If you use your smartphone or laptop regularly while traveling, odds are you make pretty frequent use of one or two inverters.
Understandably, the term “inverter” isn’t used very regularly. We tend to opt for “portable battery” or “portable charger” instead. But in simple terms, an inverter is a device or circuit that converts direct current (DC) power stored in batteries into alternating current (AC) power, the likes of which we use regularly in the comfort of our own homes. Essentially, it’s what allows your portable batteries to charge the devices you would normally charge with an outlet.
Simple enough, right? Yes and no. Something not too many people are familiar with is the fact that, depending on how an inverter converts from DC (battery power) to AC (home power), the resulting power can vary. And the difference can be noticed in the energy’s sine wave readouts. Depending on the inverter used, you’ll see either a stair stepped “modified” sine wave or a smoother “pure” sine wave. So what does this mean to someone just looking to power their phone or television?
What’s the Difference Between Modified and Pure Sine Wave?
More affordable modified, or “square”, sine wave inverters generate a simpler waveform that appears more boxy on a readout, hence the name. This is because modified sine wave inverters are unable to convert an exact replica of AC power. And so we see hints of distortion, or “noise”, in the sine wave readouts. Pure sine wave inverters, however, are able to produce a one-to-one replica of the very same alternating current you would see delivered from an outlet at home or in your office.
Where we begin to see differences in how these sine waves power appliances is in those same appliances’ performance. What you’ll notice upon testing the two is that modified sine wave inverters will perfectly handle less intense tasks like charging a smartphone while pure sine wave variants will be able to power larger pieces of equipment that require a steady stream of power. Think variable speed drills or widescreen televisions. This is simply because the lack of noise in a pure sine wave inverter’s output lends itself well to that steady stream of power.
If we’re comparing modified and pure sine waves, the latter will always come out on top because it’s a cleaner output that more closely mirrors the AC power we use at home. And while this may be the case, it doesn’t even come close to meaning modified sine wave inverters have no place in the current market. The truth of the matter is, pure sine wave inverters can be pretty expensive to produce and this naturally reflects in their market price. With that considered, investing in pure sine wave inverters for emergency kits and opting for lower cost modified sine wave inverters for daily tasks like charging your camera can be a sound decision.
The Benefits of Pure Sine Wave
We touched on it above, but the benefits of a pure sine wave inverter come from the clarity with which it delivers power. Without the noise that comes with modified sine waves, we can more efficiently power appliances we would otherwise assume can only be used at home. In fact, bigger devices running on modified waves will use somewhere around 20% more power than those on pure waves. This can result in hindered performance, or worse, overheating. Not something you need diverting your attention if you’re camping in a remote area or waiting out a storm in a safe house.
Portable camper and RV travelers will be happy to know that a pure sine wave inverter will power any appliance, mAh willing, exactly the same as if they were plugged in at home. This means televisions without any lines on the screen and microwaves that reheat in seconds as opposed to minutes. Fans, printers, and even fluorescent lights will run with less audible noise.
The cleanliness of the sine wave delivered with pure inverters also ensures that your appliances’ batteries aren’t damaged, meaning a longer lifespan and less money out of your pocket for repairs or replacements.
The clear variable that will determine whether you need a modified or pure sine wave inverter is the appliance you plan on powering. Electronics you use daily and simply need to charge can benefit all the same with a more portable battery pack while larger appliances would do well with the clearer pure sine wave. Whatever you’re powering, make sure you have a clear understanding of how much and what kind of power it needs to run at its best.