If you’re in the market for a power inverter, if you don’t know what one is and are just curious, then this review to help you choose the best power inverters at the excellent starting point. The big question, before I get started, is what a power inverter is? In the simplest explanation, a power inverter is a tool that changes DC (direct current) power to AC (alternating current) power.
The most common DC power source today is your automobile. DC power generally comes from a battery source, that is pumping directly into a device. AC power is usually what home wiring is. So that means using an inverter is most likely going to be done while you’re in the car, and need to power a device that is usually plugged in at home.
While there are other instances where an inverter is useful, most are specifically designed for car use. They can be used to power almost any home product while on the road, and many are now including USB ports to recharge cellular and other wireless devices.
Table of Contents
There are some essential things to consider before selecting an inverter, so before I take a look at some of the best ones out there, here are things to keep in mind:
Depending on whether you’re planning to use the device on the road or as a backup power supply for the home, then that determines what type you’ll need. If you need to power your devices in an RV, car, or boat, then you’ll want a power inverter. If you are setting up a power supply back up for the home, then you’ll be best suited with an inverter/charger.
The next thing to consider is how much power the inverter will be able to supply. Inverters range from only being able to power one or two devices at once, up to running an entire household. The best way to know what size of inverter you need, is to look at the wattage for each device or appliance that will be plugged in. Add that wattage together to get the total that needs to be supplied. Leaving yourself some head room is advisable too, as it’s best to be able to cover a little bit more, rather than not being able to get what you need to running.
The amount of power that can be dished out by the inverter is limited by the voltage that is supplied through it. If you’re running it off of a car, then the power is likely coming from either a 12 volt or 24-volt battery. If the voltage of the battery can’t provide the inverter with enough ability to run what you need, then you may have to scale it down and run fewer devices.
With power inverters, they process the power as a wave in one of two ways, either as a True Sine Wave or as a Modified Sine Wave. A pure sine wave inverter will offer more consistent power, with fewer interruptions or surges. If you are using more precision type devices that need the power level to stay the same throughout usage, then going with a pure sine wave inverter is the better option. Modified sine wave inverters are cheaper, and still provide efficient power, but they are less consistent than pure sine wave types, so more professional-grade equipment may not work adequately with them.
Below are some of the inverters we reviewed that I felt were the best available on the market:
Bestek built this 300 watt inverter with two standard 110 volt AC plugins and two USB ports as well. It provides top speed charging so that devices you plug in will be charged as fast as capable. This unit is compact, making it an easy addition to the vehicle for road trips, camping or addition to an emergency kit.
The inverter plugs into the car via the cigarette lighter by a 24 inch (two foot) cord. WIth multiple forms of protection, the device prevents overheating, short circuiting, overcharging and overloads. This protects any device being plugged into it from damage, as well as prevents damage to the car or inverter while in use as well.
This inverter is for 12 volt battery use only. 24 volt power supplies may damage the unit, and as such it should not be used on airplanes or in vehicles with the larger battery. It’s also best to ensure the inverter has been switched off before turning off the car. Turning the vehicle on while the unit is set to the on position can cause too much surge through the inverter.
Being a 500 watt inverter means having more power to run more devices at the same time. This unit is built with two 110 volt outlets and four USB ports. It also has a built in mounting post that allows for it to be installed permanently into a vehicle. It can be plugged into the cigarette lighter or it comes with alligator clips to attach directly to the battery cables.
Intertek, the multinational product testing and certification company, certified this device for performance and safety. It protects against overload, overheating and short circuiting with the built in protection. It’s verified to run at 500 watts continuously with max output peaks at 1,000 watts.
It’s set for an input voltage of 12 volts, so it works great in most cars but it’s not for use with 24 volt battery systems. The unit is built with a very quiet fan, listed as a thermal-fan, which keeps the unit cool but doesn’t become annoying as it runs. The power output is set to 110-120 volts.
One of the more powerful models, this model is capable of handling power demanding devices. Fully capable of keeping on refrigerators, foodlights and all of your small devices, this unit is as versatile as can be.
Loaded with six 50 amp fuses, this unit protects all of your devices from surge or overload during use. While this unit is set up to be usable in a car, the only power ports are the three 110 volt outlets.
Fitted with a large cooling fan, this unit is louder than many of the other entries while it runs. It also needs to be kept out of sunlight, or away from heat producing devices as it can become overheated. It comes with both a cigarette lighter and alligator clamps, but running it on the cigarette lighter limited the unit from delivering at full power.
This device should only be used with a 12 volt power supply. This unit is designed for assisting with larger appliances and heavier loads, not the best choice for travel or use on the road.
Providing up to 3,000 watts of continuous power, and 6,000 watts maximum, this is great for home usage when the power goes out or when temporary power is needed on a job site. This unit is connected directly to the battery, it does not have a cigarette lighter adapter as the power is too great for that type of usage.
Built with 12 fuses, each at 35 amps, this unit will protect whatever may be plugged into it from overload. Along with that, there are multiple forms of protection built into the unit, keeping it safe from taking damage as well.
Built with only two 110 volt outlets, it’s limited on how many devices can be used at one time. Only for use with a 12 volt power supply. The device has two LED displays that show voltage from the battery and how much voltage output is going through the device while in use.
Loaded with options for powering devices, this 5,000 watt unit has four 110 volt outlets and two USB ports. With 5,000 watts of continuous power, overloading this device is unlikely, even if all power ports are in use at the same time.
This unit is not for use while operating a vehicle, it’s primary use is for worksites, camping, solar power inversion for use in homes, and similar applications. Being as powerful as it is, the draw from the battery is so great that a solid connection must be created with the battery terminals to prevent risk of fire. The unit comes with three wires for each the positive and the negative, along with a ground wire to reduce that fire risk.
Built with a smart cooling fan that only begins to operate when the temperature of the unit reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit. One drawback to the continuous power provided by this unit is that it operates as a modified sine wave device, so the stability of the current may not be as strong as desired.
Providing 1,500 watts of continuous power, this unit is made to operate based on a pure, or true, sine wave. This is the most stable type of power inverter available, as they keep the power flow in line almost perfectly. Along with that, this unit can surge to 4,500 watts for its maximum power output. Unfortunately it can only manage that for 20 seconds at a time, but it is a very large boost of power.
The automatic generator start capability of this unit helps ensure that if the battery level is dropping too low that it can trigger an attached generator to start. When that generator is turned on it is used to recharge the battery, as well as maintain the level of power output you need for your home, worksite or while you’re camping. This is especially useful in conjunction with the built in 50 amp battery charger, so it can recharge the batteries as well as invert the power from them.
The downfalls of this unit for home use are that it only has two 110 volt outlets, no USB connections, and it is more limited on the power sources it can run off of. This cannot be used directly from solar panels, for example, as it needs a solar charge controller in between.
The most obvious reason for using a power inverter is that you never run out of power for your devices, as long as the battery it operates from is able to be recharged. This works great in cars, as the battery in a car charges while the engine is running. Most of the inverters you’ll encounter are designed to be able to operate from a car’s battery through the cigarette lighter or by direct connection to the battery terminals.
One of the biggest reasons to have an inverter is if you live in an area where power outages are common. If the source of power to your home, or place of business, is unstable then inverters keep those spaces protected by ensuring that the power never fails completely. No longer having to worry about the refrigerator suddenly being disconnected from a power source for hours at a time makes sure you don’t lose food or other valuable resources.
Power inverters run with no additional cost after purchase. They are a cost effective way to maintain power, or operate the devices you need while you are traveling, without consuming more power than what is fed into it.
There are some important things to pay attention to while operating a power inverter, as they can cause damage or be harmful if left unattended.
Now that I’ve gone over some of the important things to know about power inverters, and with the reviews of some of the best power inverters available, it’s time to make a verdict. This is based on my own opinion and what I would use a power inverter for, so your needs may be vastly different from mine. Be sure to check out all of the devices listed here to make sure you’re getting what you need and want.