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

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