How to Convert From 12 Volt to 110

by Andrew Hazleton

Electrical systems based on 12-volt batteries can be used to supply 110-volt AC (alternating current) through the use of a voltage inverter. These devices can provide normal house current from a variety of 12-volt DC (direct current) sources, including your automobile cigarette lighter. When coupled with a bank of batteries, voltage inverters are used in battery backups for computers and other electronic equipment.

When using voltage inverters, care must be taken not to overload the capacity of the 12-volt circuit supplying the power.

1

Determine the power consumption (wattage) of the device you wish to operate. The wattage of a device is commonly listed either in the owner's manual, or on a label affixed to the device. For multiple devices add all wattages together.

2

Procure a voltage inverter which is rated to supply the number of watts you will need. There are several types of inverters. If your power requirements are 100 watts or less, units are available which plug into to an automobile cigarette lighter. Inverters with a larger capacity are available, but they require a direct wired connection to your battery.

3

Verify that your DC power source is sufficient to power the inverter and attached devices. As a general rule, every 10 watts of power consumption will require one amp of DC current to be supplied. Verify that your batteries can supply this much current and the circuit breakers or fuses are sufficiently sized. Batteries are rated based on maximum current supplied, or amperage. This specification will be provided by the battery manufacturer. Multiple batteries may be connected in parallel to increase the current available. Connect batteries in parallel by wiring the positive terminals from one battery to the other, and repeat with negative terminals.

4

Connect the voltage inverter to your DC source. This can be as simple as plugging the device into a cigarette lighter, or by connecting it to one or more 12-volt batteries. If connecting to batteries, use battery terminal connectors appropriate for the battery type you have. Use your wire strippers to expose an inch of bare conductor at the ends of the power inverter's DC input wires. Connect each wire to the proper battery terminal, being careful not to mix positive and negative connections.

Tip

  • Batteries are rated for amp-hours they are capable of supplying, although most batteries should not be completely discharged as it will affect battery life. Every 10 watts of power supplied by the inverter for an hour will require approximately one amp-hour of battery life.

Warnings

  • Large wet cell batteries (automobile batteries) can generate explosive gasses,and should only be used in well-ventilated environments.
  • Voltage inverters can generate significant amounts of heat and should be installed with this in mind. Consult the manufacturer's instructions.

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About the Author

Andrew Hazleton has been writing on a freelance basis for more than 20 years, and his work has appeared in national, regional and in-house publications. His work has appeared in "Sports Illustrated," "IEEE Spectrum," "Popular Photography" and several newspapers. Hazleton has a Bachelor of Science in engineering from Lehigh University and a master's degree in management from Pepperdine University.

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