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Power Inverter FAQ

Heads up!

Welcome to this article from the Crutchfield archives. Have fun reading it, but be aware that the information may be outdated and links may be broken.

Q: What is a power inverter?

A: A power inverter is an electronic device that converts low voltage DC (direct current) battery power to 115 volt AC (alternating current) household power. It allows you to use household appliances and electrical equipment in your car. A power inverter allows you to take a video game console, a TV, or a toaster on vacation with you.

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Q: Does an inverter have to be wired directly to my car battery?

A: It depends on the model of the inverter and what you intend to run with it. For electrical loads up to 150 watts, the inverter can be plugged into the cigarette lighter. This will let you power laptop computers, small power tools, most small appliances, and even a small (13") TV.

If you want to power larger equipment or if you want to run more than one item at a time, then a direct connection to your car battery is necessary. Generally, if you intend to power loads of more than 150 watts, your inverter should be direct-wired to the battery to ensure safe operation.

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Q: Will it drain my car battery?

A: When using a power inverter, it is always a good idea to turn on the engine once in a while to help maintain your battery's charge. But it's possible to use a power inverter for about 3 or 4 hours without fully discharging your battery. Of course, this assumes that your battery is strong and in good condition.

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Q: Can I put a refrigerator in my van with a power inverter?

A: Unfortunately, no. Refrigerators and larger televisions require a large amount of power to start up, usually 3 to 4 times their rated power. You would need an inverter that's designed to handle that kind of power demand, and they are prohibitively expensive.

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