The Guide to Power Inverters for Homes

If you want to run your household electric devices without any power interruptions, then investing in a home power inverter is an excellent choice. These devices come in various voltage and load capacities – you should select the right one according to your requirements. In the basic design of a home power inverter, a DC source (battery) is connected to a transformer through the center tap of the main winding. 

The power requirements of your home can differ from your neighbor’s home, so you shouldn’t just blindly get the same inverter installed in your home as well. Before buying a power inverter for home, you should do a little homework and understand some basics. And that’s the purpose of this guide. 

What is a Power Inverter?

In simple words, a power inverter is a device that converts low-voltage DC (direct current) to standard household AC (alternating current). You can also use power inverters for your car, truck, boat, RV, or renewable energy sources. It allows you to use your household appliances and electrical equipment with the power produced by your car’s battery. 

An inverter draws its power from either a small 12V battery or numerous smaller batteries (wired in parallel). When the power in the inverter is depleted, it will need to be recharged with a car motor, generator, wind turbines, solar power, or electrical supply. 

How Are Inverters Typically Used?

Besides providing AC power to run your electrical equipment in RVs, cars, trucks, boats, etc., they are also used to protect your home electric appliances and belongings during a power outage. They do so by providing emergency backup power to your essential equipment, such as freezers, medical devices, smartphones, sump pumps, microwave ovens, etc. 

There are two types of power inverters (not to be confused with the types mentioned below as they are based on the mechanism of power inverters). The first one is a basic power inverter that is used to provide AC power from a vehicle’s battery. The second one is a bit expensive, and it is an inverter charger that is used to provide backup alternating current power in case of an emergency, such as power outage. 

Types of Power Inverters

There are basically three types of power inverters, based on the output waveforms. 

  • Pure Sine Wave Power Inverter

AC has continuously varying voltage that keeps on swinging from positive to negative. This comes in handy while power transmission over a long distance. To get pure sine wave, the power from the grid is carefully regulated. Also, the sine wave radiates the least amount of radio power during transmission over a long distance. However, it is expensive to generate true sine wave in an inverter. At the cost of its expensive process, all the electronic and electrical appliances in your home will work quite well in a sine wave power inverter.

The major advantage of this type of inverters is that all the household appliances are made to operate in sine wave alternating current. Another big advantage is that the true sine wave is a form of soft temporal rise voltage that doesn’t produce harmonic oscillations that can result in unwanted counter forces on engines, surge current on condensers, and interference on radio equipment.

  • Modified Sine wave or Quasi Sine wave

Modified sine wave power inverters are used to simulate sine wave, since generating it in the true form is expensive. This modified sine waveform consists of a flat plateau of positive voltage that drops to zero for a short period and then drops to a flat plateau of negative voltage. After this, it goes back to zero again and returns to positive. Quite complicated, right?

In simple words, inverters that generate modified sine wave can power household appliances quite adequately. Additionally, they are more economical compared to their true sine wave counterparts. However, they may encounter certain problems with appliances like laser printers, some music systems, microwave ovens, and digital clocks. 

  • Square Wave Power Inverter

These types of power inverters are the cheapest compared to the types mentioned above. They produce the simplest form of output wave and are used to run simple appliances without any issues. The square wave that these inverters generate can easily be made using a simple oscillator. 

If you want to run basic home appliances and are not looking to invest in an expensive power inverter, then getting a square wave inverter is a great choice to go for. 

How to Choose the Right Power Inverter for Your Home

  • Understand your Power Requirement

One of the most important considerations before you buy an inverter for your home is your power requirement. In easy words, you need the power that is required to run all (or some specific) electrical appliances of your home at the time of power outage, such as fan, tube lights, CFL, television, microwave oven, etc. 

For example, you need 3 fans, 1 CFL, 1 TV, and 3 tube lights to run at the same time during the power failure. Below is the power requirement of all these appliances:

  • 1 Fan – 70 Watts (210 watts for three fans)
  • 1 tube light – 60 watts (180 watts for three tube lights)
  • 1 CFL – 25 watts
  • 1 Television – 120 watts

Total power requirement: 210+180+25+120= 535 watts 

  • Find the VA Rating Of the Inverter You Need

VA stands for Volt ampere rating. This rating is actually the current and voltage supplied by the power inverter to the appliance. Most inverters have the efficiency range from about 60 percent to 80 percent, depending on the type of inverter and manufacturer. This efficiency range of a power inverter is also called power factor. So, most power inverters have a power factor ranging from 0.6 to 0.8. 

Hence, VA rating = power requirement / power factor (efficiency)

Let’s consider 0.7 here as the average value of the power factor. 

VA (power of inverter) = 535 watts / 0.7 (power factor)

VA= 765 VA

So, you want a power inverter that has a VA rating of 765 or more. According to these requirements, an inverter with 800 VA is available in the market, and it will be the right choice for your house. 

The Difference between Continuous Load and Peak Load

To put it simply, continuous load is the wattage that the power inverter always runs at. On the other hand, the peak load is the starting load, which is necessary to get the appliance powered up. Almost all the inverters have a peak load that is double its continuous wattage. For instance, if an XYZ inverter has 500 watts of continuous output, it might have a peak load of 1000 watts (more or less).

Here is the list of power inverters that can be an ideal choice for your home:

Product
Visual
Where to Buy
Samlex Solar PST-1500-12 PST Series Pure Sine Wave Inverter
Xantrex Prowatt Sw1000 1000W True Sinewave Inverter
Schumacher XI41B 410W Power Converter 
Magnum MS2012 2000W Inverter 
SUNGOLDPOWER 12000W Peak 36000W Split Phase Pure Sine Wave Power Inverter

Samlex Solar PST-1500-12 PST Series Pure Sine Wave Inverter

Samlex Solar PST-1500-12 PST Series is a pure sine wave inverter that comes with a remote controller for easy on and off. If you have this connected to your primary supply of home and you experience a power failure, you can use its remote control to simply turn its backup power on without having to look for it in the dark. However, it is not the lightest inverter for home (weighs 12 pounds), but it surely works great and as quiet as possible with a cooling fan. 

Plus, you need a 12V battery to connect it with (you can connect more if you want) in order to charge it. Moreover, this power inverter has a universal protection circuit installed for over-temperature, low voltage, over-voltage, overload, and short circuit. It is available in four different power capacities to choose from.

Xantrex Prowatt Sw1000 1000W True Sinewave Inverter

Xantex Prowatt Sw1000 isn’t as powerful as the previous one, providing only 900 watts of continuous power. However, it provides 2000 watts of peak load. It also has an Ethernet port and a USB port that are a great addition. The thermal cooling fan installed in it works quite well, and while it is not silent enough, it isn’t loud either. 

Although this power inverter is lightweight (8 pounds only), it isn’t travel-friendly and is better suited to be placed in a certain part of your home. It comes with a 25ft long cable that comes in handy when installing it at a distance from the service panel. For instance, if your service panel that controls your electricity is in the basement, you can place the inverter in a closet upstairs and take the cable down into the basement to connect it to the circuit breaker. 

The thing that you might not like about it is that it doesn’t come with a remote switch (sold separately). That said, it is backed by a 2-year warranty and features protection features such as low voltage shutdown, overload shutdown, over-voltage protection, low voltage alarm, and over temperature. 

Schumacher XI41B 410W Power Converter 

Looking for a functional yet affordable power inverter? This one by Schumacher is the right choice. First and foremost, it is surprisingly lightweight (2.2 pounds only). You can even take it with you on a road trip to convert your vehicle power to household power. It comes with terminals for batteries and a USB port. 

One of its unique features is that it produces a sound when its battery is low. This is an amazing feature that will let you know that the inverter is running out of power so you can recharge it later. However, it only provides 410 watts of continuous power along with 800 watts of peak load. This inverter might not be capable of providing power for your entire home but will come in handy for a small apartment or just for powering small gadgets and electronic devices. 

Magnum MS2012 2000W Inverter 

If you want a powerful inverter that can easily manage the power needs of your entire home, then this one by Magnum Energy is best suited for you. It provides 2 kilowatts of continuous power that is enough to supply power for large homes with almost no complications. Due to its aluminum base, Magnum MS2012 inverter is surprisingly quiet. 

Additionally, its exterior casing is also made of aluminum, ensuring that the inverter doesn’t corrode and last a long time. It weighs 47 pounds, making it not the right choice to travel with. This is the reason that it also doesn’t feature USB ports for charging your electronic gadgets. 

SUNGOLDPOWER 12000W Peak 36000W Split Phase Pure Sine Wave Power Inverter

This power inverter is the most powerful inverter on our list, which is capable of providing a whopping 12,000 watts of continuous power and a peak load of 36,000 watts. It is not just an ordinary inverter/charger but a combination of AC charger, MPPT solar charger, Auto-transfer switch, and an inverter – all in one system. The unique thing about this device is that it is designed with AC priority by default. 

Here are some of its top interesting features:

  • Low-Frequency Inverter
  • Smart Remote Control
  • Automatic Generator Starting (AGS)
  • Solar Panel Support with MPPT Function
  • Eight pre-set battery type selector
  • De-sulphation for totally flat batteries
  • 4-step Intelligent Battery Charging
  • PFC (Power Factor Correction) for Charger
  • Transfer time of 8 milliseconds between utility & battery
  • Protection for load when used with a generator

This inverter is an excellent choice for powering up circular saws, grinders, sanders, buffers, air compressors, computers, printers, and much more!

Some Safety Tips for Using Power Inverters

  • Always make sure to place the inverter to a flat surface – it should be steady wherever you mount it. 
  • You should charge the inverter in a cool, dry place by maintaining a reasonable distance from the main electrical supply. 
  • Don’t place the inverter close to a source of heat, for example, a radiator, vent, or electric/gas heaters. Plus, don’t expose it to extreme sunlight – it should be in a place where the temperature ranges from 50 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Keep your inverter adequately ventilated. Depending on the location where the fan is installed, you should make sure that it has plenty of room to blow out hot air. Don’t cover the inverter’s vents. 

Final Verdict

A power inverter is an excellent addition to your home to provide instant backup power in case of an emergency. Another best thing about power inverters is that you can carry a lightweight one in your car and use it to convert the car’s battery power to AC power and run your household appliances.