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How To Choose The Right Sized AC Power Inverter

Updated on March 22, 2011

Choosing The Right Sized Inverter

Inverters come in all shapes and sizes but the thing you need to pay the most attention to is continuous output in watts.

For low power consumption devices such as AC chargers, and small video games, etc, you may be able to get away with a small, 40 watt inverter that fits entirely in the cigarette lighter socket.

For larger loads, like laptop computers you will need a larger inverter, say 150 watts or more.

What you should do is look at your computer's power supply and on it will be the wattage that the power supply draws. If it is 100 watts for example, you should add in a thirty percent safety factor. Above 100 watts inverters usually sized in increments of fifty and a hundred watts. In this case you will want a 150 watt, continuous output inverter.

When you get up into the sizes that will run power tools, 1200 watts and above these will indicate a continuous output and a surge output that is for a few seconds.

This is important for example when you are drilling into a hard object and the drill bogs down. You want a high continuous output plus high surge capacity.

These larger inverters will require a cable direct to the battery. Always install the proper size DC in-line fuse at the battery in case the cable is shorted.

When it comes to the large size inverters, over 1000 watts, some are pure sine wave inverters and some are not. For delicate electronics such as flat screen TVs or portable medical equipment you will want a pure sine wave inverter that produces a cleaner power signal so that you do not get interference on screen and possibly damage the equipment.

These cost more but can avoid costly equipment damage.


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