Bottom Line
The Winds of Change
Getting powered up, and doing it safely
Installing an inverter to power those hotel loads just takes planning and preparation

By Jeff Barker
Special to Land Line

With the cost of everything we need to buy increasing with each passing week, many truckers are installing appliances in their trucks to save some dinero, and to eat foods that didn’t come out of a fry vat containing more grease than is on their fifth wheels.

For this to happen, a high quality power inverter will usually need to be installed.

Pick the right inverter
There are a lot of power inverters on the market. Unfortunately, too many of them are of inferior quality and can cause fires.

Better quality power inverters are usually found at RV supply stores and are more expensive. Quality inverters are also less likely to cause noise in your CB radio. In other words, you usually end up getting what you pay for.

You need to choose a power inverter that has a continuous rating (or wattage) which is a bit higher than the total of all appliances that you will be running at the same time, such as your microwave, TV, DVD player, laptop, etc.

It’s important to note that the initial power draw of an appliance when it’s first turned on will be higher than its steady current draw once it’s been on for a few seconds.

Plan out the installation
After purchasing the inverter, the installation will need to be well-thought out. Some prefer to install their inverters in the sleeper area; others install them in the side box under the bunk.

Wherever it is installed, it will need some air ventilation to prevent it from overheating. Most inverters on the market do have a thermal shutdown on them, but they usually don’t cut the inverter off soon enough.

It’s also a good idea to install the inverter away from the cab’s high-traffic area where the occupants move around, because the heat sink fins on most are usually sharp enough to be dangerous.

Once a mounting location is chosen, then the heavy-gauge cables that go directly to the battery box will need to be properly routed. If there is an existing grommet with a vacant space big enough to route both cables through while being out of the way, then great. Otherwise, a hole or holes will need to be drilled and a grommet installed to prevent the cables from rubbing the metal.

Next, you will need to connect the cables to the inverter and then mount it in the desired location. As you feed the cables through the grommets and out to the battery box, you should take up as much of the slack as possible to keep the cables out of harm’s way and prevent them from rubbing on anything. You can use plastic tie straps to secure the cables where needed.

Once the cables have been pulled through the floor and out toward the battery box, keep in mind the range of movement of the air ride cab if your truck is equipped with one. Leave enough slack in the cables, and try to route the cables as far forward as possible so they will have the least movement when the cab suspension moves.

Be sure they are not rubbing against anything. Insulate the cables with some heater hose to further prevent rubbing on the frame or undercarriage area, and secure them when possible. Locate a grommet going into the battery box to run the cables through the housing.

Connect the negative cable, but do not connect the positive cable directly to the battery terminal. You will need to have a suitable inline fuse or a circuit breaker, which can be found at an RV parts store. Install it on a positive post before connecting the cable to it.

If it looks like you’re trying to weld when you attempt to hook up the cables, something is wrong. Check the polarity at the connection to the inverter itself, and be sure no wiring is rubbed through anywhere.

Before connecting any appliances, get a surge protector to protect them. Put it in a desired location in the sleeper or cab so it’s accessible when needed.

Now that we should be able to use a microwave and such, be sure to have a power source running such as an auxiliary power unit or the truck’s engine – if you don’t have a gen set or APU. This will protect your starting batteries from premature failure.

Editor’s note: This article is for information purposes only. If you’re not sure about performing the installation work yourself, it’s advisable to seek the help of a competent professional.

Jeff Barker is an OOIDA member and a former certified diesel mechanic. He may be reached atgrabawrench@earthlink.net.