Converters vs. Inverters

Although a lot of confusion exists between power converters and inverters, it’s safe to say that converters and inverters are both electrical devices that convert current, in complimentary, but opposite ways. Let DC Direct Connect walk you through the differences between converters and inverters.

While converters adapt the voltage of an electric device, usually alternating current (AC) to direct current (DC), inverters convert direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC).

Types of inverters and converters

Converters and inverters vary in their types and the devices they support.

Converters:

  • Digital-to-digital converter (DDC) devices convert one type of digital data to another type of digital data. An example of a DDC device would be a sample rate or bit depth converter.
  • Analog-to-digital converter (ADC) devices convert the input analog voltage to a digital number in proportion to the magnitude of the voltage or current. Rotary encoders and some non-electronic or partially electronic devices are considered to be ADC devices.
  • Digital-to-analog converter (DAC) devices convert a digital code to an analog signal. CD players, PC sound cards and digital music players contain DAC devices.

Inverters:

  • Pure/true sine waves, generated naturally by rotating AC machinery are the type of waves electricity utility companies use and are more expensive than modified sine wave and square wave inverters. While AC appliances and devices run best on pure sine wave inverters, modified sine wave inverters are often used to run AC machinery as they are comparatively less expensive.
  • Modified sine wave inverters walk the line between pure sine waves and square sine waves with a step-like structure between the waves. This structure reduces distortion that causes problems with electrical devices in pure loads like lamps or heaters. Modified sine wave inverters cost less and prove more effective than square wave inverters.
  • Square wave inverters produce square wave outputs, consisting of a DC source, four switches and the load or device. Square wave inverters are capable of withstanding heavy current flows. Square wave inverters, the least expensive inverters, fall victim to the, “you get what you pay for,” adage, as square wave inverters produce low quality power.

The difference between RV converters and RV inverters

Primarily, RV converters change 120 volt A/C power to 12-volt DC power. Conversely, an RV inverter changes 12-volt DC power to 120-volt AC power. Equipped with converters as standard equipment, today’s RV converters not only change AC power to DC power but also function as battery chargers.

For your RV, this means that you can run all your appliances and devices that use 12-volt DC power without depleting your RV battery’s charge, when plugged into a 120-volt power source. In fact, by plugging into a 120-volt power source, you simultaneously charge your deep cycle RV batteries.

However, deep cycle batteries expend energy at a slower rate over a longer period of time than 12v appliances and need a longer, slower charging time to recharge fully. Plugging your RV in for a couple of hours or relying on driving your RV to charge your deep cycle battery won’t cut it. To allow your converter to perform its job properly, your RV battery needs to charge for a couple of days, while plugged into a 120-volt power source.

Inverters convert solar power stored in your RV’s batteries to AC power

Inverters, add-on accessories for RVs are not standard equipment on most RVs, but as more RV enthusiasts are turning to solar power for saving electricity for off the grid experiences, inverters are getting into the power act big time.

Running 12-volt appliances directly from the power your inverter pulls from your battery, will, as you might have guessed, deplete your battery’s charge in short order, considering that your inverter converts DC power to AC power at a ratio of 10 to 1. Yikes!

With the help of solar panels and a charge controller, an RV’s inverter converts the DC energy harnessed by your solar panels and stored in your battery, into AC energy to power your RV appliances without depleting your deep cycle batteries.

This means that you can use AC appliances like lights, cell phone chargers, laptops, TV and satellite receivers, fans and heaters and other devices, like your controller and water pump without an AC hookup. For microwaves and air conditioners, consider using a generator as these appliances use too much energy to be practical in most solar powered situations. 

DC Direct Connect for work and play

 Again, a good rule of thumb when it comes to converters and inverters is:  You get what you pay for!  Go to DC Direct Connect for all of your converter and inverter needs in the workplace and for your power toys when it’s time to play.