12 Volt Power - Power Supplies And Inverters

Published: 03rd August 2009
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The seasoned trucker, the off-grid resident, the veteran RV'er and the proud boat owner all know about 12 volt living and the kinds of power supplies and power inverters required to take it all with you while you leave it all behind. This information, then, is aimed at the "newbie" just dipping their toes in the water of the 12 volt lifestyle. Perhaps you're contemplating purchasing a new RV to fulfill your retirement travel dreams. Maybe you're considering giving the utility company the old heave-ho and going off-grid. Or maybe you're just renting a houseboat for a Summer retreat and feel the need to be better prepared for the adventure. Whatever your desire to learn more about the basics of 12 volt usage, the following helpful tidbits are for you.

Power supplies

Your power supply, contrary to what it might seem, is not your battery or battery bank. In actuality, it is the source for your 12 volt electronic device's power. Your power supply will hook into your cigarette lighter or power inverter and your device will plug into it. If you've ever used a mobile device, like your mobile phone's charger that plugged into your car's cigarette lighter, then you can consider yourself experienced as far as power supplies go.

What power supplies do is to deliver amps - some deliver as much as 35 amps and more. Amps are an important consideration only as long as you have enough to power your particular device. Your 12 volt hair dryer, for example, will only draw as many amps from your power supply as it needs, even if your supply has a much higher amp rating.

Now, that doesn't work the other way around. If your power supply's amp rating is too small for the device you're wanting to operate, it can result in dangerous overheating of the power supply unit. While all power supply units have some built in safety features to protect against overload, you still run the risk of "blowing" a fuse, damaging your power supply unit, and in extreme cases of overload, fire. You're safest choice is first to be aware of how much power your various devices require. Then, choose a power supply that offers at least a 10% more amp output rating than the total sum of the all the devices you'll be requiring it to power. This will ensure that no overloading of the power supply will occur. (Caution should be taken in replacing lower rated fuses with higher rated ones in an attempt to prevent overloading the circuit or purchasing a higher rated power supply. This can result in even greater damage to both vehicle and device.)

Power Inverters

Power inverters attach to the battery and convert the power from the battery (12 volts in our case) to 110 AC. Our power supplies connect to these inverters to receive their power. If you've ever had an electronic gaming device that required a separate cord with a large square or rectangular head (you probably called it an "adapter plug") to convert the AC house current from the wall socket into whatever voltage was required for the device, you've had some minor experience with power inverters. (Depending on your inverter device, and its intended usage, you may need to make sure that yours comes with a handy cigarette lighter socket or two.)

Since your inverter relies on battery power, the larger the battery the better the output. For some larger vehicles and for off-grid living, whole banks of batteries are required, wherein a set or series of batteries all connected together ensure plentiful power. Using power from these batteries will, over time, discharge the battery, or "run it down." There are a couple of things that need to be considered when discussing batteries for your 12 volt lifestyle.

There is a handy little device called a battery "guard" that attaches to the battery and keeps an eye on the amount of charge remaining. It shuts off the power output when the battery is nearing a critical level. This will ensure that when using your vehicle's battery to power your 12 volt devices that you will have enough power to restart the vehicle. Most vehicle batteries aren't meant to be run down and then recharged, however. They are designed to do the hard work of starting the vehicle and then the vehicle immediately recharges them. For this reason they are know as SLI batteries - Start, Light, Ignition. Fully discharging and then recharging SLI batteries will shorten their lifespan in a very short amount of time, necessitating frequent replacement.

The type of battery that works best for a continuous power supply like the type needed for maintaining your 12 volt lifestyle is called a "deep cycle" or "motive" battery. They are designed to withstand the rigors of being nearly fully discharged, and have a much longer lifespan than their SLI battery counterparts. Deep cycle batteries are much more functional and can greatly improve your overall satisfaction with your 12 volt living.

Now that you've got some of the basics down, you can go forward with your transition to a 12 volt lifestyle with confidence and courage. You too can take it all with you while you leave it all behind!12-volt-Travel.com offers everything you could ever think of in travel needs. From the portable mini refrigerator and truckers gps to jumpstart systems, flashlights accessories and more. Visit online today.

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