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Old 01-14-2010, 12:50 PM   #1
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I have a West Marine brand 400W power inverter onboard, which should be plenty of wattage since all I run off it is my 65w laptop. The thing is horrible. This is the second one I've had in 6 months. On the first one the cooling fan quit working and it contantly over heated and shut down. Easy enough fix but I shouldn't have to replace the fan after just a couple of months. At the time I wasn't near anyplace to geta new fan but I was near West Marine (but didn't still have the reciept) so I just got a new one and put the other away to fix later. The second ones fan has done fine but the stupid thing is supposed to shut down at 10.5 volts. Wish wind and solar going my batteries NEVER get below 12 volts, but 50% of the time when using my laptop, when I make the laptop do any major processing the alarm goes off as if it's either over it's peak wattage (which is supposed to be 1000w) or is over heating or has low voltage. Which it should not be doing. If I plug in my 125w blender it does the same and keep shutting down when there should be PLENTY of wattage left, the batteries are strong, and the fan is running...

I do not recommend West Marine inverters to anyone.
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Old 01-14-2010, 02:16 PM   #2
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I'm only replying because I would like to see some answers as well. I would be one of the last people to look to for answers to electrical questions.

First, West Marine doesn't make any of their products, so is there any way you can determine who the manufacturer is? Secondly, in looking at the West Marine catalog, one set of inverters has a relatively high "surge" output, the other doesn't mention it. For your laptop, I can think of little that might cause surge, EXCEPT printers - a problem we had many years ago with a relatively large printer that overpowered our small output inverter whenever I tried to print with anything else on the inverter (there was enough power to handle both laptop and printer under nominal wattage, it was the printer's power surge need that caused the problem). For the blender, surge is probably the issue.

My suggestion is to look further into the instructions and support for your inverter to find out if there is a work around to the problem you have. And that's the best I can offer, unfortunately.
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Old 01-14-2010, 02:26 PM   #3
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Other than "West Marine" the only manufacturers info on the inverter is "made in China"...

the one I have is WM# 8617482 MFG# 2003-6...

I agree the laptop alone shouldn't cause surge problems... but it acts like it is... the blender that may be the problem but at only 125w (which is why i bought it) it shouldn't be enough of a surge in my book to stop up a 400w inverter.
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Old 01-14-2010, 09:39 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by atavist View Post
Other than "West Marine" the only manufacturers info on the inverter is "made in China"...

the one I have is WM# 8617482 MFG# 2003-6...

I agree the laptop alone shouldn't cause surge problems... but it acts like it is... the blender that may be the problem but at only 125w (which is why i bought it) it shouldn't be enough of a surge in my book to stop up a 400w inverter.
All,

It may be self evident, but the answer may lie in the amperage and the calcs used to size the inverter. Remember A x V = W, in other words, for example, a 7A device at 115v would need approx 805 watts to operate....so dependent upon the apmperage of the laptop, you may very well be overloading the inverter... My HP laptop draws roughly 4.8 amps so, 4.8A x 115v = 552 watts...and that does not include surge....

I have little to no trouble with my 2500W, 100Amp Xantrex Inverter Charger with a laptop or printer....

Hope that helps....

C
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Old 01-14-2010, 10:11 PM   #5
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hmm... I'm no wizard bu the back of the power adapter for the laptop says:

65W

Input 100-240V 50-60hz 1.5A

this should not as I understand it cause surge problems for a 400w inverter with 1000w peak surge....

or am I missing something??

I have another travel cigaret jack type inverter (no brand labeled on it, i got it at ace hardware though) which is labeled 75W 100w peak surge and it runs my laptop great... no problems in 2 years, no surge issues nothing.

these West Marine inverters just suck as I see it.
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Old 01-15-2010, 12:45 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by atavist View Post
hmm... I'm no wizard bu the back of the power adapter for the laptop says:

65W

Input 100-240V 50-60hz 1.5A

this should not as I understand it cause surge problems for a 400w inverter with 1000w peak surge....

or am I missing something??

I have another travel cigaret jack type inverter (no brand labeled on it, i got it at ace hardware though) which is labeled 75W 100w peak surge and it runs my laptop great... no problems in 2 years, no surge issues nothing.

these West Marine inverters just suck as I see it.
May be...but I would check the loads of all devices connected to the inverter, and run a spreadsheet... amperage x volts, and see what the total wattage load is.... I am an electrical engineer by education...but it has been a long time since I actually did electrical design work....now I develop software and have for many years...OK, I am not that old....just pushing 50 next month.... Again, check the toal load with a spreadsheet...using the formula I spoke of previously. Perhaps the total load is the issue, but remembering that surge current (start up loads) ALWAYS causes problems. From what you said, that is when you experienced the issues...

That said, maybe that specific inverter is the issue, and the load capability is listed for marketing purposes....and not reality...there used to be a law with respect to truth in advertising...not entirely sure that acually applies anymore, frankly....

Like I said before...my 100amp/2500watt Xantrex never gives me issues. BTW, I believe the WM inverter is made by Charles...the cigarette adapter "should" be irrelevant... Good luck!

C
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Old 01-15-2010, 03:42 AM   #7
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my laptop is usually the only thing plugged into the inverter... so the total watts should only be the 65W i discussed... when I use the blender I unplug the laptop.

I'll keep Xantrex in mind when I go shopping for a new one.

on a side note.. Isn't Xantrex a diet supplemment??
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Old 01-15-2010, 04:30 AM   #8
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I have a PowerTech inverter, 1500W, bought from Jaycar (electronics chain here in Australia).

I'm not in love with it but as a pure sine wave inverter it was an excellent buy for the price and performs well. It's well overpowered for what I need so I've never pushed it close to full load. No complaints.

I've priced it against similar Xantrex, etc, models and it's way cheaper than the equivalent. It also came from a reasonably reliable electronics firm that I know and trust and so that gave me some degree of surety.
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Old 01-15-2010, 07:40 AM   #9
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I'm certainly no expert, but...

An inverter is only as good as the power source from which you feed it... so make sure all wires between the battery bank are properly sized and your terminals well connected.

I installed a 2000 watt inverter on our last old boat to supply 120 volt power for little more than a TV & DVD player, fan and occasional power tools.

On our new old boat - I installed a cheap 800 watt Coleman unit from Cost-U-Less which effortlessly powers a our sewing machine, HiDef TV & DVD recorder, laptop, cordless tool & cell phone recharging... and our wahhing machine! The only thing we have aboard that it struggles with is our little vaccum cleaner... so now we just use a broom.

Our battery bank is made-up from six 6 volt "golf cart" batteries and supported by eight 80 watt solar panels and a 100 amp alternator with smart regulator. Rarely do we let the battery voltage drop below 12.0 volts - under load.

The 800 watt inverter cost around $65 USD, four years ago. We are a full-time liveaboard family of three and it has served us without fail from the Caribbean to the western Pacific... and it runs a WASHING MACHINE!

I think you should check your wiring & batteries before bad-mouthing West Marine and the products they carry. I have no affiliation with them, what-so-ever, but it wouldn't surprise me if another West Marine gave you a free replacement for your troublesome inverter even though you couldn't produce a receipt! If the inverter was as "stupid" and as "horrible" as you say... then why would you have purchased another one from them?

In my opinion... West Marine is the best pleasure boat equipment supplier on earth. They ship world-wide, offer a liberal "No Questions Asked" return policy and will meet (or beat) any other supplier's price... even on parts they have to special order! I've heard some people refer to them as a Sailor's WalMart but I (for one) am Grateful for the service and savings West Marine has provided me over the past few decades.

To Life!

Kirk
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Old 01-15-2010, 12:06 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by atavist View Post
my laptop is usually the only thing plugged into the inverter... so the total watts should only be the 65W i discussed... when I use the blender I unplug the laptop.

I'll keep Xantrex in mind when I go shopping for a new one.

on a side note.. Isn't Xantrex a diet supplemment??
That is strange...I suspected there were more loads attached, like an interal charger....or other types of loads... So yours is a fee standing unit?

No, Xantrex is a power systems company....that is not to be confused with Xenadrine which is the diet supplement, and, of course, not to be confused with Xanex which is a "GREAT" sleep aid...!

Wish I could help more.....

C
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Old 01-15-2010, 12:13 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gallivanters View Post
I'm certainly no expert, but...

An inverter is only as good as the power source from which you feed it... so make sure all wires between the battery bank are properly sized and your terminals well connected.

I installed a 2000 watt inverter on our last old boat to supply 120 volt power for little more than a TV & DVD player, fan and occasional power tools.

On our new old boat - I installed a cheap 800 watt Coleman unit from Cost-U-Less which effortlessly powers a our sewing machine, HiDef TV & DVD recorder, laptop, cordless tool & cell phone recharging... and our wahhing machine! The only thing we have aboard that it struggles with is our little vaccum cleaner... so now we just use a broom.

Our battery bank is made-up from six 6 volt "golf cart" batteries and supported by eight 80 watt solar panels and a 100 amp alternator with smart regulator. Rarely do we let the battery voltage drop below 12.0 volts - under load.

The 800 watt inverter cost around $65 USD, four years ago. We are a full-time liveaboard family of three and it has served us without fail from the Caribbean to the western Pacific... and it runs a WASHING MACHINE!

I think you should check your wiring & batteries before bad-mouthing West Marine and the products they carry. I have no affiliation with them, what-so-ever, but it wouldn't surprise me if another West Marine gave you a free replacement for your troublesome inverter even though you couldn't produce a receipt! If the inverter was as "stupid" and as "horrible" as you say... then why would you have purchased another one from them?

In my opinion... West Marine is the best pleasure boat equipment supplier on earth. They ship world-wide, offer a liberal "No Questions Asked" return policy and will meet (or beat) any other supplier's price... even on parts they have to special order! I've heard some people refer to them as a Sailor's WalMart but I (for one) am Grateful for the service and savings West Marine has provided me over the past few decades.

To Life!

Kirk
Kirk, good point about the wiring....undersized wiring can cause a multitude of problems....mine is hardwired in, charges the batts, 3 banks of 6V's giving about 480 usable on the house bank(s). I have Trojans, a bit more expensive, but you can drain them to zero (but why do it?) and they always come back. When we bought the boat, the batts were empty of juice, dry as a bone, and we thought wasted...added a little distilled water, and presto...holds the charge fine. I was amazed!

And, I agree about WM...they have always been god to me when there were problems....replacements without question....and good with advice....

C
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Old 01-15-2010, 12:40 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gallivanters View Post
I think you should check your wiring & batteries before bad-mouthing West Marine and the products they carry. I have no affiliation with them, what-so-ever, but it wouldn't surprise me if another West Marine gave you a free replacement for your troublesome inverter even though you couldn't produce a receipt! If the inverter was as "stupid" and as "horrible" as you say... then why would you have purchased another one from them?

In my opinion... West Marine is the best pleasure boat equipment supplier on earth. They ship world-wide, offer a liberal "No Questions Asked" return policy and will meet (or beat) any other supplier's price... even on parts they have to special order! I've heard some people refer to them as a Sailor's WalMart but I (for one) am Grateful for the service and savings West Marine has provided me over the past few decades.

To Life!

Kirk
Firstly I totally agree that West Marine is the best pleasure boat equipment suplier on earth. I buy most everything from them and they have nearly always done me well.... I think this just happens to be a fluke item which has give me a lot of headaches, which I didn't keep the reciept for so can't take back.

I have tested the power source, it's just a cigaret jack plug and runs other inverters and plugged items with no problems. I run 2 x 135w solar panels and a 400w wind genny.. as I said previously my batteries are also always above 12v underload with 600 amps storage on way oversized wire.

I bought the second one for just the reason you said. West Marine and their stuff is usually great, so I figured the first dodgy inverter was a fluke and didn't think much about it. The second one is a bit too coincidental to think it's also a fluke.
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Old 01-15-2010, 03:39 PM   #13
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I'm so impressed that Kirk's 800W inverter can handle his washer! That's amazing. Our washer/dryer has this "feature" where it heats its own water (nice if you need it) but unfortunately, it won't just take "cold" water and use it--it always heats it up to something in the 75F range. David needs to go in and disconnect that heater--we originally thought it might be the same heater as the dryer function heater--but nope, our dryer heater died a few months ago but that water heater function still works! However, since it's a major thing to disassemble the cabinet system which holds the washer/dryer in place, we're putting that project "off" until something else is needed--like say, oh, a new belt.

It's possible that Coleman rates their inverters for the continuous load (a load that it can take without overheating) rather than the peak load (usually that which you see with startup inductive loads on motors). I personally find it a bit frustrating that manufacturers rate things with "peak" loading since it is continuous loading that the customer uses. It is quite possible that Atavist's inverter, while rated for 400W "peak" by the mfr, is a lousy inverter which can't handle much of anything continuous.

We have two very inexpensive inverters--one rated at 350W which works fine with laptops but gets upset and beeps at me if the battery supplying the power is below 12.3V. Beep, Beep, Beep. the other is rated at 750W, has a noisy fan (bearings about to go) and works great on anything I throw at it. Ah, but I don't throw much at it--a desktop with 400W power supply from time-to-time. We have a third one--500W, for use in the car on long trips. All our inverters were purchased at Autozone

If you have a good sized battery bank, solar panels, wind generator, etc...inverters are the way to go. Can't wait to get here...But...we're not there yet...

We don't use the inverters much (except for the laptop and cel phone/camera chargers) because we don't have much of a battery bank yet--I keep putting off purchase of the 12V "house bank" as prices keep dropping on big batteries (amazing isn't it), we don't yet have a (planned purchase) wind generator or tow-able water generator, don't plan on putting in a big bunch of solar panels anytime soon (as we're going north for high latitude sailing, rather than to the sunny tropics for the next year or two...). So, we charge the batteries with our little Honda EU-2000 generator or from time-to-time with our Onan gen-set (just to make sure the Onan is still working, actually). When we have to run something big (power tool, washer/dryer, etc) we usually do more than one thing at a time to most efficiently load up the generator--vacuum while running the air compressor/air tools...run a load of laundry while running the power hungry desktop computer...and so forth...we're happy to have a little generator. The EU-2000 can run the ice maker, do a load of laundry, run the desktop, the laptop...all at once--although from time-to-time the inductive loads line up and oops, there's an overload. That particular generator also has the wonderful trait of (unlike other generators) adjusting it's rpm to the load--so if we're just running the desktop and charging batteries (for example) it will run all day (literally about 14 hours) on a gallon of gas but if we're loading up with the air compressor, power tools, washer, etc, it might only run about 5 hours before needing fuel. I truly digress...

Good luck, Atavist on getting this all figured out. And Kirk--I'm going to have to go check out the Coleman info on their inverters to see if they are rated for continuous load rather than peak load...
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Old 01-15-2010, 04:52 PM   #14
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Our washing machine is a top-load, fully automatic Haier model HLP21E (Google it) and all it does is wash & spin. I chose it simply because it has a 17.75 inch square footprint - so it fit through the companionway and I didn't have to do any boat surgery other than remove a toilet. The unit fits the head space perfectly & the shower & head plumbing were the same size, which made for a very easy installation... set in place, plumb it in, strap it down and now we're washing! Best of all - the machine cost less than $250! Our friends recently had to pay a laundry service in Grenada $180 to pick-up four bags of sheets & clothing!

I, too, was quite surprised that the little inverter handled the job without squeeling in protest. I was prepared to install my old 2000 watt inverter but after watching the 800 watt unit handle the load - I simply re-routed the power cord so it's out of sight and then traded the old inverter for an old outboard for my kid's dinghy!

The washing machine has more than paid for itself in savings of time & money and it gives us a free day in every port that would otherwise be spent hauling dirty cloths ashore and sweating in a laundrymat. Our dryer is solar powered - we hang it from the rigging!

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