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Monday, January 20, 2014

Inverters and Converters

Generally speaking, the gadget you plug into your cigarette lighter receptacle in your car that gives you AC power for your laptop is called an INVERTER. If you have an RV, and you plug into park power, your CONVERTER changes the park's AC power to DC for your coach batteries and lights and what not. A lot of people have trouble remembering which is which. This makes sense, as both CONVERT one type of electricity to the other type.
And actually, an INVERTER is a type of CONVERTER according to this Wikipedia article. Generally, though, if you want AC power from a DC source, you want an INVERTER. If you want DC power from an AC source, you want a CONVERTER. Which is actually a RECTIFIER but that's not going to be on the box from Camping World.
Confused? Sometimes even the manufacturers are confused. I took these pictures in Walmart. All these devices do the same thing: they produce AC power from a DC source. They all plug into the DC outlet of a vehicle. They are all listed on Walmart's website as INVERTERS, which is what they are. However....

Notice that according to the package, the Schumacher products are described as CONVERTERS. No wonder we're confused.


  1. Anonymous8:33 PM

    You're right, it can be confusing. In addition, you need to consider either a modified sine wave or a pure sine wave version. Some electronic devices require the more expensive pure sine wave. Also, the kind that plug into a DC outlet are limited as to how much power you can draw. To get the full rated amount it needs to be hard wired to the batteries.

  2. I don't even care any longer... upload download .... over the mode... haha.... I bought two inverter/converter then later found out they don't work with a Mac!

    Glad to find your blog, Jane ;) I'll go back and read and catch up!

    1. Anonymous10:21 PM

      All an inverter does is provide 120V electric from your 12V batteries. It doesn't care what device is plugged into it. However, if you had the type that plugs into a DC outlet, it's possible you were not getting enough juice to power the Mac. In that case, none that use the DC outlet will work. You will need to connect the inverter directly to the battery to get enough power.

  3. I figure if it has a plug that goes into the device it's an inverter. If it has plugs to plug into it's a converter. That seems to make more sense to me.


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