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Old 11-11-2010, 13:06   #1
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Okay to Use a Portable Inverter ?

I'm nearly ready to start my AC refit but am undecided on whether or not the boat should ultimately have an installed inverter. This is on a 30' sailboat intended for coastal cruising. Is there any reason not to use an inexpensive, portable inverter?

While untethered, the only AC use on board would be charging laptop and cell phones, charging shaver and toothbrush, and using a microwave, which we could easily live without.

One option is to install permanently an Outback inverter/charger that delivers ~17 amps continuously. Pros: convenience of use, true sine wave, 80 amp battery charger. Cons: ~$2000, significantly more complex AC wiring, difficult placement in boat (and longer cable runs) since it requires a lot of air space for cooling.

The preferred option is to bring along a portable, 1500 watt inverter for the several weeks per year we'll actually be out cruising. Pros: ~$200, can use inverter for non-boat applications, use the existing Xantrex 20 amp charger. Cons: modified sine wave, and less convenient since we need to connect cables when using and devices would plug directly into inverter instead of boat's outlets.

The larger capacity battery charger would be nice to have but doesn't seem necessary (house bank will be either 225 or 450 Ah). I don't relish having a couple extra cables and cords in the cabin when we want AC, but that seems like only a minor inconvenience. Not sure that sine versus modified sine matters much for our purposes.

Thoughts?
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Old 11-11-2010, 13:12   #2
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I use one of these little jobs:

Amazon.com: Duracell 813-0291-07 175 Watt DC to AC Pocket Power Source Inverter: Patio, Lawn & Garden: Reviews, Prices & more

For anything really powerful (like a heat gun, sander, or multimaster) I need shore power or a generator. But for a few spare household electronics the little inverts like the one listed works fine (for me).

The netbook charges just fine on it, and it has a little USB slot as well which charges the phones and other gadgets. Plus, it's $30.
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Old 11-11-2010, 13:26   #3
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I use a Targus 150w inverter that plugs into the cigarette lighter (or hard wire it in) its fine

Targus*|*APV14AU*–*150 Watt Auto/Air Power Inverter - Slimline Style

Cost about $90

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Old 11-11-2010, 13:27   #4
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Erics Duracel one sounds even better than mine
$30 thats a winner
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Old 11-11-2010, 13:51   #5
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We use a 600W inverter installed with it's own outlet, main switch to turn it off. Kinda permanent but not really integrated into the boats electrical system. Total cost, less than $200
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Old 11-11-2010, 14:00   #6
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I have the Targus 90W cigar lighter version that I travel everywhere with for my phone/laptop/etc.....
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Old 11-11-2010, 17:01   #7
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My laptop requires 120W so I think the Targus is out. Having had the old style inverter (modified square wave) that was tempermental about what was connected to it, I'm looking for a pure sine wave one, probably in the 500w average/900-1000w peak.
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Old 12-11-2010, 01:50   #8
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Originally Posted by capt_douglas View Post
I'm looking for a pure sine wave one, probably in the 500w average/900-1000w peak.
Are you sure you need one? Sine wave gets expensive and you are only charging battereis, not powering lab equipment.
Mt feeling (and I have no technical knowledge) is that mariners are being ripped off with the sine wave inverter thing.
But if you investigate it and feel its right for you, then go for it.

I am getting a 110V cheapie when I get to the 'other side' and then my boat will have 110v and 240v.

Why? Americans have electric powered swizzel sticks and my Margaritas need one
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Old 12-11-2010, 02:10   #9
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I've been using little portable inverters all my cruising life.

90% of what I need AC power for is little things like charging phones, computers, etc. for which these are perfectly fine. I have even run a DVD player and TV off a little 200 watt inverter for an occasional Movie Night on the hook.

My father had a complicated installed inverter on his boat which he eventually disconnected.

Now all that being said, I AM planning to put in an installed inverter (Victron) on my boat eventually. The main driver for that decision is the power boost feature of the Victron combined inverter/chargers which I am hoping will put a stop to tripped isolation transformer cb, and which will allow me eventually to install air conditioning without upgrading my genset (the power boost, using battery power to supplement regular AC power, absorbs the startup loads).

The only really good thing about a permanently installed inverter I can think of is that it allows you to do things like use a power tool, make toast, or use the microwave without cranking up the genset. I think this is quite trivial, compared to the cost and complexity, and I would not be installing a permanent inverter if it weren't for the power boost. If you don't have a genset then of course it's a somewhat different matter.
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Old 13-11-2010, 02:57   #10
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Thanks for all the advice. It sounds like the small, portable, inexpensive, inverters work for a lot of boaters. That makes it an easy decision for me. On my boat it would be tough coming up with a space for an installed inverter let alone room for things that consume that much AC power.
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Old 13-11-2010, 03:08   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by erict View Post
Thanks for all the advice. It sounds like the small, portable, inexpensive, inverters work for a lot of boaters. That makes it an easy decision for me. On my boat it would be tough coming up with a space for an installed inverter let alone room for things that consume that much AC power.
Good decision We ran a test last summer to see how many amp hours were consumed by the laptop using house battery > 240v > dell laptop. Answer about 4ah if the lappy was working hard.

However, when we switched to house battery > laptop car charger (19v) > laptop the AH dropped to 2.3 amps.

So for occasional use the small converters are fine, but if you were running several laptops for any length of time it might be worth considering a laptop car charger at 20 ($30), otherwise I wouldn't bother. Phone and charging electric Razzor used hardly anything.

Pete
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Old 13-11-2010, 05:13   #12
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Are you sure you need one? Sine wave gets expensive and you are only charging battereis, not powering lab equipment.
For me Mod Sine cost me a lot of money in destroyed camera and cordless tool batteries. Some small battery chargers will not turn off when used on mod sine and I learned this the hard way. I actually spent more on replacement batteries that were destroyed too early than I paid for my true sine wave inverter..

The new Xantrex ProWatt SW series is very affordable. They are also nice and quiet and compact. They do lack an auto switch over feature but a three way source selector switch is about $30.00.

I have installed a number of these for customers and not had a single problem. The installed cost is less than most true sine inverters that are actually worth buying. Heck the wiring & OCPD costs as much or more than these true sine wave inverters. I have purchased all of them from Manventure Outpost and had great service and an amazing price.

ProWatt SW 2000 = $342.06

ProWatt SW 1000 = $246.85

ProWatt SW 600 = $141.06

ProWatt SW Remote Switch = $18.74
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Old 13-11-2010, 07:21   #13
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I did want my inverter to be "sine wave" because many AC nicad battery chargers, like drill drivers, or hand held radios, (My primary use) will be ruined by "square" or "modified sine wave" inverters.

My 125 W model takes care of my needs well and even runs the DVD player, but if I exceed half of it's load rateing, it makes a subtle but annoying high pitched whine.

I did hard wire it in, but switch off all of the breakers to the sockets NOT in use, because energizing sockets not in use, still uses a bit more power, strange as that seems.

All inverters are inheriently inefficient at low power loads, so on the things that I can, I use 12 V DC directly. Most Ni Cad battery chargers come in a 12 V version... and also things like the flat screen TV, or laptop computer. Look at the back of the 120 V AC plug in black box and it will list it's OUTPUT. Both of mine have an output of 19V DC. (you can confirm this on the label next to the electronics IN plug)

Once you know what you need, Google computer or auto auto car adaptors... There are hundreds of them available with the V and Amps that you need. They have a 12 V plug on the IN wire that then runs to a little "step up transformer", and going out is another wire with your appliance's appropriate low V plug. This unit converts your 12V DC directly to 19V DC (if that's what you need).

Compaired to using the AC "socket box" that came with your electronics, and running your little inverter to power this, my sugested approach will cut your amp hours consumed in half! You can get a LOT of stuff that runs directly off of 12V from the RV and Auto markets, including vacuums, TVs, stereos, blenders, and DVD players... OR the approach mentioned above for the 16V DC or 19V DC items...

IF you then only have a couple of AC needs left, and they are not the afore mentioned sensative electronics, then you can get a 700W standard inverter for them for the same price as my 125W pure sine wave unit. We don't have such a need, so our setup works perfectly, and 100% powered by the sun. YIPPIE!

Good luck, Mark J
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