Posted by: Dan Sprague | January 19, 2012

DC power to AC power on your boat

DC power to AC power on your boat

Having AC power on your boat is a nice convenience and can be done easily and inexpensively. A DC to AC inverter is attached to the battery and it puts out AC electricity. It is as easy as that. You can now use AC electrical items.

A DC inverter has limitations. They are rated by how much output or wattage it can provide, and what type of battery it is being used with. A deep cycle battery will give the best output power to operate the inverter. A deep cycle can supply a steady output when in continuous use better than a cranking type battery.

To pick an inverter that will fit your needs is easy.  AC electrical items have a watt rating on them. That is the amount of electricity it uses to run it correctly. The inverter has to have a higher watt output than what it will be powering. Simply add up the watt needs of each item to be powered by the inverter and pick an inverter that can handle that total wattage.

The more things you plug in and use the faster you will flatten or discharge the battery. That is common sense. A few things you need to consider are that some electric items have a high start-up power requirement that is more than what is needed to run it. To start a motor takes more power get it to start turning then it uses once it is running. The inverter will list a peak voltage that it will output to start things.

Inverters come in all sizes and prices. You can get a small one that can be plugged in to a cigarette lighter and it will run a small light or radio. These start at about $20.00 and the prices go up from there. A self-contained inverter that just attaches to the battery terminals, that has a GFC electric outlet built in, that has a low battery shut off and alarm, that has over voltage protection and has a output of about 400 watts will cost about $125.00.  One that has a 1000 watt output will run about $185.00.

The inverter I use on my small sailboat is a small portable self-contained unit that has an 800 watt rating. I can just attach it to the battery when needed. I can use my AC lamp with a magnifier to light the navigation table, run an AC DVD/CD player, a small fan, and AC spots for lighting when fishing. These are just easy plug in stuff that I would use at the house.

The Inverter system on the big boat is built in. It is a large system and when it is in use it is like being plugged in to shore power. There are inverter systems that can be matched to the need requirements you have.

I like units that have Ground Fault Circuit (GFC) protection built in. Features like a low battery shut off with an alarm and overvoltage protection (this prevents damage to the inverter when the voltage from the batteries to the inverter is too high. Say above 13 volts) makes things safer for both the operator and the equipment.

A small self contained DC to AC inverter.

This is a small self-contained DC to AC inverter. It is about 2"X8"X6" and is 4 lbs.

Having an AC system on your boat is easy, is a convenience and can be inexpensive.


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