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Just as there are types of engines (gas, diesel, etc.), there are types of inverters (or different technologies). Cost plays a part. You can still find low-tech, square-wave inverters for sale. They're grossly inefficient, using most of the electricity they consume just to run themselves. Their simple electronics lead to other problems also -- such as square TV pictures. But they're CHEAP! If you're just going to run a simple item for a few minutes, you might get by with one of these for $75 (for about 200 watts) and up. A few of the "rotary" inverters are still available (an electric motor turns an alternator). Also very inefficient and noisy, they're also cheap. Except for special cases, like a huge power tool operated for a few minutes, this type can be ignored.

Technological advances have led to very sophisticated, solid-state inverters. From 100 to over 5,000 watts, ultra-efficient, with all sorts of advantages. Some of these use less than 10% of the energy consumed when fully loaded and way less than 1% at lesser inputs to run their own components. Phenomenal! At first glance, these are not cheap. But in terms of efficiency and the $ per watt cost compared to what you get out of them, they're cheaper than the el-cheapos. Some can be held in your palm and simply plugged into a 12VDC receptacle. Other, larger output models, require elaborate installation. Some have features and options well worth an added cost.

phred Tinseth © 1998-2000 Reproduction Permitted

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