In this guide, we will look at how to add a home outlet to your vehicle by using a power inverter. A power inverter converts 12 volt DC to 110-120V AC that we use in our homes. By installing a home power outlet in your car you will be able to charge any laptop, power household electronic devices or even camping or boat equipment that are 200W and under.
Since a very limited number of cars have factory installed household outlets your only option is to add an aftermarket power inverter. Choosing the right car power inverter and how to connect it is critical to avoid causing electrical issues to your car.
Best Power Inverter
After spending several hours researching power inverters for cars, we narrowed it down to five power inverters that made our favorites list.
Installing a 110-120 volt power outlet (DC to AC converter) in a car is easy. All you need is a car power inverter that can converter DC to AC current. Precautions should be followed to avoid overloading the inverter and most importantly your vehicles electrical system.
With a car power inverter, you can power devices such as laptops, DVD players, TV, PS3, PS4, computers, spy camera, iPad, BBQ equipment, electrical tools, small fridges and even camping equipment. The benefit of having a power inverter in your car is that they can be used as a power source even when you go camping or boating.
Car power inverter at local stores
Home Depot Car Power Inverter
Lowes Car Power Inverter
Harbor Freight Car Power Inverter
Walmart Car Power Inverter
Choosing the right Power Inverter
Choosing the best power inverter depends not only on the quality of the inverter but also on the device you are trying to power.
Rule of thumb
Electrical devices that are rated 150 watts and under can be powered via the cigarette outlet. Devices that require over 150W should not be powered via the cigarette outlet even if the power inverter is rated at 200, 300 or 400 watts. Powering devices that demand over 150 watts via the cigarette outlet will blow the fuse for the cigarette circuit.
Choosing the wrong inverter can cause car problems such as:
- Blow cigarette or accessory fuse.
- Trigger malfunction warning lights on the instrument cluster.
- Trigger airbag light due to under-voltage related fault code.
- Cause the inverter to cycle on and off.
- Drain car battery.
Never use power inverters rated over 200Watt to power via the cigarette power outlet.
Determine the power requirements
Power (Watt) =Current (Ampere) x Voltage (Volt) = I x V
Determine Fuse Rating (Circuit Protection)
Fuse Rating (A) = Power (watt) / Voltage (volt)
Choose a power inverter that is rated higher than the device it is going to power. Compare continuous power (Watt) of the inverter to the power demand of your device. Power inverters for sale often have the peak output printed on the box and not the continuous current. The value you should compare to your device is the continuous current and not max or peak current. This would avoid overheating of the inverter. The power requirement of your device will be printed on the back of the electronic device, appliance, charger, be that a laptop, hair dryer, lights etc. If only current (A) is printed on your device, multiply that by 120Volt to get Power in Watt.
How to connect power inverter in car
The easiest way to connect a car power inverter is via the cigarette lighter. This procedure is as simple as plug and play.
Devices that demand over 150W should not be powered via the cigarette outlet. There are quite a few power inverters being sold rated at 200watt and higher. These can cause problems when plugged into the cigarette outlet. If such an inverter was powering a 200watt electronic device or charger, it will draw over 15 Amp from the circuit. The cigarette fuse is usually 15A, you are guaranteed to blow the fuse.
- 150 Watt and under devices - Cigarette outlet power inverter
- 150 Watt and over devices - Power inverter hardwired to the battery
Battery and alternator may need to be upgraded if you are using a 1000W, 2000W, 3000W inverter.
A safer method that will allow you to install a power outlet in the car without having to worry if the fuse blows or the circuit is overlead is to use a power inverter with a built-in lithium battery.
Car Power Inverter Applications
Power inverters can be used to power anything that requires AC power including home electronics and appliances. If the device you are powering is rated over 150 watts it should not be connected to a cigarette outlet. You should use either a power inverter with integrated battery or install a car power inverter professionally.
Here are several devices you can power with a car power inverter.
- Charge laptop from car
- Up to 20 LED Lights in home
- Power computer in car
- Surveillance system in car
- Flatscreen LCD or LED monitor
- Power camping equipment
- Power electronics in boat
- Even power a breast pump
Things to keep in mind when using a car power inverter
- Always keep the car running when using the inverter. The inverter can drain the car battery. Your car will not start, and you may need to jump start it.
- If the inverter is left connected for an extended period of time without the car battery being charged, it can permanently damage the car battery.
- When you power up any electronic device, there is a power surge that can overload the inverter or blow a fuse. Power on your electronic device before it is plugged into the car 110v outlet whenever possible.
- Keep the inverter in a cool place and don't block the cooling fan.
- Inverters get extremely hot during usage.
- If you are installing a hardwired car power inverter to the car battery, always use an inline fuse to protect the circuit.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes but only a few bulbs. Don't back feed your home circuit via a home power outlet.
Divide the output of the inverter with the wattage of your bulbs. For example, if you have LED light bulbs they usually need under 10Watt per bulb. When using a 200W inverter divide that number by 10W and you get 20. Meaning you can power up to 20 LED bulbs. If powering 45W bulbs with a 200W power inverter, you will only be able to power 4 light bulbs.
A power inverter can convert 12-volt direct current (DC) to 110-120 volt alternating current (AC). When choosing an inverter that has a wall outlet socket, it is important to figure out the power demand that your device will put on your cars charging system. Look for Watt rating on your device. It will say something like 50 watts or 100 watts. Let's say your device requires 100 watts. Get an inverter that provides slightly more power than 100 watts. At minimum get an inverter that offers 120-watt continuous power. The reason for this is that if you demand maximum power from the inverter all the time, it can cause it to overheat. The second reason is that when you turn on your device be that a computer in your car, camping equipment or monitor, it will cause a power surge on the inverter that can surpass the rated power. This can cause the fuse for the power inverter to blow. If you are using an inverter that is feed on the cigarette power outlet, it can cause the cigarette fuse to blow.
Yes. Instead of using a power inverter that converts 12V DC to 110V AC, use a converter that is designed for your laptop. They will often convert 12V DC to 19V DC which is needed by most laptops. If your laptop or tablet can be charged via a 5volt source, then a power bank is all that you need to charge your laptop anywhere.
Yes, some of them but not your whole house. The goal here is not to use the car as a generator to power up all your home. Usually, you can power one small appliance at a time without a problem. If you need to power a device that requires over 200 watts you need to get a high output power inverter professionally installed. You will have to upgrade the car battery and alternator.
Factory installed power outlets in cars usually provide 150 watts which will only be enough to power a limited number of home appliances. Hair dryers and curling irons usually require over 200 watts, therefore, you won't be able to power them from your car unless a special high output inverter has been installed. If you look at any of your appliances the power required for that particular device will be printed on the label found on the back. The power required by your home appliance or device needs to be lower than what your car inverter provides.
The device that you are powering demands over 150 watts. If the electronic device that you are powering requires power that is near the rating of the invert, you may cause the inverter to automatically shut off or blow the fuse. This is common with small inverters. The fix this problem you may need to get a larger inverter but in the meantime try the following tips. Always power on the electronic device before you plug it into the inverter. In a small inverter, you can exceed the power requirement when the device turns on. Second, if you are using a laptop which has the same power wattage rating as the inverter, try charging the laptop at home first. Start with a fully charged battery. Once the battery is full plug it into the car inverter to keep the continually charged as you use the laptop in the car. If the battery is charged it will draw very little current from the inverter and have small power demand. Therefore it will not reach the inverts wattage limit or blow the fuse. A fully discharged laptop battery will put a high demand on the inverter drawing maximum current and overheating the inverter.
This is a list of popular cars that already have 110v-120v installed at the factory. Honda Ridgeline Toyota 4Runner Nissan Titan Chrysler Pacifica Ford Escape Toyota Sienna Jeep Grand Cherokee Chevrolet Volt
If you plan on connecting the power inverter directly to the battery you need to use an automotive relay to switch it off when the ignition is off and an inline fuse. Otherwise, the inverter can drain the car battery when the car is parked.