You have decided to generate solar power, picked out your solar panels, and a solar power inverter is next on the list!
Are you ready to hook up your system and try to figure out what type of solar inverter you need?
Even those experienced with solar power find it complicated to keep all types of power converters straight, so you shouldn’t feel bad if you’re looking for an easy way to understand them.
As solar power becomes more popular, the public becomes more comfortable with the terms and concepts, but finding good information and advice is important for now.
In this guide, you’ll learn about solar power inverters and how you can choose the right one for your setup.
Table of Contents
What Is A Solar Power Inverter?
The energy comes from direct current electricity (DC) when retrieving solar power from your solar panels. However, your home and many appliances and tools can only be powered by alternate current electricity (AC).
Inverters make it possible to convert DC electricity to AC electricity so that the power generated by your solar unit is usable.
There are different types of solar power inverters for specific needs. They come in different sizes and shapes as well as functionalities.
Converting DC power to AC power seems simple, but that is not always the case. DC power doesn’t evenly convert into AC power.
It helps to understand the basic rules of electricity conversion and find the right power inverter to properly convert the power into electricity you can use.
Homes, electrical grids, and appliances require different AC power inputs to function. Inputting too low or too high a level of AC power into your home or appliances can cause malfunction and even damage.
Because of the risks, it’s essential to choose the right power inverter and use it properly.
How Do Power Inverters Work?
DC power and AC power differ in the type of current the electricity forms. The electrons in the current can move either in an upward (positive) or downward (negative) direction. How the electrons move in the current defines which type of power is produced.
In DC electricity, there is a unidirectional current. As a result, the electrons only flow directly out. In AC electricity, the current alternates directions from positive to negative repetitively, creating a wave of electricity.
Power inverters are charged with converting DC power into AC power, which means they have to change the motion of the electrons in the current. To do this, the power inverter rapidly changes the polarity of the DC power source from positive to negative and back to positive.
The solar power inverter can force the DC power into an AC power-like current by oscillating the polarity. However, forcing DC power into AC power isn’t the only task.
Different types of power inverters have the ability to create different levels of AC power. This ability is important because not all devices function on the same level of AC power.
This is where the DC-to-AC ratio comes in, also known as the Inverter Loading Ratio (ILR). The ILR is defined as the AC power rating of the inverter and how much DC power will be produced.
What Are The Types of Power Inverters
For personal use, you can try different types of solar inverters. These models vary based on…
- the type of output they create,
- how much power they can handle,
- what types of devices they can power, and more.
Grid-Tied or Off-Grid?
You can choose to have a grid-tied inverter or an off-grid inverter. If you provide power to a building connected to the power grid, you’ll need to choose a grid-tied inverter. You can use an off-grid inverter if you’re supplying power to a home, device, or vehicle not connected to the grid.
This article will be tailored toward people who are interested in off-grid inverters.
Pure Sine Wave Inverters vs. Modified Sine Wave Inverters
There are Pure Sine Wave Inverters and Modified Sine Wave Inverters. The type you choose will depend on your budget and the size of your system, as well as what types of devices and equipment you need to power.
Pure Sine Wave Inverters are the more expensive type. They produce electrical currents similar to the power you receive from the electric company. This type is best if you are powering sensitive equipment.
Modified Sine Wave Inverters are less expensive and better for simpler equipment. This is because the quality of the sine wave isn’t as good as it would be with a Pure Sine Wave Inverter. However, this option is fine for your needs if you need to power small basic appliances, power tools, or lighting.
You’ll also be able to choose between low-frequency and high-frequency Pure Sine Wave Inverters.
Low-frequency Pure Sine Wave Inverters use big copper transformers, meaning they are heavier, more expensive, and better for equipment with high starting power requirements.
High-frequency Pure Sine Wave Inverters are smaller and lighter, making them less expensive. High high-frequency inverters are better if you use this inverter intermittently and only for smaller devices.
Input and Output Power Capacities
Solar power inverters also come in different power capacities. They range from handling 100 – 10,000 watts. You must be certain the size power inverter you choose will be able to handle your system’s power levels.
You’ll need to pay attention to input and output capacities. Input levels come in 12V, 24V, 36V, and 48V. Output levels come in 110/120V and 220/240V.
12V input voltage is popular because car batteries put out 12V. This makes it easy to connect and charge your devices using your car. However, these don’t necessarily work in off-grid systems since they may heat up battery cables, causing the loss of power.
It is best to choose either 24V, 36V, or 48V inverters.
The output voltage is based on appliances and devices’ two most popular currents. When choosing an output, keep your location in mind. For example, the USA and Canada mainly use 110/120V while the rest of the world regularly uses 220/240V.
Simple Inverter or Inverter-Chargers
You should decide if you only need an inverter to convert power or if you’d like it to retain power.
A simple stand-alone inverter takes DC power and converts it to AC power.
An “all-in-one” inverter/charger combines a power inverter, battery charger, and transfer switch. These are convenient but more complex and will often require a certified electrician.
Inverter/chargers are often found using outside power or a generator.
What Type Of Power Inverter Should I Buy?
If you are looking for an off-grid solar power inverter kit, you’ll need to consider what types of devices and equipment you want to power with your solar power system.
You’ll also want to make sure you’re buying a power inverter that you understand how to use safely and offers the required features.
Pick a Power Rating
You must pick an inverter that can meet the needs of your devices both as they start and while they run.
To determine the wattage you need, you can find the input and output power levels on most appliances or their packaging. Then, plan how many different appliances you will run simultaneously and check their wattage requirements and the power surge required to start up.
As a rule, you can multiply volts by amps to get the number of watts that your tools require. However, you should check the manufacturer’s specifications or use an ammeter for power surge requirements. Power surge requirements are usually at least three times more than the running wattage requirements.
Some common requirements are in the range of those below.
- 900W is often required to power small appliances, such as kitchen devices, laptops, power drills, and TVs. A 1100W power rating will allow you to use a small microwave in addition to these smaller devices.
- Power ratings of 2300W to 3500W are often required if you need to power appliances like air conditioning units, toasters, vacumes, and hair dryers.
Decide What Features You Need
- An LCD or digital display can help you use your inverter more easily. You can monitor the battery voltage and warning indicators you might not otherwise know.
- You’ll also want to consider how many power outlets you need. Some simple power inverters might only have one or two outlets, while the best solar power inverters can power many different devices simultaneously.
- You’ll also want to ensure it has the outlets you need, such as USB ports if you plan to charge your phone with a USB charger.
Remember that you might think you can power multiple devices only to realize that the outlets share the power in many cases. Unfortunately, your equipment might not be receiving the wattage it needs.
Keep Functionality in Mind
Remember that wherever you’re using the solar panel power inverter, it must fit in the space, function safely, and not be disruptive. So take measurements of the space to ensure your new power inverter will fit, and check the noise level.
Finally, check the safety features and certification to ensure you can use the power inverter safely according to your experience and requirements.
Choosing a Solar Power Inverter – Final Thoughts
Once you decide on a power rating and the functionality you need, you can order your solar power inverter kit confidently.