What is a Power Inverter and Why do I Need One?

Are you the owner of an RV, SUV, car, boat or other vehicle, and want to be able to watch TV, cook, or power a laptop onboard? If yes, you’ll be needing a power inverter. But what are they, and what do they do? Read on to find out why you’ll need one to power your gadgets on the road…

power-inverter-car

What is a Power Inverter?

Basically, they are devices that turn your vehicle battery’s direct current (DC) into alternating current (AC) – the kind of electricity you have in outlets in your house, that are connected to the energy grid.

Having a power converter means you can plug in your appliances and devices, and power them like you would through an electricity outlet in a house.

In your car, you can get USB adaptors for your cigarette lighter so that you can charge your phone or plug in your satnav. But for larger gadgets and electronics with proper plugs, you’ll need an inverter.

Working of a Power Inverter

Like we said, they convert currents to a type safe for use in vehicles. Your vehicle’s battery voltage provides a current that powers its internal workings – you’ll need to know which voltage your vehicle’s battery uses to choose the correct inverter.

The current supplied by a battery sticks on one circuit, in one direction – where the name ‘direct current’ comes from.

However, to power your gadgets, you’ll need alternating current, as those electronics need more power to function than the DC can provide. They’re made to function with the high-voltage AC current supplied in homes.

Power inverters increase the DC voltage, change it to AC, then use it to power your devices. They amp up your battery’s voltage so you can play video games and use a kettle in your RV. Cool, huh?

Size Selection

These babies come in a variety of sizes – most commonly 1000, 3000 or 5000 watts.

It’s recommended that a 3000 watt inverter is the happy medium between inverter sizes and best choice to get. They’re not too small like the 1000, or too powerful and overcharged like the 5000. If you need a little extra boost, there are 3500 watt capacities available.

Find the best 3000 watt inverter for your vehicle by checking out the useful comparison guide by Solar Know How.

Modified or Pure Sine Wave Inverter?

Besides the sizing, there are two main types of inverter – the modified sine wave, and the pure sine wave.

So, what’s the difference, and which one will you need?

  • Modified Sine Wave: These tend to be cheaper, and less powerful. However, they’re good for most everyday electronics you will want to use, just not very large ones.
  • Pure Sine Wave: These are compatible with pretty much all electronics, gadgets, and appliances, and produce a powerful current most like the one supplied by the electric grid. These are the most common choice, because they’re more likely to be compatible with anything you need to plug in.

Power inverters are useful for charging on the road without having to cart around adaptors and large plugs

Other Features and Tips

  • Power inverters are especially useful if you are setting up a solar power system – they convert energy from the sun into electricity you can use to power your gadgets within your vehicle. This is renewable energy that isn’t a drain on your vehicle’s battery.
  • Power inverters aren’t just for vehicles – if you have a small cottage or outhouse, they’re very useful for setting up a small power source there.
  • Many (but not all) power inverters come with USB outlets, useful for charging on the road without having to cart around adaptors and large plugs. For ease of use, get one compatible with USB.
  • The best inverters have digital screens which show you how much energy has been consumed and information about battery voltage. It’s useful to know these things at a glance, so consider getting one that has a screen.
  • Modern inverters have been made to be extra-quiet, so you won’t be woken up by a noisy machine while trying to simultaneously get some sleep and charge your phone in your RV.

On-Grid Vs Off Grid: Choose the Best Power for Your Home

While fuel and electricity costs rise, many households are moving to solar power systems. The easiest solution that one can find is to opt for solar panel systems.

Curious about what solar panel systems are?

Sunshine is available to using abundance, and solar systems use efficient technology to harvest and turn this energy into electricity with pre-defined methods. Solar power panels serve the purpose of collecting solar energy and converting it through the photovoltaic (PV) effect into electric power. Many homes have a roof or backyard, which can be used for installing solar systems to generate electricity.

A home solar system must provide ample electrical energy to meet all home power needs. It provides AC power, as typically all households use AC power to operate lighting systems, electronics, appliances and machinery such as machines, refrigerators, mixers, fans, air conditioners, TVs and music systems.The price of the home solar power plant varies on its size and type.

On-grid and off-grid solar systems come in two types of solar power plants. Let’s look at the difference between the two:

1. Off-Grid Solar System

An off-grid solar system is well designed to generate enough power throughout the year to meet the needs of a household, even in the depths of winter, when there is less sunshine. However, since there is no electricity grid connection to an off-grid solar system, battery storage is necessary.

The high cost of batteries and inverters implies that the off-grid solar system is costly than the alternatives, so they are usually needed only in more remote areas far from the grid. Nevertheless, battery costs are reducing at a high rate, so the demand for an off-grid solar system is now increasing, even in cities and towns.

Advantages of An Off-Grid Solar System

  • Such an off-grid solar system can function independently and not rely on the grid.
  • They generate enough electricity that can be collected and used at night.
  • These are suitable for remote areas that do not have grid power access.
  • Shutdowns and infrastructure faults won’t affect the power supply.

2. On-Grid Solar System

On-grid solar systems are the most widely solar product used by homeowners. Such systems do not need batteries and are connected to the public electricity grid and use solar inverters. Any surplus solar power you produce is sold to the electricity grid, and the energy you sell is usually paid a feed-in tariff (FiT) or credits.

Unlike an off-grid solar system, because of safety reasons, these are unable to work or generate electricity during a blackout. Because blackouts usually occur when the electricity grid is disabled, if the solar inverter had fed energy into a broken grid, it would endanger the safety of the people fixing the network’s faults. Most on-grid solar systems with battery storage can separate itself from the grid (known as islanding) and continue to supply some power during a blackout.

Advantages of An On-Grid Solar System

  • On-grid solar systems are incredibly cost-effective and easy to install.
  • By balancing electricity bills in just 3-8 years, you can recoup the cost of your expenditures.
  • Residential users can earn a passive income for the surplus energy generated by the system.

Choose Between On-Grid & Off-Grid Solar Systems to Fit Your Needs

Solar power systems are a form of clean, renewable energy, and they have many benefits depending on the type of system you chose. Knowing the advantages of both an on-grid and off-grid solar system, you can select the one according to your needs. With the right solar system and proper installation, you can have clean and cost-effective energy, without being worried about maintenance problems.