What is a Power Inverter and Why do I Need One?

Are you the owner of an RV, SUV, car, boat or other vehicle, and want to be able to watch TV, cook, or power a laptop onboard? If yes, you’ll be needing a power inverter. But what are they, and what do they do?

Read on to find out why you’ll need one to power your gadgets on the road…

What is a Power Inverter?

Basically, they are devices that turn your vehicle battery’s direct current (DC) into alternating current (AC) – the kind of electricity you have in outlets in your house, that are connected to the energy grid.

Having a power converter means you can plug in your appliances and devices, and power them like you would through an electricity outlet in a house.

In your car, you can get USB adaptors for your cigarette lighter so that you can charge your phone or plug in your satnav. But for larger gadgets and electronics with proper plugs, you’ll need an inverter.

Working of a Power Inverter

Like we said, they convert currents to a type safe for use in vehicles. Your vehicle’s battery voltage provides a current that powers its internal workings – you’ll need to know which voltage your vehicle’s battery uses to choose the correct inverter.

The current supplied by a battery sticks on one circuit, in one direction – where the name ‘direct current’ comes from.

However, to power your gadgets, you’ll need alternating current, as those electronics need more power to function than the DC can provide. They’re made to function with the high-voltage AC current supplied in homes.

Power inverters increase the DC voltage, change it to AC, then use it to power your devices. They amp up your battery’s voltage so you can play video games and use a kettle in your RV. Cool, huh?

Size Selection

These babies come in a variety of sizes – most commonly 1000, 3000 or 5000 watts.

It’s recommended that a 3000 watt inverter is the happy medium between inverter sizes and best choice to get. They’re not too small like the 1000, or too powerful and overcharged like the 5000. If you need a little extra boost, there are 3500 watt capacities available.

Find the best 3000 watt inverter for your vehicle by checking out the useful comparison guide by Solar Know How.

Modified or Pure Sine Wave Inverter?

Besides the sizing, there are two main types of inverter – the modified sine wave, and the pure sine wave.

So, what’s the difference, and which one will you need?

  • Modified Sine Wave: These tend to be cheaper, and less powerful. However, they’re good for most everyday electronics you will want to use, just not very large ones.
  • Pure Sine Wave: These are compatible with pretty much all electronics, gadgets, and appliances, and produce a powerful current most like the one supplied by the electric grid. These are the most common choice, because they’re more likely to be compatible with anything you need to plug in.

Power inverters are useful for charging on the road without having to cart around adaptors and large plugs

Other Features and Tips

  • Power inverters are especially useful if you are setting up a solar power system – they convert energy from the sun into electricity you can use to power your gadgets within your vehicle. This is renewable energy that isn’t a drain on your vehicle’s battery.
  • Power inverters aren’t just for vehicles – if you have a small cottage or outhouse, they’re very useful for setting up a small power source there.
  • Many (but not all) power inverters come with USB outlets, useful for charging on the road without having to cart around adaptors and large plugs. For ease of use, get one compatible with USB.
  • The best inverters have digital screens which show you how much energy has been consumed and information about battery voltage. It’s useful to know these things at a glance, so consider getting one that has a screen.
  • Modern inverters have been made to be extra-quiet, so you won’t be woken up by a noisy machine while trying to simultaneously get some sleep and charge your phone in your RV.

Pay Your Electricity Bill Effortlessly

Utilities like water and power can end up costing nearly as much as your rent or house payment in a bad month. Unfortunately, you can’t cut off your water service to save money the way you could cut the cable. Here are a few tips to tame your utility bills and make it easier to pay your electric bill with ease.

Clean Up

Cleaning the coils on your refrigerator helps it work more efficiently. Cleaning the coils on your air conditioner can do the same, but your AC uses far more power than your fridge. Remove any debris from the air intakes, whether it is leaving piles up by the AC or the air vent to your furnace. Rinse the air filters for your room air filters, the air conditioner, and your dehumidifier.

Turn It Off

While the appliances that are sleeping may use less energy than when on, the reality is that they use almost as much power in standby as they do when active. The solution is to turn things off. Unless your game station is downloading updates, unplug it to save power. Turn off the TV instead of letting it sit in standby, or worse, use it as background noise.

When gadgets are fully charged, disconnect them from the charging station and turn off the charging station. If you can’t stand to turn off your computer, turn off the monitor instead. Turn off lights when they aren’t in use, and consider when you can utilize natural light instead. Don’t let appliances idly run while you’re busy. Get the clothes out of the dryer instead of letting it run every five minutes to prevent clothes from wrinkling.

Turn off the oven when you’re done with it. The same might be said for your pool pump or air filters. Does it need to be running? If not, consider turning it off for a while.

Track Energy Usage

You can get apps that report energy usage in your home. These apps can tap into your smart meter and tell you which appliances are consuming the most energy. If you can’t cut back on energy usage, you could get advice on how to shift energy usage in order to reduce your electric bill.

For example, running the clothes dryer at night may allow you to get utility discounts. One of the advantages of hydroelectric energy is that despite facing daily and seasonal variations, utility companies will still provide discounts when the demand for power is lower.

Set up the dishwasher to run a heavy load when you go to bed, and the cost per kilowatt maybe a third of what you’d pay if it ran during the day. You may also find that the AC is running heavily during the hottest part of the day.

Could you alter the thermal profile of your home so that it uses less energy while keeping you comfortable, such as not trying to keep the house at 65 when you’re at work? If you cannot get the house comfortable without the AC running full blast all the time, you may need to have the air conditioner repaired or replaced with a more powerful unit.

Check for Leaks

If you’ve ever heard the joke that you’re not heating the neighborhood, recognize that there is an element of truth to that joke. When you leave the door open while you’re bringing in groceries or getting the mail, you’re wasting the energy used to heat or cool that air. Gaps in your window frame and window stripping cost you the same way.

Leaks in your hot water heater waste both water and the energy used to heat it. Look for water leaks when you suspect them, too. Not only does this damage the structure of your home and wastewater, but damp insulation has a fraction of the thermal value of dry insulation. This is how a water leak could be contributing to your higher energy bills.

There are a number of things you can do to reduce your energy and water bills without radically changing your lifestyle. Then you’ll be able to save the Earth’s resources and money at the same time. It is truly a win-win for everyone.