How Long Can I Run a TV on a Power Inverter?

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

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

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

How Long Can You Run a Television?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Alec Johnson

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