According to Xantrex, which makes onboard power products for commercial trucks, inverter shipments have risen sharply since 2005, and the company expects sales to increase at least 40% in the next few years.
An inverter-charger powers in-cab loads such as TV and microwaves without idling by using the truck's batteries. As a safeguard, the unit will shut off automatically when battery voltage drops to a pre-set level to preserve the batteries and ensure the truck starts. When shore power is available, the external source provides power to the loads and charges the batteries.
"For fleets aiming to retain drivers and provide them with a more comfortable experience in the cab, adding an inverter-charger will go a long way toward job satisfaction," says Steve Carlson, OEM sales manager for Xantrex. "Plus, fleets and owner-operators will realize lower fuel costs, reduce idling that will save wear and tear on truck engines and enhance resale value."
Professional installation of an inverter-charger offers several advantages. "When you have the inverter-charger factory installed, the manufacturer uses the proper size cables, fuses and components for the system," Carlson says. "OEM or authorized dealer installation will give the fleet operator confidence that the inverter-charger unit will function properly without harming the truck's electrical system."
Another advantage of choosing factory installation is the inverter-charger cost can be included as part of the overall truck financing and vehicle warranty. Installing the system up-front will be more economical in the long run, Carlson adds. If the operator chooses to install an inverter on an existing truck, Xantrex suggests using a qualified service location.
Carlson recommends against self installation. "There is a big difference between tackling your own wiring at home and wiring a vehicle that vibrates down the road all day long," he says. "A common mistake people make when installing a system is using undersized battery cable that can lead to overheating of the cable and consequent damage to the truck and property and risk to personal safety."
Carlson also urges truck operators to look for an inverter compliant with Underwriters Laboratories standard 458. "Products certified to UL458 standards maintain high electrical standards for safety and are designed to withstand the rigors of demanding in vehicle applications," he says. "Many power products in the aftermarket don't carry the UL listing, which is recommended by many trucking industry associations."