Laptop usage in cars is becoming more of a necessity than luxury for many people. Power inverters have been used by police and ambulance services for years. Many sales people and support personnel use inverters in their vehicles today. For example, a locksmith arrives at a hotel to assist a patron who has locked themselves out of the car after turning it on to warm it up during a snowstorm. The locksmith gets the car unlocked and goes into his vehicle to print out the invoice for the customer. He also has a wireless internet connection and can look up any information he may need. A car can be easily turned into a mobile office with a power inverter, laptop and printer.
Power inverters change the DC voltage (battery power) in vehicles into AC electricity (household power) used in home and offices. There are many different types of inverters and it is important to determine what type is best particularly to power a laptop.
There are two types of sine wave inverters: true sine wave and modified sine wave. True sine wave inverters produce power similar to the electric power in your house. Modified sine wave inverters can have problems powering some equipment and become unreliable. True sine wave inverters are more expensive, sometimes 2 to 5 times more expensive, but well worth the money if your income depends on it. The true sine wave power will be much more reliable and run things much better.
Modified sine wave inverters can cause power spikes which can ruin the power pack on laptop charger. A power pack can be an expensive part to replace, anywhere from $90 to $150. These spikes and surges can even go into the laptop and damage the electrical system. A surge protector does not offer the protection needed for modified sine wave inverters.
Determining what wattage inverter to get should be based on how much equipment you will be trying to run. To power a laptop and printer you will need at least a 300 watt true sine wave inverter. To power a mobile office in a truck or van with more equipment to power you will need a higher wattage inverter. Start by calculating the wattage for each device. The easiest way to do this is to check the electrical requirements tag which is usually located on the cord. It will have input voltage and amperage. Some will have output voltage and amperage which you won’t use in your calculations. Once you know how much wattage you need than it is best to buy the next size up. It is much cheaper to buy what you need the first time than having to buy it twice.