ACDC Express

How to Pick the perfect inverter? Let’s compare the various options

It feels almost impossible to go an entire day without thinking about load shedding. Billboards, adverts, app notifications, meal preparation, as well as time spent sitting in the dark all work together to keep load shedding in our thoughts. Are you tired of those days when you wake up for work with no electricity, and then get greeted at home with more darkness? It is time for a backup solution!

Too many choices

There are so many options for dealing with load shedding, to the point that it can be overwhelming. Technical terms are everywhere, which is useful if you know what they mean, but rather pointless otherwise. Let’s look at the various options as well as their pros and cons so that you can pick the perfect option for your power needs, as well as your wallet.

It all starts with an inverter

The word inverter will appear often when looking at backup solutions, and with good reason! The electricity we get from the main grid is provided as alternating current (AC), and most appliances are built to run on AC power. When power is stored in batteries, or comes from solar panels, it is supplied as direct current (DC), which needs to be inverted to AC for use in the home. Many generators are built to supply AC, which is why they are often seen as the simplest option. There are drawbacks to using a simple setup, which we will discuss shortly. In the majority of backup power systems, you will have an inverter involved.

Inverter generator

Inverter Generator

Inverter generators deal with some of the drawbacks of the conventional generator, but different disadvantages are introduced. The inverter generator works by generating AC via its alternator just like a normal generator, but then it converts the current to DC before a microprocessor inverts it back to AC. This process results in cleaner AC power, which is much more suitable for electronic devices. Inverter generators also adjust engine speed based on current electrical demand, which uses less fuel and creates less noise when operating at lower loads. So while a generator could provide more power for less, the quality is lower, which can damage high-end appliances and devices.

Power trolley

Power Trolley Inverter

This option has seen a lot of use, considering its lower price point. A power trolley is made of an inverter and batteries in a little metal box, normally on wheels. While this option has appeal due to its lower price, it isn’t built for heavy, frequent usage. The lower price comes from using lead-acid batteries, which have shorter lifecycles and can be damaged by discharging them too much and not fully recharging them before load shedding hits again. (Read more about lead-acid batteries here!)

Portable power station

Portable Power Station Inverter

The portable power station has picked up in popularity, mainly because it handles higher stages of load shedding much better than a power trolley. The portable power station includes an inverter and a lithium-ion battery. As a result, the product has a longer lifespan, deeper depth of discharge and faster charging when power returns. They are also fairly light, with most units having a handle for easy carrying.

Portable power stations also tend to have multiple outlets so that you can connect your phone or tablet directly to the unit.

Uninterruptible Power Supply

UPS Uninterruptible Power Supply Inverter

Even your UPS has an inverter! While this isn’t truly a backup solution, it could go a long way to helping improve quality of life! Having an important computer die when load shedding kicks in could result in hours of lost work. A UPS can keep the power on for just long enough to save your work, or excuse yourself from a meeting or call. A UPS could keep your router on for a while, letting you stay connected to the WiFi while you sit in the fark. Or you could keep medical equipment operational during a power outage.

Smile and wave

The next time you see far too many technical terms related to batteries and inverters, take a deep breath and focus on what matters to you. More and more inverters provide a sine wave (often listed as pure sine wave), which is exactly how power from Eskom is provided. Cheaper inverters will use modified sine waves, but the trade-off is that motors will use more power, or lights might buzz or hum. In general, what matters most to you will be:

  • Watts: Measure of how much power a device uses or supplies. It is voltage times the amps.
  • Amps: The amount of current at the moment. Higher amps needs more wires, or you will overheat the wires, or get a voltage drop.
  • Watt-hour: (Often kilowatt hour, kWh) Take how many watts a device uses times by the hours in use. A 100-watt light that is on for 5 hours is 500 watt-hours or 5kWh. A 1,500-watt microwave that is on for 10 minutes uses 250-watt-hours. (One-sixth of an hour times 1,500).
  • Amp-hour: This is the number of amps multiplied by time. This is used to measure battery capacity. Abbreviated as AH.

So the next time you see a 1000W PURE SINE WAVE INVERTER 12VDC:230VAC listed, you know what: It can provide 1000W, has an input voltage of 12V and an output voltage of 230VAC, it provides a sine wave for your equipment. Because no AH is listed, you know that there is no battery included with this inverter. See, not that tough once you know what means watt, and how to read the sines.

Drop by your local ACDC Express store now to browse our comprehensive range of inverters and backup power solutions!

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