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12 Days of Christmas – Christmas Gifts for the Trucker in Your Life

Day 4

People think truck driving is an easy job. That you just sit and drive all day. But people who say that have no clue about all the other stuff that goes along with being an over-the-road driver. Suffice it to say, there is a tremendous amount of physically and mentally demanding tasks for truckers depending on their company and their specialty or niche (flatbed, general freight, produce, over-sized, etc). I'll expand on those tasks perhaps another day.

Today however, is all about Christmas gift ideas to help your trucker enjoy their down time. Does your trucker like to play games? Watch TV/movies? Does he or she need to do paperwork? Spreadsheets? Perhaps they have a hobby that requires the use of a computer or power tools? Or maybe they enjoy cooking their own meals to save money or eat healthier? The one thing all of these have in common is they require power, electricity. And not everything plugs into or works off of 12v power.

Depending on your needs and budget, a power inverter can make a wonderful gift for your trucker. There are any number of brands out there to choose from. You can find them in truck stops and online direct from manufacturers or on sites like Amazon.

PowerDrive power inverter installation kit

The brand we always used was PowerDrive. PowerDrive brand power inverters can be found in most major truck stops and on Amazon. They range from low wattage ones that plug right into the 12v outlet in the dash of the truck, all the way up to 3000watt inverters that require permanent installation complete with insulated and grounding wires. These bigger ones often come with USB ports included, Bluetooth connectivity, and even remote controls.

PowerDrive 150watt power inverter that plugs into the 12v cigarette lighter outlet.

PowerDrive 150watt power inverter that plugs into the 12v cigarette lighter outlet.

We've had ours for several years without any problems. PowerDrive is one of the companies under the the DAS umbrella along with other brands such as RoadPro. And as such comes with a good company reputation that stand behind their products, they offer warranties, and provide product replacement upon failure. PowerDrive mostly offers modified sine wave inverters, but they do have a 1000watt pure sine wave.

PowerDrive 1000watt pure sine wave inverter

PowerDrive 1000watt pure sine wave inverter

With all the options of inverters and the varying needs of your trucker, which one should you get? Let's cover a few power inverter basics.

What is a power inverter? An inverter takes 12 volt DC power from your truck, car, RV, or boat batteries or solar system and converts it to 120 volt AC needed to power your standard appliances. It is important to understand that it is converting power, not creating it. The inverter, which is connected to the vehicle battery, is drawing power from the battery and converting it into 120 volt power. Therefore any use of the inverter will drain the vehicle battery. Low-powered appliances, like charging a cell phone, may not draw much off the battery. But something like a laptop, a gaming console, power tools, or cooking appliances will. And they will drain the battery if the vehicle is not idling to maintain a charge on the battery by way of the alternator. Most semi trucks have a performance alternator, but this is something you will want to verify as well.

What size inverter do I need? First you need to determine exactly what will be plugged into the inverter and how many watts each item requires. Every electrical device has a wattage rating, that is how many watts it uses. Most packaging states this number; however, some only list volts and amps. Volts(120, as US plugs are 120 except for high-powered appliances like your clothes dryer) x Amps = watts.

How to determine wattage, voltage, or amperage.

How to determine wattage, voltage, or amperage.

When determining the size inverter be sure to add up the watts of everything that will be plugged into it and in use at the same time. Will a refrigerator be installed? TV? DVD player? Power antenna or satellite dish? Gaming console? Will your trucker be cooking using 120 volt items like a crockpot or electric skillet? Your trucker may have multiple items to plug into an inverter, but not all turned on at once.

Is bigger better? In this case usually yes. The larger the inverter the more power it can convert and supply. Again so long as the truck is idling (and they may need to bump up the idle to keep up with the demands of the power draw). This is where another consideration comes into play.

Sustained power versus peak power? You've added up the total watts needed according to maximum items in use at one time. That is the sustained power. Next you have to consider peak power. Often times an appliance has peak power pull anywhere from 10% - 100% of their sustained. This happens when heating elements start up, cooling compressors kick in, etc. So your total sustained need may be 600watts, but your peak needs may be between 1000-1200watts. Not all appliances list their peak, but this is something you need to consider before purchase. Many inverters however DO list their sustained and peak, meaning they can handle short bursts of peak power. Our 1500watt inverter had a peak (or surge) rating up to 3000watts.

Modified Sine or Pure Sine? Most power inverters you find are Modified Sine. It is an older technology. These inverters costs less but still work for most needs. The Pure Sine Wave inverters are significantly more expensive, but are needed for more delicate electronics like some LED TVs and some cooking appliances, It is important to check the specs (you may have to go online, I find Amazon reviews helpful in determining this, or contact the manufacturer. There are also FB groups, like cooking groups, that discuss inverters and which kind works with which appliances). Most of your needs will be covered under the less expensive modified sine wave inverters.

I bought an inverter but it isn't powering my electronics. What's wrong? The two biggest culprits in this scenario are either a.) Not enough peak power or b.) the electronic you are using requires a pure sine wave inverter and you have a modified sine wave inverter.

*Example a.) That coffee maker may be rated at 800watts, but probably has a peak of say 1600. Your inverter , however, is rated at 1000watts but only 1500watts peak. So when the heating element kicks on either the coffee pot shuts down or the inverter is tripped (think like a circuit breaker) because the demand is too high. *

*Example b.) Maybe your appliance doesn't turn on even if the sustained power and peak power are well within limits of your inverter? Then most likely you currently are using a modified sine wave inverter, but the appliance needs a pure sine wave inverter. One such example that I know of that often requires pure sine wave are the NuWave cooking appliances. That is the only one I can think of off the top of my head. My coffee pot, crockpot, electric skillet, Aroma Rice Cooker, Refrigerator, Laptop, TV, etc... all worked fine with a modified sine.*

Do you already have a power inverter? What do you use it for? Have any other helpful purchase, installation, or usage tips for inverters? Share in the comments below.

~Sierra Sugar