A power inverter, or inverter, is an electronic device or circuitry that changes direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC).[1]

The input voltage, output voltage and frequency, and overall power handling depend on the design of the specific device or circuitry. The inverter does not produce any power; the power is provided by the DC source.

A power inverter can be entirely electronic or may be a combination of mechanical effects (such as a rotary apparatus) and electronic circuitry. Static inverters do not use moving parts in the conversion process.

Input and output[edit]

Input voltage[edit]

A typical power inverter device or circuit requires a relatively stable DC power source capable of supplying enough current for the intended power demands of the system. The input voltage depends on the design and purpose of the inverter. Examples include:

  • 12 VDC, for smaller consumer and commercial inverters that typically run from a rechargeable 12 V lead acid battery.[2]
  • 24 and 48 VDC, which are common standards for home energy systems.
  • 200 to 400 VDC, when power is from photovoltaic solar panels.
  • 300 to 450 VDC, when power is from electric vehicle battery packs in vehicle-to-grid systems.
  • Hundreds of thousands of volts, where the inverter is part of a high voltage direct current power transmission system.

Output waveform[edit]

An inverter can produce a square wave, modified sine wave, pulsed sine wave, pulse width modulated wave (PWM) or sine wave depending on circuit design. The two dominant commercialized waveform types of inverters as of 2007 are modified sine wave and sine wave.

There are two basic designs for producing household plug-in voltage from a lower-voltage DC source, the first of which uses a switching boost converter to produce a higher-voltage DC and then converts to AC. The second method converts DC to AC at battery level and uses a line-frequency transformer to create the output voltage.[3]

Square wave

Square wave[edit]

This is one of the simplest waveforms an inverter design can produce and is best suited to low-sensitivity applications such as lighting and heating. Square wave output can produce “humming” when connected to audio equipment and is generally unsuitable for sensitive electronics.

Sine wave

Sine wave[edit]

A power inverter device which produces a multiple step sinusoidal AC waveform is referred to as a sine wave inverter. To more clearly distinguish the inverters with outputs of much less distortion than the “modified sine wave” (three step) inverter designs, the manufacturers often use the phrase pure