What Are Solar Inverters?

Just what in the world are solar inverters or inverters for that matter? Inverters whether for solar electrical power systems  or otherwise are electronics devices that convert or change direct current (DC) voltages  and current to alternating or (AC) voltages and currents.  Homes, commercial buildings and other electrical energy end users use AC to run their equipment, appliances, lighting etc.

Why The Need To Convert DC to AC?

Awesome question! While our appliances in homes, offices, industrial and commercial buildings use AC voltages and current, the solar panels for the most part produce DC voltages and currents. DC voltages are not going to run AC appliances well so they have to be converted to AC. Some solar panels produce AC using microinverters at the panels but they are still low voltages and have to be transformed into higher and useful levels.

Micro Inverters

As the name implies, microinverters are mini or small inverters that convert the DC to AC voltages at the panel level. Produced low-voltage AC voltages are collected and transformed to 120 or 240 volts, collected and delivered to their outputs to supply power to loads.

Solar Chargers

Solar chargers are another component of solar power systems that play a key role in its overall function of serving as a power source. Solar chargers are the electronic devices that ‘push’ the voltages produced by the panels and other sources into the storage batteries. Solar chargers could be a separate unit but many systems now integrate them into the inverter units. So you may see inverters but not the chargers. They have been absorbed by the inverter units.

Inverter’s Dual Function

As we now understand that inverters convert DC to AC, let us see what else they do within the system. You saw the mention of storage batteries above. Now, storage batteries are indeed the store houses of excess or unused voltages and currents produced by solar panels and other sources. Batteries serve a very important function in the microgrid system.

Batteries are sources of DC voltages and currents. This power source is not compatible with our home, office, commercial and industrial appliances. So this is where inverters jump in to its dual function, converting the battery voltages into AC and use them accordingly.

Microgrids

We have discussed microgrids in detail in past articles. Let us go back to this awesome human invention here briefly.  Microgrids are small grids as compared to the main grid. The main grid is our national electrical grid. Now microgrids could be off or on grid which simply means not connected or connected to the main grid.

Microgrids are small self-producing and self-sustaining electrical power supplies that support specific electrical loads. Microgrids have its power sources like solar panels or arrays, storage battery banks, generators. Electrical loads could be homes, commercial and industrial buildings and other forms of end-users. Microgrids when connected together in a bigger grid become integral components of the main grid.

Safety First!

Now as we contemplate putting these components together, a word of caution! Unless you have had some training in electrical safety please do not do this by yourself! Get the help of an experienced electrician or installer! Do not forget, a mere 0.1 amperes is enough to kill! AND battery voltages and currents can kill. Do not be fooled by the innocent look of batteries!

In addition to the dangers of electrocution from your solar power system with batteries or microgrids, the dangers of electrical fires are as real as anything. Short circuits create heat, sparks and eventually fires!

Here Are Some Examples of Inverters In The Field:

1) MPP SOLAR 2400w Pure Sine Wave Power Inverter 80A MPPT Solar Charger DC 24V AC Output 110V 120V with 60A Utility Charger 50HZ or 60HZ.

MPP SOLAR 2400w Pure Sine Wave Power Inverter 80A MPPT Solar Charger DC 24V AC Output 110V 120V with 60A Utility Charger 50HZ or 60HZ

2) AIMS Power 6000 Watt Pure Sine Inverter Charger 48Vdc & 240Vac Input to 120 and 240Vac Output 50 or 60Hz

AIMS Power 6000 Watt Pure Sine Inverter Charger 48Vdc & 240Vac Input to 120 and 240Vac Output 50 or 60Hz

3) HEAVY DUTY (35 lb) – 12V 2000W (PEAK 6000W) Pure Sine Wave Inverter – MicroSolar – With Battery Charger & Cable – Support Microwave, Air Conditioner etc.

HEAVY DUTY (35 lb) – 12V 2000W (PEAK 6000W) Pure Sine Wave Inverter – MicroSolar – With Battery Charger & Cable – Support Microwave, Air Conditioner etc.

4) EPEVER 2000W Inverter Pure Sine Wave Power DC 48V to AC 110V/120V Converter with LED Display

EPEVER 2000W Inverter Pure Sine Wave Power DC 48V to AC 110V/120V Converter with LED Display

5) Tumo-Int 6000W Split Phase DC 48V to AC 120/240V Solar Inverter Charger with 60A MPPT Controller

Tumo-Int 6000W Split Phase DC 48V to AC 120/240V Solar Inverter Charger with 60A MPPT Controller

Hope you enjoyed this review of several inverters out in the market today. Please leave your comment below.

Joe Joson


10 Comments

Melinda · August 27, 2018 at 12:08 pm

Thanks for the informative post. Is there a solar inverter that you personally recommend? I should check our solar system and see if we need a new inverter.

    Joe Joson · August 29, 2018 at 6:04 pm

    Hi Melinda!
    I would stick to U.S. made inverters for sure! If your system is still running, there is no need to replace your inverter. They could last for years and they probably have warranties to cover them. Inverters are known to last 10-15 years if not longer.

    But if you need to replace an inverter unit here is an example of what you can get. This one is rated at around 7kW or 7000 watts

    Thanks for the feedback! Shoot me any questions or comments anytime!

    Joe

Maryann Breece · August 27, 2018 at 12:31 pm

Awesome information. Always best to err on the side of caution when it comes to electricity. it is amazing that more homes and businesses do not use solar power. I know we plan to upgrade our home at the earliest possible date. We simply need to collect the funds to do so. I know it can be quite a cost but the long run benefits of going solar far outweigh the cost in our minds. Maryann

    Joe Joson · August 29, 2018 at 6:00 pm

    Hi MaryAnn!
    One of the bigger hurdles in acquiring solar power systems is the cost. Thank God for very smart and favorable financing concepts that installers or solar companies are using nowadays. Here in my area in California, the total cost of the system could get funded for about 15 years. The monthly then becomes very low. As you produce about 70% of your home electrical usage, the savings add up.

    Adding storage batteries to the system could make your home totally independent of the grid not to mention the additional savings and added security.

    Thanks for the comments!

    Joe

Zach · August 27, 2018 at 12:38 pm

Hey Joe, great post! My brother talkes about this stuff all the time. He is into the same stuff. I can’t wait to show him your site. I’m trying to learn for myself. Thanks for the great info Joe. So informative.

    Joe Joson · August 29, 2018 at 5:52 pm

    Hello Zach!
    Having a solar power system is indeed very exciting! It is one of the most competitive and flexible electrical power sources around! And the fuel is free!
    The cost continues to go down. Now with the addition of storage batteries that could have warranties up to 10 years renewable up to 15 years, our ability to produce our own electricity no matter where we are, is indeed one of the greater breakthroughs in producing electricity. Did you hear of Tesla’s batteries adding 100Megawatts to an Australian utility company? Elon Musk the owner used his Powerpack batteries to do this. One hundred (100) MW is a LOT of electrical power!

    Compare an island in the Pacific with 250,000 consumers using only about 10-12MW. His batteries was supplying 100MW!

    Take it easy. Thanks for the feedback!

    Joe

Skip · August 27, 2018 at 12:49 pm

Great job of breaking this down. Solar seems so complicated, you made it easy. Thanks.

    Joe Joson · August 29, 2018 at 5:41 pm

    Hi Skip! I’m glad to hear that it made it easier for you to understand solar reading my article! Please shoot me any questions when time comes that you are contemplating a system for your home!

    Joe

Aziza Usoof · August 27, 2018 at 10:36 pm

Useful article which enlightened me on the workings of solar power systems. Back home in Sri Lanka domestic solar panel systems are used to provide electricity to the national grid and the payments for the electricity generated is set off against the monthly electricity bill of the household. Very economical in urban areas, particularly if you own an electric car.

    Joe Joson · August 29, 2018 at 5:39 pm

    Hello Aziza! Thank you so much for your feedback! Every town and village dream of having affordable, consistent and sufficient electrical power. Happy to hear that at least solar power are made available in Sri Lanka. The system that you mentioned is called Netmetering. When you have solar on your roof, its electrical production is weighted against the electricity from the utility company. The sum total is then computed. If you produced more than you used, meaning excess electricity that you produced will have to be paid for by the utility. If you produced less than what you consumed, of course you will owe the utility some money. Here in California, solar for homes are designed to produce no less than 70 % of your power usage per month. Saving 70% is a big help really. Have an awesome day!

    Joe

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