By on March 17, 2017

Energizer EN180 Compact Power Inverter

Even if your car is equipped with a built-in power port or two, it may not have enough outlets to support all the electronic devices and habits of you and yours, or said ports may be inconveniently located or accessed. Maybe you want a configuration your car doesn’t have, like a 120V outlet to power a laptop or portable DVD player. Or maybe whatever ports your car has just haven’t been quite right since that last Big Gulp incident.

If any of these scenarios is the case, a power inverter can be the solution. Depending on the make and model you choose, an inverter can give you the versatility to power several devices at once, juice up your laptop or other electronic device, or provide more power and quicker charging than built-in ports in your car. And with prices starting at less than $50, inverters are affordable enough to make sense for almost any budget.

This series details some technological features you can add to your old ride to make it on par with new OEM offerings. We’ll take you through what products are available, how they work, and what they cost. We’re starting with nine products available from the automotive aftermarket provided by our sponsor eBay, who has also graciously offered up three $500 gift cards. We’ve independently made our product choices based on ease of DIY installation, popularity, favorable reviews from other sources and users, and brand recognition with websites and readily available customer support.

Oh, and we’re installing all these upgrades on a 1999 Acura TL with 152,000 miles.

After covering phone mounts with the iOttie Easy One Touch 2 and Bluetooth speakerphone kits by digging into the Motorola Sonic Rider, now it’s time to power your devices with a compact power inverter, the Energizer EN180.

Energizer EN180 Compact Power Inverter

We looked at the Energizer EN180, which is fairly typical of what’s available in basic inverters. Priced starting at $34.99 on eBay, it has one 120V receptacle, and four — count ‘em four — 2.1 Amp USB ports. Sized to fit in a cupholder, the EN180 comes with one power cord designed to fit in a conventional 12V outlet, and another with alligator clips for clamping onto your car battery.

The manufacturer says the EN180 is capable of powering devices that require up to 180 watts, hence its name. To put that in perspective, most laptops require anywhere from around 25 to 90 watts. A portable DVD player is in the same general range. But keep in mind, the EN180 might not be the best choice if you want to run two high-draw devices at the same time. A rule of thumb is to choose an inverter with 50 percent more total capacity than you need to allow for power fluctuations and heavier demand at startup.

Just for the record, caffeine junkies should know that bringing your coffee maker along for the ride will need around 800 watts to make four cups of joe. If your old heap’s A/C is on the fritz, expect a single room air conditioner to run anywhere from 500-1500 watts. But if you choose to make that particular update, you’re on your own.

Energizer EN180 Compact Power Inverter

Obviously, you’ll want to define your electrical needs before selecting any power inverter, so check the owner’s manual or manufacturer website for any device you want to bring along. And give some thought to the welfare of your car battery and electrical system while you’re at it. Draw too much juice, and you run the risk of draining or damaging the battery, particularly if for some inexplicable reason you choose to watch movies in a parked car for an extended period. For this reason, Energizer suggests starting the car every hour or two to give the battery a boost if you use it with the engine off. If you fail to do that, the device will automatically shut itself down to avoid draining the battery. At that point, the energizer’s LED power indicator will switch from its normal “everything is ok” blue, to alternating continuously from blue to red.

We had no complaints in our time with the EN180, and found it more than up to our relatively modest tasks of keeping two phones and a laptop charged and ready to go. The device includes an internal cooling fan that switches on as needed under load, but remains quiet and unobtrusive. If anything goes wrong, it’s covered by a two-year limited warranty. Presumably, that doesn’t include any Big Gulp incidents.

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18 Comments on “The 18-Year-Old Auto Upgrade: Power Inverter – Energizer EN180...”


  • avatar
    caltemus

    Make sure to check the maximum allowed wattage for the 12v adapter in your car. Often they are only rated for 150 watts, due to the thickness of the wire between the jack and the cars battery. Typically the door or some marking near the outlet will say the maximum wattage.

  • avatar
    spookiness

    If I was to do this I’d probably hard wire it and add a switch. In my 2000 Protege I added 2 additional 12v sockets. One in the side of the center console, and another in the rear facing the rear seats. Very handy to have.

  • avatar
    ajla

    These inverters always blow fuses in my old cars. It seems like if your vehicle was built before the cellphone era then the 12v port isn’t strong enough to to do anything but heat up the cigarette lighter.

  • avatar
    55_wrench

    2001-2004 Avalon had a 110v socket wired into the rear of the console. Fantastic for the long commutes I used to have to endure.

  • avatar
    Pesky Varmint

    Positively electrifying!

    Oops, alternating current electrifying!

  • avatar
    deanst

    Yet another website with “sponsored post” hidden among the real content. I’m beginning to miss the exciting early days of the Internet.

  • avatar
    srh

    I get that this is a sponsored post. But I think it would be great if it had a little more content than “Here’s a link to a crappy inverter that you can drop in a cupholder”. Anybody can search on Amazon and achieve the same result.

    Instead of a series of posts that is going to result in a bunch of plastic stuff and cords strewn all around an old Acura, it would be interesting, useful, and still let your sponsor pay you money if you installed things in a manner that the car doesn’t look like a hooptie with bluetooth.

    For example, this “Energizer” (hah) inverter. Why not instead show how to do a stealth mount of a better quality inverter? Instead of a ploy to get sponsor dollars, that would actually be useful content that is relevant to a car site.

  • avatar
    whitworth

    I guess I just don’t really see the need for these at least when it comes to “regular” cars. About the only thing I can see it working for is a laptop, and even then I could see issues. I’ve blown a fuse on something as small as a fan on the 12v lighter port. Very little power can be drawn this way.

  • avatar
    heliotropic

    The in-use picture conveniently leaves out the connection to 12v port. With it in it would awkwardly sit above the cupholder.

    Is that even a picture of it in a 1999 TL? Do you have the product in hand? Some “review.”

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    I have a similar inverter I bought from Canadian Tire. One just needs to wait for a big sale and then they are dirt cheap.
    They come in handy since both my sons and wife have devices to plug in on long trips and my truck has just 1 USB plug and 2 accessory “lighter” plugs.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    You mentioned running a window A/C in the car. That reminds me of what me and a few guys engineered for then Mayor Bloomberg of NYC. See, he passed an anti idling ordinance. When you do such things you are expected to comply with your own laws. Eating your own dog food if you will. So the police that drove him around were forbidden from leaving the black Suburbans idling with the air on. ‘Burbs were not available as hybrids (Tahoes only) so the police would sweat in the vehicles while waiting for Hizzzoner to leave City Hall. Naturally he would often be delayed getting out of the building so the cops were very unhappy. I had an idea of using a window air conditioner mounted to a plasma TV rolling stand that could be rolled up to the side window to cool the car without running the engine. The trade guys took my drawings and mounted the air conditioner to the stand and made a flexible connection that fit the window frame. A bit of black spray paint to make it less conspicuous and we were done. The very first day it was used the NY Post snapped a photo of it and published it on the cover. I saw the paper at the deli when I bought my breakfast. The paper blamed the Mayor for not wanting to be hot, but in reality it was the police who did not want to be sweaty. Kind of cool seeing my creation on the front page of a major newspaper even it was the horrible Post.

  • avatar
    ACCvsBig10

    4runner has a 400watt ac power outlet

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    I do wish I had gotten the built in inverter on my F150

  • avatar
    yankinwaoz

    Keep in mind that inexpensive inverters like this produce modified sign wave AC power. Not pure sine-wave power. Not all AC powered equipment works well with this “choppy” AC. Some equipment may even get damaged.

    For example, the chargers power tools need a pure-sine wave AC. These modified-since inverters can damage them.

    Also… running AC electric motors for long periods off a modified sine wave will result in overheating and damage to the motor.

    Here is a good explanation.
    http://www.samlexamerica.com/support/faqs/faq02.aspx

    AC to DC adapters, like the ones you use for your computer/phone electronics can usually tolerate modified sine wave AC.

    Another thing. Keep in mind that multiple cigarette plugs may all be on the same circuit in your car. So you need to consider the entire load on the circuit. Plug in in this inverter, then having others plug in DC chargers on other outlets at the same time, may overload it.


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