electrical supply for gadgets and such

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Aug 18, 2002
on the ice, wyoming
have seen posts about this in other sections, specifically 80's. curious about the different options, other than cigarette lighter. Theres a plug in for rv's right? does it switch the voltage to ac or do you have to have an inverter for that.

Generators, are they a better option than going off your battery?

Just want to get a good idea of what kind of options are out there.
Here are a few thoughts. Not entirely clear in your post, but I'm assuming you want to be able to run AC electrical items (lights, tools, TV, etc) vs just running 12V DC - correct?

If that's the case, the cheapest way to go is to buy an inverter that takes DC and creates AC (this is the simple version!) - you can find cheap inverters at most auto places (I bought a 400W inverter - about the size of a thick paperback for something like US$50). I think the biggest i've seen of this type is something like 700W (you need to add up all your power demands to see how big of an inverter you need). For many pusposes these are fine, but they do not create 'true' AC (they typically call the cheaper units 'modified sinewave' - 'true' AC power looks like waves - modified sinewave uses some electronics to simulate AC, but it cuts the top of the wave off so it is flat - not that you care :D)

You can buy (more expensive) 'true sinewave' inverters - and often in much larger power levels (ie >1,000W). You will fine these in marine shops, etc - expect to pay some big $.

Both of these run off of your battery. For occasional use, especially while the car is running, your normal 'starter' battery should be fine (ie you won't run it down). If you want to use this for longer periods (ie to power stuff overnight) or for big loads (running your 13amp skill saw) - you will likely need a dedicated deep cyle battery that can handle the deeper discharge. You will need to size the battery(ies) to match the load you have (ie if you want to run this for many days without recharging, you need more batteries, etc).

Generators are great for big loads. The smallest generators are usually 1,500W then 2,500, 5,000, etc up to the big mofo diesel generators. While they can handle big loads, and have gotten a lot quieter, you still have to deal with gas, oil, maintenance and the noise (your camping neighbours will hate you...unless you give them cold beer)

As usual, it depends on your intended use - what are you planning on doing with the power, for how long, where,...etc.

I find that my cheap 700W inverter is generally fine for my occasional uses, YMMV

Cheers, Hugh
I agree with everything Hugh has said (including his uncertainty as to what you're asking) and will add this:

If you hook up an inverter (to any battery), you need to consider the lenght of the wire going between the battery and the inverter. Unlike 120V wire, the gauge of wire needed for 12V application to an inverter is grossly larger as you increase distance from the battery to the inverter. For example, if you intend to place your inverter any further than a couple of feet from the battery, you'll be looking for LARGE gauge wire...like really large (as in battery cable size).

The only reason you'd need a "true sine wave inverter" would be if you're running sensitive electronic equipment that requires this (e.g., a computer). Virtually everything else will run fine off the modified sine wave inverter.

Lastly, take heed of his warning about estimating your load...especially if you will be running off your main battery. Sucks to be out of juice when you need to get up an go :p

6, 2 and even...over and out.

I picked up a 400watt inverter from Sams for $17. Its a modified sine wave, run my laptop off it no problem. Not recommended, I got my laptop for free so it was worth a shot. :D I use the accessory plug in the glovebox for it, nice and contained. I rarely pull more than 20-50 watts out of it, so the factory wiring is sufficient.
Check out norther tool's latest catalog, 600watt inverters under $10. Really good deal.
Unless you've got dual marine batts, or you leave the truck idling, you're not going to get much use out of an inverter thats any larger than 600 or so watts.
If it's a laptop, another option (actually better) is to run the laptop directly off of DC with no need for an inverter (you just have to buy a cable). Using an inverter with a laptop is sort of like DC --> AC --> back to DC

Cheers, Hugh
Cost wise, an inverter will save you money in the long run. It is amazing how much companies get for adapters for laptops and other doodads. I have an 1,100 watt true sinewave inverter mounted behind the rear ps quarter panel with a GFCI outlet and soon to have another. It gets used very frequently. I also have 3 additional constant hot 12V dc receps in the truck, 2 in the cargo area, one just above the rear heater.

Note all the above is in a 97 80 series.

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