In most home solar systems, the solar panels are used to charge batteries and the batteries are what supply power to the appliances in the house. This is done in order to have power available at night when the sun isn’t shining. Both solar panels and batteries provide Direct Current (DC) power. The power grid, the electric sockets in your house and all of the appliance that plug into the sockets use Alternating Current (AC). A solar power inverter converts the DC power from the batteries into the AC power that your appliances need.
There are two main types of solar power inverter: Modified Sine Wave (MSW) and True Sine Wave (TSW). Modified Sine Wave inverters are simpler and turn DC into rough 120v 60 cycle AC, but do not produce a true sine wave. Some appliances, like computers, immediately turn AC power into DC, and so work perfectly fine with MSW inverters. Other appliances, however, don’t work well with MSW. Audio equipment, for example, can produce an annoying hum when used with MSW inverters. TSW inverters are more expensive, but for home use, they are almost always a better choice than MSW inverters.
There are a number of things you should do to ensure your inverter stays in good condition. The power inverter should be as close to your batteries as possible, but not in a box with the batteries. Make sure you use adequately sized wire to connect the batteries to the inverter. Check the instructions for your inverter to see how large. You should also make sure a fuse on all wires from and to the inverter, especially the one from the batteries. Finally, don’t allow the inverter to get wet or too hot. (This pretty much applies to anything electrical.)
There are two main problems you might encounter with a solar power inverter. The first is rf interference. All inverters broadcast radio noise when they are running. For any kind of receiver, you will at a minimum have to place the receiver as far away from the inverter as possible. One solution for radios can be to use a battery powered radio with rechargeable batteries and recharge the batteries from your solar system.
The other potential problem is something you probably don’t usually even think of – phantam loads. Many devices like TVs, anything with a remote or almost anything with a wall wart power supply uses a small amount of electricity, even when it is turned off. The problem isn’t just that these devices waste a lot of precious energy from your solar system, but that they keep your inverter from going to sleep. Many inverters enter a low power sleep mode if there is no power being drawn, but these devices continue to draw power, even when they are off. Because of this, the inverter will never enter this low power state. The solution in most cases is to use a power strip with a mechanical on/off switch. When the power strip is turned off, anything plugged into the power strip will really be off and drawing no power.
I hope you found this solar power inverter article helpful. For a complete guide to building your own solar power system, including step-by-step videos, Click Here.