Solar Power Inverters
An inverter is an important component of any power system. Inverters convert Direct Current (DC) to Alternating Current (AC).
Direct Current can be used directly and flows in a single direction; a common form of Direct Current is batteries. When energy is created it is most often stored as Direct Current energy.
Alternating Current is the standard form of electricity available when you plug anything into a socket in a wall.
Your installer or supplier will show you how to operate your inverter, though its use is really very simple. Here are features to look for:
Automatic on/off operation
The inverter actually requires power to run itself. If you leave your inverter on, you may drain its battery bank. Most inverters are equipped with an automatic shut off feature (called "sleep mode," "load demand," "standby," "power saver" and other names). If you are using energy in the home (or business), the inverter senses this and turns itself on, and when there is low or no energy usage, the inverter will shut itself off.
Since the inverter is powered by its own battery bank, you may want to ensure that it has a self charging feature. Thus, when the inverter is in use, it will direct a small fraction of its energy to recharging itself.
This sounds like jargon, but it's really very simple. Some appliances (washing machines) or large machines (power tools) require more power than others. To operate any of these items properly, you must have an inverter that is capable of "powering up" to provide the short surge of energy required.
Kinds of inverters
Inverters come in two basic kinds:
- A solar energy system connected to "the grid" (the larger electrical system that regularly supplies power to you and your neighbors) will require a synchronous grid tie inverter.
- A solar energy system independent of the grid will use a stand alone inverter.
You should also check out our inverters comparison shopping guide.