch set up, but you need to hook the system up to your circuit board, route fuel lines either to your natural gas supply or to a liquid propane tank. On top of that you also need to be compliant with city, county, and state regulations. In some instances you may even need a permit to install a standby system. Are you prepared to jump through all of those hoops? Or, would you prefer the ‘easy button’ and work directly with a dealer? I know what I would choose.

Now there are many different standby system brands and dealers out there. I am not going to review everyone of the options but instead provide you with two links to the top brands out there today. This first link will take you to Generac’s find a dealer website. Generac is by far the most recognized name when it comes to generators. They know exactly what they are doing and you cannot go wrong with them. This is who I would purchase from.

The other option I want to make you aware of is from Kohler. This link will take you to their find a dealer section. Kohler is another very reputable brand out there and they will be able to walk you through the process of purchasing a standby generator system for your home. Some other brands to consider are Briggs & Stratton, Cummins, and Champion. These are all great brands as well and it cannot hurt to shop around between all of these brand names until you find the perfect fit for your home and your wallet.

Conclusion

The last point I want to mention before closing this article is that many of these dealers offer installation service by itself. What that means is you can purchase a unit online if you find a deal and then contact the dealer to arrange installation. Again though, I am going to try and steer you away from this approach as you just do not know what you are going to get online. If this was a much cheaper purchase then I would say go for it… but when spending multiple thousands of dollars I get concerned.

What if you get a lemon? What if the online site goes down and cannot be contacted after purchase? What if you receive a knock-off? Or, what if after you purchase you have a certified dealer come out only to find that you are missing key components or the unit itself is broken? There is so much risk here that it is best to just purchase from the dealer. As to what dealer and brand, I am going to leave that up to you!

Thanks for reading folks,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools.com

No one enjoys losing power at their home or place of business. For many of us it is a rare event that we experience after a strong storm passes by. In most cases the power comes back on an hour or two later and we think nothing of it. Some who are a bit more prepared  may have a portable generator in storage that we dust off every once and a while to keep things going.

There are some of us though who experience power losses frequently and when they do occur the power could be out for days at a time. This is not only a major pain but it can also have other impacts. When the power is out for a substantial amount of time you could see all of the food in your refrigerator and freezer go to waste. Along with that your air conditioner or furnace will not function.

A few years back my family and I purchased a small farm way out in the Kansas country. It was very remote and one of the most peaceful places I have ever lived. The downside was that when a storm rolled through the chances of us losing power were high. When the power did go out it was often out for a significant amount of time. Since we were so rural we were not at the top of the list to get power restored.

It was during this time that we began to seriously look at purchasing and installing a standby generator system. When installed these units will automatically switch on when your home’s power goes out. The moment your power goes out you will see a slight flicker in the lights and presto, your standby system has activated. You now have power throughout your home. These standby systems are definitely the ‘easy button’ when it comes to restoring power.

There are also a lot of questions when it comes to these machines. How much do they cost? What should you look for? What does the install look like? Over the past few weeks we have tackled these topics on standby generators one by one. In today’s article we are going to focus on a big one: What size of standby generator should you purchase? Let’s dive in and take a look.

Sizing Your Standby Generator

Now before we can size your standby generator we first have to review a couple of questions. Just like with many other things sizing a standby generator is not a clear cut simple answer. There are many variables that have to be reviewed and considered before you can accurately size your system. If you purchase a system that is sized too small then you will NOT be able to power everything you wish in your home. Or, if you purchase a system that is too large then you will be wasting money as well as fuel efficiency.

One of the most vital questions is what do you hope to accomplish with your standby system? Do you wish to power everything in your home including all major utilities? Or, do you only wish to power a few appliances and electronics? The answer to this question is going to directly determine how large of a system that you need. Obviously, if you are just looking to have a backup for a few appliances then you will need a much smaller size when compared to trying to power your whole home.

The next question that you need to review is just how large is your home? The larger the home the larger the size of generator that you are going to need. This is a given. Standby generators sizes are measured in kilowatts. An example of this would be a twenty kilowatt model. For an example, lets say that you have a twenty-five hundred square foot home. This sized home would need a generator with an estimated size of twenty-two kilowatts.

Using another example, let’s say that your home is fifteen-hundred square feet. With this size home the estimated standby generator would need to be fourteen kilowatts. Or, say you only want to power a few things in your home instead of the entire home. You may be able to get away with a seven kilowatt standby system. Or, going with the other extreme let’s say you want have a very large home at three or four-thousand square feet. Maybe it is a business you are trying to power. These larger sized buildings could require an estimate of forty kilowatts.

The above examples I gave were very broad but they should give you a kind of idea on what type of standby generator your home would need. To get a bit more specific though there are generator calculators out there that allow you to add up all of your appliances and electronics in your home. It gives you an estimate of each appliance and when it is all said and done it gives you an estimated wattage used. This can then be used to determine the standby generator that you need.

My two favorite generator calculators are this one from Generac and this one from Champion. Both are great at providing you with estimates. I would recommend using both of them so that you can get two opinions on your sizing needs. This gives you the second opinion before you end up committing to something. Remember that it is best to go twenty or thirty percent higher on wattages then the estimate. This gives you wiggle room if you forgot something. It also gives you room to add appliances to your home down the road.

Notice how I said estimate when using these examples? I said this as each home is unique. I can provide estimates to you all day long but they are just that, estimates. It is impossible for me to tell you exactly what your home needs. There could be a significant difference between you and your neighbors house. Perhaps they have an energy efficient air conditioner that uses less power then yours. There are just so many variables out there.

Conclusion

As you can see from above folks there are a lot of variables that goes into sizing your standby system. While the links we provided above are great for reference they are not to be taken as gospel. If you are truly looking at purchasing a standby system then I am going to highly recommend that you reach out to a certified dealer and get their expert opinion. There are many reputable brands out there to choose from, I personally though prefer the Generac brand. They are the biggest generator brand out there today and they have a great reputation of standing behind their products.

I hope this article was helpful and thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools.com