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Thread: An Alternative to a Generator..The inverter

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    Default An Alternative to a Generator..The inverter

    Hi,
    I thought I'd share some info on Inverters here as an emergency power supply. I used to use these long before I had a generator , and still do on camping trips . I also have one in my bug out bag and road trip pack. I know most here use generators and they are a great power supply, one that I strongly suggest that anyone get if they can afford it and run one. Some Can't though, so what do you do?

    Generators are big, bulky , and noisy. They take lots of fuel to run, They have lots of parts to clean, and can give off noxious fumes. They have a ton of upsides, in that they can run your home as well as your tanks, if you can get gas, propane etc..

    In a case where you just can't have a generator, a battery inverter is a life saver. As a matter of fact, its the perfect add on to have in addition to a generator.


    The basic premise of a generator is , it burns a fuel to make electricity. The basic premise of an inverter is it takes DC electricity stored in a battery and converts it to Household AC electricity.
    The battery used can be any rechargeable battery , like a car battery, but ideally a Deep cycle Marine Battery is what you want. I used my car for years as a power supply for my fishroom in storms....but it means running the car every so often. A Deep cycle Battery will last alot longer and can be drained alot more with out damage. You would charge that battery by using a battery charger, or even solar panels

    A basic system is like this... as found in the tree house I build with my kids...



    In this picture I have a small rechargeable sealed battery.. .. Theres a solar panel here outside that charges the battery... You can see the small "diehard" inverter. Thats a 425 watt inverter... Not alot of power in it, but add up whats in your tanks as far as watts and you may find something this small is all you need.>>the real important part is this size of the battery. Most people here probably had to buy a car battery at one time... you may have heard of cold cranking amps....or CCA. Thats a measure important for a car starting, but for our purposes we want batteries that are measured in aH. Amp Hours. The tree house battery here is small....35 amp hours....so its not going to last that long. That means the battery can put out 35 amps continuously for 1 hour, or supply a current of 17.5 amp to a load for exactly 2 hour,etc. I'm not electrician here, I just know one thing... The more amp Hours, the longer I get power.

    Solar panel for the tree house...


    So basically... You have a battery to hold electricity.. a means of generating electricity ( the solar panel here ) or it could be a battery changer in in house, heck it could be a bike powered generator or treadmill. You'v got an inverter that takes the stored DC electricity and changes it to AC power for you to run the lap top, lights and fan in the treehouse or a fish tank in the house.


    Only other thing you need is something t control how much electricity the battery is given ti store A good modern battery changer will do that, but in a solar panel set up... you have a "charge controller" that does this...




    Thats pretty much it in a nutshell. If you wanted to build this system..

    Battery runs about $30-45
    inverter... $15- 45 ..that Die hard is over priced... you can far better dollar wise.
    solar panel... they keep getting cheaper... that one is a 15-20 watt panel..was about $40 on ebay.
    maybe $10 in wire..

    total cost$100-150


    Thats the basics, now I'll expand a bit. Its become yet another hobby of mine. Electricians feel free to jump in.

    -al

    Systems been running now a year or more and works flawlessly
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    Default Re: An Alternative to a Generator..The inverter

    So for some power backup for fish tanks we would want a beefier system.. Something that can give more power, be charged easily indoors until the power goes out and you need it. Its going to need to be able to safely process a good bit more DC into AC power. Luckily the options out there are awesome, largely because of the green energy/solar movement.

    So heres some things we will use...

    The battery,
    You can get some Nice long lasting AGM sealed batteries that will cost alot of money, but don't spill and have a great life span... I went cheap as I am storing this in the garage.... Walmart Deepcycle marine battery.Its a flooded lead acid battery similar to whats in your car, but can be drained deeper. It comes with a 2 year warranty...and costs less than $110.
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    Default Re: An Alternative to a Generator..The inverter

    Its a 114 amp hour battery... 12 V DC



    or if you get 2.. you can wire them together in parallel and you would have 228 amp hours still at 12 V DC
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    Default Re: An Alternative to a Generator..The inverter

    For inverter... you can find many that easily generate 1500- 2000 watts. I have a bunch here for different things.. The one I will use in the demo is a cheapo Ebay inverter,....



    Notice the 2 different watts rating...

    1100 watts and 2200 watts Peak. The 1100 watts is what it can put out countinuously.. The 2200 watts is a surge value. Its supposed to be able to do put out this much for a short burst. This is because some electronics need more electricity to start initially. I've found that most inverters really sugar coat this value... especially in the low end inverters. I would not trust this one to past 1500 watts as a Peak.
    Last edited by brewmaster15; 12-04-2014 at 07:00 AM.
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    Default Re: An Alternative to a Generator..The inverter

    A note on inverters... most good ones do not come with wires to connect them to batteries as these can be pricey and are largely dependent on your needs. This inverter came with wires, ones that really should not be used in any application. The wires are way to thin for a battery like I am using here..would be okay for a small car battery and very small load which is their intent probably. They connect to the battery via a cheap clamp.. Bolted in is much better and really want you want for a good solid and safe connection.

    They are 8 gauge wire...



    My research showed that when you are using these inverters you really want a heavy gauge wire. .. for instance a 6 gauge wire is rated for 115 amps Max. .. 8 gauge wire is thinner than 6.. . The length of the wire is important too.. You don't want 20 feet between the battery and inverter or you have a voltage droop. I shoot for cable lengths or under 6 feet...4-5 is good if you need more you can upsize the wire .. Doesn't matter if the wire is thicker than needed. The wire should also be stranded..not solid one piece... It conducts better. Many use welding cable...Its what I use.

    Obviously you will want to use extension cords to carry the inverters power to where you need it... Theres usually several outlets on an inverter. Be sure to use a good quality extension cord and pay attention to the ratings on it.


    As a side note.... really large inverters are hard wired into the house for the off the grid or supplimental to the Grid electricity when using a solar panel system. All those houses you see with solar panels are using the same basic system. Solar panels make Electricity, its stored in a battery bank, routed thru an inverter and into the house as AC for use in all our appliances... Its pretty simple really.
    Last edited by brewmaster15; 12-04-2014 at 07:12 AM.
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    Default Re: An Alternative to a Generator..The inverter

    So I pitched this wire and made my own cable... I went with 4 gauge stranded wire on this inverter...



    heres 4 gauge wire side by side with the 8 gauge that the inverter came with...




    big difference !

    had to crimp on some terminals to fit the battery and inverter...


    and connect...
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    Default Re: An Alternative to a Generator..The inverter

    I see another sticky coming
    Your discus are talking to you....are you listening


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    Default Re: An Alternative to a Generator..The inverter

    I built one of these as a kid, was some good fun...

    Though my room got filled with smoke as I accidentally dropped a wire across the two battery terminals, man that was a mess...

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    Default Re: An Alternative to a Generator..The inverter

    Quote Originally Posted by kris2341 View Post
    I built one of these as a kid, was some good fun...

    Though my room got filled with smoke as I accidentally dropped a wire across the two battery terminals, man that was a mess...
    Yeah not something you want to do!
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    Default Re: An Alternative to a Generator..The inverter

    This is going to be a work in progress so bear with me..
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    Default Re: An Alternative to a Generator..The inverter

    Al,

    I played with 1600W inverter before connect directly to battery, it did not work on Honda CRV but worked on Chevy Tahoe . I was not sure i did it right or not or was missing something. Does regular battery (from 4 cynlinders car) handle high inverter?
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    Default Re: An Alternative to a Generator..The inverter

    One thing I have say is I have learned alot playing around with this stuff.. The whole wire gauge thing makes no sense to me... The smaller the number the thicker the wire... right? well sort of. Some of the inverters I have are pretty big... 2000 watt / 4000 peak... They require some heavy duty wire... For the novices here... the way the gauges go in descending order...


    8
    6
    4
    2
    0... where 0 is the thickest

    then it gets crazy..
    1/0
    2/0
    4/0
    where 4/0 is the thickest of all of them... 4/0 wire is rated for 440 amps. I have some of this I plan on using on another project... just to show the gauge difference...

    Heres 4/0 gauge and 4 gauge side by side.

    Last edited by brewmaster15; 12-03-2014 at 08:29 PM.
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    Default Re: An Alternative to a Generator..The inverter

    Quote Originally Posted by MKD View Post
    Al,

    I played with 1600W inverter before connect directly to battery, it did not work on Honda CRV but worked on Chevy Tahoe . I was not sure i did it right or not or was missing something. Does regular battery (from 4 cynlinders car) handle high inverter?
    Tony,
    From what I know, alot of inverters have a shut off built in that if the battery voltage drops to a certain level... ,usually 10-11 volts I think, it shuts off. You can get that by drawing too much from the battery, or the cables could have been too small or long and that caused the voltage drop that tripped the shut off. My guess is it was the first.. was the car shut off or running when you tried?

    -al
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    Default Re: An Alternative to a Generator..The inverter

    Another thing that these inverters don't come stock with yet mention is the mysterious inline fuse. You are reading the instructions as you set it up and come across a reference to a recommended fuse not includes. For the 1100 watt inverter above it called for a 150 amp fuse...and gave not much more info. The inverter has has built in fuses so I was really confused. Much time latter and lots of readiing... figured it out. Whats often used is a fuse type ANL. These are used alot by people that have those really loud car audio systems.

    Looks like this...



    the fuse inside is supposed to melt and break the connection... you can see the center of the fuse here..



    Okay , so ordered these... not that hard the part costs $7..the fuses are 10 for $10. And one holder usually works with most wire sizes up to 1/0 gauge.


    Installing this was a tad tough, its hard cutting that wire neatly!
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    Default Re: An Alternative to a Generator..The inverter

    BTW.. I came across some DIYers that put the Fuse on the black ground wire... It needs to be on the Red Positive cable, and should be as close to the battery as possible... I put mine in about 1 foot from the terminal.

    Be sure that both Positive and Ground Cables are the same length!
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