The Power Installation Dilemma

The Power Installation Dilemma
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The Power Installation Dilemma:
What To Do, or Not To Do … That is the Question!
By Don Wilson
Many electrical products are channeled to the
end user in one of two primary ways. It is
either sold to and installed by the
manufacturer, or sold to a retailer where an
end user (or service center) purchases it for
aftermarket installation. There are also power
enthusiasts who dare to install themselves.
There are pros and cons to each option, so
how to choose?
How about OEM installations?
Whether you’re dealing with a boat, RV,
commercial truck, utility truck, ambulance, or
even a military vehicle, optioning an inverter
is generally available at the OEM level. One
major benefit of the OEM install is that the
consumer is able to take full advantage of
the manufacturer’s detailed engineering work
that has been built into the production
process. From the electrical supplier offering
applications support, to the OEM’s electrical
engineers specifying the best cable size, to
the design staff ensuring proper
compartment size and cooling, going the
manufacturing route provides a highly
professional, relatively safe, and efficient
installation from concept through
production. In addition, the OEM brings solid
knowledge of the installation, which allows
for outstanding customer support as needed
after the sale. These installations are specified
and part of a process that delivers production
On the challenging side, OEMs sometimes
offer multiple choices e.g. power level, wave
form, charging capability etc. for a power
inverter. The customer is faced with multiple
options to choose from, which requires
knowledge of how the electrical system will
be used, prior to ordering. Those who don’t
know often opt for the “biggest/best”,
which usually translates to higher cost.
What about qualified service centers?
The term “Qualified Installer” always make
me uneasy. I always wonder: “Qualified by
whom?” My wife may ask me to change the
fluids in her car, which infers she has
qualified me as capable of performing this
job. However, does her qualification
guarantee we’re not going to end up with
gear oil in the crankcase? Is she able to
appropriately and accurately qualify my
capabilities to do this job? I took the car to
our dealership and got the job done right.
Case in point, if you need an inverter
installed after the vehicle has been built, it is
imperative that you find a service center that
either has a good reputation, specializes in
inverter installs, or has a stamp of approval
from the vehicle manufacturer -- or better
yet, all three. Make absolutely sure that the
resource you are considering is qualified to
do the work.
Another big surprise: realize that every
service center install differs from the one
before. There may be the temptation by the
crew to use similar components for different
installations. For instance, if you’re having a
3000W inverter installed, and the last vehicle
they worked on had a 2000W inverter, will
they use the left over parts from one, for the
next? What size battery cable is being used?
Will they use the same cable for both
installations, regardless of a difference in
cable lengths? These concerns plague my
mind and my inbox.
has worked in technical
capacities in the automotive,
RV and marine fields and for
the military since 1989 and has
extensive experience in
designing and troubleshooting
onboard electrical systems. A
former customer service
manager dealing with
electronic issues, Wilson
currently serves as
a technical instructor for the
RV industry’s RVIA Trouble
Shooter Clinics and is a
full-time sales application
specialist for Xantrex
Technology Inc.
*Xantrex Technology provides this
technical editorial for reproduction
in your publication. Editorial content
(other than headline) may not be
edited and author byline and brief
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For copies of the original Word
document or an image of
Don Wilson, request via e-mail Mitul
Chandrani, Marketing Manager at
What about the amateur electrician? Can’t I just install it
The first thing I have to say about amateur electrical upgrades
is to refer once again to the ‘gear oil in the crankcase’
scenario. If you plan on doing an inverter installation yourself,
first candidly assess your skills, knowledge and experience.
Where do you stand on a scale of 1-10 as far as proven
qualifications are concerned, and then subtract two points for
safety. If you’re not an 8 or higher, please back away slowly
and put multi-meter down.
In all seriousness, electricity is dangerous! If you’re working on
a 12-volt lighter plug or a 300W inverter for the laptop, well
then knock yourself out! But please … for larger inverters that
require hard-wiring, fusing, voltage-drop calculations, and
knowledge of UL standards and the National Electrical Code
for AC and DC systems, I cannot stress enough how
important it is to get it right the first time. I’ve seen way too
many faulty installations that result in property damage and
injury to be apathetic in this recommendation.
Always, Safety First!
Ultimately, the bottom line is SAFETY.
The OEM install may not be the most cost-friendly, but that
slight increase in cost translates to system insurance for
longer reliability and safety.
The service center/dealer install is acceptable, so long as the
staff is knowledgeable and competent in installing complex
By all means, please totally avoid self-installations unless you
are skilled and knowledgeable about the requirements for
performing these specific types of installations and have
studied the operation/install guide.
Good luck in your next electronics purchase … and may you
make the right choice for you on your installation!
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