Power inverters are affordable, and you can find them on right online. You may have heard of these devices, but you may not know exactly what they do. We’re going to be discussing what a power inverter is, how they work, and tips on how to buy the right inverter for your needs.

What Are Power Inverters?

An inverter has one main job: to change direct-current to alternating current. This is displayed through the following abbreviations: “DC,” or direct-current, and “AC,” or alternating current. You may need to convert power to charge your cell phone, for example, or to use the appropriate current for your electronic device.

One thing that needs to be understood is that a power inverter does not produce any power.

The DC source is what supplies the power, and the inverter's only job is to convert this power to AC. You’ll also find that there are several different types of inverters:

    • Electronic

    • Mechanical

    • Electronic circuitry

    • Static inverters

While we won’t be going through all of these different types in detail, it’s important to know that they all convert power. The only difference between each one is the method of conversion.  

Most Common Uses for a Power Inverter

Why would someone want to convert their power? The most common reason is to be able to attach electronic devices to the inverter. Essentially, you’ll attach this device to a car battery, for example, and the inverter will have outlets that allow you to plug in a hair dryer, laptop, or other electronic device into the inverter.

This is power that you would otherwise not be able to use to power up your electronics.

And a power inverter installation kit isn't normally needed because these are plug-and-play models in most cases.

These are the most common types of inverters you’ll find:

Power Inverters for Cars

Many people aren't able to plug their devices into their vehicles easily. While USB ports are starting to be seen in more vehicles, they still don't allow for the same functionality that a regular power outlet provides.

You’ll find power inverters for trucks and power inverters for cars that are very affordable.

Vehicle power converters, however, are a little bit different than other models. These aren't the typical converters that plug into your power outlet in your home and convert it accordingly. Instead, these inverters are normally attached through either:

    • Your battery, much like a jumper cable.

    • Your vehicle’s cigarette lighter port.

More often than not, you'll want to use the cigarette lighter port unless you’re using something that is beneficial when working on your vehicle. For example, you may need a little extra light while working on your engine, so you’ll connect the converter to your battery (while it’s disconnected from the vehicle for safety) and plug-in a light for extra illumination.

Power Converters for Camper Trailers

If you have a camper trailer, a power converter is a great option for you. Once you've parked for the night, you can attach the unit to your vehicle’s battery for a few extra electrical ports to plug in your electronics.

Ideally, you’ll choose one that attaches to your cigarette lighter, so you don’t have to attach it to the battery. But this option is not available in all cases.

You’ll also find that there are people who use a power inverter for work trucks just in case something happens, and a power inverter for car battery usage may allow you to get a little bit more usage out of your work vehicle.  

Tips for Buying the Right Inverter

If you’re looking for the best power inverter for semi-trucks or for a small vehicle, the criteria is generally the same. The following tips will help you find the best power inverter for your needs:

    • Connection: You’ll find that there are two connection types: jumper cable and lighter port. I recommend the latter port if you’re going to be inside of your vehicle. The jumper cable option may be better if you’re working on a vehicle or will be outside of the vehicle during use.

  • Ports: The number of electrical ports or outlets on the unit should be considered. If you’re using one on your camper, you want to have several ports available, so you can charge all of your items with ease.  There are models with just one port, two ports, and others with several ports available.

    • USB Ports: Unless you're driving a brand new model, there's a good chance that your vehicle doesn't have any USB ports available. I highly recommend getting a unit offers USB port options because this allows you to charge up your cell phone, tablet or other devices that cannot connect to a regular power outlet.

    • Wattage: You’ll generally want to buy a unit that offers 300 W or more in power. This will allow you to charge several items at once.

    • Cooling: These units can get very hot, so look for models with adequate cooling. This will allow you to run the unit without having to worry about it overheating in the process.

    • Overload Protection: A feature that I highly recommend if you’re going to be charging anything through the inverter. This ensures that too much power isn't pushed into the unit even after it's charged, and that it's protected from short circuits.

These are just a few of the features and functions that I recommend you look for in your power inverter. Many units also include a low battery alarm or shutdown feature. This is highly recommended for anyone that's using an inverter often while in their vehicle. You don’t want to drain your vehicle’s battery to the point where it won't start. A warning system allows you to confidently know that your vehicle will still start after usage.

Warranties are also very important because you want peace of mind in knowing that your unit will be covered in case it burns out.

Power inverters offer the convenience of being able to convert DC to AC power. If you want to be able to plug your laptop or tablet into your vehicle, this will allow you to have AC available for usage. It’s especially beneficial for people who use campers, trailers and work vehicles to have a power inverter available.

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