The Don Rowe Blog
Power Inverters and Solar Energy
If you are considering installing a solar system to help transform the sun’s energy to AC power for your home, you would be in good company. Aside from the many thousands upon thousands of private residents that have installed solar-systems, corporate America, too, continues to take full advantage of the ultimate savings that solar systems have to offer. According to The Solar Energy Industries Association, their data released in 2012 lists a host of corporate users of solar power; and the top five include 1) Walmart 2) Costco 3) Kohl’s 4) IKEA and 5) Macy’s. And there’s good news regarding installation costs: GTM Research states that as of 2010, the cost to install a residential solar system has dropped by almost 22%!
One piece of equipment that you’ll want to have on hand is a power inverter in order to operate all your AC-dependent equipment or appliances. It’s important to remember:
1: Never use any device that exceeds the ratings on your power inverter. Your inverter will have a government-mandated UL information tag that will inform you of the inverter’s maximum voltage and current (amps) output.
2: Look for the UL listing on any device that will be plugged into the power inverter. You’ll want to determine how many amps the device will pull from the inverter; and you’ll need to make sure the device or appliance does not use more than what the inverter is capable of handling.
3: Use precautionary measures while using a power inverter since, even though most inverters have fuse or circuit-breaker protection, some do not and can be damaged if proper care isn’t exercised.
What, Exactly, Does A Power Inverter Do?
Power inverters are pieces of equipment that come in all sizes, shapes and capabilities with the same goal—to convert direct current (DC), such as the power from a car battery, to alternating current (AC), which is the kind of current supplied to your home from the grid. Kitchen appliances, lights, computers, cell phones, DVDs etc. all require AC power in order to operate safely and efficiently. To choose a power inverter, consider the size and how much money you are willing to spend.
The Power of Solar Energy:
Our sun emits solar power in a form we call ‘spectrum light’. This spectrum light is the life-source used as life-giving energy for plants and animals. This same solar energy can be modified and harnessed to produce electricity for people to power everything under the sun, as mentioned above. Interestingly, the sun’s energy is so powerful, that the amount released every second is the equivalent of 100 BILLION H-Bombs—something the human mind cannot fully grasp. A tiny bit of energy mass creates an unfathomable amount of energy!
Solar panels contain what is known as photo voltaic cells or PVC. They are, in essence, semi-conductors which have electrical transmission properties. Solar panels are designed with sheets of doped silicon—the main element in common beach sand—with added impurities that will permit electrons to flow. When the intense, moving solar energy hits a PVC, a flow of electrons commences which can be drawn off by a pair of wires, creating DC or direct current. This direct current must be changed into alternating current to be used by everyday, household devices and appliances. This is accomplished, beautifully, via power inverters.
It’s to your advantage to check with your local utility company for rebates and check, also, with state and federal government agencies for applicable tax breaks concerning the installation of solar energy materials. In many cases, a solar system can pay for itself in 10-12 years; and in every instance, a solar installation system that has been financed with a home equity loan is recommended since the interest on the loan is tax-deductible.
Obviously, when it’s time to install solar panels, you’ll want the sunniest location, possible. A solar contractor can help determine the most appropriate location, taking into consideration such things as the angle of the rays of the sun and how they affect different parts of a home throughout the day.
The power generated by the solar panels can be stored in special batteries. By storing excess energy in these batteries during daylight hours, you’ll have extra power to use at night or when there is very little sunlight during overcast days.
The Power Inverter:
Power inverters, as stated, will convert direct current into useable alternating current. The current in your home, being alternating current, reverses directions a total of 60 times in a single second. That AC current is compatible for your AC-specific appliances and devices only because power inverters have changed the DC current into a useable form.
Through the use of stored energy within the batteries, many homeowners can feed power back to the electric grid; and some people either pay very little in electricity, or none at all, and some even make money off of extra electricity that is sold to the electric company. Conceivably, on a sunny day, your electric meter will actually run backwards—to your advantage, of course!
You’ll Have To Calculate:
To calculate the total maximum load of an inverter, you will need to figure out the total power consumption of your household appliances. Make a list of every appliance in your household. Your maximum power inverter load will be the wattage of all your appliances put together.
If the wattage for a particular device isn’t available, find the voltage and amperage for that appliance. Note: multiply the voltage and amperage to get the wattage, so: volts X amps = watts. Add the wattage of every appliance you’ll run off the inverter and that total will be your maximum inverter load.
It’s very important to purchase an inverter that is rated a bit more than the total load wattage. This will compensate for voltage spikes that can temporarily take place when an appliance is initially turned on. Also, be careful not to choose a significantly inexpensive inverter since it could damage or destroy valuable electronic equipment. With power inverters, you will get what you pay for! Take the time to do some homework on power inverters and then seek a professional who can help you make the best choice for your particular needs.