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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Recently a storm took out our power for about 15+ hours (other folks nearby had it worse with no power for a couple of days). Short version, my Bolt and an inverter saved the day. Here's the long version:

When the power had been out a couple of hours, I headed to the garage and took out something that had been waiting for an emergency like this, a 1100 watt 12V power inverter, specifically this one:

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I'd bought it for $85 before tax back in 2018 after an outage. Unsure if I'd ever use it, I'd cut a few corners, saving about $100 by choosing a “modified sine-wave” inverter rather than the gold-standard “pure sine-wave” inverter. I know that electric motors (like those in the compressor of a refrigerator) prefer a pure sine-wave, but also that they should “probably be okay” with a modified sine-wave one.

Something else I liked about this inverter was that it came with crocodile clamps to attach to the battery, which seemed easier than anything else.

But, although I'd tested it briefly with a 12v supply to ensure it worked, I'd never hooked it up to my Bolt or my fridge. But now it was going to be put to the test!

After double-checking some other posts on this forum, I did these steps:
  1. I popped the hood of the Bolt (leaving the car off).
  2. I found something insulating I could put the inverter on without interfering with anything else in the car, and set the inverter on top (note that what I picked worked fine for me, but you should choose something more secure).
  3. I hooked up the inverter (with it switched off). I connected positive first, then negative. Possibly I could/should have hooked the negative up to the frame of the car rather than the battery. When the negative lead touched the battery, there was a noticeable spark even though the inverter was off (!).
  4. I then powered on the car, put it into neutral (with the parking brake on) and exited through the passenger side (because you cannot exit from the driver's door with the car in neutral, it goes into Park if you do, and the car will switch off after some amount of time in Park). Possibly I could have used “car-wash” mode instead, which might have been easier.
  5. I also turned down the radio until it muted and then powered off the infotainment screen (these are separate—you need to do both!)
  6. I plugged in an extension cable, which we'd run from our outdoor garage to the kitchen (thankfully it was long enough!). I made sure there was no way the cable could get tugged and try to pull the inverter from its position.
  7. I powered on the inverter. It seemed happy.
  8. My spouse then plugged in the fridge while I watched in the garage. The surge current from the motor caused the inverter to briefly squeal its overload alarm but only for a moment. It settled down to drawing a modest 150–185W.
  9. I checked on things every once in a while (only ever opening the passenger door of the car). The car ran happily for the entire 13.5 hours that it powered the fridge.

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Overall, it all worked. One thing that surprised me a bit was that when the fridge was off and the inverter was drawing very minimal current, sometimes it showed the battery voltage as only 12.5 volts, which seems to indicate to me that the Bolt's power converter doesn't run full time, or perhaps doesn't direct power to the battery full time.

Also, the low-speed noise-maker ran the entire time, and I could also hear some very quiet gurgling of fluid circulating, which I think (given that the location seemed to be righthand side rather than the lefthand side) was the sound of circulating oil for the transmission.

When it was done, I'd drawn 5.0 kWh from the battery. Interestingly, it trashed my efficiency on the dash (dropping it from 4.7 to 4.0) but the GOM's estimate of my remaining miles did not suddenly become pessimistic, so obviously it uses a different efficiency metric from the one displayed on the dash.

But yeah, it worked. Not something I'm eager to repeat, but in terms of something to have for an emergency, it was a winner. Other folks I know who live locally lost all their perishable/frozen food.
 

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.One thing that surprised me a bit was that when the fridge was off and the inverter was drawing very minimal current, sometimes it showed the battery voltage as only 12.5 volts, which seems to indicate to me that the Bolt's power converter doesn't run full time, or perhaps doesn't direct power to the battery full time


Also, the low-speed noise-maker ran the entire time,


and I could also hear some very quiet gurgling of fluid circulating, which I think (given that the location seemed to be righthand side rather than the lefthand side) was the sound of circulating oil for the transmission.
Correct.

Pull fuse #34 under the hood.

Nope. Battery heater, or maybe cabin heater. Did you turn off Auto defog, and HVAC?
 

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We can hope for the V2X next from inexpensive EV's and not just $80K trucks.

I have a few of those that I bought way back when they were expensive.
Pretty happy with them. I'd prefer a 3000W pure sine next. They make drills run so nice.
 

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Please excuse the stupid question from the dumb old man, but do you have to throw the main circuit breaker before you hook up the inverter to the home?

Do you just plug the extension cord into the 120 volt garage outlet?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Please excuse the stupid question from the dumb old man, but do you have to throw the main circuit breaker before you hook up the inverter to the home?
The house/garage outlets remained unpowered. I plugged a power strip into the (long, heavy duty) extension cord, and the fridge into that.

Do you just plug the extension cord into the 120 volt garage outlet?
I’m not sure what you’re suggesting, but if you were wondering if I used what’s known as a “suicide cable”, no. No one should do that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I see. So people who use inverters are powering only particular devices, not an entire home?
Small inverters and small generators can’t power a whole house. At 1100 watts, mine can’t even run my toaster oven.

Big whole-house generators are wired to the electrical panel and have a transfer switch at the main breaker, so you can either have grid power or your own, but not both.

Solar power systems have big inverters and can feed power back to the grid but they’re even more complex.
 

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I have the Giandel 2200W pure sine wave inverter. I had the cheap, Harbor Freight modified square wave inverter home first but my microwave hated that wave form and complained with a loud, growling noise. I also have 2 150 W solar panels facing out a window, charging 2 100 Ah car batteries I brought home from work.
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I have the Giandel 2200W pure sine wave inverter. I had the cheap, Harbor Freight modified square wave inverter home first but my microwave hated that wave form and complained with a loud, growling noise. I also have 2 150 W solar panels facing out a window, charging 2 100 Ah car batteries I brought home from work.
Yeah, that Giandel 2200W pure sine wave inverter looks nice, and you absolutely need a pure sine-wave inverter to run a microwave (with the possible exception of a Panasonic Inverter microwave which work differently).

But on the other hand it's $320, more than 3.5x what I paid for mine. And the Bolt can only really provide 1000W anyway, if you pull more than that, at best you'll be draining the 12V battery.
 

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I see. So people who use inverters are powering only particular devices, not an entire home?
It can power quite a bit but the 12V battery is too small to even temporarily power anything much over 1500W. The voltage sag is just too great. My 4000W inverter goes into low voltage protection mode long before it maxes out the rated output of the inverter.
 

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In the PNW, especially in my part of town (lots of trees) we frequently have power outages. This method of using an inverter connected to the 12v supply on the Bolt rocks.
Inverter to power strip and wires to lights around the house. Also the fridge/freezer. And the best part, it runs the fan of my gas furnace too.
Managed to keep this setup running for about 3 days. Could have gone nearly a week if we needed to.
 

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Yes, it's a great thing.

 

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Very cool! Supposed to be a major storm coming though the area starting this evening. I already have a nice inverter too. Hope we don't need it but it's good to know.

Would be better if the Bolt could bi-directional charger but this will work in a pinch.
 
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