A solar Inverter is the piece of electronics that is responsible for converting the Direct current (DC) coming from your solar panels into the alternating current (AC) that your home appliances use.
When you install a solar power system, you will need a solar inverter unless you plan to utilize battery power for everything. Most of today’s appliances operate on 120 volts AC, and your solar inverter will be the center of your system. Not only does it convert lower voltage DC to 120 volts AC, but it can also charge your batteries if they are linked to a utility grid or an AC generator.
Types of Solar Inverters
There are various types of solar inverters available that you can use for your own solar energy system. These are:
Modified Sine Wave Solar Inverters
This type of power inverter is probably the most economical and well-known inverter available out there. Also called “quasi-sine wave inverters”, they are not very expensive and they work well with most appliances except for the most demanding ones. For example, appliances that utilize motor speed controls or timers may not work normally with modified sine wave inverters. For this reason, this type of solar inverter is advisable for use in smaller installations like a camping cabin.
True Sine Wave Solar Inverters
The true sine wave solar inverter generates much cleaner power than the utility company itself in most cases. It is able to run almost any kind of AC equipment and is therefore also the most expensive alternative. Most models are controlled by computers and will automatically turn on or off when the AC loads look for service. It is a highly recommended choice if you wish to provide automatic power to a normal household that makes use of a wide variety of appliances and electronic devices. In addition, most appliances are more efficient and power-saving when a true sine wave solar inverter is in use instead of a modified sine wave inverter.
Grid Tied Solar Inverters
If your solar power system is currently linked to a utility company power provider, then using a grid tied solar inverter is highly advisable. Having a grid tie solar inverter will help reduce the power supplied by the utility company which overall minimizes your electric bill. For this set-up it is recommended to install a small battery bank in order to cover short-term power outages that lasts anywhere from a few minutes to at most two hours.
Solar Inverter Considerations
Your power inverter will be directly connected to the batteries as well as the main AC breaker panel to supply your appliances with power from the batteries. Solar Inverters can be used on battery bank configurations with 12, 24, and 48 input voltages. Most of them are also able to charge batteries when they are linked to the AC line.
The distance between your solar panel set-up and your battery bank is the main consideration when it comes to deciding the input voltage of your solar inverter. Lower voltage will mean a lower current and thus smaller, more expensive cables will be needed. When deciding on a system voltage, take note that the components of your system such as the panels, the inverter, and the battery bank will all need to utilize the same voltage.
The number of solar panels and batteries for your system will mainly depend on your how much power you are going to need. You also have to consider the number of days you plan to use battery energy alone. If you are in need of more power or higher voltage you may opt to install two solar inverters and arrange them in a configuration called “stacking”. Two compatible inverters that are stacked in a series allow you to double your output voltage. On the other hand, if you arrange them in a parallel manner, you will be able to double your power. For example, arranging two 4000-watt solar inverters in a parallel manner will be able to give you 8000 watts of electricity.
For a relatively small solar power system, a 2000 to 3000-watt modified sine wave solar inverter will be able to do the job for $1,200 to $1,500. If you think the true sine wave solar inverter is more appropriate for your needs, expect to pay an additional $1,000. It is also your best choice if your aim is to produce and provide your own home power in the long run.