When it comes to electrical transformers and portable power, many people struggle to decide whether an inverter or a converter is best for their needs.
In this article, we’ll look at the key difference between inverter and converter and examine the benefits and drawbacks of each device so that you can make a more informed choice for you and your family.
Now, both devices work to transform electricity from various sources to make it useful for your gadgets though they don’t work similarly.
Read on to find out which one is the right choice for your RV and other circumstances.
Difference Between Inverter and Converter?
The right thing to do is to give you the definitions first.
What is a power inverter?
A power inverter converts – and that’s why some people call it a converter- direct current (DC) from a DC supply to a high-voltage alternating current (AC).
The idea is to make DC power from sources like a car battery compatible with appliances that exclusively use AC such as coffee makers, some laptops, refrigerators, DVD players, and more.
After the transformation, your electronics will enjoy high-quality energy- the current is nearly the same quality as grid line voltage.
This makes it an extremely useful appliance to bring along to your car/campervan as you can still make toast, coffee, watch your favorite teams play, to name just a few while traveling or vacationing.
What is a power converter?
Converters job is to again to convert but this time it works opposite to how inverters function- it changes AC to DC.
You hook up a converter to countless power sources- a generator, wall sockets, etc. – and it alters the incoming electricity into an electrical voltage that the connected gadget can use.
In fact, some converters are these days super intelligent and auto-detect the raw power once plugged into any source and transforms it to the exact voltage your device need.
Very few people realize it but we use power inverters most of the time.
You own a laptop.
You, of course, run it on DC power when out there making a presentation.
But if it suddenly gives you a low battery alert in the midst of your talk, you beckon your host and ask him/her to help you plug it into the wall socket.
And voila, you get to run the presentation to the end.
Question is, how did the laptop’s power system switch from DC to AC?
Well, it didn’t!
It’s the built-in power converter that modifies the AC power coming from the socket to DC voltage for your laptop’s use.
Do you get me?
In simple terms, the role of a basic converter is to undertake AC to DC conversion.
The procedure is technically called rectification as it involves ‘rectifying’ the AC current (that sometimes flows in the reverse direction) to flow in only one direction, as it happens with DC current.
Inside a power inverter
An inverter may be entirely electronic or a combined mechanical and electronic circuitry.
Like in transformers, they also feature components like inductors and capacitors to help facilitate the conversion of DC to AC electricity. Additionally, inverters contain various circuits to help automatically sense and handle different situations that may arise when it’s running or in stand-by.
An example of these scenarios is an overload, overheating, and over charging. Some of these can be dangerous for your equipment and it’s important that your unit instantly arrests them.
Inside a power converter
A standard power converter is not that complex and primarily comprises of an interior circuit and a power supply.
The circuit’s responsibility is to move the current being fed rapidly, stabilize it, and finally change it into the kind of electricity needed.
You could notice other components including semiconductor switches, inductors, and capacitors according to the application it’s designed for.
How do inverters run?
An inverter draws its input voltage from a 12V battery (deep-cycle batteries work best) or a couple of batteries connected in parallel. You simply connect it to a battery then plug your AC using devices into the power inverter.
Note that the battery needs to be recharged so it’s usually wired to a car, generator, solar panels, or even wind.
Having said that, we also have inverters with integrated battery packs that run as standalone portable power boxes.
Either way, proper wiring is essential if you’re going to get the most out of your inverter as faulty wiring hampers its efficiency making it to drain the battery prematurely.
How do power converters operate?
As mentioned before, power converters are mostly part of the power supplies and other electrical circuits in a multitude of devices both at home and in our offices.
Power converters are, however, more than conventional rectifiers and execute myriad electrical transformations.
Indeed, these are multi-capable systems with the ability to:
- Change a fixed alternating current (AC) input to a variable AC output.
- Convert a fixed direct current (DC) input to a variable DC output (and vice versa). A DC-DC converter can actually step a DC voltage down/up as required.
See also: What defines alternating current power inverter
In short, it’s pretty versatile and can perform many roles. For example, in RVs, a converter job is to swap the input AC Voltage to DC Voltage before using the DC current to charge your RV’s house batteries.
Difference between inverter and converter: Typical applications
Let’s now look at when to use these seemingly rival power accessories:
When to use a power converter
A converter is the only method to charge your RV’s battery system (remember it converts the AC to DC). There are RV battery converter chargers out there built for this and you’ll require one if that’s what you have in mind.
Besides, the converter distributes the changed DC power to other RV components. Another example of when you commonly need a power converter is when jetting out.
That’s because other countries use different power systems and your electronics might not work in wall sockets abroad. A converter will take whatever voltage is there and step it up/down to make the plugged-in tool run.
When to use a power inverter
Inverters are typically used for emergency power at home/business. You can also carry one in your RVs – particularly pure sine wave inverters- if you have sensitive devices (laptops, smart TVs, freezers, and the like) you want to power while in the middle of nowhere.
The other instance where I find inverters pretty useful is for those who prefer green energy and have, as a result, invested in solar systems.
An inverter converts the solar power into usable AC voltage. The standout difference between an inverter and a converter is that an inverter changes DC to AC while a converter swaps AC to DC.
And while understanding that is helpful, the most important thing is to consider your specific needs before deciding what could serve you best.
We have outlined some of the typical uses of either gadget to give you an idea even as you think about whether to go for an inverter or a converter or to have both.
Obviously, we haven’t exhausted everything –doing that would need pages upon pages of discussion including tons of technical stuff- and you should keep your mind open.
Inverter or generator which is best for home use?