The inverter is an expensive addition to a solar power system. So are you wondering if you can do without it? In short, your solar power system will not function AT ALL unless you have an inverter in place. That’s because inverters convert solar power-generated electricity into USEABLE electricity.
The electricity generated by your solar panels is not compatible with the devices you use in your home. Yes, it is an electric current; but it’s an unstable form of current. Inverters help to stabilise the current so that it can be used appropriately throughout your home or office.
Let’s see how this device functions and how it contributes to your overall solar power system.
A direct current (DC) is a live electric current that has not been regulated. This current is nothing more than a surge of electric energy. But once this current enters an inverter, it changes its whole makeup. This is where it is transformed into an alternative current (AC).
The difference between these two currents is fairly simple to explain. Think of a battery. It has two opposite points; positive and negative. Because of this, we derive regulated power from a battery to power a torch or radio. An inverter transforms DC into a regulated electric current that has a positive and negative wave flow.
Now that this ‘wave’ of electric current is being sent out of the inverter’s other end, it can power a household device or light. But there’s more to an inverter than simply transforming the current.
Inverters not only stabilise the current into an AC form, they also regulate the strength of that current. This is an important part of its function because if the alternative current is too weak, it won’t power the devices needed. On the same note, if the current is too strong, it may damage appliances.
The inverter ensures that the correct amount of current flows into your home. As additional appliances are being used and switched on, the current will increase. When less is needed, the current will decrease.
Different kinds of inverters
There are various inverters designed for different types of systems. Understanding these differences will help you to identify which inverter is appropriate for your setup.
Some inverters produce a higher output voltage than others; while other types (such as three-phase inverters) are compatible for large buildings like factories or massive office blocks.
So how can you know which inverter is the right one for you? Well, simply ask yourself the following questions and relay this information to the company you are purchasing from:
- How much power are your panels generating? When you know how much DC current needs to be processed, you will be able to identify what kind of inverter is needed to handle that amount of current.
- What devices are you trying to power? For a home environment, a regular inverter will do the trick. But if you are looking to power computers or high-tech equipment, you will need to get a pure sine inverter (an inverter that puts out a highly refined voltage).
- How large is the area you are powering? Remember that solar systems can be built for boats, camping equipment or even a single laptop. These would obviously require a smaller inverter than one needed for a large building.
Once you’ve answered these questions, you will be in a better position to find the right inverter for your purposes. But when you do make your purchase, there are some other factors to keep in mind. Will you need any additional components?
Additional inverter components
Inverters work best if they are coupled with complimentary components. These additional components offer safety during use and will protect your equipment from getting damaged. Some examples of these components are:
- Overload protection: Sometimes the components within the inverter which regulate the current get damaged. If this happens, the electrical current can surge and cause irreparable damage to a device—or even injure the user. In a case like this, overload protection will shut down the entire device and prevent any further danger.
- Grounding error notification: If any of your solar power system components are not adequately grounded, a grounding error notification component will warn you of this.
- Overheat protection: With all these components working 24/7, it’s possible that overheating can take place. Overheat protection components will shut down the system to prevent permanent damage to any of these expensive components.
As we have seen, an inverter is an essential part of a solar power system. Make sure you get the right one for your needs.
* This YouTube video touches on different types of inverters