Why you need an inverter:
The AC inverter converts the DC voltage from the battery into AC voltage, which is what comes out of most electrical wall sockets. You’ll often see inverters on a small scale in car adaptors, where they take the power from the cigarette lighter (which is hooked up to the car’s battery). Most general purpose AC inverters are Modified Sine Wave inverters. If you want to know more about how these inverters work, here
is a good reference source.Choosing an inverter:
When shopping for inverters, you want to look for a few features. First, make sure that the output AC voltage is at the level of wall plugs. Wall sockets usually put out about 120V, but it isn’t absolutely necessary to have your voltage match that; anything from 110-130 Volts AC will be fine. Be sure that the frequency of the output is at 60 Hz, which is standard in the United States.
Another thing to consider is the watts that the inverter can output. The power needed from the AC inverter will depend on the type of electronic appliance you are trying to use. For some reference, cell phone recharging takes less than 5 watts, while a microwave will consume 1500 watts! Since price goes up with the power output, you will need to make some decisions on how much you want to spend and what appliances you expect to power.
Another important feature to have is an inverter that can take a range of voltages. Many general purpose inverters will only take in a 12 V DC input. Since the actual output of a standard recharging battery can vary from less than twelve to just over 14, it is important to find an inverter that will be able to take that range of voltage inputs.
Finally, to protect your appliances it would be important to keep the inverter in an open location. Transforming DC to AC will create some heat, and circulation is important to keep the inverter functional.
As for our choice of inverters, we decided to go with the Wagan 400W converter with two additional 5V USB ports, from McMaster-Carr (model 6987K22) . We knew that we weren’t going to be attaching high power appliances to our generator, yet we needed enough to power something like a desktop computer and monitor, which combines to about 250 watts of power. This inverter will recognize if there is an overload of input voltage and shut off, protecting your appliances from surges. It also came conveniently with battery clips, which we used to hook up the battery to the inverter.How to hook it up:
Using the battery clips, hook up the positive and negative leads to the matching leads on the battery. When attaching the second clip, expect a small spark as the circuit completes. Make sure that you’re holding the rubber ends of the clips when hooking up the battery.