I hope by now you are familiar with the “power box” that I built. Some might call it a “solar generator” but it is way more than that. Since this power inverter review will tie directly into the power box, it might be a good idea to read the power box article first.
The whole concept of this “power” thing is to make sure that during emergencies, disasters, and grid-down that you have enough electrical power to accomplish your essential mission(s). For me, “essential mission” is basically recharging batteries to keep my radios operational and my tactical lights running. No, it is not to keep the air conditioning running or the freezer on. I don’t consider those two things as essential.
The mission statement –
“To provide sufficient ‘clean’ power to run, or charge batteries for, essential sensitive electronic gear that requires 120vAC power.”
Requirements & Restrictions –
- Must be “clean power” to not damage or destroy sensitive electronic equipment.
- Must be able to handle surges of at least 50 – 150% of the unit’s continuous rating.
As always I did considerable amount of research before I identified the units I would be testing. This Aims unit really looked good from all the details and information I could gather. I also tried something different this time. I contacted the company and told them I was doing an evaluation of power inverter units under emergency preparedness conditions. I asked them if they would like their unit included. I figured if they didn’t think their unit could handle the testing and subsequent review that they would back away. They didn’t…the unit tested showed up about two weeks later. I think that showed considerable confidence in their products.
When I pulled the unit out of the box the first thing I noticed is the unit outer housing is a giant heat sink. That is important to see that their engineers understand the necessity to move heat away from any power inverter. Then I turned it over a couple of times in my hands and saw that the unit was very well built with attention to detail. After all these years I can often tell by the “feel” of a product if it is junk or quality. The Aims unit felt like quality in every aspect. My testing proved me right.
The + / – battery connections on the back of the unit weren’t Anderson Powerpoles and that was kind of a drag, but I didn’t really expect them to have Powerpoles as a connection option. The unit’s connectors were solid and the connection faces were exactly flush with each other which will ensure a good connection with the “eyes” on the power wires coming from the 12vDC power supply. The plan is I will make my own using #10 wire and high-quality ring connectors, along with in-line fuses. Yes, the unit has fuses built in, but I would rather protect the unit well before the unit’s fuses themselves.
The fan located on the rear of the unit is meant to keep the unit cool when under load. However, it isn’t always running. The fan will start up when the unit is outputting about 100w. That is a nice feature because the fan does take power to run…precious battery power. If you are using a low consumption device that doesn’t exceed 100w then you are draining additional power with the fan running. But the fan is there when you need it. Sweet! They designed this thing to be very stingy using power from the battery.
I also noticed that there is separate ground connection. No, not the negative terminal connection, but an actual ground connection. I am no electrical engineer but I know enough that grounding an inverter is a good piece of advice. Having the inverter unit itself grounded (PE) provides protection from a number of “faults” and protects your electrical devices running off the inverter.
Basic Hook-Up Diagram –
Dang…there are so many things I could talk about in regards to this unit. There are so many features and protections that I am almost overwhelmed with how much to write about. Let me give some technical details from their website about this unit first…
- 600W continuous power, 1200w surge
- Pure sine wave
- USB Port, 5v, 1a
- Dual 120vAC receptacles (3-prong)
- On/off rocker switch
- Over temperature indicator
- Overload protection via fuses and automatic shutdown
- Low battery voltage warning/shutdown
- Alligator clips included on 28″ of heavy-duty wire
- High input voltage protection with automatic shutdown
- Over load indicator
- Short circuit protection
- Load based fan – only runs when an inverter senses a load over 100w
Technical Specifications –
- Continuous output power: 600 Watts
- Surge power capability (peak power): 1200 Watts
- DC input / operating voltage: 9.7 to 15 Volts
- Output voltage: 120 Volts AC
- Output voltage regulation: +/- 3%
- Output wave form: pure sine wave
- Output frequency: 60 Hz
- Battery low voltage shutdown: 10.0 +/- 0.5 Volts
- Low battery voltage warning/shutdown
- No load power consumption: < .6amps DC
- DC amps: 50
- AC amps: 5
- Full load efficiency: 90%
- 1/3 load efficiency: >85%
- No load minimum operating temperature: 50 degrees
- Full load maximum operating temperature: 145 degrees F (automatic shutdown)
- AC Output Sockets: dual Type 2 -3 prong and single USB Output
- High input voltage protection: 15V
- Low input voltage shutdown: 10V
- Internal blade fuse protection
- Product size (L x W x H): 9″ x 6″ x 3″
- Weight: Unit: 4.4
Voltage Handling –
- When your battery drops to about 10 – 10.4vDC a low voltage alarm will sound. No, it won’t blow your ear out, it is subtle but clearly noticeable.
- When the voltage then drops to 9.7 – 10vDC the unit will automatically shut down. This feature operates exactly as a LVD (Low Voltage Disconnect), and that saves your battery from over-discharging and being damaged. Actually, 9.7vDC is really a pretty low level to draw your battery down to. You don’t want to do it very many times.
- The unit also has a shutdown feature for the high end as well, 17vDC. But, if you are running 17vDC into the unit you have much bigger problems with your 12vDC battery powered system. However, the transformer that I use in “My Power Box” can push out up to 16vDC (variable control). So, it is nice to see that the Aims inverter can handle up to that voltage rating. I guess the real purpose high-voltage shutdown feature is to prevent the unit being damaged by being accidentally hooked up to a 24vDC battery system.
Operating Environment –
- This unit is not meant to run in all conditions and locations that exposes it to certain environmental elements. This unit is meant to be protected from those elements.
- The temperature should be between 32 – 104°F. Yup, that means not below freezing and not desert SW June daytime direct sun temps. I am not understanding why the low temperature restriction and I have contacted Aims for an explanation. Aims Answer: The reason it is rated at 32F is there is silica and ceramic based components inside when those components run below freezing and warm up during operating they tend to crack and will cause failure. Another point is that you lose efficiency, a lot of efficiency, at these temps, everything is working harder.
- The unit has to be ventilated under all circumstances. This is a piece of electronic equipment that generates heat, you have to be able to move that heat away from the unit. That just means to allow enough room around the unit to make sure air can circulate.
Here is what Aims is listing as potential uses for this inverter –
- DVD players,
- CPAP machines,
- Satellite TV systems,
- O2 concentrators and generators,
- Mobile office set ups,
- Fast charging power tool batteries (like my Ryobi 18v power tool chargers)
- Other small hand held electronics
I am using the Aims power inverter for charging my handheld radios, electronic gear (computer), small appliances, etc. From DC power generated either from my truck or from my power box. For heavier AC loads (i.e. power tools) I use my Honda i2000EU generator. Aims does have much larger pure sine wave inverter units, up to 4000watts. I would love to test one of those higher wattage units but I just don’t have that requirement at this time.
NOTE: One thing I really want to point out…Customer Service. When dealing with Aims I was really impressed with their fast responses to any question I had. They appear to be very solid people, dedicated to both their products and their customers.
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