Installing an Inverter in a Truck Bed: A Step-by-Step Guide

My friend owns a Dodge Ram 1500 and on long trips, he often finds himself needing to use electronic equipment, such as his laptop and power tools, that rely on a stable power supply. As an electronics engineer and tinkerer, I wanted to help him find a solution to this problem without having to spend a lot of money on a generator set, which would also take up a lot of space in the truck bed.

Through my research, I learned that it is possible to convert the existing engine power in a truck to a grid-equivalent power supply using an inverter. These devices can transform the 12-volt engine power of a truck into an alternating current of 110 volts at 60Hz, which is the same as the power supplied by the grid. Inverters are slim and can provide up to 4000 watts of power.

However, there are a few other things to consider when using an inverter, such as whether it is suitable for use with sensitive equipment and what the standards are for these devices. In addition, it is important to think about where to install the inverter in the truck bed.

To help others who may be facing similar challenges, I have compiled a step-by-step guide on how to install an inverter in a truck bed. This guide covers everything from choosing the right inverter to determining the best location for installation in the truck.

How To Find The Power Rating Of The Inverter

Determining the power rating of the inverter you need to buy is an important step in the process of installing an inverter in your truck. To do this, you will need to consider the amount of power you will need to use for your electronic equipment. As a rough estimate, the table below shows how much power is required for various types of equipment that require a grid supply. To ensure that your inverter is not overloaded, it is recommended to add an additional 30% to the total power requirement when calculating the power rating of the inverter you need to purchase.

EquipmentMinimum WattsMaximum Watts
Small Color TV150W150W
Light Bulb60W60W
Ceiling Fan25W75W
Coffee Maker800W1400W
Cordless Drill Charger70W150W
Electric Blanket200W200W
Electric Kettle1200W3000W
Electric Shaver15W20W
Internet Router5W15W
Laptop50W100W
Smartphone Charger4W7W
Table Fan10W25W
Tablet Charger10W15W
Vacuum Cleaner200W700W

To determine the power rating of the inverter you need to buy, add up the power requirements of the equipment you plan to use simultaneously and then add an additional 30% to account for any potential overloads. This will help ensure that you have a sufficient power supply for all of your electronic equipment while on the road.

Continuous Power VS Peak Power

It is important to consider the power rating of the inverter when choosing one for your truck. There are two main types of power ratings to consider: continuous power and peak power.

Continuous power is the capacity of the inverter to supply a constant, rated power output without overheating or tripping for long periods of time. This is important for electronic equipment that requires a steady power supply, such as LED TVs, DVD players, music systems, game consoles, heaters, and light bulbs.

Peak power, on the other hand, is the capacity of the inverter to provide a large amount of energy for a short burst of time. This is necessary for equipment that requires a high power output for a short period, such as power tools and laser printers.

It is important to note that some cheaper inverters may not clearly state their power ratings, which can lead to overheating or overloading, potentially causing a fire. To ensure the safety and reliability of your power supply, it is important to choose an inverter with a reputable brand and clear power ratings.

What is the output power equivalent to grid power?

he power supplied by the grid is in the form of an alternating sine wave, while the power available in a truck is typically a 12-volt direct current. In order to use sensitive electronic equipment in a truck, it is necessary to have an inverter that can convert this direct current into an alternating current that is similar to the grid supply. There are two main types of inverters that can do this: pure sine wave inverters and modified sine wave inverters.

Pure sine wave inverters produce an output that is identical to the grid supply, making them ideal for use with sensitive electronic equipment like LED TVs and laptops. They also run motorized equipment smoothly and quietly, without vibration or humming noise, and have a longer service life. Although they are more expensive than modified sine wave inverters, the added benefits make them a worthwhile investment.

Modified sine wave inverters, on the other hand, produce an output that is made up of various amplitudes of a square wave, rather than a pure sine wave. These inverters are not suitable for use with sensitive equipment and can produce heat and humming noise due to the presence of nth order harmonics in motorized machines. They also have a shorter service life than pure sine wave inverters. However, they are cheaper than pure sine wave inverters.

Safety Ratings For These Types of Inverters

When installing an inverter on a moving vehicle, it is important to choose one that has features that protect against common issues such as overloading, overheating, short circuits, and battery overdischarge. To ensure the safety and reliability of your inverter, look for one that is certified by UL (Underwriters Laboratories), a global independent safety science company that certifies consumable equipment.

If an inverter has a UL-458 certification, you can trust that it has been tested and approved for use in mobile or standing conditions, without the risk of a fire hazard. On the other hand, choosing a cheaper inverter without these safety ratings could leave you stranded on the side of the road due to a dead battery or other issues. With this in mind, it is important to invest in an inverter that meets these safety standards to avoid any unexpected issues while on the road.

See Also: List of Best Multimeters Under $50

List of Equipments Required To Setup The Inverter

Caution: It is important to handle power tools with care and follow proper safety procedures to avoid injury or damage. Do not short circuit the battery, as this can cause harm to the battery and associated circuitry, and may even result in a fire. If you are not confident in your ability to install an inverter in your truck safely, it is recommended to seek the assistance of professionals to avoid any issues that could leave your truck dysfunctional.

Cables:

It is important to choose the best quality cable possible for your inverter installation, as it will be responsible for carrying all the power from your battery to the inverter. To ensure efficient current flow, it is important to minimize resistance in the cable. The width of the cable is measured in AWG (American Wire Gauge) standards, with lower values indicating a cable that is better able to carry power from the battery to the inverter without losses.

To determine the appropriate cable length for your installation, you can use the following formula: Current (in Ampers) = Rated power on inverter(in watts)/ 12 volts

Once you have calculated the approximate cable length, use the current value to find the appropriate gauge value for the cable, based on the length you need. It is also a good idea to cut the wire with an extra 5-10% of the original length to allow for any necessary adjustments in the future.

For the most heavy-duty cable option, consider using 0 AWG, which can also support an upgrade to a higher power inverter if desired. It is important to remember to use red and black wire, which is the industry standard, to ease maintenance and troubleshooting in the future.

Cable Terminal Connectors:

These connectors are placed at the end of a cable and are used to connect the wire to the battery and inverter. Two options for terminal connectors are screw battery ring terminals or crimpable battery terminals. It is important to choose high-quality connectors to prevent corrosion at the connection points and on the battery terminals.

Fuse Block Terminal with Fuse:

In order to prevent fires or melted cables in the event of a short circuit, it is important to include a fuse in the positive wire. The fuse should be rated at the same amperage as previously calculated.

Battery Isolator Switch:

To prevent excessive drain on the battery when the inverter is not in use, a battery isolator switch can be used to disconnect the inverter from the battery. This can help extend the life of the battery and prevent any issues with power supply.

Few Other Things That You’ll Need:

  • Drill Machine
  • Cable Gland Connectors
  • Zip Ties
  • Few extra batteries if you want to run heavy load
  • Battery Isolator
  • Common car repair tools

How To Install An Inverter

  • Before beginning the installation process, it is important to create a plan for where each component will be placed. This includes determining the locations for parts in the engine bay and the inverter in the truck bed. The first step is to prepare and cut the cables to the appropriate lengths.
  • When deciding where to mount the inverter, consider placing it inside the truck bed wall for easy access. Alternatively, you can mount it in the left or right quarter panel of the truck. To connect the inverter to the battery, you will need to run a solid ground wire from the inverter to the negative terminal of the battery, and a positive solid cable from the inverter’s positive terminal to the battery isolator switch.
  • To connect the inverter to the battery, you will need to figure out how to route the wire through the cabin. If possible, try to run the cable around the cabin to avoid having to put holes in it. If you do need to run the cable through the cabin, you will need to drill three pairs of holes: one pair in the truck bed, one pair on the back or underside of the cabin, and one pair in the firewall between the engine bay and the cabin.
  • The fuse is the first component to install, and it is easy to do so. Simply connect it directly to the battery and battery isolator switch along the positive cable rail.
  • Next, you will need to find a suitable location in the engine bay to mount the battery isolator switch and fuse. The specific location will depend on the parts you have purchased. Be sure to drill holes and use mounting screws as recommended by the manufacturer, rather than relying on glue to hold these parts in place.
  • To mount the inverter in the truck bed, use screws to secure it firmly in place. Make sure to double check for any wiggles or movements that could potentially damage the internal components of the inverter.
  • Once you have determined the route for the cables, you will need to run them through the cabin or around it. If you choose to run the cables through the cabin, be sure to seal the entry and exit points with waterproof sealing glue or use a cable gland connector with a locknut to keep water out.
  • To connect the cables to the terminal connectors, cut the ends of both cables and attach them to the connectors. You will need four connectors in total: two for connecting the inverter and two for the battery ground and battery cutoff switch.
  • Next, mount the battery cutoff switch and battery cutoff fuse in their designated locations. Use another piece of cable to connect the switch and fuse using terminal connectors.
  • To complete the installation, connect the fuse to the battery’s positive terminal using a cable and termination connector. Depending on the type of fuse you have purchased, you may be able to connect it directly. Then, attach the ground wire to the battery.
  • Before using the inverter, be sure to test the setup. Toggle the battery cutoff switch to the on position and turn on the inverter. If everything is working properly, you should now be able to use the inverter to power various devices.

Conclusion

The cost of installing an inverter can vary, depending on the type of tools you plan to use with it. In general, a truck bed inverter is most suitable for powering tools that require a brief burst of energy. However, if you are not knowledgeable about the requirements and inner workings of inverters, it is best to avoid attempting to install one on your own. It is important to ensure that the installation is done correctly to avoid any potential hazards.

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