Inverter Woes Solved?

Since not too long after I got Starlink, I’ve been running into issues with the Bestek 300-watt inverter I bought specifically to power it. After a few hours of use, it would shut down, and only turn back on for short periods of time. That’s not exactly useful for a digital nomad who works online for much of the day. Fortunately, I had my Jackery 240, whose 200-watt inverter has been running Starlink perfectly. But it’s a bit crazy to simultaneously charge my Jackery and use its inverter all day. I have other uses for my Jackery, like powering my Geyser shower, or running lights and other accessories I want to add to the trailer.

Since it’s been summer, and the inverter shut off after a few hours of work in the morning, I assumed it was overheating somehow. That didn’t make much sense on days when the high temperature was in the low 70s, but that’s the behavior I was seeing. It made me believe the inverter was defective.

I bought another 250-watt inverter at a Love’s I stopped at, but I neglected to see that it was not a pure sine wave inverter like the Bestek. Starlink doesn’t like it and goes into a constant restart cycle. So that didn’t work, and that’s on me for not reading the fine print well enough.

Ask Dr. Facebook

I asked the Starlink for RVers and other mobile users Facebook group for suggestions on a small power inverter I could buy that would actually work to power Starlink. Of course, this opened a can of worms, with all kinds of info, useful and not, accurate and not. Wading through the comments, I did get some good suggestions of a few brands to consider — Victron, Morningstar, etc. But I also got a lot of comments telling me that a cigarette lighter plug, which my inverter has, can’t handle the amount of power that Starlink needs to work properly. The proper fix was to hardwire the inverter directly to my battery, they said. The fact that Starlink ran all day, every day with no trouble off the Jackery was evidence that the problem may, in fact, be the cigarette lighter plug on the Bestek inverter as they said.

I figured that since the inverter wasn’t working properly anyway, there was no harm in trying it. So I cut off the cigarette lighter plug (and saved it — I’ll have other uses for it), used up the last of my leftover 14-gauge wire from the van build, and wired it directly to an available circuit in my house fuse box. I didn’t use all 12 available circuits, and that was on purpose, allowing for future expansion such as this. (You can read all about my van’s electrical system if you want.) I added a fuse, turned it on, and it worked, just like when it was plugged into an outlet. Then I went back to work for the day to see how long it would keep working before it shut itself down.

It’s So Crazy, It Just Might Work

It never did. That original inverter chugged right along all day without complaint, and without shutting itself down even once. I guess the internet was actually right, for once!

I already knew that large inverters, such as the ones that run thousands of watts that many people install in their vans, absolutely have to be wired directly to the battery with thick cables because of the large amounts of power they handle. This added complexity is the main reason I decided not to bother, and run exclusively on 12 volts instead. Starlink forced me to add some basic 110-volt capability and all of the inverters I found in the 200-300 watt range plug into a lighter outlet. I guess that unless you’re drawing well under 100 watts at all times, it’s best to hardwire any inverter if you can, rather than use the plug it comes with. If you go directly to the battery you’ll want an inline fuse or two. Since I wired mine to my existing fuse box, I didn’t need to add anything more to have a safe fused circuit.

Best of all, this fix didn’t cost me a cent. I might’ve had to spend a few bucks if I didn’t already have the wire and ring terminals kicking around, which I do because I’m a nerd who built my entire house electrical system myself. But that still would’ve cost a whole lot less than buying a new inverter — which, if it plugged into the lighter outlet, would eventually have exactly the same problem.

So I can, in fact, recommend this Bestek inverter after all. Just be aware that you might run into the problem I had, and that you can solve it the way I did as well.

2 comments

  1. Obviously, our giant fifth wheel doesn’t compare to your much more nimble home, but I tend to wire as much stuff as I can direct. There are many gizmos that have a 110 volt plug (regular power), but actually run on 12 volts or less. I bought two different sizes of these: https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B07C61434H/ and use them on a few different things that they’ll work on. My 16-port switch, and 2 or 3 other things I can’t remember offhand.

    I have everything running through this fusebox: https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B00WM2MWQ4/

    I bought it years ago for some wiring I was doing on the motorcycle. Was WAY overkill, and I ended up ripping everything out. (There are smaller ones. These are very quality.) Of course, the technical packrat that I am, I’d been hanging onto it for some time. Getting rid of those power brick plugs is really, really nice. Considering you’re going from 12v DC to 110v AC back to 12v DC, such a waste. Now, I can keep the Internet and my network alive without having to use the inverter. I also installed several USB plugs around the rig, as ours didn’t come with a single one! Those are all fuse-wired to the 12v system, too. For the bedroom, we even have some pretty good USB fans! (https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B092963LVN/) (The bedroom USB hubs, either side of the bed, are three-outlet, one of which is a QC 3.0 for the phones.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I run everything I can on 12 volts. I bought special power cords for my laptops so they can run off 12v instead of going through an inverter, for exactly the reasons you said. That’s why I didn’t already have a massive inverter like most builds do that I could easily plug Starlink into! I even use the same fuse box you do. I’ll have to pick up one of those fans. I can think of a few uses for that!

      Like

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