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Your Position: > Knowledge >> Solar inverter >>> choosing a suitable inverter

choosing a suitable inverter

cindy / 2015-01-13
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The first step in selecting an inverter is to match the inverter to the voltage of the battery you'll be using for power. In the majority of cases, you'll be using a 12-volt battery, so you would want to select a 12-volt inverter.

 

The next step is to determine which devices you plan to power with the inverter. Look for a label somewhere on each device that tells you the wattage it requires to operate. The wattage rating of your inverter must exceed the total wattage of all the devices you plan to run simultaneously. For instance, if you wanted to run a 600-watt blender and a 600-watt coffee maker at the same time, you'd need an inverter capable of a 1,200-watt output. However, if you knew you would never be making coffee and fruit smoothies at the exact same time, you'd only need a 600-watt inverter.

 

Unfortunately, things aren't quite that simple. Devices that have electric motors, as well as some televisions, draw a higher wattage than their normal operating wattage rating when they first start up. This is known as peak or surge, and this information should also be listed on the device's label. Most inverters also have a peak rating, so make sure the inverter's peak rating is higher than the peak wattage of the device you intend to power. Microwaves are a special case. As an example, you may know that your microwave is a 500-watt microwave. This is actually the cooking wattage. The power wattage might be twice that amount. Again, check the label on the device to make sure.

If you plan to run your inverter through the cigarette lighter in your car, it's a safe bet that you won't be using any high-wattage devices. In fact, if you try to pass more than about 400 watts through a cigarette lighter connection, it will fail -- and it might even start a fire in your vehicle.

 

The final specification to look for is the wave output of the inverter. If you'll be powering any of the equipment that is sensitive to square waves, look for an inverter with a "perfect sine" wave output. Be prepared for sticker shock -- a perfect sine inverter can cost almost 10 times as much as the same wattage inverter with a modified sine output. Modified sine means that the current is run through some filtering, so it isn't a square wave, but it isn't totally smooth either.

 

Then how to install an inverter? Inverters are very easy to install. Most of them are "plug and play" devices, especially smaller, low-wattage inverters. These inverters have a cable with a plug that fits into the cigarette lighter on your car or truck. They're meant to be portable, so there's no other mounting to be done.

 

If you purchase an inverter that allows higher wattages, proper installation becomes a bit more critical. Below 400 watts, the cigarette lighter connection is still a possibility, but wattages above that require direct connection to the battery. The inverter's input cables have clips that can be attached to the terminals of the battery, similar to a set of jumper cables. If the installation is to be permanent, the cables can be bolted to the terminals. The inverter itself can be mounted anywhere, although it should be in a place with good air flow. Inverters generate a fair amount of heat, and they use cooling fans and heat dissipation fins to prevent overheating. Larger, heavier inverters have mounting holes in their chassis so they can be bolted to any surface. Obviously, with a permanent installation, you'll probably want to bolt your converter in place, but this isn't absolutely necessary. It's possible to simply place the inverter in a secure, stable position, clip the leads to the battery and plug in.

 

Just what does an inverter look like, anyway? Well, the smallest inverters can fit in your pocket, while higher-wattage models are roughly the size and weight of a large dictionary. As a general rule: The higher the wattage, the larger and heavier the inverter. At the top of the inverter wattage scale, some inverters can be more than two feet long and weigh over 30 pounds.

 

Modern inverters have some built in safety features that make them even easier to use. Some models sound an alarm when the battery's voltage gets too low. This is more of a convenience, but depending on what sort of equipment you're powering, it could also be a valuable safety feature. Inverters typically have automatic shut-off capabilities, too. If the unit detects a current overload or an overheating situation, it will shut down to lessen or prevent the chance of a fire. Inverters can also shut off in the event of a short circuit, such as a piece of metal falling into the chassis or the inverter getting wet. Short circuit shut-off is an effective way to prevent electrocution.

 

So how much is all of this going to cost, you ask? You can buy a modified sine inverter rated for continuous power of 200 watts for about $25 and the price of a 6,000-watt modified sine inverter can approach $1,000. Pure sine inverters cost much more -- these can be more than $200 for an inverter rated at just 300 watts.

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