Portland Area Real Estate Appraisal Discussion

Portland Appraiser Mobile Office Power Up
January 28th, 2016 11:37 PM

Portland Appraiser Mobile Office Power Inverter
This topic is not just for Portland appraisers, but for anyone who operates computers and multiple electrical devices in a car.  For years, I’ve been a devotee of
going mobile by setting up an office in the car with a computer docking station, extra tablet battery charging, GPS navigation, cell phone charging, Bluetooth charging, and so on.  However, I have learned through experience that powering so many devices tends to be too much for the typical twelve-volt cigarette lighter or power outlet plug found in most cars.

In the past, my solution to power everything was to plug a three-way splitter into the car’s twelve-volt power outlet and then connect automotive twelve-volt plugs to power all the devices.  My computer ran using a twelve-volt DC adapter but there are two problems with these multiple outlet twelve-volt cigarette lighter type plugs.  The first is that the plugs tend to be low quality and, as a result of small wires and cheap materials, I’ve melted two of them.  The other problem is that the twelve-volt sockets tend to become loose with time and then disconnect when jiggled or when not positioned just right.

To solve these problems, I first tried a Cyber Power Inverter that plugs into the cigarette lighter and has an outlet for AC power and a twelve-volt outlet.  This is a well-made device rated for 140 watts.  (Higher wattage inverters usually cannot be plugged into car power outlets.)  On paper, this inverter has plenty of power to run my computer and other devices, but eventually under heavy load and after continuous running of its noisy fan, it would get hot and shut off.  Although some people have no problems with small inverters running laptops, I’ve read about similar problems with many other small inverters and I’ve concluded that this is not a Cyber Power Inverter problem, but a problem with too many things plugged in, too much current being drawn, and too much time spent in the car.  Also, the Cyber Power Inverter still has the problem that it is plugged into a car outlet socket and can easily become loose over time.  I felt that there had to be a better solution.

My final resolution was to purchase a 750 Watt Continuous/1500 Watt Peak CEN-TECH Power Inverter from Harbor Freight.  This inverter must be hardwired directly to the car battery with a dedicated and fused power wire.  A local stereo installer ran the power wire for about $50 and I easily hooked up the other connections and grounded it to a seat bolt. 

Once installed, the hardwired inverter has two outlets, a USB charger, and far more than enough power to run as many devices as needed including any future electronics that I might add.  I’m thinking that a 400 watt chest freezer could be added if I ever want to convert my appraisal mobile office into an ice cream car on the weekend.  After several weeks of use, the new inverter has been trouble free.  The very quiet cooling fan hardly ever needs to run.  With this inverter, the car lighter outlet remains free for my GPS plug.

Have you had any similar problems with twelve-volt car outlets?  Did I leave anything out or do you want to join in the conversation?  Let me know in the comments below.

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Thanks for reading,

Gary F. Kristensen, SRA, IFA, AGA

I am way behind you in being a mobile appraiser. Nice post!

Posted by Casey Lyon on January 29th, 2016 6:37 AM
Yeah, where'd you get that awesome tablet mounting setup?? Do you have any special antena for your car (I worry about longterm microwave signal exposure). I thought of having a cell signal antenna mounted to the roof and then having WiFi inside the car. Also, have you thought of a gopro-style camera on the outside of your car for doing comp photos? I get looks all the time when I drive up and raise my camera; just waiting to photograph the home of a mob boss (I'm in new jersey) and have someone shoot at me as I'm making the uturn in the cul-de-sac.

Posted by Craig Villa on January 29th, 2016 6:51 AM
Very nice, Gary. This is quite the set-up. Is it just me, or does it look like a bomb? :)

Posted by Ryan Lundquist on January 29th, 2016 8:32 AM
Thank you Casey, Craig, and Ryan for the comments. I really appreciate it. Casey, you will get there if you want. Going mobile is one step at a time. Craig, I don't have any special antenna. I just use the Wi-Fi on my cell phone. I have thought of a camera on the roof and there are special cameras available for that, they just cost thousands. I agree that it is dangerous for appraisers to take comparable photos, particularly in some neighborhoods. Ryan, I think it looks like I have a big stereo system with amp installed :-)

Posted by Gary Kristensen on January 29th, 2016 9:39 AM
Very cool set up Gary! I'm not at the stage where I need this quite yet but it's nice to know that it works well when I need it. Hope it continues to work well for you.

Posted by Tom Horn on February 2nd, 2016 1:01 PM
Thank you Tom for following. Hopefully as technology advances, I won't need to keep drawing more power when I'm out on appraisal inspection trips. But for now, I'm ready for more mobile appraiser devices.

Posted by Gary Kristensen on February 2nd, 2016 11:56 PM
Hi Thanks for your good article about electronic and inverter and invt I enjoyed very much.

Posted by DG BARGH on September 11th, 2016 8:20 AM


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