One of the best things about solar power is its relative simplicity. Add that to the independence you get and the clean renewable energy that comes from it, and you’ve got a winner. After all, you need a solar panel or panels, wiring, a regulator/charge controller, an inverter, and in some cases a deep cycle battery. The inverter is one of the most important, but also one of the most frequently overlooked components. It’s what helps you turn energy from your solar panel into usable power.
That’s because solar panels usually put out twelve or twenty-four volt direct current. There are a number of camping appliances out there that can use this form of power, and many older off grid homes use entirely DC devices, but most home appliances need one hundred ten to two hundred forty volt AC (alternating current) power. Inverters are what helps you make the chance from DC to AC and ramp up the voltage.
DC current flows continuously in one direction, while AC alternates in direction. The oldest electrical installations ran on DC, but greater efficiency of transmission is gained by using AC. That’s why, despite the fact that many appliances actually run on DC, they receive their power in the form of AC. To get them to work, you’re going to need an inverter as part of your solar power system.
Inexpensive inverters may seem like a great bargain, but there are problems. They can get very warm, wasting energy, and they may even turn off. That means that for providing power to an off grid home or other serious application, you’re going to want a high quality inverter. Not sure about the cost increase? Keep in mind that if you buy a complete solar power system, there’s a good chance you’re eligible for a renewable energy rebate from the government that’ll make up the difference.
True sine wave inverters are usually the best choice for powering electronics or anything else that needs high quality power. These produce electricity of the same quality you’d expect to get while pulling from the grid. Modified sine wave inverters are less expensive, but they produce a choppier quality to the power, creating fluctuations and unreliability.
Make sure you get the right kind of inverter for your set up. In some cases, you’ll need to have it installed by a professional. How do you know which you need? The first question is to ask where you’ll be getting your power. If you’re going to have a grid tie-in, where excess power is sent back into the grid, you’ll need a mains grid inverter, and a professional installer with the right licenses is going to be required.
Inverters for stand alone power systems, called SAPS inverters, are what you use when you’re going to be off grid completely. They can be self installed with the right precautions, and plug into the deep cycle battery banks. Inverter size will depend on the peak power loads you’re expecting. Add up the wattage of all appliances you need to use at once to find out what that’s likely to be. There are also online power system builders you can use to find out what you need for your home.