Looking for an Inverter to use with my Prius

Discussion in 'Environmental Discussion' started by PasPrius, Mar 4, 2009.

  1. PasPrius

    PasPrius Junior Member

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    On my list of To Do items for some years has been acquiring an inverter for use with the Prius to provide power to some of the appliances in my home in the event of a prolonged power outage. This "To Do" has been mostly forgotten until I tripped over an article about an engineer who used his Prius to power his Massachusetts homes during a recent ice storm.

    Question is: Can anyone recommend an inverter for use with the Prius for emergency power for a house? Furnace fan, energy star freezer, radio, lights, TV. All individual loads and start up loads under 1000W. Recognizing the need to rotate loads, that is, plug in the freezer for an hour, unplug the freezer. Plug in the microwave to heat dinner. Unplug the microwave. And so forth.

    Previous recommendations from those with some electrical knowledge have been a 1000W sine wave inverter to be on the conservative side? I have no knowledge or experience with the various brands.

    TIA

    PasPrius

    Solar PV Grid Tied being installed
    18 - 224W Sharp, Fronius IG 4000 (240V) Inverter

    2001 Prius purchased via the Internet traded for 2007 Prius :)
    2005 Wife's Prius
    The rest of the family:
    2005 Daughter' Prius
    2002 Sister's Prius
    2004 BIL's Prius
     
  2. icarus

    icarus Senior Member

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    There are several parallel threads on this subject going in the accys section of this forum.

    I personally think this is a poor idea,,, although with the right set up it is possible. Most people want to plug into the 12vdc battery to power household loads, using cheap, modified sine wave inverters. These inverters can (and do) create all kinds of problems with sensitive electronics and motor loads.

    The bigger issue is that the 12vdc battery system is too small to be of much use. Yes, you can use the car to charge it,, but IMHO you run real risk of damaging the low voltage/low amperage 12 volt battery.

    If on the other hand, you are willing to try to use the HV Prius drive battery the idea makes a lot of sense,,,,except if you are in any warrantee situation, there is the real risk of putting that warrantee at risk. Additionally, are you really prepared to risk your $20k Prius for the sake of emergency power when a very reliable, very clean power, very fuel efficient Honda Eu 1000 or 2000 generator will put out as much power, using very little fuel,,, perhaps less over time than the Prius would use to keep it's battery charged over several days of use.
    These Honda generators can be had for ~$500-1000 and have considerable usefulness beyond just running the freezer during an emergency.

    As I suggested above, do a search of this site and you will find plenty of information on this.
    http://priuschat.com/forums/prius-m...tructions-running-110v-ac-prius-inverter.html
    http://priuschat.com/forums/prius-technical-discussion/57004-4-200-watts-pure-sine-wave-power.html
    http://priuschat.com/forums/prius-technical-discussion/21773-prius-power-source.html
    http://priuschat.com/forums/audio-electronics/37760-using-prius-backup-generator-any-changes.html

    Icarus

    PS I do design and build small off grid solar power installations,,, so I know a little bit about what I speak of.

    T
     
  3. PasPrius

    PasPrius Junior Member

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    icarus
    Thanks so much for your clear and concise reply. I did a quick search on the site for that topic and apparently missed the threads you have posted. I will go forth and read them.

    I do understand that the Honda generators are available and that they do an excellent job. That's another item on my To Do list. Given the number of Prius in the family, having the capability to use them in that capacity should the need arise is the issue more than the actual use.

    As to direct use of the traction battery, I would not even attempt it. As said, this would strictly be for emergency use as a back up to a back up. One hopefully never to be employed beyond testing it. Should the need arise, say another Northridge type earthquake, having a source of AC power could well be a life saving measure.

    Thanks Again,
    PasPrius
     
  4. icarus

    icarus Senior Member

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    Picture this,,, in a Northridge situation,,,,

    You have a 1000 watt inverter running off your 12v car battery,, burning x amount of fuel, providing somewhat less than 1000 watts of useable power.

    On the other hand,, the Prius has ~15 gallons of fuel,,, siphon out the tank, and you can run a Eu1000 for ~256 hours at 1/2 load or 500 watts. A honda Eu 2000 for ~ 200 hours with 1000 watt load. It is a no brainer in my book.

    Like I said before,,, I don't think using the small 12v battery to power a inverter is a good idea. That battery may put out what, about 30 ah/12vdc or a capacity of 360 wh,,, assuming you drain it to zero! If you drain your battery more than ~ 10% you risk killing it. I just think it is a silly idea.

    Icarus
     
  5. PasPrius

    PasPrius Junior Member

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    icarus-
    Thanks again. I do understand your objections to this and appreciate your input. As said, strictly for emergencies. At the pace of getting through my To Do list, it may never come to fruition but I now have some addition information concerning it. The Honda Generator solution is now listed well before the inverter solution.

    I would post a link to that Massachusetts ice storm article but under 5 posts, that is precluded. It is of interest in that the fellow reported only using 5 gallons of gasoline over 3 days. If you are interested, the story is at:
    planetgreen dot discovery dot com / tech-transport / hybrid-power-home dot html

    PasPrius
     
  6. icarus

    icarus Senior Member

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    Since your original question was a request for info re: inverters here is a link: Exeltech Sine Wave Inverters

    Now, one thing you must know, is that inverters come in a variety of forms, (technologies) ranging from real cheap square wave inverters, pretty cheap modified sine wave inverters, to fairly expensive true sine wave inverters. As I state earlier, square wave and msw inverters are not very efficient, and they can, and do wreck havoc on certain things. For example, furnace motors , if they run at all on msw, will run hot and will probably die early. Certain power supplies for charging (wall warts) can go up in smoke with msw. Some electronics, tv's radios, pc, printers etc can be fried instantly with msw. (problem is how do you tell,, without burning something up. Msw's also can induce a lot of electronic noise into radios, tv's pcs etc.

    True sine wave inverters are very much more expensive than msw, but they produce power that is as clean or cleaner than grid power.
    Plugging some Tsw inverters into a grounded neutral wiring system can lead to instant failure however. (The Morningstar TS 300 is one exception,, some of the Exeltechs as well.) This is a potential problem if you are going to plug into your house through a proper transfer switch.

    Just to reenforce my earlier opinion,,, an Exeltech 1kw sine wave inverter runs ~$600, about the same price as a Honda Eu 1000, with about the same output. Also, as I said before,,, trying to draw 1kw off the Prius 12 volt battery would be ~83 amps! Assuming that the amp hour rating of the 12 volt battery is ~30 amps. (Just a guess, ah ratings for "starting" batteries are not rated in AH, but in CCAs) You would kill it dead,, never to recover, that 12 volt battery in 15 minutes. Additionally,,, I don't know off hand, the charging capacity of the 12volt charging system (in fact I don't know how it works) but a 90 amp alternator would be big for a car it's size.

    As I said before,,, if you want to wire into the HV battery, the whole equation makes much better sense,,,,warrantee issues not with standing. Now if you could find a ~260vdc input inverter. Don't know if there is such a thing,,, even in a grid tie.

    Icarus
     
  7. RobH

    RobH Senior Member

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  8. icarus

    icarus Senior Member

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    That's the right idea. The listing is a little bit in error, as it says 13 KW, when in reality it is 1300 watts,,, or 1.3kw, but the traction battery has the capacity, and the car is smart enough to run that kind of load for long periods of time.

    A fine idea,,, warrantee issues not withstanding.

    Icarus
     
  9. jayman

    jayman Senior Member

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    Nope, I can't see using a Prius to run an inverter, potentially voiding the car warranty.

    A neighbor near my hobby farm has a Honda EU3000isCA generator, the Inverter design. This unit is kept in a small cinderblock "shed" near the house, and hooked up through a transfer switch

    The generator is remarkably quiet and is very easy on fuel. The Inverter design is suited for motors (Furnace, well, etc) and computer loads

    At my hobby farm, I recently upgraded to a Kubota GL11000, which will also operate through a transfer switch

    http://www.kubota.ca/files/products/ACF2372.pdf

    The Kubota is perhaps beyond the needs of most Priuschat members. However, if you are interested in reliable backup power, with low specific fuel consumption and whisper-quiet noise levels, consider the Honda
     
  10. tochatihu

    tochatihu Senior Member

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    Thanks RobH for the link, it benefits us all to know that this option is available.
     
  11. FL_Prius_Driver

    FL_Prius_Driver Senior Member

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    Just a comment about Exeltech inverters. I have one taken apart in front of me right now. (Talk about timing!) The quality is outstanding and then entire approach is based on US parts and US engineering at its best. When I say the Quality is good, here are some details:

    1) All the solder joints are IR reflow with the Big Transformers leads all cut to exact lengths that match custom designed solder pads. This level of detail is rare.
    2) The heat sink mating and compression approach is a constant pressure, flush surface design.
    3) The electrolytic caps are US super long life electrolytics.
    4) Not a single white wire or altered component. No shortcuts here.

    I could go on, but this company is world class just by looking directly at the engineering and manufacturing quality.
     
  12. icarus

    icarus Senior Member

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    That's been my experience as well,,, Exceltech, or Morningstar TS300 are the only small sine wave inverters I would consider. I know that the Morningstar can be installed with a conventional grounded neutral,,, I don't know if the Exceltech can be wired that way.

    Icarus
     
  13. jayman

    jayman Senior Member

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    If by that, you mean Bonded Neutral, then you could run into a problem as most residential breaker panels are bonded neutral

    However, if the inverter doesn't support bonded neutral, most breaker panels you can remove the bus jumper bar, to isolate the neutral from the ground

    I do know that residential Federal Pioneer StabLok breaker panels here in Canada allow you to remove the neutral jumper bar
     
  14. paulccullen

    paulccullen New Member

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    I got a 1200W "modified sine wave" inverter from InvertersRus for around $100+, mounted in the plastic bin above the spare tire in the Prius. I've had it for a couple of years now. It has its shortcomings (the TV makes a faint buzz when connected to it) but it's great for emergencies.
     
  15. icarus

    icarus Senior Member

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    Jay,

    Two things,,

    Most MSW inverters use a floating neutral,, and (I'm no electrical engineer)they don't play well with a grounded neutral wiring system. Even if a panel doesn't have a bonded neutral bus bar, as required in many places,, the neutral is grounded at the transformer on the pole, making a MSW not work well.

    Second, and perhaps more importantly. DANGER,,,DANGER DANGER!!!! Federal Pioneer StabLok Breakers are very much a fire danger. They have been recalled in the US, and CANNOT (as far as I know) be sold in the US. They are still available at Home Depot in Canada however! Federal Pacific Electric FPE Stab-Lok Panel Circuit Breaker Hazard, Repairs, Electrical Panel Replacement Electricians Directory for Stab-Lok Repairs
    RECALL - FEDERAL PACIFIC BREAKER
    True Tech Home Service - Federal Pacific Electric, FPE Stab-lok repair by Electricians In Oklahoma City OK

    If you have FP StabLok,,, get rid of them!

    Icarus
     
  16. KD6HDX

    KD6HDX New Member

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    I just replaced the battery in My Honda inverter EU3000is. Ours was purchased in Sept of 2004. The starter motor is a nice feature for the wife, and was a selling point for the OK on the purchase. (although she did not need any arm twisting because our neighborhood was without power for 2 1/2 days when I finally bought it.) Contractors had cut a cable in our neighborhood and fried the transformer in front of my neighbors house. The generator is quiet, and with the eco throttle setting, it sips gas.
     
  17. jayman

    jayman Senior Member

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    No, a bonded neutral would therefore be a disaster for such an inverter. I don't have any experience with inverters, at least outside of UPS's, but a bonded neutral is very much standard in homes now

    Yeah, right blah blah blah. StabLok breakers are the most popular brand of breakers here in Canada. Yes, they are still available, sold, and installed

    http://www.schneider-electric.ca/www/ecat/documents/b_section.pdf

    My homes should have burst into flames if what some of the more wild press reports stated. Here is what one inspector has to say

    http://www.magnuminspections.com/FPE_stab_lok.htm

    As far as the StabLok failing to trip under certain conditions, ALL circuit breakers may fail to trip under certain conditions. If a fault EXCEEDS the maximum rated Interupting Capacity of the breaker, it will FAIL. Period!

    To clarify: the Interupting Capacity isn't the rated current. The rated current may be 15 amps. The IC may be 10,000 A, or AIC (Amps Interupting Capacity).

    Indeed, in industrial use, some applications are better served by fuses and "single phasing" sensors to better break current

    Of course, Square D would NEVER make a defective product, now would they??

    Untitled Document

    CPSC Notice Regarding Recalled Square-D Circuit Breakers and Counterfeit Square-D Breakers sold through Scott Electric Co. - Fire and Electrical Hazard

    Their high quality Made in Mexico disconnect switches are good too

    Square D Recalls Safety Switches Due to Shock or Electrocution Hazard

    Those high quality Siemens breakers are also pretty good

    GFCI Circuit Breakers Recalled by Siemens Energy & Automation

    I wonder if the real reason Stab Lok panels and breakers lost all American market presence was due to the fact they are made in Canada?

    As far as having StabLok breakers "falling out" of the bus, that was obviously an incorrect install. When you latch a StabLok in, you firmly rock it into the bus.

    It doesn't hurt to use the head of a scredriver to give a light rap to the seated breaker, just to ensure the two stabs are fully spread in the bus
     
  18. icarus

    icarus Senior Member

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    Jay,

    I don't think that the fact that they are made in Canada has anything to do with anything. In the states they allow all kinds of stuff in and to be installed.

    I don't want to argue the point with you, but if you read the links,, especially the one from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. I agree that all electrical devices can and do fail, but the per unit numbers are astounding.

    We used to have another brand of breaker in the US called Zinsco. They were "guaraunteed" not to trip,,, just to burn!

    I know that I won't have Stabloks in my house.

    Icarus
     
  19. jayman

    jayman Senior Member

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    As far as per unit failures, residential and indeed most "light duty" institutional/commercial breakers of ALL brands have high failure rates

    Such as a certain series of Square D 3-pole, obviously for a 3 phase system. Under certain trip conditions, only one phase will internally trip, and the device that is supposed to be protected will instead be single-phasing until it dies

    What we absolutely WILL see in the next 5-10 years is astounding high failure rates for the mandated arc fault breakers, no matter what the brand. For the price point, their design is flawed and cheesy

    I have two homes with StabLok breakers. I sleep very well at night; that is, I know their overall failure rate, at least according to the CSA, is comparable to Square D and Siemens.
     
  20. icarus

    icarus Senior Member

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    Jay,

    At least you have come to an informed choice.

    As for Arc Fault breakers,,,, I think that has been a solution in search of a problem! I know little of their reliability.

    Icarus
     
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