sine wave inverter
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    Fellow Frogger! tasie C5's Avatar
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    Default sine wave inverter

    We will be touring the wide brown land soon. Has anyone had experience in powering/charging laptops when on the road using a pure sine wave inverter?
    The local accessory shop says that it must be hard wired to the battery and can't be plugged into the cig. lighter due to the power draw.
    Heading to WA via Swan Hill. Adelaide for a few days, then maybe Port Lincoln then to perth with an expedition to NINGALOO reef with grandsons. Any tips?

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    Allan

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    1000+ Posts jo proffi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tasie C5 View Post
    We will be touring the wide brown land soon. Has anyone had experience in powering/charging laptops when on the road using a pure sine wave inverter?
    The local accessory shop says that it must be hard wired to the battery and can't be plugged into the cig. lighter due to the power draw.
    Heading to WA via Swan Hill. Adelaide for a few days, then maybe Port Lincoln then to perth with an expedition to NINGALOO reef with grandsons. Any tips?

    Allan
    I am running a laptop 24/7 in the car, through a cheap nasty inverter powered from the ciggi lighter socket.
    None of this pure sine wave stuff.
    The inverter also runs the powered usb hub with a wall wart. The hub works hard, running a screen, the iphone, and multiple accessories, some powered and some not.

    Have never blown a fuse, have never blown up a laptop, the battery in the PC is fine and last for hours, the inverter does not get really hot ( is air cooled now so is cooooool ) and every single crank my starter motor has done in the last year or so has been whilst the inverter is plugged in (to the cigi socket).
    I do try and not boot the computer until the car is going though.
    Have even managed to run the car battery down low enough on a few occasions that I've had to push start the car, and still it keeps on powering.
    I'm also running interactive applications whilst the car is driving, and with the exception of an antiquated software app glitching from time to time at boot up, no issues whatsoever have arisen.

    I'd bet the experts at the shop would give 20 reasons why my system would not work.
    Jo

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    1000+ Posts PeterT's Avatar
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    When you consider how much current a cig lighter draws, I doubt it. I've run a 350W inverter successfully in my Mi16. It can maintain the charging of an IBM laptop if fully charged, but goes into fault mode if the laptop is flat. A 400W version would do it easily.

    '92 205 Mi16
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    I would have search for a power pack that suits your laptop (probably 18 volts DC) and is powered by 12 volts. This will step 12vdc to 18v-21 dc.(dependent on laptop & usually not too critical)

    The inverter you have converts 12vdc-to 240 Ac- then the laptop power supply converts 240ac-18 Vdc odd. So it more efficient to covert 12vdc to 18v DC directly.

    Laptops draw flea power even when charging, so a big inverter (which your description sound like) is a over kill.

    Put "12 volt laptop power supply", less the inverted commas into, google search and a lot turns up.

    Best of luck.

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    1000+ Posts jo proffi's Avatar
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    The reason i chose an inverter over a dedicated power supply was to be able to charge any of my devices, camera, phone, mac laptop , and not just the PC. (Seem to remember my battery is a slightly odd voltage too.)
    This adaptability may be a feature Allan might find handy. If not, go for Robs suggestion and get a straight 12v-18v automotive power supply
    You can buy those off the shelf at jaycar.

    Times have moved on, and the camera is now an iphone, which can be charged off any powered usb socket.

    Can i sugest rather than spend big on an inverter that boils the jug too, just make sure the PC batterie is up to speed.
    If its a bit tired, get a new one as this will give you more time away from the car and reduce the chance of you having to push start your car if you screw up and run the laptop with the ignition switched on.


    jo
    Last edited by jo proffi; 20th April 2013 at 08:47 PM.

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    VIP Sponsor 59 Floride's Avatar
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    I had a Bogan in a Commodore give me a sign wave today as he drove past....
    Every day when I wake up I reach up in the darkness with my eyes shut and if I cannot feel anything that resembles a wooden lid I know it will be a good day. No lid today.

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    Default laptop !

    Hi
    I run my laptop from 12 v when I go "camping". I bought a cheap 12v DC/240v AC 100w charger from a computer fair stall. It works ok on 12 v from the car or my solar battery using a cig socket plug. It also can be used on normal 240 sockets as well, if you stay in a park or the like. Good value at about $45 by memory. But I had to replace the crappy 240 adaptor plug as it was sh*t. I used a cord from an old radio. The charger has a selection of tips and voltage is selectable so it suits any type. It also has a usb port for charging whatever.

    I have used my standard charger on a cheap invertor with no problems. The square wave or "modified sine wave" type are entirely OK and a sine wave type is not necessary. Do not believe however that you use very little power to run the lap top. If you run the battery down and the PS has to charge and run the laptop then it might take the full 100-120 watts and at say 12 volts or less under load that's up to 15+ amps allowing for some losses. Also use it to charge phones and ??

    The 12v charger does not like running the laptop and charging the battery when the 12v battery voltage gets down a bit either. It wil do one or the other only or trips in and out. It works OK doing both when the sun shines and the voltage gets up to charging.

    jaahn

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    1000+ Posts jo proffi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jaahn View Post
    The 12v charger does not like running the laptop and charging the battery when the 12v battery voltage gets down a bit either. It wil do one or the other only or trips in and out. It works OK doing both when the sun shines and the voltage gets up to charging.

    jaahn
    It can maintain the charging of an IBM laptop if fully charged, but goes into fault mode if the laptop is flat.
    I didn't know that, but it makes perfect sense (and reinforces my suggestion to have a good PC battery).
    When the battery gets below 10%, something causes the ecu to throw all types of random fault codes and run like shite, so I either dont run it down, or I plug a mains charger(connected to a land line 240v) in to get it to above 20%.

    I must do a little experiment next time the battery is flat to see if it is the stressed inverter that causes the grief to the ECU or the if it is the PC itself.

    Jo

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    1000+ Posts FIVEDOOR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 59 Floride View Post
    I had a Bogan in a Commodore give me a sign wave today as he drove past....
    One finger or two?

    Were you anywhere near the Bogandome by any chance?

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    Fellow Frogger! tasie C5's Avatar
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    Thank's for the replies. My son has just arrived and he says he charges his iphone from the USB plug in my C5 (2010model).
    What do you think, could I use this? The laptop is a Macbook air.
    Allan

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    Default Stressed 12 v

    Quote Originally Posted by jo proffi View Post
    I didn't know that, but it makes perfect sense (and reinforces my suggestion to have a good PC battery).
    When the battery gets below 10%, something causes the ecu to throw all types of random fault codes and run like shite, so I either dont run it down, or I plug a mains charger(connected to a land line 240v) in to get it to above 20%.

    I must do a little experiment next time the battery is flat to see if it is the stressed inverter that causes the grief to the ECU or the if it is the PC itself.

    Jo
    Hi Jo
    Another possibility, from my measurements, could be the voltage drop at the plug causes the invertor to drop in and out from low voltage. Mine squeels as it approaches drop out so I know when it happens. Because of the highish current draw, the wiring and the connections have to be good. It's easy to loose 1 volt and that is all that it takes to get down to drop out when not under charge and using a good current out of a car battery.

    The invertor and the charger put out a lot of RF interference too. They cannot be used with my TV on. It is a 12v set and the reception is marginal.

    I would not think a laptop will be able to run from a usb port. They are usually current limited and are only 5 Volt.

    jaahn

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    1000+ Posts robmac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jaahn View Post
    Hi

    .... Do not believe however that you use very little power to run the lap top. If you run the battery down and the PS has to charge and run the laptop then it might take the full 100-120 watts and at say 12 volts or less under load that's up to 15+ amps allowing for some losses. ...

    jaahn
    That's very strange. My Acer laptop has a 21 v mains power supply. It is marked 65 watts max. With 100% conversion efficient that is 5.5 amps approx off 12volts.

    The inverter you have must be very inefficient, to the tune of around 33% efficient.

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    Default efficency !

    Quote Originally Posted by robmac View Post
    That's very strange. My Acer laptop has a 21 v mains power supply. It is marked 65 watts max. With 100% conversion efficient that is 5.5 amps approx off 12volts.

    The inverter you have must be very inefficient, to the tune of around 33% efficient.
    Hi robmac
    Well I do have an overpowerfull Toshiba that uses more than normal power. The original charger says; in 100-240v ac~ 2A. out 19v = 6.32A. That's 120 watts out ! perhaps ~ 200 watts in ?
    The other charger says; input 110-240 vac ~ 1.3 A max, Dc 9-15 v -10 A max. output in my case 19-24 v -4 A max. 75 watts out. perhaps ~ 143 watts in.

    The invertor is not here but from previous measurements the efficiency can be lowish at low outputs and its a 600 watt unit. Probably not as bad as 33% but certainly not real high. From my experience it is better to run a better match for the expected power use. It's easy to loose power at 12 volts. Cheaper to save it than make it with solar.
    jaahn

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    1000+ Posts jo proffi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jaahn View Post
    Hi Jo
    Another possibility, from my measurements, could be the voltage drop at the plug causes the invertor to drop in and out from low voltage. Mine squeels as it approaches drop out so I know when it happens. Because of the highish current draw, the wiring and the connections have to be good. It's easy to loose 1 volt and that is all that it takes to get down to drop out when not under charge and using a good current out of a car battery.

    Mine squeals for under voltage too, but that doesn't happen with the engine running.

    Jo

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    Hi TassieC5

    We use a cheapie inverter in the car to power a laptop. No problems at all.
    The inverter is not sine wave - it is a cheapie from Aldi, 300w from memory.
    The inverter plugs into the cig lighter. It has worked well for years.

    HOWEVER...

    Have you bought the inverter yet? If so, how big is it? (how many watts) and what brand / model is it?

    It all depends what you want to do with it, it is just to run laptop and charge camera and phone? (in which case a basic non-sinewave inverter will be fine). Or do you also want to use a light at night in a tent/motorhome/caravan? Do you want it to run a TV at night? Do you want to run anything with an electric motor? Then you are likely to want a bigger inverter, and a sinewave inverter.

    Any inverter uses a bit of a surge of extra power when it starts up, and many loads pull a surge when they start up too. This is where using a lighter socket can get dicey. The contacts in a lighter socket can make a less reliable contact, leading to voltage drop under load, so the inverter might squeal or shut down under a load that it would run happily with a better (hard wired) connection.

    Also be aware of when you want to use the inverter - most modern cars need ignition on to power the lighter socket. So if you want the inverter to work at night after you have stopped driving, then you will need to give is a power supply that stays on after the ignition is off.

    Some years ago we used to go camping a bit and I fitted a 12 volt socket under the front bumper bar (a t-pin type, like a normal power point with one vertical and one flat pin) which was permanently wired direct to the battery, with a 20 amp fuse. I then had a 12 volt extension cord with about 10 metres of twin cable, and two sockets on the end - one for a light and the other to plug in a mini inverter - it was a 150 watt cheapy from Jaycar that has since died. The t-pin plugs give a more dependable connection than a lighter plug. Another good 12 volt connector is a Merit plug and socket - they look very similar to lighter plug, but give a stronger, more reliable contact.

    If your sinewave inverter is going to be used for more than just recharging computer, phone, camera, etc then you probably would be well advised to have it hardwired through a fuse, to give a more reliable connection.

    I have lived full time on solar power (not on the grid) for about 20 years now so I'm pretty familiar with inverters, load sizing and so on.

  16. #16
    Fellow Frogger! tasie C5's Avatar
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    Thanks Simca1100.
    I only wish to charge and use the macbook air.
    Looking on the net there are dedicated plug in chargers that use the cig. socket.
    Any experience with these? Not yet bought an inverter.
    Allan.

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    Too many posts! JohnW's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tasie C5 View Post
    We will be touring the wide brown land soon. Has anyone had experience in powering/charging laptops when on the road using a pure sine wave inverter?
    The local accessory shop says that it must be hard wired to the battery and can't be plugged into the cig. lighter due to the power draw.
    Heading to WA via Swan Hill. Adelaide for a few days, then maybe Port Lincoln then to perth with an expedition to NINGALOO reef with grandsons. Any tips?

    Allan
    Can't advise but many others have. Remember there's a Citroen community in Perth if you strike trouble in WA.

    I've just driven Perth -Junee - Adelaide - Perth past Swan Hill as it happens. Great trip. Do not miss the Head of the Bight and the cliff views from Nullarbor to Border Village. There's a lovely little garden area for eating at the back of the service station at Eucla (NOT Border Village) with views and birds. Really nice.

    If you feel like doing it (and I did) the track through the Barmah Forest on the NSW side from Tocumwal along the river (follow "Lower River Road" signs is lovely. You are adjacent to the river in many places. When you hit the bitumen again, you can soon turn left to Picnic Point for lunch by the river then return and turn left to Echuca. Oscar W in Echuca is a superb eating place, overlooking the river bang in the historic wharf area.

    Good travelling.
    JohnW

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    did you you are using mac? then I think this cheap one should work...: http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/60W-DC-La...item256dc6c9ad

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    Hi Allan,
    A well known German supermarket chain has a laptop power supply currently on sale that might do the job for you. It can plug into the 12volt ciggy socket and also 240v like mine. Good price too. Are they in Tassie ?
    Cheers Jaahn

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    Fellow Frogger! tasie C5's Avatar
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    I consulted my local Mac store ( 160km away) and they said stay away from the ebay. They recommend a pure sine wave inverter.
    The cig. plugs do not have the capacity and could damage things.

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    Fellow Frogger! tasie C5's Avatar
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    I consulted my local Mac store ( 160km away) and they said stay away from the ebay. They recommend a pure sine wave inverter.
    The cig. plugs do not have the capacity and could damage things.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tasie C5 View Post
    I consulted my local Mac store ( 160km away) and they said stay away from the ebay. They recommend a pure sine wave inverter.
    The cig. plugs do not have the capacity and could damage things.
    Hi,
    Rubbish is all I can say. But its yours so do what ever. Why bother asking us ?
    Jaahn

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    Just to throw something else in the mix, I also have used a 12v 300w cheap inverter to run a play station and a small dvd player and screen to keep our kid happy when we toured around Europe on two separate occasions a few years ago covering around 6000 miles in total in 4 weeks (about 10,000 KM).
    We Just plugged it into the cig lighter and never had any issues, Macs don't need any special type of electric, only 240v through the invertor which is DC, all you need, simple as.
    I bet the mac store man "just happened to have one in stock" that he could "Do you a deal on"

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    Soz didn't word that quite right, meant 240v ac comsumer (Laptop adaptor) plugged into invertor to give dc input for laptop, this would be safer than trying to hike the 12v car supply up to 18v laptop supply.
    You would have 2 points of protection with an inverter, if the inverter was over powered by the 12v input it would simply shut down and no damage to laptop, if the inverter was to supply out more than 240v for any reason your laptop adaptor would just shut down and again no damage to laptop.
    But like Jaahn said its your choice, I know which way I would go with it.

  25. #25
    Fellow Frogger! tasie C5's Avatar
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    Dear Jaahn.
    What is the brand name of the laptop power supply. We don't have the German shop over here.
    The macbook has a magnetic power plug so the ' universal" fittings don't fit. I have found some on the net that look OK ,with good reviews so might try them. By the way,I would rather be cautious than not when dealing wit these things ( cars and computers). Hence my query.
    Allan

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