Solar panels and generators provide an efficient and sustainable way to harness energy from the sun, and convert it into electrical power. This offers numerous advantages from other types of generators, such as using an infinite and natural power supply, zero noise from the unit, and no emissions to speak of.
Solar generators may seem like a complex unit, but they are really just composed of a few pieces working together to create and deliver electrical power. One of those pieces is the solar generator power inverter. This relatively small piece of equipment maintains a low profile, but is directly responsible for making the energy usable in the first place.
What is a Solar Generator Power Inverter?
The power inverter is responsible for converting power from the panel into a certain type of electrical current. Before explaining that, it’s best to first understand how the generator works in the first place.
The sun’s rays emit energy that reaches earth. Part of that energy is called photon energy. When photon energy reaches the solar cells inside a solar panel, they enter in and disrupt the atomic orbitals of the electrons inside. This action, known as the photovoltaic effect, is what creates the electrical power.
The resulting charge is sent to the battery in the generator, which is then stored until needed.
The electricity that is created from this is called a direct current, often abbreviated as DC. This current is common in several appliances and devices, but it’s not the current that is found in a standard plug-in outlet in your home. Plug-in outlets, and any device that has prongs to plug in require what’s known as alternating current, or AC.
Power inverters actually convert DC into AC, thus making the electricity usable for plug-in devices and appliances. These inverters draw power from the charged battery, and convert it as it comes through the device and to the outlet port.
Solar generator power inverters can also affect how much wattage is drawn from the battery during use. Higher level power inverters can draw a larger amount of wattage, allowing the generator to power higher-wattage devices.
Power inverters can also allow the battery in the generator to be charged via an AC plug-in. The inverter controls the current into an acceptable level that the battery can accept safely while it charges.
So, as you can see, power inverters are a required device if you want to have a generator that can power devices and appliances with a normal connection, or have more than one way to charge your generator’s battery.
Modified or True Sine Wave Inverter?
When shopping for a solar power inverter, you’ll probably notice that they are either true sine wave or modified sine wave. Without going into all the details about what this actually means, we’ll just explain the difference briefly.
True sine wave output is the exact same wave from that you would get from a standard outlet inside your home. The wave is smooth and operates without any disruptions or “bumps” in the road.
Modified sine wave is more of a rough wave that doesn’t deliver the same energy consistently. This may be ok for smaller devices, but larger devices and appliances such as computers and televisions might encounter problems from this lower grade wave.
Because of this a true sine wave inverter is recommended. It’s going to cost you more, but the trade-off is worth it.
Solar Power Inverters for RV Use
Solar power is pretty much a standard now for any RV. The battery of an RV is designed to power multiple devices inside, but this is almost always a 12v current. If you have solar panels installed on your RV, you are obviously going to need an inverter.
Depending on your wiring, an RV power inverter may be installed in the RV, but lead out to other plug-ins that are installed throughout it. This allows you to not have to plug in all your devices directly into one location where the inverter is located. Just as the case is with home solar generators, a true sine wave inverter is the best solar power inverter.
If you can, try to look for inverter that has a remote control. This can save you some hassle if you have an inverter installation that is only accessible from the outside of the RV.
What to Look for When Buying an Inverter
If you are building your own generator, you are obviously going to need to purchase an inverter. Others may simply wish to upgrade their current one. There are plenty of options available to you, so here are a few aspects that you should look out for.
- Size – If you plan on powering anything beyond your phone, tablet, laptop, or small television, you’re going to need at least a 2500 watt inverter. This allows a bigger wattage flow from the battery. Using an undersized inverter when trying to power something like a coffee pot or hairdryer could cause your system to shut off.
- Efficiency – Inverters draw more power from the battery then they actually put out into your devices. Make sure to find an inverter with a high efficiency so that you are getting the most from your battery. This can be especially helpful when using high wattage devices. You’ll need to waste as little battery power as possible.
- Extra Features – Different inverters have different features. Some have digital screens that can actually tell you to the decimal what the battery voltage and power output currently are. Others use a bar graph on a screen. Some inverters have fans installed, which helps to keep the system cooler, making it more efficient in its energy use.
Remote controls and audible alerts are two other examples of available options. More features means a higher cost, but if you like to keep better track of your power usage while having more convenience, you’ll find it worthwhile.