Review: 16 Months w/Belkin’s 300W DC/AC Inverter

belkin inverter.jpg

Why ALL automobiles don’t come equipped with at least one, built-in 3-prong outlet is beyond me. And why more drivers don’t keep an inverter like this one from Belkin in their cars is also a mystery.

Emergencies alone make a simple inverter a super worthwhile item (we also keep a tub filled with spare clothes, shoes, MRIEs, water, etc. in the trunk, you know, “just in case.”). But apart from the once-in-a-blue-moon, doom-and-gloom scenarios where we’ll be stranded in our car and need to tap the battery to charge a phone or radio, having an inverter available for daily use is a true no-brainer.

Since last April, I’ve stashed this 300-watt DC-AC inverter in one of the rear seat pockets. I’ve used it to charge my cell phone and replenish my GoBe battery overnight while car camping. In addition, I’ve charged up a range of devices en route on car trips — long and short — way too many times to count. Here’s the short of it:

Easy to Use: Just pull out the thing, plug the business end into the cigarette lighter, flip the switch on the device, and plug in up to two devices. (Dr. Obvious says: There’s no need to have the car turned on.)

Easy to Carry: The whole thing weighs just 2 lbs.; it’s not as if you’ll ever need to take the device backpacking, but my point is that it’s never a hassle to pull out, put back, ad nauseam.

No Outside Juice Required: Requires no batteries, no charging, no sunlight because, you know, it runs off the car battery (Dr. Obvious says: Triple duh).

One Caveat: The inverter’s internal fan hums rather loudly when in use. Not enough to disturb phone calls or music too much, but it’s noticeably audible.

Verdict: Get one. If not this particular device, then be sure to pick one up that’s got at least two 3-prong outlets… and, perhaps, even a USB. You’ll rely on your inverter more than you’d expect.

~$40 from Amazon.

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21 Responses to Review: 16 Months w/Belkin’s 300W DC/AC Inverter

  1. morganw says:

    link should be

    http://belkin.httpsvc.vitalstreamcdn.com/belkin_vitalstream_com/support/dl/p73751_acanywhere_man_uk.pdf

    and now the page is screwed up. HTML tags with no editing + my lack of proofreading = disaster.

  2. Dan says:

    I don’t see the point. These inverters are not powerful enough to power most electrical appliances (toaster, hair dryer, …). If you need to charge your cell phone it is more efficient to get a car charger which doesn’t need to convert AC to DC. What I find rather useful is a universal DC to DC converter.

  3. jimkirk says:

    I keep a little 100 watt inverter in my Prius. I got a kit that keeps one of the accessory outlets live from http://www.coastaletech.com/. (Just watch your battery state of charge. I use a $20 DMM from Radio Shack for that.)

    I also have a thumb sized 12 volt to USB outlet gadget. I’m guessing it’s a simple linear three terminal regulator like an LM7805. Not very efficient, but not much power, either.

    Made my own one-to-three accessory outlet adapter, and have a small extension cord with three three-prongs at the end for AC.

    I also keep a 20 watt fold-able solar panel that can charge my battery if necessary.

    Water, food, shoes, a change of clothes sealed in a FoodSaver vacuum bag, air compressor, inflatable emergency cones, various car fluids, a couple Leatherman multi-tools and other handy tools, a couple good flashlights, ponchos, zip lock bags, camera, quarters, a few bills of various denomination…

    …cause, you never know what might happen.

  4. Aarcane says:

    M.R.I. I’m thinking “meals ready to injest”….

  5. jimkirk says:

    And of course, standard emergency kits with waterproof matches, sewing kit, rope, first aid kit, aluminized mylar space blanket. And most of it, I’ve used.

  6. mugabo says:

    My Volvo’s rear power socket (the manual doesn’t call them cigarette lighters anymore) is always-on, regardless of ignition power. Try it out if you have an SUV/station wagon.

    Also, be kind to your inverter and make sure that it has proper airflow while in use. I.e., don’t place it on the carpet or on the seat; place it on a hard surface.

  7. lev3k says:

    Suggestion; why not get one that also has a USB port in it?

  8. Steven Leckart says:

    @Lev3k: Yeah, good call.

  9. bob says:

    You know what else works great for charging mobile phones whilst in the car? A mobile phone charger that plugs in the cigarette lighter that you can pick up for a trivial amount of your local currency than keep in the glovebox.
    E.g. http://www.mobilefun.co.uk/nokia-car-charger-p34.htm

  10. guy says:

    “(Dr. Obvious says: There’s no need to have the car turned on.)”

    That depends entirely on the car. Mine, ferinstance, gives no power to the lighter socket unless it’s turned on.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Wow, you keep Magnetic Resonance Imaging equipment with you at all times? You guys are hardcore survivalists!

  12. K says:

    What’s an MRI?

  13. adralien says:

    I’ve seen warnings on inverters like this not to use them to charge batteries… specifically Li-ion.

    Belkin states “modified sine wave for sensitive electronics” but that is likely a square wave with pauses at the zero-crossings.

    The issue is that a crappy battery charger will pass the square wave spikes through to the battery, which both over-charges and stresses the battery.

    A laptop adapter is most likely OK as they are designed to deal with “universal AC”, but a cheap wall wart with the Li-ion charge regulator built in like a cellphone may be sketchy.

    If you have the choice go with USB for charging your small electronics.

  14. freetard says:

    Dr. Obvious probably hasn’t driven a Volkswagen lately- the power points (all three of them, yays!) don’t activate until the ignition is turned on. Apparently, this can be changed by reprogramming the on-board computer, but sadly, I lack the tools to do so.

    These things can be lifesavers- and they’re CHEAP! I carry two, one that’s 300W and one that’s 2400W- you know, in case I need to, like, run a tablesaw or drill press in the middle of BFE Canada’s Wilderness.

  15. Trucker says:

    Back to the beginning. MRE was stated in the intial thread. MRE’s are Meals Ready to Eat. They replace the C rations and K rations in the military.
    2nd – The 12 Volt Cell phone chargers are good for a quick back up but my Alltel guy said that over time the battery in the cell phone won’t hold a charge as long (6hours)if the 12 V is used a lot. This did happen and when I switched back to 110V charging the duration of the charge came back to full life (2 to 3 days depending on usage). Hence a simple 300W dual suffices to charge the cell and run my laptop.

  16. Trucker says:

    Dan, you can get up to a 8000 W inverter that would power a table saw etc. Trouble is they have to be hardwired in to your vehicle. The 12V plug in ones suffice to power your laptop etc or make a pot of coffee.

  17. F says:

    This is news? My uncle had an inverter in his van back in the ’60s. He taught me what a 2N3055 is and how to replace them, which he had to do a lot!

    Repeat: this is news? I’ve been carrying a cheapo radio shack inverter for many years now. It’s on its third car.

  18. Oddball says:

    As #4 points out, many cars (just about every post ’95 vehicles I’ve been in) do not supply power to the cigarette lighter unless the the car is on. This is done so that you don’t accidentally run the battery down using it as a power source.

    2lbs is pretty hefty for an inverter, but it’s also doing a lot of work if it can put out 300Watts. As for “needing” 2 plugs, I could argue about that, but I also have a 3 way splitter in one of my cars that is usually full (radar detector, adapter for GPS, USB or DC/AC adapter).

    Oh, and I agree that I wish companies would start just putting in a 3 prong plug in the dash.

  19. Anonymous says:

    How do you fit an MRI in your trunk? Aren’t they a bit big?

  20. dculberson says:

    My truck has three 12v outlets in the dash, which is pretty cool. My car has 12v outlets in the center console and three in the back seat – smoker’s heaven! (except they’re not allowed to smoke in the car..)

    I do hope that we will eventually see USB alongside the 12v outlets. With the standardization on micro-USB for phone charging in the EU, it just makes sense. I should go ahead and add USB myself.

  21. morganw says:

    300 watts at 12V is 25 amps. I can’t find a US market (120V) English manual for the AC Anywhere, but the UK English one says

    “Caution: Most automobole cigarette lighter circuits use
    fuses rated at 10-20 Amps.”

    and

    “If the equipment or appliance you intend to operate requires more than 150 Watts of continuous power, the Belkin 300-Watt Inverter should be connected directly to the power source using the Battery Direct-Connect Cables. Failure to do so may result in serious damage to the power cord or to the cigarette lighter socket wiring in your vehicle.”

    However, the inverter uses the same fuse type as many cars and comes with a spare which one Amazon reviewer though s/he should replace his car’s cigar lighter fuse with in order to draw more than 10 or 15 amps.

    Burn your car with fire!

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