Three Things to Know Before You Buy a Power Inverter

Make sure the power inverter you buy is the best and safest one for your needs.

power inverter
Got lots of stuff to keep charged? A power inverter for your car or truck will help keep them juiced up on the go.Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash

A power inverter works by converting your car battery’s DC current into AC current, which is the type of electricity available in typical home power outlets. That means you can keep all of your devices charged up when you’re on the road. Some inverters can power household devices, meaning you can either bring them with you on a trip where outlets won’t be available, or you can use your vehicle to power those devices at home in the event of a power outage.

Power inverters vary in both output and ability. Here’s what you need to know before you buy one:

1. A low-wattage inverter can charge up devices and run some small appliances directly from your vehicle’s accessory port.

BESTEK 300W Power Inverter
The Bestek 300-watt power inverter plugs into your vehicle’ accessory outlet, and has both USB ports and standard 110-volt AC outlets.BESTEK

Cigarette smoking overall may be decreasing, but the ports that were originally designed to heat up a car’s cigarette lighter are still common, and have found a secondary use as a power port. That means you don’t have to open the hood and access the vehicle’s battery in order to use a low-wattage inverter. Those that provide 300 watts can be used to charge up tech devices like cell phones, tablets, and laptops, and also operate low-wattage devices such as small air compressors.

2. A high-wattage inverter can power some typical household appliances.

Ampeak 2000W Power Inverter
A high-wattage inverter, such as the Ampeak 2000-watt model, will power coffee makers, light-duty power tools, and similar devices.Ampeak

If you want to run devices such as a television, coffee maker, or power tool, get a high-wattage inverter. These must be wired directly to your vehicle’s battery terminals, because the cigarette lighter port isn’t designed to handle a heavy load of electricity. While not as convenient, an inverter rated for 2000 watts can power larger devices and even some small refrigerators. (While many large refrigerators may be rated lower than 2000 watts, the power needed to get their motors going is typically much higher than the power needed to keep them running.)

3. A pure sine wave inverter will produce less device noise, and is safe to power sensitive devices.

BESTEK 300Watt Pure Sine Wave Power Inverter
The 300-watt Bestek Pure Sine Wave inverter runs off of the vehicle’s accessory port and will safely power tech devices such as laptops.BESTEK

Such an inverter provides more stable current than a typical modified sine-wave inverter. This translates to several advantages. One is less noise in devices such as fans, microwave ovens, fluorescent lights, and audio equipment. It also provides a level of protection for electronic devices that might not be compatible with a modified sine-wave inverter. If you intend to power a laptop with an inverter, verify that it can be powered with a modified sine-wave inverter. You can find this out from the manufacturer. If not, go with a pure sine wave inverter, which produces current similar to that available from a household outlet.