Power Converter for electricity when camping

nhsuzanneSeptember 27, 2006

Has anyone here used a power converter? I want to use one on my truck to run my electric fence when I am camping with my horses.

If I had such a thing it would be nice to be able to run a radio for tunes as well.

What are the pros and cons?

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Inverters work fine, but 115 vac is quite capable of causing a fatal shock, so you would have to be careful using this equipment outdoors. For instance, an extension cord getting rained on is a no-no. In general, it is not safe to stand on damp or wet ground and work on 115 volt equipment. If you use a deep-discharge 12v battery, independent of the vehicle battery, as a power source, then you can easily start up your vehicle and drive off at the end of the camping trip. If you rely on your vehicle battery as a power source, you might find that the battery is dead when you need get the vehicle started.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2006 at 12:13PM
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So are you saying that I could buy a seperate battery for my power source? Is a 12V battery the same kind that's in the truck?

I understand that if it were raining and such that I would have to be very careful. My fence has a seperate charger that is battery operated. Having power to run a boom box would be kind of nice though.

I want to be safe of course, not foolish.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2006 at 3:17PM
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If you had a cabin with an adjacent pasture, and you wanted to set up an inverter and use the power to operate an electric fence, you could locate the battery, inverter, and electric fence power unit on a shelf inside. If the cabin had a dry wood floor, and was in reasonably good repair, with roof that did not leak, then such an installation might very well be both safe and trouble free. Your truck uses a 12 volt battery and charging system, and could be set up to re-charge a second 12 v battery. I am uneasy with the concept of using such a set-up in a camping environment. I know that it can be done, but I also know that 115 v from an inverter is potentially lethal. The battery, inverter, and fence power supply would all have to be kept dry. The wiring would have to be secure, and not located where a person or a horse could trip. An electrician could accomplish all this with little problem, but an electrician would not be asking these questions on the internet. You might be better off with a battery powered boom box, and using one of those solar panel devices to recharge the batteries for the boom box. Such a solar panel might produce 100 ma of current, at 6 to 10 volts, and this is an inherently safe level of power for an outdoor environment.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2006 at 8:23PM
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Pooh Bear

I use a 700 watt (1400 watt surge) inverter.
I power it off my tractor. I run an electric weed eater,
electric hedge trimmers, ran an electric water pump off it once. Ran a computer on it once. Lights. All sorts of things.
Often I run stuff thru a 50 foot extension cord. (weed eater, etc).
I ran the water pump with the tractor parked on the shore
and with me standing out in the river holding the pump
and the extension cord hoping not to get electricuted.
My inverter says it has GFI capabilities. And I got fluff for brains.

The biggest thing is to watch the wattage ratings.
I had to run the tractor at full throttle to run the water pump.
Otherwise I kept getting a low voltage warning from the inverter.
The tractor alternator couldn't keep up with the power demand.
Pulling 700 watts at 12 volts means it is pulling 58+ amps.
The converting it to 110 volts it is putting out 6+ amps.
So the total load I can connect to it has to be no more than 6 amps.
6 amps is not a lot to play with. It will run a few lights.
Or it will run a few small motorized things such as drills or weed eaters.
But just because you get an inverter doesn't mean you suddenly have all the power you need. It has to be sized to the expected load.

Sounds to me like you need a generator more than an inverter.
And they too have their limits. Size it appropriately.

My concern would be running the inverter off of the vehicle
battery and then when I get ready to leave the car won't
start because it has a dead battery.
So A second battery is a good solution to this problem.

I really like my inverter. It is great for what I use it for.
I do wish it had a little higher wattage rating.

Pooh Bear

    Bookmark   September 27, 2006 at 9:22PM
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Okay, so what if I buy a seperate battery, keep it inside my trailer that is on rubber wheels and has rubber floor mats and use it to power my boom box style radio and not the fence? Surely this would be safe in the trailer?

Also, I notice there are several converters with varying amounts of wattage 200-750. How much wattage does one need to power a radio?

    Bookmark   October 1, 2006 at 4:21PM
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Pooh Bear

Look for a label on the radio somewhere that lists how
many amps the radio needs to operate. Multiply this number
by 120 and the result is how many watts you need.

Buy the biggest inverter you can afford. You won't regret it.
I'm always finding uses for mine. Just wish it was bigger.

Pooh Bear

    Bookmark   October 1, 2006 at 9:34PM
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A boom box radio would require about 100 watts of power. However, please be aware that inverters can generate electrical noise, so the radio might not sound as good as you would expect. You would not need an additional 12v battery to power the inverter for this purpose, your vehicle battery should have sufficient capacity to power the boom box, and still start up the truck. If you need lighting in the trailer, you might consider one of the battery powered fluorescent units that are now available. These produce more light on less power, they are more efficient. If you are planning camping trips of 2 or 3 days, max, then using rechargable batteries, NiMH, would be the way to go. If you want to live at the campsite for a week or more, then you will need a small generator to re-charge the batteries. The same generator could be used to re-charge the battery in a lap-top computer, if needed. In your situation, I would prefer to use a small generator, rather than rely on the vehicle engine/alternator, for recharging NiMH batteries. If I make an error when hooking up the generator, I might damage the generator or the battery recharge unit, but I still have an operating vehicle. If I make an error when connecting equipment to the vehicle, I might damage the vehicle charging system, and find myself with a truck that won't start. Given that portable generators are somewhat noisy, it makes sense to use battery powered equipment if possible, and only run the generator for an hour or two, just long enough to recharge the batteries.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2006 at 10:47PM
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You both have been very helpful. I really don't need a radio I just thought it would be nice once in a while and with satellite radio I can have it anywhere. And, if I had something to power the radio why not power my fence too.

I have been camping with my horses for years and I get by on propane powered light, heat for cooking and hot water. I travel with a RoadTrip fireplace so I have a campfire. I don't need to have lights and generators to charge batteries. My fellow campers would ask me to leave if I had the noise of a generator around.

Still, if I can hook up a converter to a battery and plug in a radio once in a while that would be really neat.

Thanks for your help.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2006 at 6:58AM
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What is the draw of the fence? If it's just that and a ghetto blaster you want to power then I'd go get a couple deep cycle golf cart batteries and a high quality inverter (not the cheap pep boys variety) and an electric charger/controller and use the batteries when you're in the field, recharge at home when you're not. Why not just use a ghetto blaster that runs on batteries?

FYI I saw that they are now selling this very concept in a nice enclosure at BJ's wholesale club in the generator/outdoor equipment aisle.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2006 at 8:19PM
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An inverter will do what you want. You can purchase an extra battery, so that your truck battery remains at full charge. However, 100 amp hour batteries are heavy and awkward to move around. A small portable generator, 1000 watt, would be lighter than a 100 amp battery, and you would only need to use it for an hour or two during the day. Rechargable NiMH batteries are small and light, in the common sizes, AA, C, and D. My best guess based on your needs, is that you would be happy with a home charger, for NiMH batteries, the kind that can charge eight at a time, and maybe 24 AA NiMH cells. You would charge the batteries before your trip, and use them up in the field. The entire outlay would cost less than 100 dollars, and there is no risk of electric shock, nothing heavy to carry around, and no risk of damage to the vehicle electrics.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2006 at 9:50PM
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A power converter powering all your needs is going to push a lot of amps. Unless you beefed up your alternator, you're either going to kill the one you have or your battery. Neither are good when you're in the woods.
You might consider a small, portable generator-like the ones from honda. They will be able to provide longer term power than a converter.
A problem with the converter is that they are made to power phone chargers, electric razors, portable tv's, etc. Such appliances only draw 1-6 amps. An electric fence, radio and whatever else will be dangerous. Bring a fire extinguisher and plan on a long walk unless you get the generator.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2006 at 1:54AM
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Sorry, got a little lazy on this one and didnt read all the other threads, I also do not know how much power you need for the fence but go to your local truck stop that has a sales store and check out the 3000 watt power inverter, I found the prices a truck stops to be very decent and if you are into strange things that everyday people dont see, its a great place to go shopping, then Spencers is next, for stranger things that is. I have several power Inverters (DC to AC) to run many different things in my van and cars.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2006 at 6:54AM
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Pooh Bear

I don't understand all the warnings about 120v inverters.
As long as you hook it up to the battery correctly,
then it is just like plugging into a wall outlet.
If you can use a wall outlet in your house, you can use an inverter.

Proper safety precautions must be taken working around batteries.
But the output side of the inverter shouldn't be a concern.

Pooh Bear

    Bookmark   November 4, 2006 at 1:10PM
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