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Homebuilt portable AC power supply
Old 05-13-2005, 08:05 PM   #1 (permalink)
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I'm thinking about building a portable AC power supply for studio lights on location. Deep cycle battery, power inverter, ground rod and carry bag. Anyone done anything like that and lived to tell about it?
Inquiring minds want to know. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/cool.gif[/img]
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Re: Homebuilt portable AC power supply
Old 05-13-2005, 09:24 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I knew a guy who used a Honda AC Generator mounted on his van.
I think he's still alive but have not talked in over 10 years.
EL
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Re: Homebuilt portable AC power supply
Old 05-13-2005, 09:38 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I was thinking about building one but once I realize how much time to find the components then put it together and test. then pray that it works. I probably would only save about $120 bucks and probably wouldn't look as clean. So I will wait until the components come down in price or pick one up from Alien Bee
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Re: Homebuilt portable AC power supply
Old 05-13-2005, 10:35 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I went to Best Buy and bought one of those computer power supplies that is supposed to keep your computer running on battery power in the event of a power outage.

It's a rectangle, about a foot long, and about 8 inches square. I put it on a cheap "dolly" (you know, for like moving a file cabinet, or like the UPS man drags packages around on) and then used a bogen superclamp up near the top to mount the light on. A couple of bungy cords hold the power supply in place, and since it has wheels on it, I can move it around with ease, the weight of the power supply keeps it standing upright and the dolly is about 4 feet hight so I don't need a light stand.

I had some concerns because various people have discussed whether such devices put out perfect "sine" waves and of course the manufactures always suggest not using ANYTHING that didn't come from them.

But I figure if they sell millions of them a year and it doesnt ruin a computer or monitor, I don't see how it could hurt my flash.

So far it hasn't.

I get a couple hundred flashes on a charge, and the recylce time is about the same as any other battery operated system I have seen.

Mark
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Re: Homebuilt portable AC power supply
Old 05-13-2005, 11:00 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Can you describe a little bit more detail about the UPS. Normally those thing only operate for a few minutes. (hmmm, guess the lights don't drain any power once charged).

also what type of lights are you using
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Re: Homebuilt portable AC power supply
Old 05-13-2005, 11:49 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Try Costco. They have a new power supply with a 2 plug inverter built in. Nicely set up package. And you can jump start your car.

Chucker [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]
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Re: Homebuilt portable AC power supply
Old 05-14-2005, 10:26 AM   #7 (permalink)
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I have done this several times with several different inverters. The difference between true sine inverters and modified sine wave inverters is that modified sine wave inverters don't reach the peak voltage of true sine waves. The peak voltage of the 120 volts that comes out of the wall socket is about 170 volts. If you are using a power pack or monolight that uses a voltage tripler or transformer power supply, it won't charge to full voltage. Therefore, you will not get full power from the strobe. Cheap monolights like Medalights and the older Norman power packs are examples of this. Newer power packs and monolights use switching power supplies and will reach peak voltage and full power. The possible drawback is that they may take longer to recycle and may run hotter. True sine wave inverters don't cause any problems with electronics and this is why they are commonly found on ambulances and in solar voltaic power systems.

One thing that is very important to remember is that strobes don't use any power until they fire and then they use a whole bunch of power in a very short time. If the inverter isn't big enough, you may see blown fuses, low voltage and other problems. The Alien Bee / White lightning power pack is made for this service and their lights are compatible with them. Modeling lights consume power all of the time that they are on. If you want to preserve your battery, turn the modeling lights off. Modeling lights don't care if the power is true or modified.

I have one setup that I have used with a Norman 400 Watt Second monolight and it appears to work fine at full power. It uses a no name true sine inverter that I got from www.mpja.com. The inverter is rated at 300 watts. Adorama has a 300 watt true sine inverter that isn't terribly expensive. You can normally expect the good ones to cost at least a dollar per watt. I also have a 300 watt modified sine wave inverter mounted with two gel cell batteries from an electric bicycle. I have used this inverter to run a little Stanley blower and two twin tube shop lights with 40 watt Chroma 50 bulbs. I don't think that it would run four of the shop lights in a ring configuration. Most newer fluorescent lights and compact fluorescent bulbs use electronic ballasts instead of the heavy iron transformer types. This may or may not be an advantage. I have stopped buying the cheap shop lights because the ballasts burn out before the lamps do. You will notice that many things are noisier when run on an inverter. That is because the inverter switches on and off many times per cycle. This can cause problems with AC motors unless they are designed for inverter duty. Try not to run these things very long so they don't overheat.

For batteries, trolling motor and wheel chair batteries are good. They are made for long cycles of discharge. Big gel cells are also good. You don't have to worry about tipping them over and having battery acid run out. These batteries aren't cheap. They are also heavy. You can use automotive batteries, but they won't last long.

Generators shouldn't cause problems, but some do. I have had electronics that wouldn't work right on newer, supposedly clean sine wave generators. There is no good way to tell except to try them.

I'm not trying to overwhelm you with information, but this is stuff you need to know if you don't want to burn up an expensive power pack with a cheap inverter.

Bill
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