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Power Inverters - How Do They Work?

Posted 11/20/20 | Filed under Solar Education | Comments (0)

Power inverters are a very common component used in solar generator systems and off-grid power production. Inverters convert DC (Direct Current) power into AC (Alternating Current) to ensure compatibility and safe operation with electronic based items. Today we will go over the types of inverters, how they operate, and why they are essential to any solar generator or off-grid power application.

What is an Inverter?

An Inverter is a piece of technology that converts DC power into usable AC power. The best example of a DC power source would be a standard 12V battery. Within a DC power circuit, the electric charge flows in one direction. AC power however, changes direction approximately 50 to 60 times per second (this is commonly referred to as hertz). This type of power is required with larger electronics and appliances.

In order to power your standard home electronics via DC power commonly found in batteries, this piece of equipment is necessary. Therefore, you will always find an inverter in solar generator systems, as this type of generator obtains its power from a battery source (DC).

How Does it Work?

The science behind this change in current is rather simple. To create proper Alternating current, the output wave must be reversed completely at a rate of approximately 50‐60 times per second.

Original inverters featured mechanical components in order to accomplish this task. DC Power would pass down one end of a circuit which incorporated an electromagnet. Once the current hit the magnet, a cable attached to a spring arm would force the cable to contact the circuit; thus, changing the flow of current. Due to the mechanical nature of this process, they commonly experienced with a potential buzzing sound during operation.

The inverters we typically see today utilize oscillator circuits to accomplish this process. With the help of Semiconductors or transistors, there was no longer a need for the mechanical components.

Types of Inverters:

AC currents found in home electrical systems form a sine wave. A sine wave is a geometric waveform that oscillates periodically, above and below zero. AC power creates this type of current, so many electronics are designed specifically to accept this type of power output. There are three major types of Inverters. Square Wave, Modified Sine Wave and Pure/True Sine Wave.

Square Wave - An outdated technology. Typically, square wave inverters are used exclusively with motor operation. They tend to be less reliable and unsafe for many applications. While being far more cost effective, they also tend to produce a loud operation noise and are not recommended.

Modified Sine Wave - Designed for simple electronics and are more cost effective. Not recommended for use with delicate electronics, audio equipment, medical devices and certain battery chargers. While the modified sine wave does attempt to replicate a pure sine wave, the current that is produced is not clean enough to emulate a true sine wave’s path.

Pure/True Sine Wave – Generally more expensive, pure/true sine waves are the optimal power output for electronics. They produce the smoothest, quietest, most reliable electricity with minimal interference.

Understanding how electronics operate will help you cultivate the most optimal configuration and use. We hope this article proved helpful and are happy to answer any questions our readers may have pertaining to power inverters. As always, we are just a phone call away (877-548-3387) and are happy to offer our expertise on all of your Solar Education needs!
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