For pro truck drivers who spend a lot of time behind the wheel, life can be demanding. Having a power inverter in your truck provides the electricity you’ll need for appliances that can make the road more like home.
There’s no getting around it;
In order to have some of the conveniences of home in your semi truck you’re going to need a power inverter. The best power inverter for a semi truck offers plenty of power output, provides the voltage and wattage to power a wide variety of appliances from your electric skillet, microwave or your mini refrigerator.
In A Hurry?
If you’re short on time and want to cut to the chase to find the best power inverter for semi truck that will work for you when you’re on the road here are our choices on Amazon. We research and pick top rated options.
Who Needs a Power Inverter?
Realistically any vehicle such as a semi truck, RV, pickup truck or boat can make use of a power inverter. Each of these vehicles has a large enough battery (12 volts, sometimes 24 volts for a semi truck) that can be used to run a wide variety of devices. Vehicle batteries generate direct current (DC) energy and all of the devices that you’d want to power word off of alternating current (AC). This is why you need the power inverter
And let’s face it;
Whether you’re an Owner operator, company driver or have you’re own recreational vehicle and spend a large amount of time on the road you’re going to want to power a wide range of devices which means you’ll need a power inverter.
This is especially true if your looking to power appliances that just about every driver uses; TVs, portable air conditioners, laptop computers and phone chargers.
The power inverter you pick needs to have enough wattage to power all that stuff and not interfere with electronic equipment that DOT may require you to have such as your electronic logging device (ELD).
In the end it’s about making life in your truck as close to home as your can while keeping your electronics and vehicle protected.
Best Power Inverter for Semi Truck 2020
There are a lot of great options, but finding an inverter that can handle the load that modern appliances that pro truck drivers and RV’ers will place on the unit can be a bit more of a challenge.
With the push by most truck manufacturers to make semi trucks more accommodating, power inverters have taken a big leap forward. Below is our list of the best power inverters for semi trucks that have the features to power all your electronics.
- Who Needs a Power Inverter?
- Best Power Inverter for Semi Truck 2020
- What does a Power Inverter Do?
- Best Power Inverter Buying Guide
- Power Inverter Wattage
- What Size Power Inverter Do I Need?
- Sine Wave (PSW) vs Modified Sine Wave (MSW)
- Power Inverter vs Portable Generator
- More Things to Consider
- Power Inverter Precautions
- Installing the Power Inverter
- Prices You Can Expect
- Frequently Asked Questions
What does a Power Inverter Do?
A power inverter is a device that changes direct current (DC) electrical power and converts it to alternating current (AC) that is usable by appliances and common devices.
A good heavy duty power inverter should be able to withstand the rigors of everyday use. As mentioned above, semi truck power inverters take the DC output from the vehicle’s battery and convert it to AC power in order to power tools, equipment and appliances.
Best Power Inverter Buying Guide
Purchasing the right power inverter can be a bit of a chore due to the various types and models available in today’s market. Each brand makes choosing the right inverter challenging for just about everyone including newbies.
In an effort to try and clear up some confusion we’ve put together a list of features that you should consider when choosing a power inverter for semi truck, RV or other vehicle.
Just about all power inverters come equipped with a fan for cooling. Make sure that you mount the inverter in an are of your cab or sleeper that’s well ventilated.
Inverters are going to run the gamut on how much power they’re going to put out. You’ll need to ensure that the inverter you choose will offer enough power to operate all of your devices.
If you’re looking to power big items like mini fridges, portable A/Cs, heaters and microwaves you’ll need a power inverter that can supply at least 2000 watts.
If you’re just looking to power smaller devices like laptops or a small TV you may be able to get with an inverter that is in the 300+ watt range and be just fine.
The more components you plan on powering, the more power you’re going to need. Purchase the inverter not only according to how many devices you have now, but devices you think you may want to add in the future.
In other words, leave yourself some room to grow.
Keep in mind that large power inverters that will supply the best power will need to be hard wired or connected directly to your vehicle’s battery and not use a cigarette lighter.
How many devices and ports are you going to need?
Will just one electrical outlet be enough or do you need multiple electrical outlets along with USB ports? Chances are you’re going to want to connect multiple devices to your inverter.
Before making a purchase, you may want to sit down and take inventory of the devices that you want to connect. How will you connect each device? Will you need multiple outlets and USB ports?
Having a clear idea of exactly what devices that you plan on powering will go a long way in helping you decide which inverter you’re going to need based on connectivity.
Most entry level power inverters come with at least two electrical outlets. In fact, If you’re considering buying an inverter that only has one outlet you may want to rethink your decision.
Even if you’re only going to power a couple of small devices, you’ll soon discover that you’ll outgrow this small of a power inverter quickly. It’s best to spend a little extra up front and get yourself a power inverter that has more connectivity than you need right now.
Power Inverter Wattage
As we’re all familiar with, a watt is a way of measuring how much (or rate) of electrical transfer of an appliance or device. It will be important that you take a look at the devices that you intend on powering and make a buying purchase based on the wattage any given device may use.
Keep this mind;
Many devices take double the amount of watts just to get started compared to when they are running.
As an example, a device might only need 750 watts to run normally, but just to get started it may need 1400 watts. If your power inverter is only a 1000 watts it won’t get the job done.
It’s best to ensure that the inverter you’re purchasing has double the amount of wattage of your most power hungry device to avoid any potential damage.
If you’re still a bit confused on wattage, you can check out this site that gives a good explanation.
More wattage is not always better because it can drain the battery faster. If your parked with the vehicle running, this may not be an issue as truck drivers often sleep in their vehicles with them idling.
What Size Power Inverter Do I Need?
The wattage’s shown on the chart are estimates. For the actual wattage your device will use, check your operating instructions.
If the wattage isn’t given you can find the watts if using this simple formula below:
Amps X Volts=Watts
|10 cup coffee pot||1200|
|Toaster||800 – 1500|
|Microwave||1100 – 2000|
|Laptop Computer||50 – 75|
|Space Heater||1000 – 1500|
|TV 25” color||300|
|Air Conditioner||Running 1000 – 1500 Starting 2200 – 5000|
Sine Wave (PSW) vs Modified Sine Wave (MSW)
Now let’s take a quick look at the kind of energy that a power inverter may produce.
When converting DC current to AC current, the power inverter will produce a sine wave during the process. Depending on the inverter, it will create either a pure sine wave or a modified sine wave.
A (pure) Sine wave is the same as the appliances in your house which means its stable and won’t vary. A lot of sensitive electronics like CPAP machines need sine wave energy to remain on continuously.
Modified sine waves are a bit more unstable than a pure sine wave and are sufficient small inexpensive machines or other low energy uses. Modified sine wave power inverters are less expensive but have the following drawbacks;
- They overheat quickly
- Do not last for an extended period of time like a pure sine wave inverter
- Are noisy and buzz (cheaper models)
- Overall do not last as long as a pure sine wave inverter
If you’re planning on powering sensitive devices like computers and large appliances you’ll want to stay away from a modified sine wave power inverter. These inverters have the potential to cause damage and shorten the life span of the device.
The best power inverter for semi truck will be using a pure sine wave power inverter. Although they’re more expensive, they’re more reliable and provide energy that most closely resembles what you’d get in your home.
Power Inverter vs Portable Generator
Let’s face it;
As an over the road or long haul driver, using a portable generator is just not going to be doable. Space in your vehicle is going to be at a premium plus, your company may not allow it.
But for those contemplating such an idea, here are the basic differences between the two.
Power inverters don’t generate any electricity. They take the DC power from a semi truck (or any vehicle) battery and invert (or change) the power to AC so that the power is usable by your devices.
Portable generators actually create their own electricity by using some kind of combustion engine (gas, diesel, propane etc). Of course you wouldn’t be able to keep these running in a cab or sleeper because of exhaust. Because of their size, chances are you won’t have room for one at all on your truck.
More Things to Consider
Be mindful of the dimensions. In semi trucks, space in the sleeper can be tight. Remember that more power means a bigger inverter, so make sure you measure the area you plan on installing the device. Keep ventilation in mind.
Pick a quiet fan. Remember, your going to be in your sleeper trying to rest. A Loud fan will become annoying real quick.
Length of Cable. Make sure you have enough cable or cord to work with when you go to install it. Chances are you’re going to be running a connection from the front of your cab into a nook or crannie in the sleeper berth.
Automatic shut off. There are power inverters that will continue to draw power even after the trucks ignition has been shut off. Ensure that the inverter you purchase has an automatic shutoff system to keep the inverter from draining your battery.
Overheating Sensor. If you plan on using the power inverter for a long period of time, plan on it becoming very hot. Some inverter’s have a sensor that knows when it’s too hot and will shut itself down.
Safety features. Power inverters can come with a variety of other safety features that can sense voltage supply, overloads and short circuits. These safety features will protect your devices and your truck.
Get a metal case. As a pro truck driver, you work in the industrial realm. Things get beat on a little bit more and should be able to take more punishment. Having an inverter with a metal case will help to protect it from the inevitable bumps and bangs that are sure to come along.
Make sure it has a fan. Any good inverter will have a fan to ensure air flow over the device. Make sure when you mount the power inverter that the fan will be able to draw air and is unobstructed.
Power Inverter Precautions
Just like everything else you do while you’re on the job, make safety a priority when using an inverter. Make sure the inverter your buy for your truck has some basic safety features that will aid in preventing any unnecessary electrical problems.
Some of these issues include but aren’t limited to;
Overheating. Power inverters can get very hot even to the touch. Again, make sure it has a fan.
Voltage Fluctuation. If the voltage level goes up and down, your devices may become damaged. Smart power inverters will aid in saving any of your devices from damage from voltage issues.
As an additional safety tip, do not mount the power inverter in direct sunlight or near heating vents.
Match the voltage. Semi trucks generally use a 24 volt battery to operate the various systems onboard. If you connect an inverter that’s designed for a 12 volt battery up to a 24 volt battery, you risk overloading the device.
Installing the Power Inverter
If you’re driving a company truck, it’s recommended that you get permission from your company to install the inverter. After getting the go ahead try and get someone at the shop to do it for you, even if you know how to do it.
If something goes wrong:
- You were given permission for the installation.
- You didn’t mess up the installation.
Most trucks have easy access terminals that you can just slide the lead onto. If your truck is equipped this way, installation is a snap (but get permission first!). For those who have the know how and are adventurous you can connect two power inverters in parallel to get extra power.
Prices You Can Expect
If a modified sine wave inverter will work for you and you keep the wattage below 1000 watts, you’ll be able to get a power inverter below a $100. Do you want more wattage? Power inverters that exceed 1000 watts (1500 – 2000+ watt range) will be in the $150 – $200 range.
Pure sine wave inverters that offer you 2000 – 3000 watts of power (more professional inverters) will place you into the $300+ range.
Frequently Asked Questions
Have some questions before you buy your power inverter? That’s ok, all of these people did too!
Why do I need a power inverter?
A power inverter is needed in your vehicle if you would like to power gadgets and appliances. The power inverter changes DC to AC current just like you would at home.
Do power inverters drain batteries faster?
If the engine is shut off, a power inverter can drain the vehicle’s battery unless the inverter has a sensor to shut it off. When the vehicle is operating normally there are no issues.
Can I connect more than one battery to a power inverter?
Yes you can. This is often the case with larger commercial vehicles that have multiple batteries. Multiple batteries is for operating devices that operate in higher voltages.
How do I install a power inverter in a semi truck?
Installation in most semi trucks is easy, because many trucks have a positive and negative terminal installed in the cab for this purpose. If your truck isn’t equipped, you’ll need to get some pro help.
How long will an inverter supply power?
Depends on the battery and if the engine is running. If the engine isn’t running, it will depend on how many devices are plugged in and the condition of your battery.
If the vehicle is running the inverter will supply power almost indefinitely.
What is the main difference between a pure sine wave and a modified sine wave power inverter?
A pure sine wave inverter is more suitable to sensitive devices and appliances as it is the same type of energy you would find in your home. Although they are cheaper, a modified sine wave inverter will work better for devices that don’t require too much power.
Do power inverters produce heat?
Yes inverters produce heat which is why they are generally equipped with a fan and cooling fans on housing of the device.
Can all electric devices be used with a power inverter?
The short answer in no. Always ensure that your devices are compatible with the inverter your using or planning on purchasing.
Can you use an inverter in places other than a vehicle?
Yes, as long as the battery will supply you the power you need.
What’s the difference in inverters that have cigarette lighter plugs versus battery connectors?
It comes down to the amount of power that you are trying to draw from your vehicle. Cigarette lighter plugs can handle up 400 watts before they blow a fuse. Battery connectors are direct to the battery and avoid this limitation.