How Do I Run 240V From Solar Panels?
Introduction: What You Need To Know About Running 240V from Solar Panels
Running 240V appliances and accessories off-grid with a solar power system requires an inverter- which can be a sine wave or modified sine wave inverter. An inverter is designed to convert direct current (DC) electricity stored by the battery in solar systems into alternating current (AC). Further, various types of inverters also come in different sizes for different applications. For example, some inverters can handle multiple functions such as charging, or managing energy from the grid and from solar input. Understanding how the inverter works, and being aware of the factors to consider when deciding on an inverter type, can help to ensure that you get the best out of your solar system.
Why Your Solar System Must Have an Inverter
An inverter converts a lower voltage Direct Current (DC) from a storage battery, to a higher voltage Alternating Current (AC) energy, commonly known as ‘mains electricity’. This mains electricity is what is typically used to run household appliances and other large electronics in residential and small commercial properties. As such, if you want to run these types of appliances using solar power, your solar system must have an inverter, as it is the only way to convert the electricity coming off of your solar panel into the type of electricity needed to run your gadgets.
How the Inverter Works and What Parts Are Required
The inverter differs from other components of your solar system in that it requires an external source of electricity to operate; either directly from a solar panel, renewable energy resource or from the solar storage battery. Solar panels or storage batteries convert the sun’s energy directly into Direct Current (DC) electricity, but it is not suitable for most appliances and lighting. The inverter then takes DC energy from either the solar panel or storage battery and provides an alternating current (AC) output to power your 240 Volt AC mains appliance.
The inverter also consists of a voltage booster, a cooling fan, and a display. The voltage booster increases the voltage of the AC output, while the cooling fan and display regulate the overall performance of the device. In addition, an Automatic Transfer Switch (ATS) is required to allow the use of appliances from both the grid and solar sources. Without it, the inverter will not be able to switch automatically between the two sources.
Factors To Consider When Deciding on Inverter Type
When choosing an inverter for powering the appliances in your home, it is important to consider the size and type of inverter that best suits your needs. The size of the inverter is determined by its wattage rating, which is the maximum amount of electrical energy the inverter can supply at any one time. For instance, if you were running a 3 kW air conditioner, it would need an inverter with a minimum rating of 3 kW.
In addition, it’s also important to consider the type of inverter that is the most suited to your needs, as there are different types of inverters available; pure sine wave inverters and modified sine wave inverters. A pure sine wave inverter provides the cleanest form of electricity and is suitable for running sensitive electrical equipment, while a modified sine wave inverter provides a less costly form of electricity which is suitable for simple appliances.
Types of Inverters Available and How They Work
Pure sine wave inverters produce electricity to the same standard as the grid, which ensures that it is safe and clean for sensitive equipment. It is also a highly reliable type of inverter, which is why it is the most widely used for residential and commercial properties where electrical loads vary greatly.
To produce pure sine waves, pure sine wave inverters take the direct current from the solar panel or battery storage, and runs it through a process that involves switching the polarity of the current multiple times. The shifted current is then passed through a filter which smooths the sine wave into a flat line and removes any ‘ripple’ from the output.
Modified Sine Wave inverters are a more affordable option compared to pure sine wave inverters, and can be used to power simpler, non-sensitive appliances. Modified sine waves have a ‘choppiness’ to them, which is why they are not suitable for higher-end electronics.
To produce modified sine waves, the inverter takes the direct current from the solar panel or battery storage and runs it through an Electronic Switch. This switches the polarity of the current multiple times and produces a modified sine wave.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Using Inverters
Using an inverter to power large appliances allows for the ultimate convenience of a solar system- eliminating the need for grid connections. For example, it allows you to charge a laptop or mobile phone from a solar panel, or to run tools or a laptop from a battery. Inverters also add a layer of safety as well, as they are equipped with surge protection, which is a feature that will shut off the power should it detect a large spike in the electricity being transported which could cause damage to the appliance being used.
On the other hand, pure sine wave inverters are costly and can require large battery banks to accommodate the higher demands of AC demands. In addition, the lifespan of modified sine wave inverters is shorter than pure wave inverters due to the ‘choppiness’ of the current, which can cause wear and tear on the appliance.
Choosing the Right Inverter for Your Solar System
The right inverter for you depends on your solar system size, the appliances you need to power, and your budget. If you are powering highly sensitive equipment, then a pure sine wave inverter is the better choice. This type of inverter also offers improved performance with higher wattage loads, such as when running air conditioners. If, however, you are looking to power simpler appliances, or your budget is constricted, then a modified sine wave inverter would be more suitable.
No matter what type of inverter you choose, it’s important to remember that all inverters that offer AC output need to be connected to an appropriate Automatic Transfer Switch (ATS) which will allow the inverter to switch between the grid and solar sources. The ATS also serves as a safety feature, as it immediately shuts off the power if it detects a large power spike that could damage your appliances.
When investing in an inverter, it is important to choose one that matches your solar system size and the type of appliances you are running. Doing so will ensure that your inverter operates safely and efficiently, and that your home can enjoy the benefits of your solar system to the fullest.