What is an Alternating Current Power Inverter (uses and how it operates)

For the avid camper, bringing a high-quality AC converter with you is critical to getting the most enjoyment out of weekend camping.

An AC inverter can also be of value if you have frequent power outages or occasionally disconnect from the grid for work or other missions.

Here’s our guide to help you get acquainted with these hugely beneficial electrical equipment.

What does an Alternating Current Power Inverter do?

The AC inverter plugs into a typical DC source like your car battery and takes the power from that source and converts it into AC power, hence the name.

So why this conversion?

Connecting an appliance like your toaster oven to the 12v battery in the event of a power outage will ensure that you have breakfast without toast.

This is because the construction of these devices can only work if they are powered by alternating current (AC) that comes from the grid and not direct current (DC) from the battery or solar panels.

This begs the question: what is the difference between AC and DC power and why can’t these devices get DC power?

Well, DC flows in one direction all the time while AC always changes direction (forward/backward).

I don’t want to go into the detailed physics of how control is produced, so let me go straight to the main reason why DC isn’t enough for machines like coffee makers and computers.

Now the output of DC sources is usually less than required for some electronics, kitchenware and tools.

The inverter plays an important role because the output voltage is higher and equal to the household plug voltage that the utility lines supply to your home.

The alternating current produced by the inverter should be enough to power hundreds of devices, hence the growing popularity of this accessory.

What are the parts of an alternating Current Power Inverter?

There are a few different types of AC inverters available, but the design is very similar.

Transistors, resistors, capacitors and a number of other circuitry get things going during the voltage amplification and current conversion process.

Recently, most of the AC inverters have been added with improvements such as undervoltage and overvoltage protection to prevent sensitive equipment from being damaged by overvoltages and the like.

How does an alternating Current Power Inverter work?

As explained above, an AC inverter does not generate power by itself and only transforms the current generated by a DC power supply.

There are two DC-to-AC converter circuit designs for use:

The first uses a switching boost converter to output a higher voltage DC current. Then he converts it into alternating current.

The other design converts DC to AC at the battery level and then creates the corresponding AC output voltage using a transformer.

What type of AC power inverter should I select?

In today’s market there are three types of investors.

To distinguish them, let’s look primarily at the waveform (the shape that shows how alternating current varies over time).

Have a look:

1.Square wave AC power inverters

Here the electricity will have a constant power and be considered too jerky.

In fact they produce some “hum” when plugged into audio equipment and this is bad news for all sensitive electronic devices (these don’t like the “dirty” power supply and can be easily damaged if fed with that power.).

As a result, you probably won’t find them outside of low-sensitivity devices like lighting (light bulbs) and heating (some stoves) these days.

But since they were the standard for years, they are still worth talking about.

2.Pure (or true) Sine wave AC power inverters (PSW inverter)

These continuously produce a perfectly uniform sine wave voltage and the current is as clean as that of power plants, making it the best choice for the most sensitive electronics.

These include laser printers and most power tools (these, including light power tools, are easily damaged when subjected to such force).

3.Modified sine wave AC power inverters (MSW inverters)

These meet in the middle and produce a slightly stepped (neither smooth nor square) waveform.

And while it’s a huge upgrade from the extremely raw square waveform, the output here is still noticeably uneven and can damage digital clock radios, refrigerators, coffee makers, and most other sensitive appliances.

Smoothing out the waveform from modified sine wave inverter

Some appliances work best with mounting line conditioners (chokes or transformers) to MSW inverters, so this is something to consider as PSW AC inverters are very expensive.

Of course, they may not always perform as well as when they are in PSW inverters, but they won’t get damaged.

Will a 1000 Watt Inverter Power a Refrigerator?

What are the common power inverter capacities?

An important thing to consider is the output capacity of the inverter as it will not operate if it does not match the expected load.

The most common sizes are 500 watts, 800 watts, 1000 watts and 1500 watts.

Sometimes you can find 3000 watts and 5000 watts, but you will probably find more people with the above sizes because they are suitable for small and medium electrical loads.

Of course, you should consider the expected consumption of all your devices before choosing the best capacity.

And the more they are, the greater the required production capacity.

Power-hungry appliances like refrigerators are sure to use more power, meaning you might be forced to invest in one of the highest wattage models.

Final thoughts

In general, the safest AC inverter you can buy is one that produces pure sine waves.

But they are quite expensive and generally unattainable if you don’t have a budget.

MSW inverters are the other option, and while they work fairly well with a variety of devices, you’re risking items like microwave ovens, some fans, gaming devices, and laser printers.

Which brings me to a cheaper alternative way to run your equipment: a generator.

It can be more efficient with certain devices, and most importantly saves you hundreds of dollars compared to using an inverter.

The noticeable difference between an inverter and a generator.

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