Car Power Inverter - How To Choose The Right Power Inverter For Your Car
A car power inverter is a small electronic device that converts the DC current from your car's battery into AC power that you can use to operate normal electrical appliances, for example a small television set or DVD player. Low power (wattage) units can be plugged directly into your car cigarette lighter while higher power units need to be hooked up directly to your car battery. As a general guide, many car electrical circuits can safely let you draw 100 watts to 200 watts of continuous power from the cigarette lighter. This may not seem much, but is nothing to sniff at. More than one salesman or executive on the go has charged his notebook computer off a cheap car power inverter plugged into his cigarette lighter. And parents with young children on a vacation have found it a life-saver, powering or recharging their kids' PSP or Gameboy consoles and sometimes playing movies and cartoons in a marathon session with a portable DVD player.
That said, not all electrical or electronic devices can run off all car power inverters. The cheapest and most popular power inverters today are the so-called modified sine wave type, which produce an AC current which approximates the current in your house mains. What this means is that when you measure it on an oscilloscope, there are some differences in the shape. And to cut costs further, new car power inverters do not guarantee the 60 Hz frequency of your house mains but outputs a range of 56 Hz to 64 Hz. While this is fine for many gadgets, it may not be sufficiently precise for your gadget on the power inverter you installed.
This means that your cell phone or PowerMac notebook may not run on the car power inverter you want. This does not mean you need to run off to buy a much more expensive true sine wave power inverter ... but it does mean you need to test the specific model of power inverter you want with all the devices you want to power from your car. So if you wanted to buy that Xantrex car power inverter your friend recommended, but the one in the shop did not work in your car for your cell phone, just try another unit (same model). Manufacturing tolerances mean that the shop's demo unit may produce 56 Hz AC current while your cell phone charger only accepts 58 Hz to 62 Hz AC current.
Depending on how you use the car power inverter, you may need to buy a model with a cooling fan. More than one customer has complained that their car power inverter stopped working after just one or two hours, while others have said that they need to place their power inverter in front of their car aircon vent to make sure it works properly. However, not everyone wants to get a car power inverter with a cooling fan - some people find the fans noisy, especially those who drive luxury cars with good soundproofing. On the other hand, this is probably something that parents with young children never need to worry about.
Most people should buy the lowest-wattage car power inverter they can get away with. Although this means they cannot plug in so many electrical devices, it helps to safeguard their car batteries. The reason is that different cars have alternators which produce different amounts of power to recharge their batteries when the car is moving or the engine is running (depending on the car model). If your car power inverter draws too much power, the alternator may not produce enough power to recharge the battery and your battery will go flat.
Although you can buy a car power inverter rated for more than 500 watts (the well-regarded Cobra brand is famous for their 1500 watt car power inverter), most people should avoid them. Not only are such power inverters a lot more expensive, they also need to be hardwired to the car battery. At the moment, car power inverters rated between 300 watts and 500 watts should also be avoided. Regardless of brand, there have been a flood of customer complaints that they do not work and some have even burned out the car cigarette lighter or damaged the electrical system.
Today, the four best brands of car power inverter are Xantrex, Jensen, Duracell and Cobra. At the lower power range, Xantrex car power inverter is said to be the most reliable, although bulky and noisy because of their cooling fan. Duracell car power inverter is supposed to have the most quiet operation, although prone to stop working when it gets hot. Cobra is well known for their high quality high wattage car power inverters, while Jensen falls somewhere in between Xantrex and Duracell in reputation.
While it is tempting to buy a cheap car power inverter on impulse, keep in mind that the cheap units have certain limitations. Make sure you test the actual unit you want to own with the gadgets you want to power. Do not just test with the shop's demo unit and do not run too many electrical devices at the same time or you may run your battery flat and find your car stalled out in the middle of nowhere.
Car Power Inverters
150 Watt Sine Wave Power Inverter
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