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Date: 17 April 2016. Inverters Make AC Power (Part IV)

janice142
 

My friend says people prefer to have all the information on one page and in one article. I do not particularly care to click through either. In any event, I have covered a lot of material herein. In bite-sized pieces the articles are:
 

  1. Batteries Store Power (Part I)

  2. Solar Makes Power (Part II)

  3. Power Used Aboard Seaweed (Part III)

  4. Inverters Make AC Power (Part IV) ←this one
     

The complete version with all the information
contained in the four articles is on this page:

Solar, Batteries and an Inverter, the complete series.

 


This is Part IV, entitled
Inverters Make AC Power.
In order to use the power gathered by the solar and sent to the batteries by the solar regulator I needed an inverter. Originally I opted for an AIMS1000 from The Inverter Store. It worked right well until I upgraded to a microwave.
 


You will discover that each new addition brings unexpected consequences.


The desire for ice cubes meant a larger refrigerator. Then the silverware drawer and those lockers needed to be removed to make space for the refrigerator. Details on the refrigerator install can be found in the Securing a Refrigerator (fans too) article.


Since the reefer was now in that corner there was a lovely (perfect really) spot for a microwave.


Subsequently I tried using the microwave with my old-style inverter. The microwave did not work. Thus I needed a new and better pure sine wave inverter. That will have to be wired as it has some automatic switches in it...
 

You get the picture. Each change though perfectly logical and sensible meant more complication and bother. In the end the results will be worth the hassle. In the midst though, this is definitely trying my sense of humor.
 

Not to mention swapping engines during the whole improvement fiasco.


It is good that I have a sense of humor and a dog. Skipper helped me though the rough patches when my world was helter-skelter. New friends and old were a serious boon.
 

I truly am blessed.
 

 
Old and Ugly:
New and spiffy with a microwave too!

The new larger refrigerator is just perfect. With a separate door for the freezer I can make ice cubes. I am totally enjoying this upgrade.

 


Mini-Lesson on inverters: There are two types of inverters. Square wave are the least expensive. I have used a square wave AIMS1000 for years and it is a-okay. It powered everything on the boat until I bought the digital microwave.
 

The best prices for inverters I have found is at The Inverter Store.


The second type is a Pure Sine Wave inverter. They are twice the price and if you need one, you need one. Let me explain:

The pure sine wave units are the best. They mimic exactly the power you get in houses. Pure sine wave inverters will keep your electronics in tip-top shape. There is virtually zero difference between the power they generate and standard power found at a house.
 

Consulting with Calder's Boatowners Mechanical and Electrical Manual 4the Edition is always a good idea.

 

Electrical gurus will state unequivocally that the higher priced pure sine wave inverters are best. They do not damage electronics and electric items perform better with pure sine wave inverters.


The square wave work okay for many things. Generally speaking, anything with a digital control will not work with a square wave inverter. The type of AC power cheap inverters produce is similar to but not exactly the same as house power. Some stuff will work anyway.
 

Is it great? No, but the square wave is Good Enough provided you have no sensitive items. Mine did very well powering the computer, crock-pot, refrigerator, and my Christmas tree lights.



 

Although some items work perfectly, the microwave did not. My microwave makes a sound, the turntable spins and nothing heats up when using the original square wave inverter. The square wave inverter powers my a/c unit just fine. I suspect because the air conditioner has a dial versus digital control, that is why the inverter powers it without issue.
 

The microwave and my popcorn addiction [see Popcorn for One (and Stone-wave Update) article] means I needed a Pure Sine Wave inverter.  My AIMS1000 I will pass along to another boater. It works, just not for my particular application.
 


There are actually three types of inverters. Inverter/chargers are also sold. I am not fond of those. For me two separate units means that when one part breaks I can simply replace the component. I have a separate charger for the batteries when I am tied to a dock.
 


Having real estate for solar is important. For those who have limited space an expensive MPPT solar controller will increase the power your solar panels put into the batteries. The less expensive controllers work too. They are simply not as efficient as the MPPT controllers.
 

Solar charges batteries through a solar controller. Batteries supply power to inverter. Inverter changes battery power (12 volts) into AC (120 volt) power like you would have in a house.


All three components have to work together.
 

Start small. Solar to batteries to 12 volt items.
THEN move up to create the AC side of your boat.
 

The best visitors just want to sit around and relax. They do not care what power system you have.

Note the Night Heron sitting on the rail of the boat rafted next to me.


If you are like me you will find that buying a cheap throw-away refrigerator for $150 is better economically than spending $700 or more on a small 12-volt one. When mine quits I will go to Walmart and buy another.

 

Years ago (pulling on my fuzzy slippers) "everyone" switched over to 12-volt items. It was the "newest and greatest" thing. We stopped using iceboxes (with blocks of ice) and life was good. Then, well, things changed.
 

The DC refrigerators (reference Engel 60 Quart Fridge-Freezer for instance) are wonderful. They are also way beyond my budget. By increasing gradually the amount of solar I have, I am now able to buy and use any of the below the counter refrigerators. Purchasing an off-the-shelf avaiilable at Walmart is definitely more budget friendly.
 

I do not need to buy expensive "Marine" items. Having enough
solar to power my life aboard Seaweed is an incredible feeling.
 

 

If you would like to duplicate the solar system I have aboard Seaweed, here is your shopping list:

 

Renogy 100 watt panels

Renogy is the brand I chose. Good prices and fast shipping from Amazon. When I ordered I had to have a street address for shipping via UPS.

MorningStar ProStar-30 amp (12/24v)

(I now have an MPPT60, a better albeit more expensive controller)

 

P3 P4400 Kill A Watt Electricity Usage Monitor

Plug it in, then plug your appliance into the front. The meter will tell you how much power is used. There is an elapsed time button so figuring power consumption is easy.


P3 P4400 Kill A Watt Electricity Usage Monitor

Plug it in, then plug your appliance into the front. The meter will tell you how much power is used. There is an elapsed time button so figuring power consumption is easy.

 

You will also need wire. I cannot tell you the size as your boat most likely will be larger. Longer wire runs require a bigger gauge wire than the short runs aboard Seaweed.

 


BEFORE you spend the first dime however, make sure you like life at anchor. If you are hopping from marina to marina there is no need to expand your power creating beyond that of the alternators on your engine. Solar is one answer for those of us who prefer life off the grid.
 

I love the quiet, and I like my ice cubes too. You really
 can have it all. It just takes work and determination.


This is the life:


P.S. - I am NOT a power expert. I am relating the
experience I have gained over the past 8 years.
 

Please Note: This is a multi-part series about power for your boat's goodies. It encompasses solar power, batteries and inverters. The complete version with all the information contained in the four articles is on this page:

Solar, Batteries and an Inverter, the complete series.
 

What type of inverter do you have aboard?
And, what size is it? Manufacturer? Would you buy it again?
 

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