Choosing the Best Marine Power Inverter
Having working 110v AC available on the boat when not plugged into shore power is easier than one might think. How much AC power is required will determine how complicated the inverter system is. The benefit of having 110V AC power is that you can bring aboard appliances that will make your boating trip much more comfortable, such as a phone charger, coffee maker, cooler etc.
How Marine Inverters Work
To obtain AC power from the DC batteries requires an inverter. An inverter uses the direct current from the batteries and turns it on and off at a precise interval as well as reversing the polarity. The switching and current inverting simulates an Alternating current. The alternating current is then stepped up to produce the higher voltage. The process sounds fairly straight forward but in the electronic world it is fairly complicated.
Noise Problems with Marine Inverters
The switching etc. creates a lot of electronic noise, heat, and induces stray currents back into the DC source. The electronic noise generated by an inverter can cause interferences in radio, navigation, and other sensitive electronics. Not all marine power inverters produce a sinusoidal AC wave.
Some produce a square wave whilst other produce a true sine wave. Depending on the type of wave produced, some electronic devices might not function properly. Manufacterer's such as Samlex have perfected thier inverters to ensure that little to no interference is created.
Marinized Inverters Only
There are plenty of options for power inverters, but it is especially important to install marine inverters on a boat. Power inverters for boats have added coatings on the internal electronic components to prevent them from corroding as well as enhanced noise filtering etc.
Marine Power Inverters that also Charge Batteries
A power inverter for a boat can have a dual purpose as well. Some manufacturers of inverters manufacture a boat power inverter that can also charge the batteries. They do this when AC current from a different source is present such as from a generator or when plugged into shore power.
A marine inverter charger has additional advantages in that they tend to have a higher battery charging rate that stand alone non sophisticated marine battery chargers. They also operating continuously which by itself is advantageous for electronics because the internal heat created during operation, even in standby mode, adds a level of protection that lessens or eliminates condensation within the unit.
There are of course various models of inverter chargers, and they all offer something slightly different. From being simple to so called smart, that offer all sorts of data logging, voltage monitoring, different charging modes and come with or without remote displays. Unfortunately, battery capacity is not finite, and it is inconsequential as to how many batteries are available, the size of the batteries, the chemical makeup etc. At some point in time the batteries will require charging.
After experiencing the quiet production of AC current from the inverter the choices to charge the batteries are from shore power, an onboard generator, running the main engines or alternate power producers such as solar panels, wind turbines and water turbines.
Solar panels produce electricity from light. The brighter the light, the more direct the light, and how unobstructed the light is, the better the units functions. Solar panels are amazingly durable and require little maintenance subjecting them to receiving no attention at all. Solar panels do need cleaning and a little dirt on the panel will degrade the performance significantly. Solar panels produce electricity whenever there is light, and they can’t be turned off.
So, to prevent overcharging the batteries a solar panel array will often require some type of charge regulator. Charging the batteries from sources other than the sun has been the main stay and is still dominant in boating. Modern battery chargers have become more complex internally but simpler for the user.
Many older types of battery chargers will not work with the changing battery technology. If replacing the batteries, it is important to make sure the charger is compatible with the charging requirements of the new battery bank. All the components of a charging system should be connected using good quality marine cable, marine connectors, marine rated safety devices. Contact us if you need help installing a boat inverter, a boat inverter charger or upgrading the charging system.