How does an Inverter system work?

How does an Inverter system work?

Can you break it down to the absolute basics? I don’t get this whole electricity thing.

Electricity is the worst because you just can’t see it! And it hurts if you get it wrong.

The Basics

Eskom is our utility. Eskom supplies the municipalities. Municipalities supply us.  It’s usually called the ‘Mains supply’ or ‘The grid’.

AC vs DC Electricity.

The Grid supplies AC electricity. Most of our normal everyday appliances need AC electricity at around 230V.

There is another electricity type called DC electricity. Batteries supply DC electricity. Solar panels generate DC electricity.

 AC vs DC electricity

An Inverter System

An inverter system usually consists of an inverter, battery and oftentimes some solar panels. Usually they are also connected to your mains electricity.

Inverters change the DC electricity into AC electricity so that we can use it.

Inverters also have charge controllers in them to make sure that your batteries charge at the correct voltage so as not to damage them. These are built into the inverter unit.

The battery stores energy to be used later.

Panels generate DC electricity, converting sunshine into electricity.


How do Solar Panels fit into the mix?

Most inverters are solar inverters too, meaning that they can take electricity generated by the panels and make it usable – either by charging your battery (via DC) or by supplying your home (AC).  You don’t have to have solar panels from the get-go, and can add them on at a later date.

An outline of the system would look like this. Arrows show the direction of the electricity.

 Basic outline of an inverter system


Can I run everything in my home during loadshedding if I have one of these systems?

It depends! The worst answer, we know…

Basically it depends on how much you want to spend.

Yes, you can go completely off-grid and only rely on the sun and some batteries for all your power needs. But it’s going to cost ‘ya.  Which is great if you can afford it, but if you can’t, there are so many other options.

 You get two types of inverters.

  1. One that can handle your whole house’s electricity demands (the most power that your house uses at any point in time).This can be split between essential and non-essential circuits. What does this mean? In ‘normal’ times when there is power, your whole house is fed by the grid and your panels if you have them.  In times when there is no solar or grid power, only your essentials will draw power from the battery. This saves your battery life and extends the amount of time you will have back-up power for.

  2. Simpler inverters which just have one output. The battery will supply these circuits in times of a power outage. In this case, it is better to split your distribution in your home physically (at the distribution board), instead of your inverter doing it for you. Benefits of this is that you can get away with a much smaller (and usually less expensive) inverter.

 Example of a system with essential and non-essential loads


Where do I start if I want to put an inverter system in my home?

Start right here.

Think about what it is you really want to achieve in terms of becoming independent on the electricity front.

MATSolo has a quick decision tree which is a good starting point.  We’ve kept solutions as simple as possible with the intention that once installed, they will be hassle free. The brands we have chosen are long-standing and have good after-sales support.

If you don’t love the online space, give us a call, or you can always go to a local installer and get them to come and quote.


Lindsay Bam

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