The AIMS Power 3000 Watt Inverter/Charger

I’ve been having fun with this AIMS Power PWRIC300012W while pretending to be productive here at the office for the last couple of days.

Franklin from IndoorGenerator sent this unit over for me to play with, and I’ve found it to be very good. The unit combines a 3000 watt modified sine wave power inverter, automatic transfer switch, and 30 amp smart charger all in one nice, compact, lightweight package.

Yesterday I beat the holy splunge out of it with various test loads including a portable air conditioner and large 1/3 horsepower AC motor, and ran it at 2.8KW output for the better part of an hour. It barely even got warm to the touch.

From my testing, I found that the inverter only has two weaknesses to it.

First, like any high frequency switching type inverter, it can sometimes run out of power and turn off suddenly while trying to start loads with a large inrush current. This includes large halogen/incandescent lights, large motors, and compressors. If you’re starting such a beast off a switching inverter, it should be the first thing to be turned on, and any other loads should be removed before attempting to restart the large motor/light.

Charger board - J1 and mysterious green LED near center

Second, the transfer switch isn’t instantaneous. The power goes off for about a second during the transfer from battery to AC or AC to battery.

A very useful little LED meter is present on the end of the unit next to the outlets. By pressing the button next to it you can select whether to view the battery voltage, DC input amperage, or AC output wattage in Kw. While AC power is present and the unit is charging the batteries, the output Kw and DC amperage both show as zero. I would have liked to have a DC current measurement visible during charge like the Xantrex TR series provides, but I’m not gonna complain much about it.

When the inverter goes into overload, the LED display on the end shows “E01″. I also managed to get the inverter to glitch a couple of times – weird things happened like the battery voltage reading coming back as ” 0.4″, or the inverter shut down and showed “Err”. Both of these problems went away as soon as I replaced a 1 AWG battery cable in the test setup which was becoming stinky hot! Oops. Too much voltage drop!

As the inverter begins to get near maximum power output, the peak to peak voltage begins to fall a bit. The unit compensates by shortening the 0-volt pauses on each cycle to maintain 120Vrms through manipulation of the duty cycle. Lights will not change brightness, but some AC induction motors may become weak as the wave approaches being a 120V peak to peak square wave. I noticed this only after applying around 2.7KW of load. The Daewoo portable air conditioner I was running did not show any problems with this, but a large industrial fan (of doom) began to slow down a little.

The charger is rated at 30 amps output. I clocked it at 33-34. It is, interestingly, built on its own board inside the top of the unit. This is a lot different than the charge system in the Xantrex Freedom series units I’m used to refurbishing, on which the same (massive) transformer and transistors are used to convert and regulate the current for charging. The internal 3-stage charger works fine on flooded cell batteries, but the absorption voltage got too high for a gel battery. I measured 14.82VDC. This may be in range for AGM batteries, however — check your battery manufacturer’s recommendations!

Today, I popped the top off and started looking around inside.

The build quality is very nice. It appears that the lower board is in charge of converting 12VDC to 170VDC. The board at upper right contains the AC transfer circuitry, a current sense transformer, and an H-bridge to chop the 170VDC into modified sine wave. The board at upper left is the charger.

The charger board has a jumper (JP1) located on it. Removing JP1 and turning on the charger activates equalize mode (about 15.3VDC). The small green LED located near JP1 comes on when the charger is in absorption or equalize mode. Unfortunately, significant disassembly of the unit is needed to access JP1, and activating any function of the unit while it’s open like this will expose lethal voltages to the user… so let’s just say that until a switch is brought out to the end panel of the unit, this feature is not Ready For Prime Time. AIMS didn’t even know the jumper was there! I only figured this out as I tried toggling the jumper to see if it was there to reduce the voltages for use with gel batteries.

The cooling fans at the end of the unit run whenever the charger is active, and otherwise… very rarely. It barely gets warm at all while in invert. All of the transistors that have any significant amount of current across them are heatsinked to the extruded, finned alumimum chassis. This is a design borrowed from high power car audio amplifiers, which have to put up with being wedged in all sorts of weird ways into hot car trunks with little air circulation.

My final verdict: If you’re looking for a good low-cost, lightweight modified sine wave inverter/charger, this is probably just what you’re looking for. If you’re running any large motor loads, however, be prepared to go over and reset the inverter when they fail to start.

H-bridge and AC transfer board

If the cost and weight aren’t that much of an issue, I’d step up the Xantrex Freedom or Xantrex TR series; they cope with starting large motor loads by just throwing everything they’ve got at it, current limited only by the inductance of the transformer. The motor makes hilarious sounds and the inverter output voltage dips during the ordeal, but it’ll start the motor, whereas a lightweight switchmode inverter like this will just go “Noooo! OVERLOAD! Now you get to come over here and reset me! HA HA!” Plus, the Freedom and TR have a much stronger charger.

18 comments

  1. Dear Friend,
    I just got my Aims 3000watt inverter/Charger and it’s great as you say my only concern is the charger went up to 30.2 volts and did not stop my 2,225ah batteries were hot so I got concerned and turned off the power supply,is this normal?
    kingkenute@hotmail.com

    1. Is that on a 12 or 24 volt system? If it was 12, NO! The charger cooked your batteries!! If it was a 24v system that’s still too high but the batteries are probably still OK.

  2. hi can you tell me can ,i use any sort of power inverter on a solar set up,which i have two battery’s on to run little items like 12 DC hot mug TV or is an inverter for use drill solar different could you please help gene

    1. You can use an inverter to power your AC appliances such as a drill. For a drill, you’d proabably want at least an 800 watt inverter to be able to handle the starting current.

    1. It certainly is. How skilled are you at designing and building electronic circuits though? What kind of output wattage do you have in mind?

      1. Well, I am thinking about 1,2,3,5 KW; and they need to be heavy duty ones. So do you still think it is possible ?

  3. DEar Seller I have a AIMS power 5000w and the board AD-5001-A1 is Burned you have a parts for this power to change this board!please reply asap
    thank you

  4. Just installed an Aims 4000w inverter in van. Hooked up to 4-225 amp sealed cell batteries and 120 v shore power. Fired up inverter – checked ac input voltage on terminals: they read 120v. Checked output voltage terminals: they read 0 voltage. Checked battery terminals on inverter: they read 13.4 volts. Cycled unit: Still no ac output from inverter. Checked 120v shore power at inverter terminals: read 120v. Still no ac output from inverter. Removed battery cables from inverter and reinstalled: small spark at terminal when reinstalled. Still no ac output. Removed negative battery lead from inverter and reinstalled it: BIG spark from terminal. Terminated trouble shooting. Any ideas?

    1. The spark isn’t abnormal, that’s the drained capacitors suddenly recharging and drawing big ol’ amps. I often use a light bulb in series to allow a gentle charge before connection.

      Unfortunately I suspect your inverter is a dud. Kaput. Pining for the fjords.

      You could open it and check for any burned parts but I suspect you just got a dud. It happens; with modern globalized electronics manufacturing, the end user is pretty much the quality control.

  5. Hello buddy my inverter is not puting out any voltage when I hook to my battery but only when I hook it to the grid I have the aims 12v 3000watts inverter charger mof one

  6. Hi I have an AIms inverter/charger and my tv ,internet modem always go off during the transfer from AC to DC . Is there anyway to speed ? If no can someone with sufficient skill install a different relay on it. Xantrex transfer time is perfect ,is it possible to install xantrex relay on it ? Thx

    1. I don’t think there’s any very easy way to speed up the transfer. As inefficient and silly as this may be, you may want to just connect those devices via a small UPS. It’s only gotta last two seconds or so.

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