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Three Things to Know About Using a Power Inverter
The first thing you need to know is that you are planning to run during this emergency. Fewer items or smaller amperage, smaller or less expensive inverter will be required. I’ll give a table of items and their average power used by a simple formula below that will give you an idea of the size of inverter you’ll need.
Stackable washer/dryer: 2500 watts
Electric chain saw: 1700 watts
Electric circular saw: 1600 watts
Full size microwave oven: 1400 watts
Chest freezer: 1200 watts
Mini microwave: 1000 watts
1/3 inch HP submersible pump: 920 watts
Reciprocating saw: 720 watts
1/2 inch reversible drill: 620 watts
Coffee maker: 600 watts
Portable vacuum: 525 watts
Electric garden tools: 475 watts
10 speed blender: 450 watts
Orbital sander: 400 watts
Home stereo: 350 watts
3/8 inch variable speed drill: 320 watts
20 inch TV/VCR combo: 300 watts
12 inch three speed fan: 200 watts
Computer/Printer/Fax: 150 watts
Quartz halogen spotlight: 100 watts
Mini stereo / CD player: 50 watts
Laptop computer / 8 inch TV: 38-45 watts
Cell Phone / Camcorder Charger: 10 Watt
14 Volt Cordless Drill Charger: 8 Watts
If the appliance you plan to use is listed in watts, go ahead and use that number. If it is listed in amps you need to use this simple formula: Volts (120) X amps (listed on the device) = Watts. This will give you the amount of watts the device uses. So if you have a 3 amp appliance, and you want to find the watts, the formula would be: 120 (volts) X 3 (amps) = 360 watts.
Then you’ll add up all the watts you’re using and come up with a number. Let’s say your total wattage is 500 watts. If this is the case it would be a good idea to get a 750 watt inverter. Always get a size bigger than what you need, it can come in handy.
Your next step will be to determine where your power supply is coming from. If it’s for emergency purposes, there’s a good chance it’ll come from the battery connected to your vehicle, or you can be a little better prepared and have a bank of batteries connected in parallel. Since most people reading this are unfamiliar with creating a battery bank I will only cover running the inverter from the vehicle. The main thing to know is what type of battery you will be using. It is recommended that you have a deep cycle battery or use trolling motors or golf carts and that you get as many amp hours as your budget allows. A few years ago I managed to go 11 days using a 750w inverter and a 120amp hour deep cycle battery in my car. I had to drive the car for 10 minutes every 2 hours to run everything like laptop, 13 inch color TV, Direct TV receiver, laptop modem, 40W light and a small box fan. Doesn’t sound like much, but I felt like I was staying at the Ritz Carlton compared to most of my neighbors.
The last thing you need to know is how long your power supply (battery) will last before recharging. First you need to know the wattage of all the appliances. Let’s say we have a total of 480 watts of power being used, and we’re running our inverter from a 12 volt battery connected to the car. Next we need to convert this number so we know how many amps are being used. We take the watts (480) and divide it by 12 (battery volts) to come up with 40 amps. The formula is: Watts / Volts = Amps. If we have a 120 amp hour battery we divide 120 (amp hours) by 40 (amps) and get 3 hours before the battery dies. It is recommended not to drain a battery below 50% of battery capacity, so you can divide the 3 hours in half by giving 1/2 hour before starting the car to recharge the battery.
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