If you’re thinking about buying a power inverter, you should know that I don’t suggest buying a cheap power inverter that you will typically find in the big department stores. Maybe you’ve wondered what it is that makes one 12v inverter better than another.
Taking the time to become knowledgeable about how to tell the difference between a poorly constructed inverter and a high-quality model will save you a lot of hassle and frustration in the long run.
If you’re looking for a great deal, let me begin by saying that you’ll have to spend money to save money. Allow me to explain what I mean by this statement. When I first started buying power inverters, I convinced myself that I would buy the cheapest unit I could find, and then eventually, I would buy a more expensive model.
What actually happened was that I went through three or four of these “cheap inverters” before I finally decided to lay down the money for a quality unit. You see, I didn’t really save any money at all. As a matter of fact, I probably spent more going this route.
There are some important features that the higher end power inverters have over the entry level models. Let’s take a look at some of the features I look for when I’m purchasing an inverter.
- A good 12v inverter will have a reverse polarity fail-safe. I once bought a cheap inverter, hooked it up backward and poof, I let the smoke out. There’s a saying when it comes to electronic devices that says, “once you let the smoke out, it’s done”. When electronic components fail, there’s often a brief putrid-smelling puff of smoke.
- Good 12-volt inverters will be fused. Should something go wrong with the power supply to the inverter, you want the fuse to blow so the sensitive circuitry doesn’t get fried. The fuse should be replaceable by the user as well.
- A good 12v inverter will be efficient. The high-end units will have an efficiency rating of 90% or better.
- Good 12-volt inverters will have a very low no-load current drain. I’ve seen cheap inverters that had a 1.5 amp no load draw. This is very bad. Higher-end inverters will draw less than .3 amps when not under a load. Some very nice inverters have zero no-load draws. They have sophisticated electronics that sense when something is trying to draw power from then and automatically turn themselves on.
- A good 12v inverter will have large ventilation holes and high-quality fans to keep the circuitry cool. The cooling fan is often a week point on cheap inverters. I’ve had two that failed because the cooling fan ceased to function.
- Good power inverters will have a high voltage overload fail-safe. Usually, if the voltage jumps above 15 volts, the fail-safe will trigger protecting the unit.
- A good 12v inverter will have a low voltage alarm to let you know to charge your battery because the voltage is getting dangerously low.
- Good 12-volt inverters will have a low voltage shutdown to keep the inverter from draining the battery so low that it is permanently damaged.
- A good power inverter will have a high surge capacity. When many electronic devices first turn on, they require a surge of power that is greater than the amount of power need to keep the device running. If your inverter doesn’t have a good surge capacity, it may not operate certain electrical devices. My inverter is rated at 2000 watts continuous and it has a surge capacity of 3000 watts.
- Good 12-volt inverters will have a decent warranty. The inverter that I’m currently using is made by Go Socket and it has a 2-year warranty. This is the best warranty that I’m aware of.
Look for the features listed above when purchasing your car power inverter if you want to get a good one. If you don’t care about quality, buy one from your local department store but when it fails at the most inopportune time, don’t say I didn’t tell you so.