Power where there is none: a mobile AC outlet | AspenTimes.com

Power where there is none: a mobile AC outlet

Paul Conrad

Features: Two 120 VAC outlets, low car battery voltage alarm with automatic shut-off, cooling fan and easy to use.Advantages: 120 volts AC anytime, anywhere. Disadvantages: Can drain your car battery if you forget about it in the boonies.Cost: $36.88

Two laptops and two digital camera batteries. How could we keep them charged in an area where Internet service is spotty and electricity is as rare as a white bison? Our only known sources of power were the 12-volt plugs in our rented SUV.It was the biggest concern that reporter Scott Condon and I had while traveling to the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast region on assignment for The Aspen Times. Calling in without a story or photos was not an option.

After flying to Pensacola, Fla., we stopped by the local Wal-Mart to shop for basic necessities, including some type of power source to run off the 12-volt plug. The packages boasted, “For your computer, TV, radio,” etc., but all I wanted to know was the power rating. As a U.S. Navy electrician with another two years in the private sector, I knew that the higher the power rating, the more equipment you can use. Within reason.I bought one with a rating of 200 watts at 120 volts AC that was fan-cooled and had two outlets. If we can charge a computer and a camera battery at the same time, then maybe we’ve killed two birds with one stone.The first test was our third morning. One of my camera batteries had died overnight, but I was able to charge it in about an hour while driving to Pearlington, Miss. The next day, Scott was able to power his computer and write a story while parked in Pearlington. With two outlets on the unit, I could plug in my computer and download photos from my camera, and Scott could write a story at the same time. Later, while I was driving to Biloxi, some 50 miles away, he continued writing. No problems.

Overall, the unit worked perfectly and gave us comfort, knowing we didn’t need to find a live electrical outlet. Many of the photos in this edition were downloaded and stored using the PowerLine mobile outlet.