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Old 24-11-2010, 02:42   #1
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Best Option for Charging Laptops and Cell Phones, etc.

What is the best option for charging up items like laptops and cell phone? My boat at present is straight 12V.

Cheers Alex
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Old 24-11-2010, 02:47   #2
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i've got a "cigarette lighter" plug in charger that allows me to charge the laptop (asus) directly from 12vdc. i would guess most pc manufacturers (or after-market outfits) provide similar for other brands.

i charge the phone from the laptop via a usb plug in cable.
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Old 24-11-2010, 02:54   #3
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Thanks Bob that was my first thought....a simple solution curious as to whether there are others
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Old 24-11-2010, 03:41   #4
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I use a "cigarette lighter" too, with a mutli-plug. You can also got one plug with only an usb out : this is very practical for cell phones, iPhones or other MP3 because it can be used by all the crew. For the laptop, I have a special one for my apple MacBook...
There are also small and portable solar systems to charge this kind of things,but (in France) they are still very expansive and not much powerful).
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Old 24-11-2010, 04:09   #5
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There are 12v car chargers available for laptops from Ebay or other computer stores, an altenatve would be to get a small inverter. You can get a little 1-200w one that would probably cost the same as the laptop charger that would be more than sufficient to plug it's mains cable into. You'd also have the bonus of being able to use other low wattage mains power items and indeed, you could charge the phone with it directly without having to have the lappy on just to charge it.
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Old 24-11-2010, 07:24   #6
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If you use a cigarette lighter, I'd make sure it could handle the current. My SONY laptop requires 130W to charge/operate the computer and that's about 11A @ 12VDC. I bought a 400w pure sine wave inverter and plug it into a 20A rated polarity protected plug.
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Old 24-11-2010, 07:32   #7
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Two options:

1. 12V DC. Use cigarette lighter or car type chargers for all your gadgets. If you already have the car chargers for everything this is the quickest, easiest, cheapest.

2. 110V AC. If you only have house type charger (plug into the wall at home) for all your gadgets, depending on how many gadgets you have it could be cheaper to set up a small AC system. You can buy an AC inverter that connects you your battery and plug all your home style chargers directly into that.

NOTE: some chargers do not work well on cheap (modified sine wave or similar types) chargers. You might be better buying a true or pure sine wave type. Much more expensive.
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Old 24-11-2010, 13:23   #8
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Ease or Efficiency

I have a large inverter so, in principle, I can run my AC equipment while off shore power. However, it has built in inefficiency in converting DC to AC. So, when traveling down from the TCI we used a small "auto cigarette lighter" inverter for charging our laptops, through their regular AC plug in power supplies. Since then, I've purchased a different cigarette lighter inverter that will handle enough current to actually run my laptop full time, if I want. It also has a couple of USB ports that could be used for charging other devices. This is the easy answer, for my application.

But, it can't be very efficient!! I've never calculated the overall conversion losses but if I'm just sailing then my electrons come from my solar panels, which generate DC to charge my 12 volt batteries. Now, I'm going to take that nominal 12 volts and use an inverter with 85% (??) efficiency at best to generate 110 AC then plug in my laptop power supply and convert that to 19.5 volts DC at maybe another 85% efficiency. There must be some simple, cheap DC converters...transformers available that would be more efficient. I've got to do some kind of a power calculation on all of this to see where to spend the dollars to get the most electrical efficiency. I've also got to think about charging my rechargeable batteries for my handheld GPS and VHF radio and a few other essential devices.

I'm open to suggestions from some of the more experienced electronics and electrical gurus.

I suspect that most charging power supplies will handle the funky "sine waves" out of an inverter but I'll tell you my microwave (installed by the PO) chokes completely on my inverter power.

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Old 24-11-2010, 13:34   #9
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I have a 12V charger for my laptop. I cut off the cigarette lighter plug and wired it into a breaker on my electrical panel. I modified a dual-USB lighter plug similarly so the laptop two USB power outlets are on one breaker.
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Old 24-11-2010, 14:28   #10
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Its usually much cheaper to get a 150 watt modified sine wave inverter and plug it into the cigarette lighter to charge your laptop and other small appliances. Mine works well with literally dozens of 120v chargers.

If your laptop draws more than 2 amps average or 5 watts peak at 12v through the inverter, get a new laptop--there is a huge difference in power draw between core duo and P4 type processors. The netbooks are down to an average 1 amp draw.
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Old 24-11-2010, 15:03   #11
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If you choose to follow the inverter route, or the 12V power brick for that matter, remember to check your radios - particularly marine HF/SSB or ham HF - for increased noise. Many of the switching power supplies are electrically noisy.
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Old 24-11-2010, 15:08   #12
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Ahoy, I have gone through 5 of the ciggy lighter style laptop chargers, they just melt and then the fuses blow. They are ok in the car for short use, less than 60 minutes.
Best to use a low output inverter hard wired, through a fuse, to your batteries. Will last forever and you can charge verything else as well, at the same time!
Fair winds from Keith.
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Old 24-11-2010, 15:14   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by surfmachine View Post
Ahoy, I have gone through 5 of the ciggy lighter style laptop chargers, they just melt and then the fuses blow.
Golly. Bad news. My Lenovo 12V power brick for my IBM/Lenovo Thinkpad has been running for over a year, most of that with less than good ventilation.
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Old 24-11-2010, 15:19   #14
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I suppose this is what others have referred to? http://www.basspro.com/ProMariner-Pr.../53849/-983571

We used one to run the laptop from Florida to Colombia. Works like a charm for $40.00.

We also used it to run the laptop and charge everyone's phones on the Harvest Moon Regatta. Again, no problems.
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Old 24-11-2010, 15:24   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill_E View Post
.....But, it can't be very efficient!! I've never calculated the overall conversion losses but if I'm just sailing then my electrons come from my solar panels, which generate DC to charge my 12 volt batteries. Now, I'm going to take that nominal 12 volts and use an inverter with 85% (??) efficiency at best to generate 110 AC then plug in my laptop power supply and convert that to 19.5 volts DC at maybe another 85% efficiency. There must be some simple, cheap DC converters...transformers available that would be more efficient.
Bill
Thats exactly what a proper 12v laptop carcharger does. It takes the 12v and steps it up to 19.5 (or similar). Also, 12v chargers for mobile phones are dirt cheap so if you're worried about being inefficient with power then maybe that's the route to go. When I worked as a driver, I had a 12v charger for my lappy so I could use WIFI or use it as a DVD player when I was on a break, it worked fine and never had a 'meltdown' or other problem. Personaly, i'd probably get both. Use the 12v day to day to save the drain on the batteries and you've always got AC power if you need it, very handy sometimes.
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