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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Gear & Maintenance
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  #1  
Old 12-26-2006
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Inverter question

I'm looking at replacing my present inverter/charger with seperate units. All I really want an inverter for is to run the laptop and for charging cellphone, handheld VHF, and drill batteries. I had a plug-in type inverter for the laptop, but it burnt out in one day. I'm wondering what would be my best choice for an inverter, primarily for running the laptop while on battery power.

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Old 12-26-2006
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I run my laptop straight off my batteries with a cigarette lighter plug in from Office Depot.
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Old 12-26-2006
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John...all the loads you mention are very light wattage and no critical applications other than your PC which has its' own "brick" to insure good DC to the PC. I'd say go cheap with just a standard car type cigarette plug inverter. If you want to brew coffee or run heavier loads then you need something else but I'd just get a "throwaway" unit for now.
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I had a "good" plug-in type that I bought at Best Buy when I bought the laptop. It died though during my first day of use (continous). Don't know if it was a bad unit, or it just isn't up to a continous load.
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I am running the laptop I am on right now with a Targus dc70u and have been using it when away from home since Oct.
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Old 12-26-2006
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Xantrex makes various sized seperates, e.g., Truecharge 20/40 chargers and various inverters starting at 800-1000w which, when combined, cost less than the combo units and are more flexibly located because of their reduced size. May be too large for your stated applications but would allow add'l uses for a minimal increase in $$$ over the cheap brick-type inverters
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Old 12-26-2006
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i installed a truecharge and inverter but also found a DC to DC converter was a good option for the laptop. This is a cig lighter type brick to take the 12v DC to 18v for my laptop. (available on ebay.)

QUESTION: I am considering another laptop. Anyone want to comment on a good laptop that accepts an input charge of 12v? I have heard IBM laptops did this. I never confirmed it and dont know about newer models. My hp pavilion is a power hog.

Todd
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Old 12-27-2006
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Todd,

Most (all?) IBM laptops operate from 18VDC. I imagine the new Lenovo laptops do the same (IBM gave the hardware business over to Chinese Lenovo recently). I have used IBM laptops for years, and we provided them to our customers.

Be aware that not all "car adapters" will do the trick...at least, not the whole trick. While they will keep the laptop running when battery voltage falls below about 12.8 (as it will on most cruising boats which are not running a charging source continuously), they will not charge the laptop battery. In fact, they will allow the battery to discharge completely.

However, there are small adapters which are designed to work at low voltages. The best I know of is from Lind Electronics; mine works well down to about 10.5 volts. Cost is about $80.

Most laptops ARE power hogs. They will draw as much as your electric refrigeration when it's running.

Inverters come in many flavors. Recently, a number of relatively small pure sine wave inverters have appeared on the market at reasonable cost. I'd consider one of these if you want an all-purpose charging source for electronics.

Bill
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Old 12-27-2006
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Laptops typically draw 80watts to 120 watts. Newer ones are near the lower end. At 12volts that is between about 8 to 10 amps.
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Most inverters will work, but you have to be careful picking out a good one, not because of the waveform .. most electronics can use an ugly pattern, but because of stupid things you wouldn't expect. Problems I've had with them include not providing their rated output, having really dumb cigarette lighter connections that aren't standard and won't actually stay in a cigarette lighter socket, eating too much power when they don't have a load attached, not making a good electrical connection with the socket, having hard to find/replace fuses, etc. It's best to go with a good name and about 1.5 times the wattage you think you are going to need. And of course if you really need an inverter for "big stuff" then it's best to wire it into the electrical system and do it right.

I try to avoid inverters when I can, which is usually fairly easy if you shop around and are careful. I do a lot of camping so flexibility is very important for me when it comes to power and batteries because I like to take some of the more important electronics with me on treks. I have a folding solar panel and a very small A/C to DC converter that outputs 13.9 volts to charge my homemade NiMH battery pack when on a trek, that's the core of my "electrical system". From that system I can power everything I use and I can operate indefinitely in terms of power, or at least until something breaks or I eventually have to replace the NiMH batteries with new ones. I try to buy equipment that uses AA batteries because that's what my battery pack is made out of which gives me a built in charging capability. L-ion batteries are expensive, annoying to recharge, often only have really bulky chargers available, and more importantly take away a lot of flexibility because you can't swap batteries between devices. Pretty much everything that uses a L-ion battery has to have it's own individual charger and cable which makes them very undesirable for treks because of weight and general annoyance. I also carry a small modified DC power converter that can output 1.5, 3, 4.5, 6, 7.5, 9, and 12 volts DC given a 13.9'ish volt DC power source, I have various tips for the cable so that I can charge/run a lot of personal electronics that have voltage requirements under 12 volts. That voltage converter also acts as a current limiter/diode on 12 volts so that I can charge my battery pack from another battery that has a higher voltage without worrying about overheating the NiMH pack when I am not paying attention. I also have cables I've adapted to charge AAA batteries, power my emergency radio, run the laptop, etc.

So basically as long as the sun is shining, or I'm near an electrical outlet, or I can find some voltage source that is greater than 12 volts and less than about 30 volts DC ... I can charge my battery pack. And the battery pack powers everything either directly or indirectly by recharging AA and AAA batteries. I have a backup solar panel in the ditch bag.
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