Shopping for a power inverter? Here's what to look for

Updated Jun 25, 2024

If you’ve been behind the wheel for a while, you’re likely familiar with the benefits of a power inverter whether you have one yourself or have talked to someone that has one. However, if you are new to driving or learning about power inverters, there is a lot to know.

For truck drivers, having a reliable power source is important, especially when off-grid. A power inverter converts DC power from your truck’s batteries into AC power, allowing you to run appliances, charge devices, watch TV, and more. Here’s what you need to know about having a power inverter in your truck.

Why should I get a power inverter?

Beyond its convenience, truckers find it beneficial to be able to plug in AC appliances from their home into their truck. This allows you to have a refrigerator, cooking appliances, fans, heaters, TV, and more. It can be a real lifesaver to have one in your truck.

What size power inverter do I need?

Power inverter sizes are based on wattage and how much wattage they can supply to the connected devices or appliances. Lower wattage power inverters can usually be plugged into your truck’s 12-volt port. For larger wattage power inverters, they must be wired to your truck’s battery. To determine the size you need, use a wattage calculator. Simply plug in the appliances you want to power with the inverter, and it will tell you the size inverter you should get.

What should I look for in a power inverter?

After determining the size you need, consider what features you would like your power inverter to have. For reference, smaller appliances like a smartphone or laptop draw between 50 and 100 watts, while a TV can draw closer to 300 watts, and a microwave could require 1,200 watts or more. Most power inverters have at least one three-pronged AC outlet, but some, like the Cummins brand, can have as many as four. Consider how many devices you will be powering simultaneously and if four are needed.

Determine the frequency and how often you will use the inverter. Is this something you will need to be using every day? If it’s a larger unit and something you’ll use every day, it’s best to have it accessible in your cab. Consider the safety features you want the power inverter to have. Many inverters have built-in features like high/low voltage, temperature, and overload protection, Bluetooth® capability, and audible alarms.

Should I purchase a modified sine wave or pure Ssine wave?

A modified sine wave power inverter and pure sine wave power inverter both convert DC power from a battery into AC power, which is used to power appliances and devices. The main difference between the two is the quality of the output waveform they produce. A modified sine wave power inverter is generally less expensive and may not be suitable for powering sensitive electronics. Pure sine wave power inverters are generally more expensive but necessary for sensitive electronics and creating a clean AC waveform. Pure sine wave power is as close to the same wave of power produced in your home.