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Equipment | Inverter


We use a lot of 240-volt AC power on board and much of it is consumed by devices that like clean power; computers, smart chargers for camera equipment and even the fridge compressor, which draws an incredible load on start-up.

We used to have a Xantrex DR series inverter/charger to take care of our AC needs.

This is an old-technology transformer-based charger/inverter unit that weighs a ton but which will probably last longer than I will. It was one of the few pieces of electronic equipment to survive the lightning strike a few years ago.

The only problem we had with the Xantrex Trace DR inverter is that it generates a 'modified sine' waveform (which I prefer to think of as a 'modified square') that is not very good for sensitive electronics and our fridge compressor, so we upgraded to one of Xantrex's more recent products that generates a pure sinewave, the 1800i.

This is a brilliant unit. Small, lightweight and it produces a smooth, pure sinewave AC output. This one is good for 1800 watts continuous, which will cope with fridge, power tools, even the vacuum cleaner.

We have had some trials and tribulations with the 1800i, perhaps entirely my fault. When we installed the 1800i we tested it out and it worked like a dream... for about 2 months. then it just quit one day, declaring it needed to shut down directly after completing the start-up procedure. The troubeshooting section of the manual didn't provide a solution; it had to go back. We returned it to West Marine, they sent us a new one and I wrote the episode off to bad luck. After all, the unit looks so well-designed and quality made, it must have just been a bad chip or something, right?

Then the second one failed in exactly the same way after 4 months. This time I emailed Xantrex customer service and they got right back to me. They diagnosed the problem as being DC ripple on the supply line due to supply cables that were too long and too thin for the load, even though I was using 2m of 80 square mm battery cable. It hadn't occurred to me that long cables and less-than-ideal gauge could damage the unit. I had thought the worst that could happen would be some resistive loss and voltage drop at the unit, but apparently the inductive load can be a problem, too. They sent me a new 1800i free-of-charge. Now I have shorter supply cables and I've doubled them up to increase the cross-section... let's hope that really cures the problem!

One of the smartest things about the 1800i is this removable control panel. Xantrex designed it so it can be mounted in any of four orientations for easy reading when the 1800i is installed in confined spaces, but (even better) it can be removed altogether and mounted remotely, communicating via a telephone-type signal cable. I've mounted mine next to my battery monitor. The display shows here that I am supplying 12.2 volts and that the inverter is drawing 2 amps. The small triangle indicates that I'm on 'power Save' mode which shuts the inverter down into a sleep mode when there's no AC current draw, saving power. There's a bar graph that appears at the bottom of the display to indicate how much of the 1800 watt capacity is being used.


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