How Does an Inverter Work?

In this PowerVersity guide, Victor answers the question, “how does an inverter work”?

The guide starts by explaining What an inverter means. It then discusses the uses, types, and what you need to know about the operation of an inverter.

Read through to find all hidden secrets you need to know about an inverter.

Expand “Browse Post Topics” below to go straight to a topic.

How Does an Inverter Work?

An inverter is an integral part of the solar energy system. Interestingly, you don’t need to be all tech-savvy to use one.

However, it’s essential to understand some basics when using one. Hence the need to know how an inverter works.

How Does an Inverter Work?: What is an Inverter?

How Inverter Works

An inverter is a mechanism that changes direct current(DC) into alternating current(AC). This could be for stand-alone systems or to supply power to an electricity grid.

Inverter is sometimes called a power inverter. It is an alternative power source that can power other electronic devices.

To better understand this, let’s consider what direct and alternating current means.

Note: Voltage is a charge differential between two points while current is the speed at which the charge flows.

Direct Current (DC)

This is the current that flows in only one direction. It comes directly from the power source.

It is called direct current. This is because of the fact that the electric current or electric voltage does not change. For instance, the batteries used in gadgets such as toy cars, remote control, wall clocks, etc.

Alternating current (AC)

This is the opposite of direct current. This is the type of electricity supplied by public sector power service providers such as the state or region’s power supply corporation.

It is the current or voltage that’s unsteady. This is because it alternates between different voltage or current levels. 

Besides, this is the kind of power that most electrical appliances depend on. An example of this is the power socket/switch in our homes that controls light bulbs or other electrical devices.

It starts from the lowest voltage and ends at the highest voltage.

The process of alternating between these electric voltage levels is called a “cycle”. On the other hand, the speed at which it moves from one level to another is called “frequency.”

The purpose of this post is to help you understand how an inverter works by changing DC to AC. Before then, let’s examine what an inverter can be used for.

How Does an Inverter Work?: Uses of an Inverter

To start with, an inverter can be used to power all sorts of electrical appliances or equipment. Also, it is used as a backup power supply.

Hence, in the event of power failure or shutdown, an inverter can serve the purpose of an emergency power supply. Besides, it can be used either in residential, industrial, and commercial facilities that need a power supply.

Inverter is used for a variety of applications, including:

  • UPS- Uninterruptible Power Supplies
  • Aircraft Systems
  • Solar power systems
  • SMPS- Switch Mode Power Supply
  • Lighting
  • Electrical equipment such as; car adapters, pumps, industrial mixers, extruders, test stands, conveyors, etc.
  • Also, as a standalone inverter.

How Does an Inverter Work?: Types of Inverter

How Does an Inverter Work?: Types of Inverter
Image from circuitdigest.

In this section of this post, how does an inverter work? We’ll examine the types of inverter and the features, pros, and cons of each type of inverter.

There are different types of inverter considering the various categories or classifications. Based on output characteristics, below are the three main types of inverter:

  • Sine wave
  • Square wave
  • Modified sine wave

Types of Inverter: Sine Wave Inverters 

To know how an inverter works, understanding sine wave inverter as one of the types of inverter will be of help.

To start with, the “Sine wave inverter” is also known as a pure sine wave. The electrical voltage produced is similar to that of the alternating current (AC) found in the public utility power supply. 

The benefit of using this kind of inverter, especially in residential or commercial facilities, is that all your appliances will work well with this inverter. This is because most of these electrical devices are designed to function with AC.

However, this kind of inverter is costly. Nevertheless, this is the best type of inverter for residential or commercial facilities for electrical appliances such as computers, laptops, refrigerators, ovens, printers, photocopiers, etc.

Features of sine wave inverters

  • High stability
  • LED display
  • Digital intelligent control
  • Optional city/public utility electric switch


  • Clean power, like public utility electricity supply.
  • Generates minimal electrical noise in your equipment
  • Equipment and appliances operate cooler and at an optimal level
  • Reduced risks of damaging your equipment/appliances
  • Compatibility with a wide range of devices
  • Easy to maintain
  • Compact and lightweight


  • More expensive than other types of inverters
  • Shorter battery running time

Types of Inverter: Square wave inverters

Understanding the square wave inverter might be a great help to know how an inverter works.

The electrical voltage this type of inverter produced is square-shaped. Also, for many consumers, this type of inverter is not common.

Moreover, this type of inverter can only be utilized in basic universal motor instruments.

Features of square wave inverters

  • Simple and compact design
  • High-performance capacity 


  • Affordable
  • Low maintenance cost
  • Portability and easy storage


  • Makes equipment and appliances produce loud, disturbing noise
  • Not suitable for heavy-duty use and a wide range of equipment/appliances
  • High risk of damaging equipment

Types of Inverter: Modified Sine Wave

The output of this type of inverter is slightly similar to that of the pure sine wave inverter. However, they perform at different voltage frequencies.  

Hence, simple electronic devices that do not need high voltage current may use it. It is, however, the least used type of inverter.

This is because this kind of inverters consumes more energy than regular sine wave inverters and mostly does not last long.

Features of Modified Sine Wave Inverters

  • Simple design
  • Low battery warning
  • Noise filtering 


  • Low maintenance cost
  • Minimal noise production
  • Perfect for equipment that runs on non-residual current


  • Not suitable for a wide range of equipment
  • Could potentially damage electrical equipment

Having considered the various types of inverter, and the benefits of using each, now, let’s dive into this post’s main point; How does an inverter work?

How Does an Inverter Work?

As said earlier, an inverter is a device that converts direct current to alternating current. 

We also stated that various appliances/equipment, especially in residential and commercial facilities, use AC. To power these devices in the event of a power outage, you need something to supply you with AC, which is where an inverter comes in.

Hence, it works by converting the direct power source (DC) in devices such as solar panels to alternating current (AC), thereby making the alternative power supply suitable for use. 

Overall, with the inverter current flows in an alternating pattern from the direct current source. 

That’s it on how an inverter works.

I hope you found this PowerVersity pick helpful?

If you found it helpful, kindly share your thoughts with the “Leave a Reply” form found towards the end of this page.

Finally, to read more guides like this, visit our Inverters & Charge Controllers page.

Victor Akin-Ojo
Victor Akin-Ojo is the founder and the Lead Editor of Before he started, Victor worked in the IT industry for close to 15 years. He worked mainly as field Engineer on Installation of VSAT, Wimax Technologies, including but not limited to, Power Maintenance Sector for close to 10 years – Designing an electrical installation for Homes, Private and Government Offices and more.
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