If you find yourself in the middle of a power outage, the best way to pass the time is with some entertainment. What if your entertainment comes in the form of a PS4 that requires about 134 watts to operate?
You know your car battery can power things with an inverter and start to wonder just how long that hunk of lead and acid can power your gaming console.
There’s definitely a possible danger if you run your PS4 a certain way and I’ll cover that below, but the quick and easy answer looks something like this:
A standard 50AH equivalent car battery can power a PS4 for about 2 hours until fully discharged if you are gaming or about 2.5 hours if you’re streaming. This all assumes the same car battery is also powering a 75-watt TV, a modem and router. With the car’s engine at idle, a PS4 will run for as long as you have gas.
Let’s dive into how to power your PS4 with a car battery, how long to expect it to last, whether a car battery is ideal for the task, and a hidden danger that you could easily overlook.
How to Power Your PS4 with Your Car Battery and How Long to Expect
The process of powering your PS4 from a car battery (or any 12-volt battery for that matter) is fairly straightforward. You will need an inverter to switch the DC (Direct current) power from the battery into AC (alternating current) power for the PS4’s power cable to use.
With the car running, or if you remove the battery and take it inside, you’ll need to connect the red lead of the inverter to the positive terminal on your battery and then the black lead from the inverter to the negative terminal.
From there, power up the inverter with the on/off switch or button, and then plug your devices into the inverter.
Just make sure that your inverter is rated high enough for the load that you will be placing on it. 400 watts minimum is recommended for the example below.
What is that load, exactly?
Well, according to this website, a PS4 uses 134 watts when gaming and 89 watts when streaming. This seems reasonable since the maximum power rating according to PlayStation on a PS4 is 165watts.
We can’t do much with the PS4 without a TV, and I’m assuming that you’ll be powering that as well with your car battery. TV’s have a wide range of wattage requirements, but I’m going to go with 75 watts which isn’t too big and it isn’t too small. I’ll be showing the math below, so you can substitute your particular TV’s numbers for a more accurate estimate.
I’m also assuming in this scenario that you’ll be powering your modem and router as well (no guarantee that they’ll work in a power outage, but they might). Together, these will combine to be about 20 watts.
Now, most car batteries are rated with CCA or CA (cold cranking amps/ cranking amps) and not AH (amp hours). However, based on charging times and other data, it can be assumed that a typical car battery will have around a 50AH equivalency. An SUV battery might be around 70AH. I’m just going to stick with 50AH for this example.
We also have to consider the inefficiency factor of your power inverter. Most inverters will have a 10-15% inefficiency rating. I’ll go with 10% to be generous in this example.
Finally, it is best to take into account Peukert’s Law, especially since we will be using a high number of amps relative to the overall AH equivalency of the battery.
Peukert’s Law basically says that a battery is given a rating in a lab when discharged at a certain time and that if you draw less than that amount then you’ll actually get more time out of your battery. Conversely, if you draw more from your battery at a given time than it was rated for, then you will see considerably less time than the advertised rating.
It’s a little confusing, so here’s a quick example. Most deep-cycle, and some car batteries are rated at the 20 hour rate. If you have a 50AH car battery, you should be able use 2.5 amps for 20 hours since 20*2.5=50. According to Peukert, if you only use 1 amp you should actually get more than the 50AH that it was rated for, maybe 60 hours or so. Conversely, if you were to use 20 amps, you might might only get 1.5 hours.
The Math for Running a PS4 from Your Car Battery (without the engine running)
Remember: Amps * Volts = Watts, and a car battery is 12-volts and we’re assuming a 20 hour rating at a 50AH equivalency
75 watt TV = 6.25 Amps (75watts / 12-volts = 6.25 amps)
PS4: 134 watts when gaming (11.17 amps) or 89 watts when streaming (7.42 amps)
Modem and Router: 20 watts total for 1.67 amps
Peukert constant: 1.1 (for this example to be generous)
Peukert’s formula: Time rating of battery (AH of battery / (amps drawn * time rating of battery) )^(1.1)
Total amps when gaming: 6.25 + 11.17 + 1.67 = 19.09 –> 19.09 / 0.9 = 21.21 to account for the 10% inefficiency of the inverter.
Total amps when streaming: 6.25 + 7.42 + 1.67 = 15.34 –> 15.34 / 0.9 = 17.04 to account for the 10% inefficiency of the inverter.
Results for Gaming:
20(50 / (21.21*20))^(1.1) = 1.9 Hours until fully discharged. Cut that time at least in half if you even want a chance at starting your car again.
Results for Streaming:
20(50 / (17.04*20))^(1.1) = 2.42 Hours until fully discharged. Cut that time at least in half if you even want a chance at starting your car again.
Results for Either when Running the Vehicle at Idle:
In this case, you’ll only be limited by the amount of fuel that you have on hand. With your inverter connected to the battery, the engine will allow the alternator to keep supplying your battery and you with all the power that you’ll need for this particular setup.
Is a Car Battery Ideal for Powering your PS4?
If you run your PS4 from your car battery while the engine is running then you will essentially be powering everything from your alternator and your car will become a mini generator. Your battery should be just fine.
If however, you want to use just the stored capacity in the battery, be aware that a car battery is a “starter battery” and not a “deep-cycle” battery. Heavily discharging it below 50% will shorten its lifespan considerably and you’ll only be able to do that about 10-20 times if you’re lucky before your battery will die.
If you’re looking to use battery power alone, I recommend deep-cycle batteries. I have 2 golf cart batteries which provide me with 215AH. If you want to see my tutorial on how to set up this system, you can check it out here.
Hidden Danger of Powering Your PS4 with Your Car Battery (Inverter Type)
The final thing to be aware of is that your choice of an inverter can make or break your setup. Inverters come in two types: pure sine wave, and modified sine wave.
Most inverters in big box stores will carry modified sine wave. These are cheaper by 3-4 times when compared to their equivalent counterpart, but they deliver a choppy wave of power to your appliances. Things like a fan, or a lightbulb won’t care about this but items with microprocessors like TV’s and PS4’s certainly do.
There is no guarantee that a modified sine wave inverter will damage your TV or PS4, but the possibility exists. You’ll likely hear sound issues though as the modified sine waves will affect the harmonics. I hear a high pitch noise until I turn the volume up loud enough to drown it out when I use a modified sine wave inverter.
If I was sticking to using the battery and inverter option, I would select this inverter from Amazon for the setup that we mentioned above. It’s a pure sine wave inverter and is affordable.
However, I would recommend (if you are able to do it), at least purchasing a small, 20lb inverter generator for the job. They are affordable, very quiet, and can run for 8-12 hours on a gallon of gasoline. That’s a lot of gaming if you have a 5-gallon gas can on hand!
For the money, this model on Amazon a great option to have on hand.
It might be tempting to buy a super cheap inverter generator since you’ll only get so many kilowatts out of it, but from my experience of repairing generators over the years, the cheap ones ($100-$250) typically die relatively quickly due to poor construction and materials. They are also harder to service if something does go wrong and replacement parts are not readily available.