This topic is not just for Portland appraisers, but for
anyone who operates computers and multiple electrical devices in a car. For years, I’ve been a devotee of going
mobile by setting up an office in the car with a computer docking
station, extra tablet battery charging, GPS navigation, cell phone charging,
Bluetooth charging, and so on. However, I
have learned through experience that powering so many devices tends to be too
much for the typical twelve-volt cigarette lighter or power outlet plug found
in most cars.
In the past, my solution to power everything was to plug a three-way
splitter into the
car’s twelve-volt power outlet and then connect automotive twelve-volt plugs to
power all the devices. My computer ran
using a twelve-volt DC adapter but there are two problems with these multiple
outlet twelve-volt cigarette lighter type plugs. The first is that the plugs tend to be low
quality and, as a result of small wires and cheap materials, I’ve melted two of
them. The other problem is that the
twelve-volt sockets tend to become loose with time and then disconnect when jiggled
or when not positioned just right.
To solve these problems, I first tried a Cyber
Power Inverter that plugs into the cigarette lighter and has
an outlet for AC power and a twelve-volt outlet. This is a well-made device rated for 140
watts. (Higher wattage inverters usually
cannot be plugged into car power outlets.)
On paper, this inverter has plenty of power to run my computer and other
devices, but eventually under heavy load and after continuous running of its noisy
fan, it would get hot and shut off. Although
some people have no problems with small inverters running laptops, I’ve read
about similar problems with many other small inverters and I’ve concluded that
this is not a Cyber Power Inverter problem, but a problem with too many things
plugged in, too much current being drawn, and too much time spent in the
car. Also, the Cyber Power Inverter
still has the problem that it is plugged into a car outlet socket and can
easily become loose over time. I felt that
there had to be a better solution.
My final resolution was to purchase a 750
Watt Continuous/1500 Watt Peak CEN-TECH Power Inverter from
Harbor Freight. This inverter must be hardwired
directly to the car battery with a dedicated and fused power wire. A local stereo installer ran the power wire
for about $50 and I easily hooked up the other connections and grounded it to a
Once installed, the hardwired inverter has two outlets, a
USB charger, and far more than enough power to run as many devices as needed
including any future electronics that I might add. I’m thinking that a 400 watt chest freezer
could be added if I ever want to convert my appraisal mobile office into an ice
cream car on the weekend. After several
weeks of use, the new inverter has been trouble free. The very quiet cooling fan hardly ever needs
to run. With this inverter, the car
lighter outlet remains free for my GPS plug.
Have you had any similar problems with twelve-volt car
outlets? Did I leave anything out or do
you want to join in the conversation?
Let me know in the comments below.
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