MacBook and (solar) power inverters

Discussion in 'MacBook' started by ferret19, Aug 6, 2008.

  1. ferret19 macrumors newbie

    Aug 6, 2008
    Hello everyone,

    I hate to beat a dead horse, but I have a question about power inverters. I did some searching and found a few old threads about power inverters in cars, but none of them really answered my question, so I decided to register and bring it up again.

    My parents-in-law have a small solar/battery system in the kitchen, attached to an 800W Kawasaki modified-sine-wave inverter that they hardly use. I have MacBook that I use all the time, and since it's almost 2 years old I only get about an hour of battery, so it's plugged in most of the time.

    My dad has one of those Kensington cigarette-plug inverters, that I've used to power my computer in the past. Upon closer inspection, the Kensington claims to output a "regulated modified sine wave", whereas the kitchen's Kawasaki (as far as I can tell, at least) is just classified as a "modified sine wave" inverter.

    Is there a difference between "regulated modified" and just "modified", or are they all "regulated"?

    I've been researching online all afternoon, and everyone says "yeah, it should work," but I've yet to find anyone who can actually say, "I own a MacBook, and I've used it with a basic modified sine wave power inverter, and it hasn't caught on fire, or melted, or otherwise been harmed".

    My mother-in-law is afraid to plug her laptop in it, but she doesn't really have any solid reasons for not doing so. Can anyone help?
  2. CanadaRAM macrumors G5


    Oct 11, 2004
    On the Left Coast - Victoria BC Canada
    Regulated means that the voltage will be kept to 110 V +/- a small variance.

    Unregulated means that the voltage is liable to swing up and down over a wider range.

    Your power supply on the computer will auro-range from probably 100V - 240V (read the specs off the power supply itself) so this shouldn't be too much of an issue. Of course, if the power source is dirty, with lots of noise, surges and spikes, it's liable to reduce the lifespan of equipment plugged into it, and it may introduce artifacts like audio noise, or unexplained crashing if the power supply of the computer isn't sufficient to filter it out.

    Further than that, you're probably not going to get anyone who can say with any certainty.
  3. techound1 macrumors 68000


    Mar 3, 2006
    Put a power condition between the power source and the laptop. I've run sensitive electronic equipment (mucho expensive theater light boards) on them, had a power outage and consequent building generator kick in and run, with no damage to the equipment.

    From wikipedia:

    A power conditioner (also known as a line conditioner or power line conditioner) is a device intended to improve the “quality” of the power (see power quality) that is delivered to electrical load equipment. While there is no official definition of a power conditioner, the term most often refers to a device that acts in one or more ways to deliver a voltage of the proper level and characteristics to enable load equipment to function properly. In some usages, “power conditioner” refers to a voltage regulator with at least one other function to improve power quality (e.g. noise suppression, transient impulse protection, etc.).
  4. ferret19 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 6, 2008
    A power conditioner is a good idea; I'll look into that.

    I'm also going to try to find a volt meter to see how steady the inverter's output is. Since it's running off a battery, I would imagine it's getting a pretty stable input, so any weirdness would have to be caused by the inverter itself.

    If the power brick can handle 110-240 (although it prefers a stable current in that range), if it dips below 110, would it just stop working, like tripping on the power cord then plugging it back in, or will it try to draw more current to make up the difference and burn out/blow a fuse?

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