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Summary:

Today is our third day without power and the gear batteries started failing one by one.  There’s only so long you can run before needing to charge those batteries and that was today.  I remembered getting a power inverter for running gadgets in my car and […]

Cimg0825Today is our third day without power and the gear batteries started failing one by one.  There’s only so long you can run before needing to charge those batteries and that was today.  I remembered getting a power inverter for running gadgets in my car and I rummaged around and found it.  It is the Slim Line Inverter with USB Power Port by AIMS Power.  The Slim Line inverter is a tiny gadget in its own right, only 3.25 x 4.75 x .75 inches and weighing 6 ounces.  It is designed to convert the 12 volts of DC to 120 volts of AC power to let you run your gear in the car.  I am impressed with this little dandy so far.  The inverter is the little silver box in the lower left of the picture at right.  You can gauge the size by the white Apple adapter to its right.

I plugged the inverter into the cigarette lighter in my car and the MacBook Pro adapter into the inverter.  It was then a simple matter to plug the MBP adapter into the notebook and let it charge away.  The inverter has a fan with a vent so it’s important not to block it so it won’t overheat.  I’ve only been charging the MBP for about 20 minutes and it’s over 25% charged according to the LED indicator on the battery.  I’m going to let it charge it up completely and then charge the second battery which will provide me with about 7 hours of new life for the Mac. The only downside to the inverter is the single outlet so you can only use it to charge or power one device at a time.  It does also have a USB port for charging phones and PDAs which is handy though.

Specs:

  • ACoutput power – 120V
  • Wave form – modified sine wave
  • DCinput voltage – 10-15V
  • Lowbattery shutdown – 9.5V +/- 0.5V
  • High battery shutdown – 15V
  • Frequency – 60Hz
  • Noload current draw – <0.7amps
  • Over temp protection – 140 F
  • USBPower output – DC 5V/800mA
  • Dimensions (LxWxH) – 4.75" x 3.25" x .75"
  • Unit weight – 6 ounces

This inverter was supplied by the folks at Deskinacar who make a whole system designed to convert your car into a mobile office.  I’ll be covering their main products soon.

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  1. It only has one outlet so you can only charge one device at a time? James, you’re asking us to believe that in all of your available goodies you don’t have a power strip? Or a powered USB hub you could plug into the AC outlet and charge several USB devices at once?

    I picked up a power inverter from Costco that sources 1000 watts continuos for the next hurricane-like storm that comes through Seattle. I’ve also got a Primus Eta stove tucked away along with two of the largest gas cylinders.

    On a related note: I hope your meds are holding out. When a storm comes people need to remember to run out and get their meds topped up while they still can. When infrastructure goes down it can be a week or two before pharmacies come back up.

  2. Uh, James,
    That’s 120 watts at 120 VAC of AC power.

  3. JK – Seriously – take the day off. There is pretty much nothing happening out on the Internet that requires you to run your car for 2.5 hours just to charge up a battery for your MBP. That just makes no sense. I’m sure a lot of people enjoy reading your posts … but I’m sure they also understand that there are power issues in Houston and would rather you stop posting for a few days instead of wasting gas.

  4. I’m just about done being told to stop wasting energy everywhere I turn by the power police.

  5. I love how jkontherun actually reads comments (as indicated in the post about registering to comment). But I guess this is why those sites force people to register. So bad apples like the anti-MS guy don’t appear. I visited jkontherun multiple times today, just to see how James was holding out. The idea of running gadgets in a hurricane while without power for 3 days is quite interesting. I love to read about it. I don’t get to read about it very often (fortunately or unfortunately). I kind of wish jkontherun would update with new posts even more often, but I realize there just isn’t that much to talk about.

  6. Of course I didn’t run my car to charge the battery. My car has an accessory outlet for just such a situation that is unswitched so it charged with the engine off. That’s why I would only hook one device at a time and not use a power strip. I don’t want to kill my car battery but this is a good last-ditch alternative to dead batteries. I thought it might help some who hadn’t thought of this.

  7. James,

    I’m going to give you a break since you’ve just recently moved… But I’m disappointed that a gadget guy like yourself doesn’t have a generator for your house… ;-)

  8. jk – glad to see you’re not running the car just charge up. The premise of the post was great – just concerning given the cost of fuel due to the hurricane. Sorry for making a stupid ASSumption. Should have given a bit more credit to the idea and not just jumped to a conclusion. In any case glad you’re ok and hopefully they get you back on the grid sooner than later.

  9. William C Bonner Sunday, September 14, 2008

    I’d be interested in knowing how much juice running your macbook charger sucked from your car battery, compared to a single start of the engine.

    If my limited knowledge of car batteries is correct, they are only used when the primary engine is not running, and are kept topped up on their charge by the alternator when the car is running.

  10. Don’t get stuck with a dead car battery,
    I would start the car for ½ hour every
    few hours. Your headlights are probably
    55/65W (low/high) X2 = 110W.
    How long does it take for them to kill your battery?

    The inverter you have outputs “no load” <0.7 amps x120v,
    or is it only 15v?
    At any rate it outputs 120W continuous . ..

    Figure out how many watts your device uses when charging
    (this will be stated on the DC adapter for the macbook, etc.)
    and figure out when to turn on the car and for how long,
    don’t forget it takes a few minutes for the alternator to recharge the power spent by the starter motor.

    Wouldn’t want to be stuck w/o power OR transportation.

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