WHAT IS A POWER INVERTER?

A power inverter is a device that converts low voltage DC (Direct Current) power to standard AC (Alternating current) to provide reliable backup power that can be used to power all sorts of electrical devices. The DC power is produced from cars, truck or boat battery or renewable energy sources, such as solar panels or wind turbines. DC power is what batteries store, while AC power is what most electrical appliances need to run so an inverter is necessary to convert the power into a usable form. The inverter is a basic component of any independent power system that requires AC power. Inverters convert DC power stored in batteries into AC power to run conventional appliances. Popular items run from an inverter include computers, entertainment systems, power tools and kitchen appliances. Power inverters are devices that can be set in place to power an assortment of electronic devices and electrical appliances in the absence of direct sources of power.

HOW DO POWER INVERTERS WORK?

An inverter resembles a rectangular box. At one end are wires for connecting to a power source, at the other are AC holders. The inverter draws it power from a 12 Volt battery or several batteries wired in parallel. The battery will need to be recharged as the power is drawn out of it by the inverter. The battery can be charged by being plugged into an AC outlet to recharge the battery. A power inverter uses electronic circuits to cause the DC power flow to change directions, making it alternate like AC power. An inverter uses transistors to continually switch the direction of the voltage or in an oscillator to produce a sinewave which happens 50 or 60 times a second, according to the frequency required. These oscillations are rough and tend to create a square waveform rather than a rounded one, so filters are required to smooth out the wave, allowing it to be used by more electronic devices.

AC power is easier to step up or down, or change from one voltage to another, than DC and easier to regulate. In many cases, when a power inverter is in use, DC power is being converted to AC power, which is then stepped down and turned back into DC power inside the device. AC power flows back and forth in alternating directions so that, when represented on a graph, it appears like a sine wave, with smooth and regular peaks and valleys. A DC power is steady and continuous, with an electrical charge that flows in only one direction.

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Types of inverter output

True Sine Wave Inverters: Also known as Pure Sine Wave Inverters, True Sine Wave inverters deliver the smoothest and fastest wave output and they are also the most expensive. A true sine wave inverter outputs a sine wave at mains voltage level, just like a generator would. The wave form produced by true sine wave inverters is the same as or better than the power delivered by the utility power. These types of inverters produce cleaner power and are able to cover all the complex electronics that are part of our everyday lives. Sensitive equipments, like certain medical equipment and variable speed or rechargeable tools requires this type of inverter to operate correctly. Radios and computers, for example, work better with true sine wave inverters because modified square wave inverters’ less-smooth waves disrupt the radio’s reception, causing static and other noise. True sine inverters use toroidal (donut-shaped) transformers and electronic circuits to transform direct current into a smoothly varying alternating current very similar to the kind of genuine sine wave normally supplied to our homes. True sine waves replicate the kind of the power you get from a utility grid, providing a wide range of benefits which allows electronics run more efficiently than they might on other types of sine waves. Devices that requires this type of Sine wave includes televisions, digital clocks with radios, laser printers, photocopiers, home automatum systems, computers, medical devices and telecommunications equipments. Without clean power sources, these types of devices may not run at all, may run inefficiently or shorten their lifespan and cause them to fail prematurely. True sine waves also reduces audible and electrical noise in fans, florescent lights, audio amplifiers, TV, Game consoles, Fax, and answering machines.

MODIFIED SINEWAVE INVERTERS

Modified sine wave or square wave inverters are among the most commonly used type of inverters in automobiles and boats. They are efficient and consistent enough when it comes to running most household devices and appliances. These types of waves use relatively inexpensive electronics such as thyristors, diodes and other simple components to produce a square wave. They are cheaper and work more proficiently if you want to run something off a battery with a limited charge. They are also the most common in the market. It is not advisable to use modified sine waves on delicate electronics such as digital clocks, home automatum system and medical devices because they the waves are rougher and create extra noise. A modified sine wave is suitable if you mostly want to run lights, TV, microwave oven, tools and other similar electrical devices.

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FEATURES TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING AN INVERTER

Battery

This is a very pivotal part of an inverter. The performance and life of an inverter depends greatly on the battery. The battery of an inverter is undeniably its most important part and not only determines its life span but its ability to function effectively. There are several classifications of inverter battery. Flat plate batteries, also known as Lead acid battery are used for automotive purposes. These batteries are designed to provide high current for a very short duration. They are also not designed to be regularly discharged by more than 25% of their rated capacity. Deep cycle batteries provide continuous power which can be discharged at least 50% of their rated capacity. Deep cycle batteries have specially designed thick plates to withstand frequent charging and discharging. Tubular batteries are very efficient and require relatively low maintenance. They also have longer battery life because it is protected by a tube. Maintenance free batteries are safety secured and do not emit any kind of poisonous or harmful gases. They are best for old or busy people who do not have the time to refill distilled water at regular intervals. The power supply of inverters depends on the age and condition of the battery, and the power demand being placed on it by the equipments being operated by the inverter. It is imperative to study your inverter and know the proper requirement of your inverter in order to make a tight decision when getting a battery match for your inverter.

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Size

The size of an inverter is a principal feature you mustn’t overlook when buying an inverter, and the size here refers to size in terms of output. Before buying an inverter, endeavor to calculate the total wattage of power your electronic devices run and ensure that the inverter you buy will supply the adequate Alternate current power needed to power the electronic devices. You should also take into consideration the size of your home or office as well the number of electrical appliances in use and their energy consumption levels as this will play a very big part in selecting the right capacity of inverter and battery for your specification.

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Power Output

The power output that any inverter is capable of generating is typically displayed in watts, and most electrical appliances and electronic devices require a certain amount of wattage to function as they should. Most electronic devices and electrical appliances come with specific requirements in terms of volts and amps. When it comes to deciding how much power to look for in a power inverter, buyers should know that higher-watt inverter (800 upwards) is enough to run power tools, microwave ovens, larger TVs and other power equipments. It is also imperative to take into consideration the type of appliance that requires power because different appliances are known to draw power differently. The higher the working load of the equipment, the higher the required watts. For instance, a 200-watt midsized Tv requires a 400 -watt inverter and an 800 watts coffee maker or microwave oven requires 1,800 watts or more, and equipments with heavier workloads like require up to 3,000 watts.

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INVERTER BUYING GUIDE CHECKLIST

  • Ensure that you adequately calculate your power requirement. You must know how many appliances you want to support using the inverter and how much watts each appliance weighs.
  • Check the wiring of your home. To provide electrical backup for all your appliances including the heavy powered ones such as refrigerator and AC, you will need a large size inverter and battery. But if you want a backup for only selected and low powered electrical appliances in your home, then the wiring should be done in a way to allow the few selected appliances run on the inverter.
  • Be sure to buy the most suitable type of inverter. If you want to power large electrical appliances, it is best you go for a true sine wave inverter, but if you want to power smaller appliances, then a modified or squared sine wave inverter would be preferable.
  • Avoid local battery manufacturers. Local batteries do not usually follow safety, efficiency standards and they tend to have a relatively low lifespan. Many of them also release little fumes and poisonous gases like carbon monoxide which local brand manufacturers do not give importance to.
  • Look out for inverter-battery compatibility. Also, local batteries do not have warranty or guarantee, and have an excessive maintenance work.
  • When purchasing the battery for your inverter, make sure to select a battery with a long battery warranty.
  • Ensure that all AC input/output wires have been pulled into the system and terminated at their proper locations.
  • Make sure to place the inverter on a reasonably flat surface, either horizontally or vertically.
  • Avoid placing the inverter on or near heating vents, radiators or other sources of heat. Do not place the inverter in direct sunlight.
  • Always keep the inverter dry. Do not expose it to rain or moisture. Water and other liquids can conduct electricity which may lead to serious injury or death.

INVERTER JARGONS

  • AC: (Alternating Current). This refers to an electric current that reverses direction in a circuit at regular intervals. Alternating current occurs when charge carriers in a conductor or semi-conductor periodically reverse their direction of movement.
  • AMP: (Ampere). This refers to a unit of measure of the rate of electron flow or current in an electrical conductor.
  • DC: This is the unidirectional flow of electric charge carriers which are usually electrons without substantial variation in magnitude. The flow of electric charge carriers always takes place in the same direction and they never reverse.
  • VOLTAGE: Also referred to as electromotive force, voltage is a quantitative expression of the potential difference between two points in an electrical field. The greater the voltage, the greater the flow of electrical current through a conducting or semi-conducting medium for a given resistance to flow.
  • WATTS: Watts refers to the standard unit of power, the equivalent of one joule per second. The watt is used to specify the rate at which electrical energy is dissipated, or the rate at which electromagnetic energy is radiated, absorbed, or dissipated.
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