I need an inverter to run a 17" laptop in the van. I picked up a 150 watt gadet at Best Buy, and then reconsidered. I thought I would check around first. $63 seemed kind of high for a 150WATTS.

What is a good brand?

As long as I am getting one, how many Watts should I get?

What kind of other stuff can I run off an inverter? Some outside lighting might be nice…I’ve got a AC/DC DVD player. The TV/VCR is DC. Actually don’t use either much

I got a Black and Decker
from Walmart. Not sure on the size but guessing around 150 watts for like $20. So far I’ve run my laptop off of it, extension cord and external speakers for IPod, portable DVD player, coffee pot, etc. Anything wil larger power requirements and it won’t have the juice.

150 Watts is fine for a laptop
I bought a Radio Shack inverter about 4 years ago and still works great. It’s capacity is 140 watts, my laptop (dual processor) uses about 90 watts.


Kind of steep for 150W
As most anything that is not on sale at BB, I think $60+ is too much for a basic inverter. I think you would do well to buy at least a 100W one though - I have a small and less powerful one and it sometimes does not handle even my laptop’s charging. I use a 400W now and it has been very good, though probably an overkill for laptop/cell phone charging.

Costco has a 1,000W (2,000 peak or something like this) I think for under $60 or so. I could run my gas furnace off this, hooked to my Prius in its role as a gas-powered generator in an emergency -:wink: - of course any other car can serve the same purpose, but the Prius can stay in a “stand-by” kind of mode indefinitely and turns on and off only to charge the battery as needed and to warm the cat converter, where a regular car would have to run continuously or you would have to monitor the charge state to avoid killing the battery …

Coffe Pot?
I had not thought of an electric coffee pot. That could come in handy if you wake up one morning and its raining, we could make coffee in the van

check power supplies
Check the power supplies for your laptop and other items, as they often list max current draw on them (my laptop say 65 watts).


We bought a 400W one at West Marine for $40 that works great. We use it for road trips in the van. It charges cameras, charges or runs the laptop, runs the little TV w/ built in DVD.

there is a difference
Let’s talk about electricity. AC is a perfect sine wave. There are two ways to turn DC into AC, the expensive inverters will create a perfect sine wave, cheap ones will create a modified sine wave. Touchy electronics do not like modified sine waves. Things like pricey T.V.'s and medical equipment should only be run on a true sine wave inverter. Laptops work okay on the cheap inverter, but expect the converter box of the power cord to run much hotter than normal. Good inverters will also have cooling fans, high temp shut offs and relays. Cheap ones will fry your electronics, especially when you have something plugged in and you start your auto. The battery will send a starting surge which a cheap inverter delivers directly to whatever is plugged in. Any inverter over 300 watts should be wired directly to the battery with its own fuse. I run a huge inverter in my truck so that I can be a self contained generator for running power tools. They are a great investment.

True Sine Wave Inverters
I was looking at the inverter at Best Best to see if it was a true Sine wave inverter. It didn’t say.

I don’t mind paying extra for a true sine wave inverter, but I want to be sure I am getting what I pay for.

Good tip on wiring larger inverter directly into battery. I noticed the larger ones come with wiring to attach to battery. The 150 watt ones just plug into cigarette lighter.

I tried to convince Kathy we needed a larger one for some toy ot another, but she kept punching holes in my ideas. I quess I really don’t need one larger than 150 Watt to run laptop, or DVD player. We already have a DC TV/VCR combo in the van. I am just being Tim the Tool Man. But we do like having Christmas lights in the campground

Carefully read what Nermal wrote

– Last Updated: Nov-04-08 8:39 AM EST –

That's on the button info. I come out of the broadcasting industry, where remote power is a constant need. If you can get away with the cheap stuff, that's fine; however, if you need what we always referred to as "good power," then the cheap stuff won't just ruin your day, it'll (very comprehensively) ruin your equipment!

something to consider
get the biggest battery for your laptop and use the inverter to charge the laptop while driving then use the laptop battery to run the laptop. If you aren’t going to be starting the engine for a day you could find yourself running the battery down with repeated multi amp draws from the inverter.

Good Point
I wanted to put a dual battery system in the van, but Kathy keeps talking me out of it

I had a 200 watt Statpower that was very

Efficient. That was the big deal is how efficiently it would convert DC to AC. It’s been a while but the cheep inverters would go through a battery much faster. For example on the Statpower I ran a 19’’ TV and light for 5 hours on one battery. I lived in a house for several years on battery power, so I could get home from work and watch tv and a light for 5 hours. It was over 3 times more efficient than a cheep inverter, had low battery shut off, over heat shut off.

Like I said it’s been 10 years but I’ll bet they haven’t changed.

Hodges Marine had a 300 watt for about $45. Just make sure whatever inverter you get is extremely efficient. You also don’t need more than about 200 watts as anything more will use a battery too fast. If you can us DC power it will last longer. I finally ran a DC light and AC TV. I used to use a printer and laptop on my 200 watt also. Maybe they are more effecient now? The Statpower was about 10 times more so.

If you are just running a lap top maybe a battery pack and a ProJuice plug in ACDC adapter? That’s what I use now and plug into the lighter but not for too long and use the “jump start” battery pack for an extra 6 hours. otherwise setting up an extra battery for your van shouldn’t be a prob, and a good inveter. man the have gone way down in price.

Plug in
If you are going to plug it in to a 12v power outlet, 150W is the max. You will have to wire direct to go higher or you will be blowing fuses. That is not saying you cant plug in a 400W, you just cant load it that high. My 400W is rated 140W plug in and 400W direct.

Fussy Old Fuses
I have a '92 chevy van, the old electrontics are pretty fussy

You need an inverter to run a laptop? So you are going to turn DC into AC so your laptop converter can turn that back to DC?

Tell me there isn’t a way to run the laptop directly from the vans DC somebody please?

Nermal is right about inverters except none of them make really good AC. They just chop up the DC and send pulses to mimic a sine wave. Some are better filtered and will run your gear better. But you need a motor generator to make real AC. But why would you run a Laptop that is designed to run on DC off of AC when you got plenty of DC?



Good point Tommy…
But my laptop runs at 19.5 volts DC. I’ve never found a “cigarette” lighter plug/cable for a laptop, that’s why I use the inverter.


For a laptop
check out the iGo Juice power adapter. It has an AC and DC cig plug, surge protector, and interchangable plugs for laptops cell phones, etc. It’s kind of pricey at about $100. A few other companies make these as well.

For 300 watt power inverter I cut off the cig plug and crimped two eyes that fit on the marine bolts on the battery. Then if I wanted a cig plug I clamped the plug to the ends. You also need to keep the wires between the battery and inverter kind of short.

If you can just go DC and your battery will last longer.

Keep in mind that batteries only last 2 or 3 years.

Gas lighting and rechargable batteries for a radio work well for weekend camping.

You Got Me There, Tommy!
I orginally went into Best Buy and asked for a DC adapter to run the laptop, but got directed to an inverter.

Maybe because that was all they had on hand that would work?

I Will Check That, Thanks!
As much as I wanted a new toy, I can’t really think of another reason for an inverter, especially one under 150 watts.