Inverters in 2019

Dan Robinson

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Jan 14, 2011
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My last 1000w inverter died in July of this year. I bought an Ever Start 1000w as a replacement, but it has been a major pain.

First, It doesn't have a physical on/off switch that I can leave in the on position and turn on with my chasing accessory circuit's master switch in the dash. I have to press the power button on the inverter to turn it on every time. My inverter and the main chase circuit busbar are out of reach in the back seats, which means turning on my equipment is at least a two-step process that I have to get out of the car to do.

Secondly, the inverter's low voltage protection is too sensitive. Most of the time it will not even power up under load without the alarm tripping and cutting power entirely. I usually have to unplug everything, fire up the inverter, wait for it to warm up, them plug everything back in. It works fine after that.

I finally got tired of all this, and went out to buy another. The 1000w units available at Lowes, home depot and Menards all have that power button now instead of a switch. I bought a Stanley 1000w unit, and when I installed it into my circuit, it did did the exact same thing as the EverStart - it will not power up under load, that is, with things plugged into it. The low voltage protection kicks in and cuts power.

Does anyone have recommendations on an inverter without these annoying features/bugs? I have a brand new x2power battery that will power my chase equipment circuit - laptop, chargers, cameras, dashcams for 36 hours with the engine not running. I never had this problem with older model inverters.
 
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Dan, have you tried any of the inverters geared more towards truckers? I would think they're a little less sensitive on the low voltage protection. I'm not certain which ones still have the traditional switch (I know the PowerDrive models have the button you allude to). I'll try to remember when I stop for driver changeover to look and see what others are readily available. I know there are some available on Amazon that would fit the bill. It's been a while since I've had to buy an inverter so I'll have to do some looking.
 
May 18, 2013
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The Lind inverters still have a switch (Home - Lind Electronics), but it looks like they only go up to 300w. I've never used their inverters, but their DC to DC car laptop adaptors are great. I bought a cheaper brand first and it didn't even last a single season. I switched to Lind and it has been working great for several seasons. Much better built, has a metal case, and even has a fuse on the adaptor so if anything goes wrong you don't have to dig under your dash to replace car fuses.

Since all my chase electronics run on DC, I don't use an inverter. To me it makes no sense to convert DC->AC->DC. Not to mention most inverters output a AC wave that isn't kind to electronics (Lind does offer a pure sine wave, but it is not cheap). My laptop runs off a Lind car DC adaptor and everything else plugs into USB to charge. I don't charge my camera in the car, but that would be the only reason to consider an inverter in my case.

If you do by something for a specific laptop from Lind - I recommend you call them to make sure you are getting what you need. Amazon postings from companies that resell their products are often wrong about capability (they where in my case at least). The Lind phone staff are very knowledgeable and helpful.
 
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Hey Dan, this is what I currently use (It is no longer available, but perhaps it'll give you an idea)

I took out the on-board power switch and wired it into the center console of my vehicle as I mounted the inverter under the seat (out of reach). It works like a champ.

The ONLY issue I have is when I am editing video in Premiere, for some reason, the audio in the timeline is jumpy periodically (it seems to work fine about 25% of the time, the rest has the jumpy audio). It renders the video and sound just fine, but in the Premiere timeline, the audio gets weird when playing back. This is ONLY an issue in the car, and thus I feel about 95% confident is is something to do with the power as I can edit video just fine when plugged in at home/work/standard outlet. I believe this has something to do with needing a pure sinewave inverter.

Beyond that, it powers everything fine, I have no issues with needing to reset, unplug, etc.
 
I have been using my DC to DC laptop adapter since 2015. I never looked at an inverter again. Just find one with enough juice for your needs. Otherwise I just use a 300w pure sine for other random items. What are you running that needs 1000 watts? :)
car-charger-for-a-laptop-ac-dc-power-adapter-notebook-with-supply-dell-xps.jpgcar-charger-for-a-laptop-halfords-universal.jpg
 

B. Dean Berry

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May 25, 2014
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If possible, DC/DC conversion should be used.

My advice is to find a used Vanner inverter from an ambulance. They have line inputs for a remote on/off switch, and operate well under surge load on startup.

Inverter
 

Dan Robinson

Staff member
Jan 14, 2011
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St. Louis
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Thanks for the suggestions everyone. I decided to try an auto parts store and viola, they had a 1000w unit with a switch that works perfectly.

I have thought about doing the 12v-adapter-for-everything route, but I've balked at the cost of getting adapters for everything. Furthermore I have some things - like my most recently purchased camera - that warn against using any other power supply than the one provided. That's in addition to my DSLR chargers, which have always been the 110v plug built in with no 12v option. It's always been convenient to have a 110v for any and all devices that me or someone riding with my might need.

As for the 1000w unit, I probably pull 600 watts max with everything plugged in. The laptop, high speed camera and DJI drone battery charger are the biggest power hogs. I have learned in the past that running an inverter at or near its rated capacity all the time will lead to a very short lifespan. 1000 watt units are usually only pulling half of their rated capacity in my car, and so they usually last me 3 or 4 years.

Tony, I have had an issue with every inverter I've used causing a loud buzz via the AUX audio connection from the laptop to the car. For some strange reason, once I plug in the WxWorx (Threat Net) unit's USB cable into the laptop, the noise goes away completely. I have no idea what the cause of this is nor why the WxWorx unit fixes it, but my last 4 vehicles and laptops have done the exact same thing!
 
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May 18, 2013
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I have had an issue with every inverter I've used causing a loud buzz via the AUX audio connection from the laptop to the car. For some strange reason, once I plug in the WxWorx (Threat Net) unit's USB cable into the laptop, the noise goes away completely. I have no idea what the cause of this is nor why the WxWorx unit fixes it, but my last 4 vehicles and laptops have done the exact same thing!
Audio buzz is an indication of a grounding issue. My guess is that when you plug the WxWorx USB cable in, it creates a better ground than you are using otherwise. I assume you have a mag mount antenna for the WxWorx? I wonder if you disconnected the antenna if the buzz came back?
 
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The "Buzzing" sound could also be a Grounding, Alternator or Battery issue. That was my hint when the trucks alternator died on me this year. Have them check it out at auto store. Doesn't take but 5 minutes and you'll have answer. The Alternator might not be putting out enough juice. Consider an upgraded Alternator, if your running that converter, which is allot. I just upgraded my alternator from 100 to 130 amps in my Taco. With just a 600w converter. So I can run all my man-toys on storm chasing trips. I don't want to be in my truck during a Cat3-5 Hurricane and have a dead battery. With nobody to come jump me off.
 
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Dan, if it's low input voltage that the inverter is complaining about, you may not have heavy enough cables between it and the battery. When it is started under load, it may momentarily pull a lot more current than it does once things are stable, and that means a cable that is good enough for normal running isn't good enough for starting. At 12V, you are pulling in excess of 50 Amps during stable running (since the inverter isn't 100% efficient) and maybe a whole lot more at startup.

Your audio buzz is probably from electromagnetic interference emitted from the inverter or its power cables. It could also be a signal injected into the ground or power system of your vehicle from the inverter.

Overall, I suspect that consumer power inverters are lower quality than in the past. The Internet means people can price shop a lot more easily, and that has driven prices (and resulting quality) down in many areas - for example, airline travel.

But, even a good inverter can't do much about the startup surge, unless it has a very oversized capacitor and fills that up before running anything else.
 

James Erwin

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Feb 11, 2011
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Dan: I had a Stinger 500 wt inverter installed on my Tacoma. A size 8 wire fused at 60 amp to inverter. I can run a 15 inch laptop, camcorder and scanner all day with no problems. Very satisfied with it. Invoice price was $128.00 plus labor. Inverter has 3 grounded outlets. Wire size is important. Jim.
 

Bill Hark

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Jan 13, 2004
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After multiple inverters that either died or in cases, where too noisy, I found an Energizer 500 W inverter. There are two regular ac plugs and two USB charging ports. I use it for my laptop that runs ThreatNet, GPS, GRLv3 and weather data via the web and occasionally charging camera batteries. I plug it into the cigarette lighter though it also comes with clamps for the car battery. I've never had an issue with it though I always keep a spare next to it in case of a needed swap. It has a fan but is extremely quiet.

inverter20191005_220930.jpg
 
Overall, I suspect that consumer power inverters are lower quality than in the past. The Internet means people can price shop a lot more easily, and that has driven prices (and resulting quality) down in many areas - for example, airline travel.
I've noticed that as well. Even the low end trucker ones seem to be declining in quality, although the big power ones marketed to truckers don't seem to have dropped off. But then again, word gets around the trucker community, so anything that doesn't hold up would get a bad rap and lose business in a hurry. I have my old inverter from my OTR days (Cobra PTI 1550) that I need to get some new cables for and install in the pickup. The built in inverter in my Titan works fine for the laptop, but I also don't know how reliable it'll be in the long term, plus I'd like to run a coffee maker when I'm on overland/camping trips.
 
Back when I did alot of traveling and camping, I used a really thick wire (size 4 or less), running to a second battery. The second battery could be cut off from the starting battery to provide "offline" power when the vehicle wasn't running. When the vehicle was on the road again, both batteries would be topped off. You might be able the eliminate some of the vehicle noise or power fluctuations by trying something similar. My system has be going since 2015, and your performance will depend of your quality of battery/alternator.
 
Something I didn't consider when I wrote my earlier replies but thought of when I was in a truck stop on my DOT mandated break and then again after concluding my drive shift; some of the newer style inverters also have bluetooth connectivity that allow you to turn the inverter on/off as well as adjusting various settings. So that's something you might want to consider from a convenience standpoint. Many of the Cobra inverters (such as the one I have) also have an available remote switch as well, although it does appear to be a little pricey.
 
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