What does an Inverter do?

Introduction
Today virtually all household appliances and major electrical fixtures and equipment can be run by an Inverter. In the event of a power shutdown, an inverter is useful as an emergency backup and when fully charged, you will be able to use your computer, TV, lights, power tools, kitchen appliances and other electrical appliances.

Description
An inverter is basically a piece of equipment that is usually powered by either a combination of batteries hooked together in parallel or by a single 12V, 24V or 48V battery. The batteries can be charged by gas or diesel generators, solar panels or conventional sources of power.

Function
The primary function of an inverter is to convert Direct Current (DC) power into Alternating Current (AC). This is because, whereas AC is the power supplied to industry and homes by the main power grid or public utility, the batteries of alternating power systems store only DC power. Moreover, most household appliances and other electrical fixtures and equipment depend on AC power to perform.

Types
There are two types of power inverters – “True Sine Wave” (also referred to as “Pure Sine Wave”) inverters, and “Modified Sine Wave” (also referred to as “Modified Square Wave”) inverters.

True Sine Wave Inverters have been developed to replicate, the power provided by power grids or power utilities. They are specifically recommended to power high energy-consumer electronic gadgets and equipment. Pure Sine Wave inverters are more expensive than Modified Sine Wave inverters, and are the more powerful and efficient option of the two.

Modified Sine Wave inverters cost less, and are capable of running a selected number of household appliances and fixtures, for example – kitchen appliances, lights, and small power tools. This type of inverter may not possess the capacity to power high energy-consuming equipment and appliances like computers, microwave ovens, air-conditioners, heaters and laser printers.

Capacity
The capacity of inverters range from as low as 100w, to well over 5000w. This rating is an indication of the capacity that the inverter can provide to a high-wattage piece of equipment or appliance or a combination of multiple units of such items.

Ratings
Inverters have three basic ratings, and you may select the inverter rating best suited to your particular requirement when choosing one.

SURGE RATING – Some appliances, such as refrigerators and water pumps require a high surge to start functioning. However, they need significantly less power to continue running. Therefore, an inverter must have the ability to retain its surge rating for at least 5 seconds.

CONTINUOUS RATING – This describes the amount of power you can expect to utilize without causing the inverter to overheat and possibly shut down.

30-MINUTE RATING – This is useful where the continuous rating may be far below the level required to run a high power consuming appliance. The 30-minute rating may be adequate if the appliance or equipment is only used periodically.