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Your Position: > Knowledge >> Solar system >>> Many components in a standard off-grid system

Many components in a standard off-grid system

cindy / 2015-01-13
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 There are many components in a standard off-grid system, including:

Solar panels

PV-Array Disconnect (DC)

Charge Controller

Battery Bank

Power Meter

Second line

Main DC Disconnect

Off-Grid Inverter

Backup Generator (optional)

Breaker Box (AC)


Charge Controller

This device is also known as a charge regulator or a battery regulator. The last one is probably the best term to describe what this device actually does: Limits the rate of current that drawn and delivered to the batteries and protects them from overcharging.

A good charge controller is crucial when it comes to keeping a battery bank healthy, which will ensure that the lifetime of a battery is maximized. If you have a battery-based inverter, chances are the charge controller is integrated in of it.


Battery Bank

A battery bank is a group of batteries that are wired together. In an off-grid situation this is absolutely essential if you want to have access to electricity at times when there’s no sunlight available, such as during cloudy weather or during the night.

The benefits of a battery bank listed above also apply to a hybrid solar system. In addition to these, you get a sense of security from the fact that you are not reliant on the utility grid to be up and running – at least until your batteries run out!


Solar inverter
Power Quality: Sine Wave vs. "Modified Sine Wave" 
Some inverters produce "cleaner" power than others. Simply stated, "sine wave" is clean; anything else is dirty. A sine wave has a naturally smooth geometry, like the track of a swinging pendulum. It is the ideal form of AC power. The utility grid produces sine wave power in its generators and (normally) delivers it to the customer relatively free of distortion. A sine wave inverter can deliver cleaner, more stable power than most grid connections.

How clean is a "sine wave"? The manufacturer may use the terms "pure" or "true" to imply a low degree of distortion. The facts are included in the inverter's specifications. Total harmonic distortion (THD) lower than 6 percent should satisfy normal home requirements. Look for less than 3 percent if you have unusually critical electronics, as in a recording studio for example.

Other specs are important too. RMS voltage regulation keeps your lights steady. It should be plus or minus 5 percent or less. Peak voltage (Vp) regulation needs to be plus or minus 10 percent or less.
A "modified sine wave" inverter is less expensive, but it produces a distorted square waveform that resembles the track of a pendulum being slammed back and forth by hammers. In truth, it isn't a sine wave at all. The misleading term "modified sine wave" was invented by advertising people. Engineers prefer to call it "modified square wave."

The "modified sine wave" has detrimental effects on many electrical loads. It reduces the energy efficiency of motors and transformers by 10 to 20 percent. The wasted energy causes abnormal heat which reduces the reliability and longevity of motors and transformers and other devices, including some appliances and computers. The choppy waveform confuses some digital timing devices.

About 5 percent of household appliances simply won't work on modified sine wave power at all. A buzz will be heard from the speakers of nearly every audio device. An annoying buzz will also be emitted by some fluorescent lights, ceiling fans, and transformers. Some microwave ovens buzz or produce less heat. TVs and computers often show rolling lines on the screen. Surge protectors may overheat and should not be used.

Modified sine wave inverters were tolerated in the 1980s, but since then, true sine wave inverters have become more efficient and more affordable. Some people compromise by using a modified wave inverter to run their larger power tools or other occasional heavy loads, and a small sine wave inverter to run their smaller, more frequent, and more sensitive loads. Modified wave inverters in renewable energy systems have started fading into history.

It is not possible to convert power without losing some of it (it's like friction). Power is lost in the form of heat. Efficiency is the ratio of power out to power in, expressed as a percentage. If the efficiency is 90 percent, 10 percent of the power is lost in the inverter. The efficiency of an inverter varies with the load. Typically, it will be highest at about two thirds of the inverter's capacity. This is called its "peak efficiency." The inverter requires some power just to run itself, so the efficiency of a large inverter will be low when running very small loads.

In a typical home, there are many hours of the day when the electrical load is very low. Under these conditions, an inverter's efficiency may be around 50 percent or less. The full story is told by a graph of efficiency vs. load, as published by the inverter manufacturer. This is called the "efficiency curve." Read these curves carefully. Some manufacturers cheat by starting the curve at 100 watts or so, not at zero!

Because the efficiency varies with load, don't assume that an inverter with 93 percent peak efficiency is better than one with 85 percent peak efficiency. If the 85 percent efficient unit is more efficient at low power levels, it may waste less energy through the course of a typical day.

An inverter's sensitive components must be well protected against surges from nearby lightning and static, and from surges that bounce back from motors under overload conditions. It must also be protected from overloads. Overloads can be caused by a faulty appliance, a wiring fault, or simply too much load running at one time.

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