How to do an inverter installation that will last

An inverter installation that will perform well and last begins from how well the inverter system is set up.

Inverters are very useful power supply equipment especially in places where the grid power is not reliable.

What is an inverter?

An inverter is an electrical/electronic device that converts a direct current (D.C) to alternating current (A.C).

What is a battery?

A battery is an energy storage device that stores and converts chemical energy to electrical energy.

What is a deep cycle battery?

A deep cycle battery is a type of battery that is designed to be regularly deeply discharged utilising most of its capacity. This is the type of battery that is commonly used in inverter setups. They are rated according to the number of complete cycles they will provide, their depth of discharge, the amount of amperage that it will produce and voltage. These batteries can be discharged up to 80% of their rated capacity but many manufacturers recommend not discharging them beyond 40 - 45% to extend their lifespan.

Important factors to consider while setting up an inverter installation.

1. Minimise the number of batteries connected in series or parallel.

This is very important because one common cause of battery failure in an inverter setup is batteries that are not equalised. This means that the voltages of the connected batteries are not the same. This can lead to premature batteries failure and short backup duration.

For instance, if I have a 24 volts inverter, I will prefer to use a 24 volts battery rather than using two 12 volts batteries connected in series. That series connection is a failure point.

2. Pure sine wave inverter is better.

There are different types of inverters but the pure sine wave and the modified sine wave inverters are common. The modified sine wave types are cheaper. The technical differences between both types is beyond the scope of this article but it is worthy of note that the modified sine wave type is not good for all types of loads like appliances that use thyristors, SCRs, inductive loads and so on...

3. Choice of inverter size (capacity).

The capacity of the inverter is very important and it depends on the load that it is meant to power. Determination of inverter capacity would be treated in future article but it is inappropriate for it to be undersized.

4. Add solar panels.

Solar panels convert energy from the sun to electrical energy. Solar panels help to give continous and reliable power as they help to keep the batteries charged constantly. By so doing, complete discharge cycles will be reduced. Since battery lifespan depends on number of charge/discharge cycles, addition of appropriately sized solar panels will help to extend the batteries lifespan and also give reliable power.

5. Appropriate generator capacity should be used.

When generator is undersized, it will cause the inverter to continously alternate between charge state and no-charge state. This will be noticeable as the charge will be tripping on and off. This can cause premature failure to the inverter.

6. A tested and quality brand of inverter should be used.

It is important to use tested, certified and quality brand of inverter as we have seen some brands that do not last, some do not charge batteries properly thereby shortening the lifespan of the batteries. We have also seen Inverters that have high rate of self discharge. Even without any load connected, the battery keeps draining fast.

7. Use quality batteries.

This is self explanatory. A quality deep cycle will serve you for years. We have seen batteries that don't last beyond 6 months or a year even if the setup and installation are correct.

8. Do not oversize backup batteries.

It is easy to believe that the more the backup batteries, the better. This is partly true but not always the case. It is true only if the inverter charger output is good enough to charge the batteries properly.

For instance if you have 200mAh battery capacity that takes 4 hours to charge completely, you then add two other identical batteries in parallel to the existing one, it is going to take roughly 12 hours to fully charge. In places where the power supply is not stable, the batteries won't be well charged many a times which can lead to the batteries loosing capacity due to memory effect.

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