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Old 02-21-2018, 02:23 PM   #1
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Don't buy a cheap inverter

I have finally lost the battle with the AIMS Power 3000W pure sine inverter charger I installed on our boat. While it's painful to admit my mistake of buying an AIMS inverter, I hope others can learn from it. Just spend the money and get one of the better ones discussed here; don't buy an AIMS inverter.

My inverter adventures, detailed in a more amusing account here, began about four months after installing it. I came home to a burning smell. After fighting with AIMS "customer support" and realizing I was on my own, I took the inverter case off to find the the screw holding the A/C line input wire on the internal side had either not been tightened properly at the factory or had slowly come loose. The result was a melted terminal block. I fixed it and reinstalled the inverter (dumb).

The inverter worked for another few months after which the boat went on the hard and the solar and inverter were left on to power small dehumidifiers. The yard called several times to say the inverter was alarming and they always had to reset it. Sure enough, when I arrived, the inverter would no longer turn on. At this point it's out of factory warranty (thankfully), although I did buy a third party extended warranty with it.

Regardless, we lived through it and I won't make the mistake of buying a cheap inverter again. Even if I can get this one replaced under warranty, the next inverter on our boat will be Magnum, Victron, or Outback. I have learned not to skimp on anything electrical, whether it is heat shrink terminals from eBay (bad idea!) or an AIMS Power inverter charger. So, if anyone out there is thinking about it, don't do it!
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Old 02-21-2018, 02:52 PM   #2
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Thanks for the reminder. Cheap is tempting; but as you have clearly pointed out, not worth the gamble. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 02-21-2018, 03:13 PM   #3
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unfortunately, for every horror story for cheap equipment, there are good stories that offset them and there are horror stories with the expensive stuff too.

Like gambling, betting on something sure is never a 100 percent.
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Old 02-21-2018, 04:50 PM   #4
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You mean a cheap inverter like ours? We love it! $325 for a 3500W pure sinewave and a remote control was included! All we require of it is to be able to run the microwave for no more than 5 minutes at a time, brew a pot of coffee in the morning,power a few miscellaneous kitchen gadgets and occasionally power a small wet/dry vac for tidying up a mess,all of which it does fine. The way I look at it, a 3kW Samlex costs me around $900 and while I realize it's a superior unit, for what we need from an inverter, the El Cheapo suits us for how we use it. When the time comes & we retire and start doing more serious cruising, we'll probably try to go higher quality on lots of stuff, boat included.
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Old 02-21-2018, 05:27 PM   #5
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We had a cheap inverter in the boat when we got it.
Painted in camo colours and stated it was designed for military application so must be good right?
Needless to say it was dead

Same as this one.
Replaced with a victron
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Old 02-22-2018, 12:05 PM   #6
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I have an inexpensive Ebay purchased 3KW inverter that functions just fine. The choice is yours, $350 vs $2000+
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Old 02-22-2018, 01:55 PM   #7
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I purchased Victron because everyone said Victron was the dogs gonads, it wouldn't run the freezer despite us giving Victron all the details. 1st one replaced FOC, 2nd one also quit. Bought an el cheapo and its working fine.
You pays your money and takes your choice.
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Old 02-22-2018, 02:45 PM   #8
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Buy whatever you think you need. If your whole 120vac panel is supplied by an inverter I would suggest having two. If your going to go cheap might as well buy a spare as well.
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Old 02-22-2018, 02:56 PM   #9
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Buy whatever you think you need. If your whole 120vac panel is supplied by an inverter I would suggest having two. If your going to go cheap might as well buy a spare as well.


Well, be aware. Cheap inverters do not have a huge heavy power transformer so they require that the neutrals do not return to ground. So if dock power cable is attached you risk having the neutral returned to ground at the pedestal. NOt an insurmountable but at least be aware.

The sellers get around this or at least many that I saw by advertising their inverters for use in vehicles.
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Old 02-23-2018, 05:53 AM   #10
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We only use the inverter to operate power a tool or charge tool battery.

A small inverter works just fine to reheat whatever.

Over a decade so far with a $150, 1500W truck unit,

most used feature is the digital Volt meter , to check that the solar charger is back to float.
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Old 02-23-2018, 07:57 AM   #11
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I have vague memory of the neutral thing you reference. NOT being an electrician lots of this stuff is incomprehensible and confusing. But how would you get around this neutral thing you reference?
Silly me I “assumed” if I carefully made sure white to white, black, green I’m good. It seems to work, I run it through the power switch that use to control the gen and feed the panel just as if shore power was selected. All I run is micro, tv, plugs for misc small electronics keeping in mind my 1500 watt continuous.
Like many I don’t have the $10k “northern lights” premo everything.
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Old 02-23-2018, 09:06 AM   #12
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I have vague memory of the neutral thing you reference. NOT being an electrician lots of this stuff is incomprehensible and confusing. But how would you get around this neutral thing you reference?
Silly me I “assumed” if I carefully made sure white to white, black, green I’m good. It seems to work, I run it through the power switch that use to control the gen and feed the panel just as if shore power was selected. All I run is micro, tv, plugs for misc small electronics keeping in mind my 1500 watt continuous.
Like many I don’t have the $10k “northern lights” premo everything.

If whatever you are doing works.........don't worry nor try to "fix" it. I isolate my inverter when connected by automatic relays. Great inverter and affordable
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Old 02-23-2018, 10:36 AM   #13
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If it weren't for cheap stuff I wouldn't have anything.

I don't know if my inverter qualifies. It was $450.00 18 years ago. Still running.
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Old 02-24-2018, 06:35 AM   #14
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Our inverter has no switching , no connection to any AC on board.

We simply plug in the radar oven or power too the battery charger to it.

No green wire hassles ,no installation, no complication.

KISS
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Old 02-24-2018, 10:44 AM   #15
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Good to hear all these experiences!
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Old 02-24-2018, 01:07 PM   #16
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I think it has more to do with cheap v high end. I am generalizing here, but some folks with the high end inverter/charger have a "don't run your generator" mentality. Which is OK, but I have no issues cranking my genny to fix a pot of coffee. I also don't run everything through an inverter. I know folks who brag that they don't have to start their gennies as "Everything" run through their inverter.


I have a 3500w cheap harbor freight inverter. I run only 4 items on it when I am cruising. Ice maker, freezer, TV and TV receiver. I am diesel so I don't worry about gasoline fumes.


So its more than cheap versus expensive, it is also about how and why you use an inverter.
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Old 02-24-2018, 02:24 PM   #17
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Are these cheap (<$500) inverters just that, an inverter only? Or are they smart charger/inverters like our Magnum? If it's just the former, I can see going cheap and "rolling the dice". It makes sense, especially for smaller loads. For charging AND inverting purposes, I'm much more comfortable and have way more confidence knowing I have a trustworthy (more expensive!) unit.
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Old 02-25-2018, 06:01 AM   #18
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"I'm much more comfortable and have way more confidence knowing I have a trustworthy (more expensive!) unit. __________________"

Everyone is different , but the failure rate of even cheap chargers or inverters is fairly low.

Having individual units means less hassles if either should fail.
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Old 02-25-2018, 06:57 AM   #19
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Quote:
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Are these cheap (<$500) inverters just that, an inverter only? Or are they smart charger/inverters like our Magnum? If it's just the former, I can see going cheap and "rolling the dice". It makes sense, especially for smaller loads. For charging AND inverting purposes, I'm much more comfortable and have way more confidence knowing I have a trustworthy (more expensive!) unit.
I would say that there are inexpensive inverters and dirt cheap ones.

The average, simple inexpensive invertets like FF pointed out seem to last as long as the expensive inverter/ chargers.

I think the switching portion of the dual units is a weak spot.... my first one by Exide years ago welded the vontacts to invert only and killed my batteries and refrigerated food. Have heard others that have the same, all higher end dual units.

More expensive means more complicated to a point, and what feature on a higher end unit has to go before you rip it out for repair?

O think my 2000W Promariner, dual unit looks promising, granted only has 75A charging bot cost much less thsn $1000. If I turn on my 50A Promariner backup battery charger if needed, I am charging at 125A.
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Old 02-25-2018, 01:30 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Moonfish View Post
Are these cheap (<$500) inverters just that, an inverter only? Or are they smart charger/inverters like our Magnum? If it's just the former, I can see going cheap and "rolling the dice". It makes sense, especially for smaller loads. For charging AND inverting purposes, I'm much more comfortable and have way more confidence knowing I have a trustworthy (more expensive!) unit.
My inverter is just that an inverter only, no charger. I have 2 Xantrex chargers that take care of my house batteries (shore or genny) and when I am running the engines they take care of everything.

Yes I have backup to the back up and I am not relying on a single system.
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