By Russ and Tiña De Maris
In our traveling tool box, battery-powered portable tools have a favored place — what would you do without that drill? But when the time comes to recharge that drill, where are you going to find power in the boonies? If you have a generator, yes, you could fire it up for a few hours to recharge your favorite Makita, but that’s a lot of waste and noise. Here’s where an inverter can help.
An inverter converts 12-volt RV battery power into “shore power,” that many other shore power-loving devices can work with. We’ll keep this entry simple and expand into more detail in the future. For small power applications, say your blender and battery charger applications for portable power tools, a small, “plug it in the cigarette lighter” inverter is ideal.
Where do you find such a beast? RVers spend a lot of time on the road and there’s always a truck stop close at hand. “Trucker stores” have plenty of inverters for sale and the price is usually fairly competitive. You can also find scads of them on eBay or on Amazon.com, many for less than $25.
How much inverter do you need? Read the manufacturer’s plate on the device you want to power up. Usually battery-operated tools need very little juice to operate. Since inverters are rated in “watts” for power output, match or exceed the number of watts required by the device. Mind you, when you get into larger loads, your cigarette lighter socket won’t be able to put out enough juice to keep up with the inverter — and a blown fuse or even worse could result. NEVER exceed the rating of your “power plug.” Yes, you can hard-wire an inverter to your system for increased capacity, but that’s a subject we’ll take up later.
Always turn off your inverter when not in use — even when not actively “inverting” power, they do use a small amount of “standby current.”