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Solar DC Inverters

What is an inverter?
An inverter changes DC voltage from batteries or solar panels, into standard household AC voltage so that it can be used by common tools and appliances
Essentially, it does the opposite of what a battery charger or "converter" does. DC is usable for some small appliances, lights, and pumps, but not much else. Most systems should include an inverter of some type, even if it is just an el-cheapo $29 Walmart thing to run the TV occasionally. Some DC appliances are available, with the exception of lights, fans and pumps there is not a wide selection. Most other 12 volt items we have seen are expensive and/or poorly made compared to their AC cousins. The most common battery voltage inputs for inverters are 12, 24, and 48 volts DC - a few models also available in other voltages.

There is also a special line of inverters called a utility intertie or grid tie, which does not usually use batteries - the solar panels or wind generator feeds directly into the inverter and the inverter output is tied to the grid power. The power produced is either sold back to the power company or (more commonly) offsets a portion of the power used. These inverters usually require a fairly high input voltage - 48 volts or more. Some, like the Sunny Boy, go up to 600 volts DC input.

A few grid tie inverters can also be used with batteries, but there will be some loss in overall efficiency for feeding the grid. How much loss can vary considerably, depending on the inverter and the size and type of batteries. If you need battery backup power for a grid tie system, we recommend the Outback Power inverters, as they have the best efficiency with batteries - you will get about a 5-10% loss. With some older inverters, such as the Xantrex SW series, that can sell back excess power to the grid overall losses can be as high as 50

How does an inverter work?
An inverter takes the DC input and runs it into a pair (or more) of power switching transistors. By rapidly turning these transistors on and off, and feeding opposite sides of a transformer, it makes the transformer think it is getting AC. The transformer changes this "alternating DC" into AC at the output. Depending on the quality and complexity of the inverter, it may put out a square wave, a "quasi-sine" (sometimes called modified sine) wave, or a true sine wave.


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