What Is an Electrical Inverter?

If you have a solar panel system, have ever looked into buying an electric vehicle, or are considering a home battery system to provide emergency power, you have probably heard the term “inverter” before. Inverters are becoming increasingly common in homes because they play a vital role in a number of modern technologies, particularly those that influence energy consumption and efficiency.

What Does an Inverter Do?

All of the electricity you use in your day-to-day life comes in one of two varieties: alternating current and direct current. To tremendously oversimplify it, alternating current is the stuff that comes out of the sockets in your walls, while batteries that power everything from your TV remote to your cell phone provide direct current power. In the vast majority of cases, something that runs on direct current cannot use alternating current to power it, and thus the power needs to be switched from one type to the other. An inverter is the device that does this.

How an inverter works is pretty technical—using a variety of electrical components, they can either take a static electrical charge and alternate it to create alternating current, or they can take an alternating current and flatten it out to create a direct current. In either case, the average homeowner doesn’t necessarily need to know that. Instead, the most important part that you need to know is that an inverter takes one type of energy and converts it to the other so that you can utilize it for the specific purpose that you need.

Inverters & Solar Panels

Solar panels produce direct current power by default. As solar energy collides with electrons to create electrical energy, this energy has a static frequency. That means it isn’t fit for use to power your home, and therefore needs to be inverted before you can take advantage of it. Therefore, every solar energy system also needs an inverter to take the collected energy and change it into a useable form.

Different inverters will have different capabilities—you’ll want to make sure your inverter is built to handle the kind of energy capacity you need and the amount of energy that your panel system is capable of producing. However, you might also want to consider installing a modern smart inverter with extra features. Some inverters give you the ability to “island” your home away from the grid, allowing you to use your solar panels to power your home during a power outage.

Inverters & Electric Vehicles

The batteries that power your car rely on direct current, or DC power. Therefore, the power that comes from your walls isn’t compatible with them. In order to use this power, your vehicle needs to invert it, and most onboard inverters are tremendously slow due to their size and weight limitations. This is why it can take more than 12 hours to fully charge even a small electric car from batteries that are close to depleted.

An electric vehicle charger solves this problem by removing your car’s inverter from the process. Home EV chargers are equipped with a much larger inverter system, allowing them to create a much stronger stream of DC power that charges your vehicle’s batteries directly. As a result, that charge that could have taken half of a day will be completed in as little as just a few hours. And it’s much safer and more efficient to charge this way too!

Inverters & Home Battery Systems

As we stated earlier, the overwhelming majority of batteries store DC power. Therefore, there’s a strong chance that your home battery system can only store DC energy. Any collected AC power from the grid needs to be inverted before it can be stored, and then be inverted again when you go to use it later on. This is why home battery systems need highly-specialized inverter systems—they need to be able to collect and manage both AC and DC power, route the power properly to the right sources, and switch between power sources when needed. And it needs to be able to do all of this faster than the blink of an eye in order to avoid any disruption in your electrical power.

Interested in installing a home battery, EV charger, or another form of modern technology that requires an inverter? Trust the team at Lightning Bug Electric to handle the job! Call us at (404) 471-3847 today.