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Posted: March 21 2006 at 2:38pm By JaxMax
Here in Florida we have had numerous electrical outages with each hurricane. We have a 5000 watt Honda generator which is superb, but we actually use  the 12 volt batteries and inverters more.
An inverter is a device that converts 12 volt (car battery) to A/C or household power. An inverter is the size of a small box of Kleenex tissues. Semi truck drivers use them to power appliances and they are used on boats. An inverter runs small wattage 500-750 watt household appliances. (Small 12" color tvs, radios, small 10" fans, etc) Buy some 25 watt bulbs and then when the power goes off put them in your regular lamps and they will operate 2-3 hours.
Inverters are cheap and ideal for anyone who can not have access to a generator, such as those living in an apartment. To have 3 -4 hours of standby power for under $100 follow these steps:
1.  Buy an inverter at Wal-mart. Usually under $40. Get at least 500 watts. Get one that will plug into a cigarette lighter in a car or directly to a 12 volt battery with clamps. The inverters are in  the auto section. You can also buy them at a higher price at truck stops and auto stores.
2. Buy a 12 volt car battery at Wal-mart ($35). Ideally get one the same size as your car battery for emergency use. I get the smaller ones because my wife doesn't like the heavy ones. Also get the maritime black box ($4) so that if the battery ever leaks your flooring will not be harmed. The Coast Guard requires boaters to put the batteries in a waterproof black box to avoid spills and Wal-mart has every size.
3. Connect the inverter clamps to the car battery. Red clamp to positive, black clamp to negative.
4. Thats it. Plug your SMALL appliance into the inverter.
The inverter makes no noise. We got each child their own for Xbox video games. They are very nice at night to run a small fan $10- no larger than 10 inches at walmart.
You can recharge your battery with an AC charger ($30) or from a generator. Be sure the battery charger has a chrage indicator switch showing the percentage charged and that the cord comes out from the side of the chrager-not underneath the charger. Some battery chargers actually sit on their own cord, this causes the cord to fray and renders the charger useless. Check the battery for water.
You can also lend your inverter to friends who do not have a generator.
We charge our batteries every 3 months during non use and they have generally degraded to 80% or a loss of 1 hour.
Everyone who owns a generator should have a carbon monoxide detector even though the generator should ALWAYS be outside when in use. What people overlook until is they also need a carbon monoxide detector if their neighbors have generators. Shifting winds and changes in elevations can kill you with carbon monoxide. After the thrid hurricane over half our neighborhood used generators, and our detector was constantly going off. We got all the neighbors to turn the generators off at night.
Finally, generators are stolen by thieves moving a loud lawnmower next to
the generator at night, then stealing the generator. The constant noise masks the theft, so this is another reason to never run the generator at night.