A Word About the Different DC to AC Power Inverters and What to Consider
When you have electrical appliances in your 4×4, whether it’s a laptop, fridge-freezer, oven or anything else that requires electricity to operate, you’re going to need a power inverter to convert the DC from your car’s battery or solar panels into usable AC power. Power inverters play a crucial role in the electronic world, and that role keeps becoming even more important as most modern electrical appliances are becoming more and more sensitive to the type of power they can operate on. DC power is a low voltage that comes in either 12V or 24V, whereas AC power is a high voltage that comes in 240V. That being said, if you want your car’s electric system to power the appliances you bring along on the road, you’re going to need a DC 12V to AC 240V power inverter. However, not all inverters are made the same, and given the sensitivity of both vehicle electrical systems and modern appliances, it’s important to pick the right inverter for your needs.
But before I discuss how to pick between the many DC 12V to AC 240V power inverter units available online, let’s talk about how a 12V to 240V inverter works. Basically, what inverters do is they use unidirectional DC power sources that mirror AC power sources. They’re fitted with oscillators that switch the polarity of DC voltage and create the square wave. Most inverters also feature extra components that create pure or modified sine waves. Some of the basic terms you’ll see when shopping for inverters are watts, watt-hours, amps, amp-hours, and voltage. Here’s what each of these terms means:
- Watts is the measure of power devices use or supply when turned on
- Watt-hours refers to the power devices use or supply, measured in kilowatt-hour, multiplied by the number of hours they’ve been left on. For example, a 50W device left working for 8 hours will have 400 watt-hours
- Amps is the measure of electrical current passing through wires at a moment
- Amp-hours is the current passing through wires at a specific time
- And voltage is the difference in charge between two points in an electrical field
- As briefly aforementioned, inverters can either have modified or pure sine waves. The difference between the two types of waves is significant.
Modified Sine Wave Inverters
Modified sine wave inverters can be used with most equipment, but their efficiency in some equipment is lacking. Delicate devices, such as laptops, can have their longevity reduced by modified sine waves. In fact, any devices that use a microprocessor can overheat or cause noise. However, these inverters are more affordable than pure sine wave inverters, That being said, modified sine wave inverters should only be used when you want to power simple devices, and when you need a cheap, efficient and easy to use power.
Pure Sine Wave Inverters
Pure sine wave inverters produce the same quality of conversion as local utility companies and generators. As a result, these inverters can safely and efficiently power all electronic appliances. In fact, some appliances require a pure sine wave to work, whereas others perform better with a pure sine wave. Although these inverters are more expensive, if you’re powering sensitive equipment, they’re worth the money, as at least you’ll have peace of mind there’s no risk of anything going south. Furthermore, appliances that run on a pure sine wave inverter generate less noise, last longer and run optimally without overheating.
But regardless of what type of inverter you end up deciding to go for, you need to consider the power, which is measured in watts. Basically, you want the inverter to have at least 1.5 times the power necessary to supply the appliances you’ll plug in it. However, keep in mind that inverters supply surge power and continuous power. The surge power is the highest amount of power that the inverter can supply for a short period of time. This is important because most appliances require high surge to start than they need to run. Continuous power, on the other hand, is the power the inverter can supply over a longer period of time. This is the power that the appliance uses after it’s up and running.
And lastly, you have to consider the type of power outlets of the inverter. Single outlet inverters are inexpensive and simple, and they offer a continuous current capacity of 150W-200W. This type of inverters is compact and are plug and play that feature a cable attached with a plug that can fit into the cigarette lighter of your vehicle. Single outlet inverters are ideal for charging a single device. However, multiple outlet inverters are better for charging multiple devices, and as a result, they’re bulkier and heavier. Compared to single outlet inverters, these inverters deliver higher current capacity. These inverters feature USB outlets that enable you to power devices like laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc.