Power Inverter FAQ

What are power inverters?

A power inverter is an electrical device that converts direct current (DC) battery power into alternating current (AC) power which can then run a range of gadgets like household and office appliances when an AC outlet is not readily available. The power inverter is best used in situations where AC power is not available like in areas with no electricity. There are three types of power signals produced by power inverters and each type has different properties.

First there is the Square Wave Signal, this was produced by the first set of inverters but are now outdated and is rare these days because the power they produce is not reliable or consistent. Then Modified Sine/Square Wave and Pure Sine Wave signal.

For in depth details on the modified sine wave and pure sine wave electrical signals click here to get our eBook on the 10 mistakes that people make when purchasing their power inverter and how to avoid them.

What are power inverters used for?

A power inverter works by taking the direct current (DC) power from a battery or other stored power source and convert it into the alternating current (AC) which is the form that of our everyday devices use. You can use the inverter when you need AC power on the go during travel or at home on devices you would normally plug into a home electrical outlet like a fan, lamp and microwave.

There are different types of power inverters since they come in different shapes and capacities. The small models up to a couple hundred watts are small rectangular boxes with an attached wire and jack that can be plugged into the cigarette lighter port on the dashboard of a car. Larger models have electrical cables that can be connected directly to battery terminals.

You could use a power inverter for different situations like when you are on a road trip and you would want to use your laptop or if you’re on a fishing trip and you would want to watch a movie on your DVD player. Power inverters are handy especially when there is a power outage and you need power supply to operate your gadgets. Areas without electricity like in the bush or far flung areas of New Zealand can benefit from power inverters in providing a power source for lights and powering up simple electronic gadgets and appliances. A power inverter is even a helpful source of convenient energy on camping trips, beaches and parks where conventional electricity is not available.

The wattage you need and how you will be connecting the unit to your power source are items to be taken into consideration. Power inverters come in different power ratings and this will determine the type and number of devices that can be used. You need to be sure to get an inverter that satisfies your wattage requirement and generates the appropriate wave form output. To calculate what the capacity you require you need to know the devices you will connect and the wattage they draw.

To view case studies on how the required power rating is calculated click here to get our eBook on the 10 mistakes that people make when purchasing their power inverter and how to avoid them.

When using the power inverter for a longer time, more energy is drawn from the battery. It is recommended to fully charge the battery and even have a spare when you plan of using the inverter for a long time. Having various devices plugged to the inverter also affects the rate of battery drain.

If you decide to use an inverter make sure that you get one with a capacity that suits your needs. If the power inverter is attached to your car that is not running, it is advised that you start the engine every 10 to 15 minutes to prevent the battery from discharging. Read and understand the owner’s manual when working with batteries to prevent injury and improper connection as use of an inverter could lead to electrocution.

What is an inverter charger?

An inverter charger is a power inverter with a built in battery charger. It allows the batteries to be recharged if the inverter charger is connected to an AC power source such as mains power or an electrical generator.

You could also use inverter charges in areas with unstable power supply. The inverter will be connected to batteries and the main electrical source. When there is an electrical power supply the system is designed to charge the batteries to store power and when there is a power outage the inverter draws DC current from the battery and converts it to AC to power the home.

Where should batteries that connect to the inverter be stored?

The batteries should be closest to the power inverter as possible so that the cables can be short and run a clean and clear signal. If your batteries are the flooded lead acid type you will need to ensure that they are ventilated so there is not build up of gases.

Since power inverters are not weatherproof, you should keep them in a place where they will not get wet. They should be kept dry like any other electronic device, as wetness will destroy your device and cause an unsafe situation. Make sure to keep your power inverter away from any kind of generated heat or flammable source that can cause overheating and fires.

Is it better to have a modified sine wave power inverter or a pure sine wave power inverter?

This is a very important question and will solely dependent on the devices you connect to the inverter as the type of devices that will run of a modified sine wave inverter are quite limited.

Please use a pure sine wave inverter or do contact us to clarify which type of power inverter is suitable you your device.

What type of battery should I be using with my power inverter?

Power inverters are best used with deep cycle batteries because they tend to maintain a consistent voltage more efficiently, are longer lasting than starter batteries.

Is it possible to use an extension cord with a power inverter?

Yes, it is possible to use an extension cord with your power inverter, but keep cord lengths to the shortest possible to avoid power loss and signal degradation.

Should a vehicle with a power inverter installed in it remain idle while using it to help maintain its battery charge during use?

Yes, most people allow their vehicles to idle while using their inverters, it is a good idea to draw small quantities of power from a starter battery as they do not store a lot of power and can be easily drained leaving you unable to start your vehicle.

Can I run a microwave on a power inverter?

Yes, be aware though that the wattage stated on a microwave may be its ‘cooking power’ not its energy consumption. Cooking power is the amount of energy that the microwave sends into the food, it’s energy consumption is often twice it’s cooking power, so be sure to read the label at the back of the microwave. Also power surges are very common in microwaves and as a rule of thumb choose a power inverter that can handle twice the wattage energy consumption of the microwave you want to use.

How to install an inverter?

Power inverters are ideally installed indoors on a flat, dry surface where they cannot be affected by extreme weather elements and exposure to environmental elements. To ensure efficient and safe functioning of the inverter, place it in an area within fairly close range of your battery supply to get a direct and clear signal.

What is the ideal temp to store a power inverter?

To safely store your power inverter, make sure that it is installed in an area out of direct sunlight and kept at a storing temperature of between 10 degrees and 30 degrees Celsius. Ensure proper ventilation to prevent the power inverter from overheating.

Where is the best place to install the power inverter in my vehicle?

Power inverters are best placed in an area where they are sufficiently protected from susceptibility to acid corrosion or endangerment of becoming wet. Never install them in an area near any heat source like under the hood of a vehicle. The safer place would be to install the power inverter in the back compartment of your vehicle. The battery leads are run from that point to the vehicle’s battery supply in the front. You could also add an extra battery to make sure that your connection will run continuously and efficiently.

Why do my audio appliances make a buzzing sound when I run them on my power inverter?

If you use a modified sine wave inverter, some of your audio devices can pick up the electronic hum signal. Modified sine wave inverters are known to produce noise compared to the pure sine wave inverter. If you use a pure sine wave inverter, your lower quality audio devices will operate noise free because this inverter type is very efficient in filtering out common-mode noises in audio devices.

Which kind of printer will work more efficiently with my power inverter when used at home?

An ink jet printer uses less power than a laser printer and will function more effectively when using a power inverter. For home or office use, an ink jet printer is the more reliable and intelligent choice compared to other types of printers.

What is a low voltage alarm?

Low Voltage Alarm is an internal feature of power inverters that sounds off to alert you to the problem of your DC power dropping too low e.g. below 11 volts on a 12v system. This is usually a sign that your battery has almost run out of power. If the voltage drops any further the power inverter will shut off completely to avoid draining the battery completely and also to prevent itself supply non-standard power to its AC circuit as it can not get enough energy from its DC circuit. Do not disregard this sound because your inverter will be unable to restart when the battery drains out completely, until it has regained some charge.

To identify what other safety features you require on your inverter do read ‘mistake #8 not getting an inverter with essential features’ in our eBook on the 10 mistakes that people make when purchasing their power inverter and how to avoid them.