By Captain Bill Jennings
Here is one simple boat accessory that can dramatically expand the use and enjoyment of your small boat -- an inverter. While large yacht owners can enjoy their favorite tunes from their high output stereo while grabbing a cool beverage from their onboard fridge, most small boats cannot access such amenities. But you too can enjoy many of the features you associate with large yachts. All you need is an "inverter".
A power inverter is an electronic device that changes direct current to alternating current. You can easily use an inverter with a marine battery to convert the battery DC energy into 120V AC electricity, the same power used to run most appliances. Just imagine your runabout or center console having onboard the equivalent of your home wall plug, but ready to use in your boat. Think of the dozens of neat things you could bring to your boat and use in the same way you do at home. Items such as a small electric cooler, a laptop computer, an electric razor, a small air fryer, a radio, a lamp, a fan, an electric skillet, or just a phone charger.
An inverter can be easily hard wired to your battery, or just plugged into a 12 volt outlet on your boat. Small inverters usually come with two AC outlets and two USB ports. They need very little ventilation and can be mounted in a vertical or flat position in a space no larger than 12x10 inches. Most marine batteries will provide ample power for 30 to 60 minutes even when the engine is off. Actual time, of course, will vary depending on the power demand placed on it by the equipment being operated by the inverter. While a 600 watt inverter will power most of what you might want in a small boat, I would suggest buying a 1,000 watt model, especially if you have twin battery installations.
Here are a couple of inverter tips: When an inverter is kept on, it will keep draining the battery, even when no electronic appliance is connected. To save your battery, switch off your inverter when not in use and unplug the appliance.
Be sure that your inverter comes with 'overload protection,' which means that it will simply stop running if overloaded (as opposed to burning up). It will then automatically try to start again once the overload is removed.
I would recommend that your inverter have access to a battery or battery bank that is 20 percent as large in amp-hours as the inverter size in watts. This means a 1000-watt inverter should be supported by at least 200Ah of battery capacity.
You may ask why every small boats doesn't come with an inverter? I suppose a boat builder's prime objective is to build boats, and most electronics are installed after the sale. But now that you think about what an inverter can do for you -- you should want one. And I have saved the best news until last. Inverters are affordable. Fully capable 2,000 watt marine inverters sell for as little as $150-250. A higher wattage inverter from a name brand may cost a little more, but you will also get more. When is your birthday??