An inverter charger combines the features of a power inverter and a solar charge controller. it’s a Two in One unit and becoming increasingly popular in home and RV solar systems, We need to define both if we want to have a decent understanding of an inverter/charger.
In the relentless quest for sustainable, cost-effective, clean, and pure energy sources nothing has more potential than the sun. Our sun is like a huge nuclear reactor that generates enough photons to meet world energy demands for an entire year, at least in principle. That is a lot of energy. The problem is figuring out how to capture that energy in an effective and efficient manner.
The best part is that solar scientists all over the world are steadily upgrading technology that makes a solar-powered future look completely attainable. With the popularity of solar power as a renewable energy source on the rise, you might be thinking of switching your residential or commercial needs to solar energy. You’ve probably got a lot of questions about going solar. You may have concerns about the system itself, along with the usual concerns regarding technology, initial investment, and logistics.
What is the mechanism of solar power? What are the functions of the various components of a system? Solar panels are understandable, but what exactly is an inverter? To get you started, here’s a quick rundown of solar power systems.
How Does Solar Power Work?
Solar power uses photons emitted by the sun to produce electricity. Numerous solar cells, or mini-conductors, are used in photovoltaic (PV) solar panels. The positive and negative sides of each cell combine to form an electric field. When photons strike a solar cell, electrons are pulled apart from their atoms and move through the circuit in a single direction. Direct current, vdc, or DC, is the name for this one-way current.
Every solar panel contains several cells, and multiple panels can be connected to make an array. The amount of energy you can gather and distribute if is directly proportional to the number of panels and cells. With an infinite number of solar cells, you can generate an infinite amount of DC electricity.
The US power system, on the other hand, and the majority of commercial equipment were designed to work on alternating current or AC. When pushed or tugged by any type of energy, loose e-in AC don’t merely flow in one way; they occasionally reverse direction. The DC power generated by solar panels must be changed to AC power before it can be used to power our households, offices, and cities. This is why it is critical that all homeowners who wish to switch to solar energy also purchase solar inverters.
Solar inverters convert the direct current generated by your solar panels into alternating current, which is the de-facto standard for all gadgets and appliances. Pure sine wave inverters and modified sine wave inverters are two different types of inverters. Please note that stand-alone inverters require a battery bank in order to operate.
Pure Sine Wave Inverters：
These inverters, as the name implies, generate current in the shape of a pure sine wave. As a result, these inverters deliver smooth, quiet, and stable energy to run appliances and devices without causing any interference. To prevent harm to the equipment and the system, pure sine wave inverters give overload protection for both the DC input and the AC output.
Modified Sine Wave Inverters:
The polarity of modified sine wave inverters quickly changes from positive to negative. When glancing at the wave, the polarity is reversed back and forth in a stair-step, square pattern. Inverters that create a true sine wave are known as pure sine wave inverters. It’s vital to remember that modified sine wave inverters might damage small, sensitive electronics and emit an audible hum while in operation.
One would not be able to utilize a modified sine wave inverter if he/she has medical equipment that needs to be powered, such as a CPAP machine. Modified sine wave inverters, on the other hand, can be a fantastic fit for a solar installation when used with simple appliances and electronics.
How Important is a Solar Inverter?
The solar inverter is the key element of our solar energy system. It converts all of the DC energy generated by the solar panels to AC that may be utilized to power any appliance that requires electricity. The power captured by solar panels has nowhere to go if it isn’t converted by an inverter.
Additionally, the inverter serves as the brains of a solar energy system, providing ground fault prevention and performance statistics. If there’s an issue with your setup or even a single panel, your inverter will most likely identify it. Inverters are also crucial to a solar system’s efficiency.
Some fraction of energy is lost when energy is transferred from solar cells to your house or office. An effective inverter reduces this loss; the more efficient your inverter is, the lesser the cells are needed to provide the power you require, lowering the system’s overall cost.
Types of Solar Inverters
There are many types of solar inverter, and they are as follow：
1. String Inverters: As the name implies, multiple strings from solar panels are connected to inverters, and the DC power produced in them is then converted into AC. A solar system on a roof requires no more than 1 or 2 string inverters. They are less expensive than other types of inverters and can be kept near the fuse box and power meter. The issue with this type of inverter is that if 1 panel is shaded, the remaining panels will be shadowed as well, and the efficiency will drop significantly—not to mention that there will be less room to expand the solar panels in the future. This is the most common form of solar inverter for residential use.
2. Microinverters: It should never be confused with a power optimizer. While a power optimizer sends the power collected to a central inverter to be converted from DC to AC, microinverters mounted on each panel optimize the power of each panel on a module-by-module basis. As a result, each inverter linked to each panel is responsible for converting DC to AC. As a result, shade on one panel will not affect the efficiency of the rest of the panels, resulting in minimal variation. Microinverters are also the greatest solar inverter for household usage, in addition to their business application. Although they were once considered quite expensive, their costs have recently decreased reasonably.
3. Central Inverter: It looks like a string inverter, but rather than placing the strings of panels in the inverter, it joins them all together and places them in a combiner box that is placed in a secure location. Following that, the strings are linked to an inverter, which receives DC power from the combiner box and transforms it to AC power.
The inverter’s installation costs are low because it simply requires a combiner box and a pad. Furthermore, because it is placed in a protected environment away from bad weather, it’s much less susceptible to serious physical or natural damages. They are typically employed in large-scale properties because they have a larger capacity than the two aforementioned inverters.
4. Hybrid Solar Inverters: It is a multi-mode inverter that requires battery installation in addition to an inverter setup. The inverter not just simply offers DC voltage to the battery, but it also provides AC electricity to the grid and the appliances. It can monitor the amount of charging your battery needs and when it is time to draw the charge from the grid at a reasonable price because it’s equipped with MPPT. When the battery is charged completely, this charge controller can send the extra power back to the grid. If a problem occurs, instead of turning off altogether, a multi-mode inverter can switch to standby mode.
5. Multi-mode Hybrid Inverters: “Multi-mode hybrid inverters” are an updated form of hybrid inverters that can run in both on and off-grid modes for extended periods. These inverters seem to be more powerful than basic hybrid inverters, which normally have backup power restricted to 3kW and are designated as “emergency power supplies” (EPS). They can normally backup basic power circuits, light paths, and even small air-conditioning systems up to five or six kilowatts.
People sometimes get confused with “multi-mode hybrid inverters” and “dedicated off-grid inverter/chargers” since they both may function in both modes (i.e. on and off-grid). The main distinction is that the former has an integrated solar inverter (MPPT), whereas the latter does not. The basis for this is that the latter is intended to work with either MPPT solar charge controllers or AC or DC inverters.
6. Off-Grid Inverter/Chargers Powerful battery inverters with built-in chargers are required for off-grid or stand-alone power systems that can be installed as either AC or DC-connected units. Many latest battery inverters/chargers can also be utilized to build advanced hybrid on-grid systems that can back up a full home (with most electricity needs) and run off-grid for a long period of time (weeks or sometimes months), based on the size of the battery and solar.
Off-Grid Inverter Charger
Off-grid Inverter/chargers come in a variety of sizes, ranging from comparatively small 3-kilowatt units to massive 10-kilowatt ones meant to run high-consumption equipment such as air conditioning systems, microwave ovens, and electric geysers. Inverter/chargers with heavy-duty transformers are much more costly than ordinary hybrid inverters with no transformers because energy-intensive equipment needs a high constant source of power or initial “surge” current. Inverter/chargers range in price from 1500 US dollars for a 2.5-kilowatt unit to 8000 US dollars for a 10-kilowatt model, based on the output power rating.
7. Battery-based Inverter/Charger: Many off-grid solar units charge the battery on their own, however, it can be challenging for the unit to completely charge the battery during cloudy or cold weather or when there is a lot of shadowing. This is where the inverter/charger comes in to fulfill the system’s energy requirements. This inverter is bi-directional, meaning it can function both as a battery charger as well as an inverter.
An AC generator is necessary for this system to initiate the transition of AC power to DC and likewise. It can be grid-tied, grid-interactive, or off-grid. The inverter charger converts AC energy from the generator into DC to charge the battery, while the DC is transformed back into AC to serve the load demand with continuous power.
Nevertheless, if there is a grid-tied system loss, customers will notice the effects of the blackout, since this inverter/charger will de-power to cease producing electricity using the anti-islanding approach, just like the UL1741 inverter/charger. An “islanding” is when an inverter creates power In the event of a grid failure.
What is it inverting and what is it charging?
People often get confused with the terms like inverter/chargers, power inverters, charge controller, and hybrid inverters, etc., so we decided to give a quick review of some terms and the differences between them. What exactly is a “Power inverter”?
When a device is plugged into a socket, it utilizes AC power. The majority of the off-grid solar power systems, on the other hand, store energy in the form of DC power deep cycle batteries. The off-grid inverter transforms direct current from the battery Power into the alternate current for your use.
What exactly is an inverter charger?
Solar panels are frequently used to charge the battery bank in off-grid solar power systems. In the winter season, when the daytime is short, solar power alone might not be sufficient to charge the batteries. An AC generator can be utilized in these situations to charge the batteries. For this purpose, the AC power from the generator would be converted to DC power with the help of an inverter/charger.
An off-grid inverter/charger functions bi-directionally, which means to charge the battery it converts power from AC to DC from the AC generator, and for the appliances, it converts DC (from the battery) to AC. Some inverter/chargers can even start a generator remotely if the charge level of batteries drops too low. Inverters Chargers are reliable power sources for continuous backup applications.
Usually, an inverter/charger has 2 modes:
1) Inverter Mode: This is the most typical off-grid inverter mode, in which Dc voltage from the battery bank is converted to AC to operate household electronics. Off-grid battery backup devices are most commonly used for this purpose. Inverters/chargers automatically transition from utility power to battery backup power during a blackout in the utility grid, stationary applications, or when driving in mobile applications.
2) Standby or Charger Mode: The inverter/charger functions as a battery charger, converting incoming alternating current to direct current and charging the battery. Moreover, most inverter/chargers available in the market today transfer incoming AC directly to the AC outputs of the inverter/charger to power AC loads.
What is a Solar Charge Controller
The power from the solar array that goes into the battery bank is managed by a solar charge controller. It prevents the deep-cycle batteries from being overworked during the day and prevents power from flowing back to the solar panels during the nighttime, draining the battery banks. Why do you need a Solar Charge Controller? People frequently question that if an inverter/charger is used in an off-grid solar set-up, why is a solar charge controller required.
The inverter/charger’s charger is an AC charge. It charges the battery bank with an alternating current, such as a grid or generator. If you’re charging the battery bank with solar panels, you’ll need a solar charge controller to keep track of it. You will have an inverter/charger and a charge controller charging the deep cycle battery bank from 2 sources if you additionally use an AC supply to aid out when the direct solar energy(from the sun) isn’t giving enough energy.
What is the difference between an inverter and an inverter charger?
An inverter is a device that converts DC (battery) power into AC power and then distributes it to electrical appliances connected to it. An inverter/charger performs the same function, except that it is coupled to an AC source to continually charge the attached battery banks when AC power is available.
What’s the difference between an inverter charger and a charge controller, and do you need both?
The inverter/charger in a normal PV system performs 2 primary functions:
1) transforms DC power from the batteries into consumer AC, which can power conventional appliances and other energy demands, and
2) turns AC energy into DC energy, which can be used to charge deep cycle battery banks. This bi-directional energy exchange is necessary for PV systems to store and use energy efficiently. Multiple AC sources, for instance, generators or the grid, can also be used to charge batteries with hybrid inverter/chargers like the MSH-M.
The inverter/charger can supply reliable and ready power whether you live off-grid or in the areas where clouds feel home or have utility power when the grid goes down. A charge controller, on the other hand, delivers electricity in one direction, charging deep cycle batteries with solar power and prevents the current from draining back into the PV array in the dark.
DELVING DEEP INTO THE CONCEPTS
Off-grid and charge controllers
Off-grid solar systems are exactly what they sound like. They’re made to run in remote locations and are totally independent of the power grid. Off-grid solar systems require various additional components to function properly. The energy from the sun is utilized when the sun is up and shining. The electricity (DC) captured by the panels of the solar system is routed to a device known as a charge controller in an off-grid installation.
The charge controller receives power from the panels and transmits it to either battery or to different batteries banks for storage purpose. An off-grid system is typically designed with a little larger solar panel array than a regular grid-tied system to ensure one has quite enough electricity for daily needs and to keep the system running smoothly.
Furthermore, if you have a well-designed system, you won’t run out of power for several years before needing to replace your bank of batteries. What happens if your need for power fluctuates or the loads surpass the panel’s capacity to provide enough power? A hybrid solar system with an inverter charger should be your go-to move.
Hybrid Solar Systems and inverter charger
Hybrid inverters, are usually called as battery ready inverters are actually a combination of a solar panel and a battery inverter into a single unit. As hybrid technology progresses and batteries become less expensive, these inverters have become more competitive against solar inverters. This kind of inverters are the simplest way to install batteries, but they often have restricted capability to backup power and a slight delay (2 to 5 seconds) when switching to backup mode during a collapse.
The term “battery ready” is merely a marketing tactic to get you to persuade you so that you can get expensive solar system. If in the near future you decide to store energy, a hybrid inverter is a good investment, as long as the system is properly scaled to actively charge battery throughout the year, especially during shorter days of winter. In addition, not all hybrid inverters or battery ready can have the power of backup so make sure the system meets your requirements.
If you plan to add batteries in the future, you don’t need to build a hybrid inverter. In any solar system batteries can be added at any time utilizing one of the several AC coupled battery solutions available, such as the Sonnen ECO or Tesla Powerwall. A hybrid system is distinguished by the fact that it combines electricity (DC) and stores it in the battery bank with electricity (AC) from the generator or a grid to create a single, continuous system.
If the grid goes down, during harsh weather like heavy rainfall, natural disasters, or any other predicament where you may end up losing electricity that comes from the utility company or the sun has been playing hide and seek and you can’t gather solar power to run your loads for a very long time, here hybrid solar systems come in handy they take advantage of this treat that is storing energy in the batteries and make use of it when required.
A hybrid system’s design effectively increases the amount of power that an off-grid system can deliver. Your inverter in a hybrid system gathers energy from the generator or any utility company, as well as electricity from the batteries (which charges themselves from the charge controller and eventually the panels and sun. In a conventional off-grid solar system, you’re restricted by the amount of energy stored in one’s batteries and the possible maximum output of the inverter. The photo of the off grid which you can see above has a 3000 watt inverter installed within a solar system.
This indicates that the consumer cannot utilize more than 3000 watts at any given moment. When using electricity stored in the batteries, a hybrid system’s output is limited only by the inverter’s rated output. This is due to the fact that inverter does not need to convert AC electricity from the connected grid; all it needs to do is to transmit it on to other loads in the building. Due to the perks of having electricity accessible to you all the time (even in the grim situation when the grid is down), thanks to tiered pricing from the utility company (only utilizing grid energy when during the day when the rate is very low) and the protective role it plays in prolonging the life of appliances and gadgets in your home.
Nowadays this kind of system has become much more accessible in recent solar history. As previously stated, a purely grid-tied inverter will shut down if the grid is going down or if the input of the grid voltage is too high or too low. The incoming grid voltage spikes and drops might shorten the life of the electrical constituents, especially sensitive electronic and other products with compressors and motors.
When the input of AC to the inverter is above or below a specified threshold in a hybrid system, the inverter will automatically convert to “backup battery mode” to offer the stable and purest electricity possible. The sense of satisfaction and calmness that comes with having an energy backup and device for under and above voltage protection can be an almost treasured commodity for hotels, restaurant and other related service-based enterprises in distant places.
This is very effective for use in hospitals and nursing facilities, where a power loss can cause far more difficulties as compare to the broken compressor of a freezer or a freezer full of spoiled food after a day without electricity. The advantages of hybrid systems are most readily apparent in the system’s overall cost. There is obviously a hefty cost associated with this additional luxury.
What should One Consider While Opting For An Inverter-Charger
When selecting an inverter-charger for your hybrid solar system, there are various factors to consider. The very first thing one should notice is the form of electrical output. There are two forms of electrical output in the most fundamental sense: modified sinewave and pure sinewave.
In almost all cases, a pure sinewave inverter is required. This is the same type of electrical output that is generated by the utility grid. The pros of using a pure sinewave inverter is that it’s output is stable all the times, unlike the variations one could get from the utility grid of their area . The other point to remember is to match the size of one’s inverter-charger to the magnitude of one’s loads. If your building requires continuous electric power of 3000 watts, you’ll require an inverter-charger that can easily tolerate these loads. Get yourself ready to spend at least 1.5 times the load you currently have on an inverter-charger.
If by any chance your property has a continuous demand of 3000 watt, you’ll require a 4,500 watt inverter-charger nearly. Your battery bank should be designed based on the load, production by the solar units, as well as the length of time (in days) you want to store energy without using the sun or solar panels. The flex of a hybrid system with an inverter-charger is that if you go several days without sun and your batteries are going below a safe depth of discharge, your inverter-charger will use electricity from the utility grid or a generator to sustain battery voltage, it will keep your batteries safe from damage by maintaining it at a voltage that is safe, and provide you with uninterrupted, continuous power.
Is the Solar Inverter charger a game-changer?
Solar inverter chargers can be a game-changer for many vans, or tiny home dwellers, etc. Gone are the days of distressing about having continuous and reliable access to energy. Solar inverter chargers are reliable, versatile and provide you with the peace of mind that no matter the conditions or season, your solar installation will come to the rescue and it will be able to meet your energy needs.
In a RV or boat, an inverter/charger charges the battery bank from shore power or a generator, and the inverter converts the DC electricity in order to run your AC loads.
An internal transfer switch on a boat or RV inverter charger detects when you’re connected to another power source automatically (like shore power). It then moves any power loads to the new AC power source and begins charging the battery with that source. You’d have to manually switch a transfer switch or unplug and reconnect appliances to the new power source if you didn’t have this feature.
When the charger is unplugged, the transfer relay reverts to inverter power, and the charger will shut down. In layman’s terms, a combined inverter charger provides greater surge power, which is required for most products to start. A remote panel that allows you to check your total usage and the battery level is usually included with this sort of inverter. You can then adjust your settings according to your battery type and other factors also have a role to play, which ultimately extend the life of your battery.
Inverter chargers are generally available in sizes above 1,000 watts. While they are extremely convenient, the cost of that convenience is enormous. Inverter chargers are often more expensive than standalone units, and installation fees must be factored in. It’s important to note that a licensed electrician or certified installation should install an RV or marine inverter charger.
People who enjoy camping and living in remote areas might benefit greatly from owning a motorhome or recreational vehicle. This is due to the fact that the vehicles provide the impression that the passengers are riding in their own houses. You have access to a private bedroom where you can rest comfortably.
Furthermore, the user has access to a kitchen where they can prepare their own meals. This allows them to cook meals rather than relying just on snacks. Users who want to use a lot of electrical appliances may have issues with their batteries.
This is where Freedom inverter chargers come in handy. The Freedom HF Inverter/Charger is one of the world’s smallest, lightest, and cheapest inverter/chargers that is available in the market. The Freedom HF Inverter/Charger has a modified sine wave output and is intended for use in boats, RVs, and trucks to power entertainment systems and small appliances.
Three varieties of the Freedom HF are available: 1000 watts with a 20-amp charger, 1000 watts with a 55-amp charger, and 1800 watts with a 40-amp charger.
A standalone inverter may be the correct solution for you if you only need to power a single item. An inverter charger may be the right option if you need to run more than one device on your boat or RV, or if you utilize full hook-ups every night.
What kind of batteries can I charge with a solar inverter charger?
The inverter charger is capable of charging a variety of battery types, including gel, sealed and flooded lead acid batteries. A solar inverter charger will not be compatible with a lithium iron phosphate battery.
In which applications do we use inverter chargers?
Inverters Chargers are ideal for EMS, RVs, and other applications that require reliable battery backup while on the road. The ability to charge the battery bank through a grid system is the fundamental benefit of an inverter charger unit.
Although the units are primarily designed to run solar-powered off-grid systems, the inverter/charger owner should be aware that they have the option to connect to the grid at any moment.
Inverter chargers in large sizes are available in the market to meet the needs of a grid-tied cabin (home solar) system that has a backup battery bank.
What is a transfer switch?
A transfer switch allows your solar inverter charger to convert between AC shore power and AC inverter mode (DC to AC) automatically, allowing electronics to keep on working uninterrupted.
Why you should use inverter charger?
• They have the ability to charge your battery bank.
• You can use your electronical appliances without any hesitation.
• One unit is enough to do the job of two devices.
• Unlike a typical inverter, most come with an automatic transfer switch, so you don’t have to manually turn them on and off like a typical inverter.
Who should buy a solar inverter charger?
Solar inverter chargers make sure that you have access to energy at all times, which is especially useful if you live in a location where your solar panels don’t get enough sunlight to charge your battery bank
• Those who live off the grid but have access to shore power, such as generators and campground hookups
• Those who require supplemental energy or live in area where clouds cover the sky most of the times.
• Those looking for a backup power solution for their energy crisis.
What size solar inverter charger do we require?
Numerous companies offer a variety of solar inverter chargers as per the need, including the 3000W pure sine wave inverter charger and the 2000w or 1000w inverter charger if you have fewer needs.
• When choosing the proper size inverter charger for your system, keep in mind that the inverter charger must match the battery voltage. You should acquire a 12V inverter charger if you have a 12V battery. You should also ensure that your inverter charger can stand at least 1.5 times the load you expect on a regular basis. We recommend summing up the rated watts of the loads you plan to run at the same time to ensure this.
• If you plan to use a laptop, a water pump, LED light at the same time you should purchase atleast 1,000-watt inverter charger and see if that loads sum up to a total wattage consumption of 600-watts per hour. 1000-watt is a right choice.
What will happen if battery is being charged with both inverter charger and solar panel at the same time?
An explosion and fire, is the most obvious answer. When the battery is discharged and first being charged, this setup could possibly charge the battery too fast, stressing the battery and thus reducing its lifetime.
If the inverter charger is charging the battery with all the current the battery should take, then the additional current from the solar panel will stress the battery, overheating it and/or causing outgassing and/or boiling and/or fire and/or explosion. Don’t do it, unless the total possible current from both sources together is less than the battery’s recommended maximum charging current.