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At home, on the road, or even cruising on a boat, benefiting from solar energy when you are far from the grid, or vice versa, is possible. However, both solar power and shore power can be uncertain at times. Maybe the energy your solar panels generate isn’t sufficient to charge your battery, or a power outage at home leaves you in the dark.

The flexibility that a bidirectional inverter gives you when your energy source is unstable is what you need to continue with your daily activities, no matter the circumstances. Here we will explain what a bidirectional inverter is, the types of batteries they can be paired with, and the advantages they offer, whatever their application is and wherever it is you are.

What Is a Bidirectional Inverter?

To better understand a bidirectional inverter, we first have to go over the basics of an inverter. The function of an inverter is to transform the direct current (DC) that solar panels absorb or from power stations into alternating current (AC). This type of energy is the one our house outlets use to power our everyday home appliances and devices. An inverter monitors the input voltage and modifies the frequency to generate a pure sine wave output.

A bidirectional inverter is also known as an inverter charger. Not only does it transform DC to AC, but it also converts AC power into DC; it works both ways. The inverter charger detects AC shore power, converts it to DC power, and charges deep cycle batteries.

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What Are the Advantages of Using Bidirectional Inverters?

Bidirectional inverters are outstanding for providing power in a flexible way when you don’t want to rely solely on one power source. The power source can be solar panels, shore power, or an AC/generator. And depending on what AC source you have available, a bidirectional inverter will take whatever AC is at hand to give you the power you need.

Bidirectional inverters are used most commonly in the following:

  • Living off-grid in an RV, a van, or a boat.
  • Additional power in cloudy areas or when not much sunlight is available.
  • Use it as a backup in case of a power outage at home.

Off-Grid Applications

For applications off-grid, whether onboard an RV, a van, or even a boat, these devices allow you to have power at all times by switching the power source. When solar panels or a power station aren’t giving sufficient energy, the bidirectional inverter will change to another power source, like an AC/generator or the grid, if available. So, in case of a cloudy day, a bidirectional inverter will take power from whatever power source is accessible, charge your RV’s lithium battery, and power your appliances on board.

At Home Applications

A bidirectional inverter is a smart option if you want a dependable power source at home. How it works in an at-home application is that when grid power (AC) goes down, it automatically switches to a power station’s or solar panel’s (DC) output to charge your home’s battery and power your everyday electronics. It will switch back to grid input if the solar input is unstable or insufficient.

Renogy’s bidirectional inverter also allows for hybrid charging. It will use the grid system and solar array input to charge your battery, enabling a faster charging time. If you want to save money, it is also possible to set the bidirectional inverter to solar input only, which will only use solar input even if AC grid power is available.

What Type of Batteries Can a Bidirectional Inverter Charge?

Since bidirectional inverters are adaptable to on-the-go applications as they are to at-home backup systems, they can be paired with most 12V deep-cycle batteries, such as:

  • GEL
  • AGM
  • Lead-acid
  • Flooded
  • Calcium
  • Lithium Iron Phosphate

What Is the Price Range for a Bidirectional Inverter?

The price for a bidirectional inverter starts at $800 and can go up to $2,000 or higher, depending on the brand and the system’s functionalities. Some will have integrated MPPT, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connectivity, and other convenient attributes.

providing power in a flexible way

Pure Sine Wave Inverters Vs. Modified Sine Wave Inverters

Two types of sine wave inverters are pure sine wave inverters and modified sine wave inverters. They both have the same output, yet, how they achieve it is different.

Pure Sine Wave Inverter

A pure sine wave inverter is necessary for delicate devices that use a pure AC signal, such as medical equipment and other high-quality equipment. Its accurate sinusoidal conversion acts as if connected to a traditional electricity grid. This smooth electricity current helps prevent overload damage to its components and anything connected to it. Because of this wave shape, a pure sine wave inverter allows for a quiet and trouble-free electricity output.

Some devices and home appliances that use pure sine wave are:

  • digital clocks
  • refrigerators
  • microwaves
  • LED TVs
  • medical equipment

Modified Sine Wave Inverter

Unlike a pure sine wave inverter, a modified sine wave inverter tries to mimic the shape of a sinusoidal wave, yet its shape is similar to the steps of a staircase as it moves forward. Their waveform isn’t a replica, therefore, it will produce a hum when turned on and can damage delicate devices like computers and LED TVs.

Although modified sine wave inverters aren’t the most convenient, they still work well with simple appliances, but at the risk of damage or with less power. Modified sine wave inverters can be used with less delicate equipment, such as:

  • portable devices like phone chargers
  • home items like water pumps and power tools
  • simple kitchen appliances like a toaster and a kettle

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Be Backed Up Whatever Happens

Having a bidirectional inverter be part of your on-the-go power supply or home power system gives you the reliable power you need to keep your everyday home appliances and devices going. Bidirectional inverters supply continuous energy no matter the weather and regardless of the charging conditions, so you can rest assured you have a trustworthy power system to rely on wherever you are.

Mireya Cervantes

Mireya Cervantes

Writer

Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering, I am also passionate about renewable energy applications and innovations. Full-time writer for Solar Home Stead, where I review and share my opinion on energy products and trends.

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