Ours is largely a 12 volt household. When it comes right down to it, our large inverter doesn’t get much use, especially since we no longer access the Internet via satellite. For the last few years, we’ve used it even less thanks to a smaller inverter plugged into our cigarette outlets to power smaller AC loads (see 12 Volt Outlets).
Converting DC to AC is never very efficient; we lose electricity in the process. Larger inverters generally waste more electricity than smaller ones, so that little inverter allows us to power smaller AC appliances—mostly battery or device chargers—with lower loss. The smaller inverters also offer other advantages.
The small inverter we use is an old Portawattz 140. I bought it sometime in the last century for out sailboat. It’s a bit cranky and tempermental, with a very conservative cut off setting that shuts it down if the incoming power climbs too high, so as not to damage any device plugged into it. It’s been showing its age a lot in the last few years, so we finally decided to look into replacing it.
What we discovered surprised and pleased us. Despite ample evidence, I constantly forget that technology continues to advance, and prices generally drop. Such is the case in small inverters!
We found that the Portawattz line, rather ubiquitous in its day, has pretty much disappeared. The parent company offers updated models, but they didn’t quite suit our need. In the end, we chose the Bestek® 300 Watt Power Inverter.
We debated between this unit and a lower powered unit, the Go Power! GP-175 175-Watt Modified Sine Wave Inverter, because so many reviewers complained about the constant fan noise of the Bestek inverter. In the end, we decided to risk the noise in favor of the higher power output. In our opinion, this gamble more than paid off.
Silence may be the key feature of our lifestyle. Except for rare moments when I crank up the stereo, either for pleasure or animal control (see Music to Annoy the Savage Beast) we live very quietly, very free from manmade noise. This makes us more sensative to sound than most Americans (see Listening to Silence). Even so, the fan on the Bestek makes almost no impression on us. Other ambiant sound, such as wind, waves on the beach, the sealions across Lynn Canal, the fire in the wood stove, all drown it out.
It certainly makes less noise than the refrigerator in your home. I say this as someone who hears refrigerators when he visits homes that have them!
By contrast, our large, household inverter buzzes constantly when it operates. While not very loud, we find it annoying. The quieter white noise of the small inverter fan sounds much more pleasant.
The benefits of the Bestek unit, then, far outweigh the fan noise. It has two AC outlets as opposed to the Portawattz single outlet. It also features two USB outlets. The latter run when the unit is turned off, so if we’re only charging appliances via USB, we don’t get any fan noise at all.
The Bestek has a cut off point for safety, but so far it hasn’t powered down nearly as often as the Portawattz does at similar charging levels.
This unit is smaller than the old inverter—about half the size. Neither takes up much room, but we certainly appreciate the more compact unit in our small cabin. Because of the fan, the Bestek draws .3 amps (3.6 watts) when on, while the Portawattz barely drew .1 amp. We can live with that.
The Bestek, like the Portawattz, is a modified sinewave inverter. I won’t go into the technicalities of sinewaves, but we’ve never had any problem using modified rather than the more expensive true sinewave inverters.
We got all of this for $30! We bought the Portawattz so long ago I no longer remember what it cost, but I do remember it being a rather major purchase even back when I lived on the grid and made about 5 figures. This new unit runs rings around it for a fraction of the price.
Likely, we’ll continue to use the Portawattz till it dies. I assume we’ll dedicate it to running our Christmas lights in a few weeks. The majority of our smaller loads, though, will now be handled by the Bestek.
(The review above is independent and unsolicited. However, purchasing from the links provided does earn us a small commission that does not effect the purchaser’s price.)