Can you Run a Power Inverter While Driving?

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.


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

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