An inverter is an electrical device that converts DC (direct current) from solar panels or batteries into AC (alternating current) that can be used to power common household appliances (such as fridges or ovens).
An inverter is also called a ‘standalone device as it has its own independent power source and doesn’t rely on the main electrical grid to function. An inverter with battery storage is known as a hybrid solar inverter.
It stores excess electricity generated by the solar panels during daylight hours in a battery and then releases the stored energy at night when there isn’t sufficient sunlight to generate more electricity.
Inverters are often used in rural areas, areas with power blackouts, or mobile vehicles such as boats and RV’s. An inverter makes sure that it is possible to use electricity in even these situations. Electricity powers a lot of things in our everyday life. From a TV to a water heater. All of these offer modern comforts but require quite a lot of electricity. They are also found in most electric cars.
We can expect that they will become more popular in the coming years as electric devices become more important.
How does an inverter work?
The process of converting DC (direct current) into AC (alternating current) is quite straightforward. An inverter’s circuitry includes a series of resistors that transform the DC power into AC power that’s safe for use in a home.
Copper is used in these resistors. These contain electrons that power our devices. To do this, they have to move in the same direction. If we connect the positive and negative sides of a battery, there is a current that pushes the electrons in the desired direction. This allows us to power up our devices.
Batteries and solar power use DC electricity. This means that the electrons flow in just one direction.
Appliances use AC or alternating current. This means that the electrons are moving back and forward in the two directions of the wire. The voltage is constantly going from the minimum to the maximum in these devices.
Inverters are able to change the direction of the flow of electrons that the battery or solar panel provides. This allows them to flow in two ways and power the appliances that you want to use.
Inverters also filter out any impurities to make sure that the appliances can work uninterrupted. This is important as appliances can break down if they get too much power. Some inverters have additional safety settings to make sure that the appliances don’t shortcircuit.
Some inverters are stronger than others and you will have to pick the right one for your application. Adding an inverter to a car battery to power a lamp is something completely different than adding one to a solar installation to power some fridges. There are also different types of inverters so you have to be careful when you get one, let’s discuss this last part in more detail.
Types of inverters
Let’s take a look at the most common types of inverters.
– Grid-tied Inverter – This type of inverter connects to the grid and is designed to feed electricity back into the grid. Grid-tied inverters are appropriate for areas where net metering is available. In some areas, you can get rewards if you feed electricity back to the net.
– Off-grid Inverter – This is the most common type of inverter. It’s designed to operate without connection to the grid. Off-grid inverters can be used in remote areas with no access to the grid or in areas where grid-tied inverters are not allowed. Off-grid inverters are becoming more popular given that batteries are becoming more powerful and solar panels more efficient.
– Hybrid Inverter – This is a combination of the above two types. Hybrid inverters have features that make them suitable for use both off-grid and as grid-tied inverters. For example, they can feed electricity back into the grid.
Off-grid inverters are the most popular for people with solar panels in rural areas. It is always great to have a grid backup though as you never know when there might be a problem with the solar panels.
The number of Watts that they can handle and the amount of devices that they can support is another point that is different between inverters. These devices range from a few hundred USD to several thousand.
Inverters can last about 10 years or more when they are well taken care of.
Cons of an inverter
Inverters are very handy in a lot of situations but they also have some drawbacks:
– Inverters are suitable for smaller electrical loads only. If your home or business needs a lot of extra power on a regular basis, you’ll have to install a bigger and more expensive inverter.
– Inverters can be quite expensive to install and take up quite a lot of space in a house. Inverters shouldn’t get wet and it is often better to install them inside if you can.
– Inverters require maintenance and repairs. Periodically, you’ll have to clean and check the connections and circuitry in the inverter. You’ll also have to replace the inverter if it’s damaged by extreme weather or other environmental factors.
To conclude, we can state that inverters are devices that allow us to connect batteries or solar panels to appliances (such as a TV or fridge). They do this by converting DC to AC electricity. In essence, an inverter changes the direction in which the electrons move in a wire.
There are different types of inverters and you have to pick the right one for your situation. They are often installed by licensed electricians to make sure that everything is connected properly and safely. Check your local rules to make sure that it is allowed to install the type you want. It is not always allowed to send electricity back to the grid as this can make it harder to manage the system.
We have discussed the best inverter batteries for your home here.