An inverter’s function is to turn (DC) Power from the batteries into (AC) power which is required by most computers, TVs, microwaves, blenders, water makers, vacuum cleaners and many other household items that make our life a bit more comfortable whether on land or at sea. Once you are off the grid then you must rely on the stored (DC) power in your battery bank which can power all your (DC) power equipment but if you need to power any (AC) equipment or appliances you must use an inverter. You also need a charger for the times when you are at the dock or RV park and want to hook up the shore power or when you are off the grid, if you were to need a generator to help you charge the batteries because solar and wind may be not enough that day or in that instance. This process can be set on automatic when you have an inverter/charger combination. An inverter/charger combines the inverter and a charger into one compact enclosure.
If your battery bank is running low and there is not enough charge coming from your solar panels then the inverter/charger will automatically start your generator to charge the batteries without interruption to your (AC) or (DC) electrical equipment. An appropriately sized battery bank and inverter are key components when designing your onboard electrical system. The size of your battery bank is determined after a computation of all your daily required amps without going below the recommended battery discharge to maximize your battery life (no more than 30% discharge on traditional lead acid batteries, 50% on AGM batteries and 90% on lithium batteries)
The size of the inverter is determined by the addition of all the wattage needed by all your (AC) powered equipment. Companies like Victron and Magnum have been leading the way in the inverter /charger combination market (click on images below for specs and prices)
The fact that both pieces of equipment are contained in one enclosure minimizes the complexity of its installation and makes simple for both to communicate with each other.
Having a pure sine wave inverter feature ensures that your most sensitive equipment such as computers run smoothly, and motors run about 30% cooler and generally last longer.
Installation can be nothing more than connecting the inverter’s output to the distribution circuits or your electrical panel then connect the shore (AC) power cable to the inverter’s terminal block, connect to the batteries and switch the power on.
Efficiency is increased by reducing the amount of power needed by a generator when charging. On standard generators there be as much as a 23 %, on these units it can be as low as 15% and pass the incoming (AC) power directly to the (AC) outputs to power (AC) equipment.
Inverter/charger combinations have become an important element on many off-grid applications and have evolved into a sort of autopilot for the entire energy system which can be monitored through your PC or smart device.