Power inverters can help make the inside of a semi truck cab a little more like home; they do this by converting the truck's 12 volts of direct current (DC) into 120 volts of alternating current (AC). This increased power potential enables the use of coffee pots, microwaves, televisions, and other comfort and convenience devices. While an inverter is a great addition to your truck, it must be carefully selected to prevent damage to your truck and powered devices. If you are considering installing a power inverter in your semi truck cab, then keep reading to learn the most important factors that come into play during the selection process.
Power inverters are rated by how much current they produce in watts, and this factor significantly impacts cost. All things being equal, the higher the wattage rating, the more expensive the inverter will be. That means you should consider your operating needs and compare them to inverter specifications before purchasing a unit that is either undersized or too powerful.
To calculate how much wattage you will need in an inverter, make a list of all devices you plan to use simultaneously inside your cab. Next, locate the wattage used by each device in either the device's instruction booklet or by finding it on an attached label; write these watt ratings down and add them all up. Finally, add 250 watts to provide a "buffer" to the total, and this final number will tell you what minimum wattage rating should be available in your inverter.
Keep in mind the wattage rating you calculated is continuous watts, and it does not reflect the amount of start-up power needed. This surge power, as it is also known, is often double the continuous power requirements and must be available to devices during the first split-seconds of operation. Be sure to check inverter specifications to determine the surge power offered by a given unit. If you know you will be using devices with high startup needs, then purchase an inverter that can handle the increased loads.
Since inverters generate power levels sufficient to provide a bad electrical shock, you need to be sure that any equipment purchased is safe for use in your truck. The "gold standard" for electrical safety in the United States is Underwriters Laboratory (UL) listing, and their listing specification for portable power inverters is UL Standard 458. That is why it is critical to choose only UL-approved inverters, and ideally, they should meet UL 458 standards, as well. You are most likely to find UL-approved inverters at truck parts suppliers and dealers, but be cautious about purchasing them from truck stops and other locations where quality may be suspect.
Power inverters can negatively affect your truck battery life and ability to crank the engine, if they do not have sufficiently-intelligent shutdown capability. To prevent problems, look for inverters that are designed to disconnect themselves from the batteries when battery voltage levels drop below 12 volts DC.
Wave output type
Power inverters use one of two types of wave output technology - sine wave or modified sine wave. This refers to the manner in which the electrical current "pulses" from the inverter. Typically, sine wave inverters are more expensive, but they also provide a smoother power output that is less-problematic for sophisticated electronics such as televisions, computers and tablet devices. Modified sine wave inverters cost less, but their power output pattern is more erratic in nature. This can possibly interfere with the functioning of some electronics or increase the noise level in other devices such as electric fans.
While either type of inverter is acceptable, depending on your needs and budget, evaluate your device list to see which you most commonly use. If the devices are typically electronic in nature, as opposed to fans, toasters and lighting, then a sine wave inverter will probably provide the most satisfactory experience. In addition, if your budget for an inverter is substantial, choose a sine wave inverter since it will power all devices equally well.
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