Can a Solar Panel Work Without an Inverter?

Can a Solar Panel Work Without an Inverter?

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Electrical energy is one of our basic necessities in modern life. As the load demand only increases, alternate methods of generating electrical energy are also growing. Solar panel systems provide clean and free energy when the sun is shining. To obtain electrical energy from solar cells, we need to convert it into alternating current (AC) form from direct current (DC). Because our existing electrical networks are all entirely on AC, a device that convert DC into AC is known as an inverter. An inverter is an essential part of a solar electrical energy system for one to be able to run it with their existing electrical network. However, you can also still use that energy from a solar panel without an inverter in some cases.

The electrical network within a home can run directly on a solar panel’s output without the need for installing a solar inverter in-between. For this to be sufficient though, you would simply have to only use appliances that run on direct current (DC) or primarily use your solar panels to charge batteries. In this case, another component is needed in between to regulate power. That component is called charge controller, and it smooths out the output of solar panels and adjusts the voltage levels to run different DC load and charge batteries.

So, the answer to the main question here is yes. You can definitely use solar panels without inverters, but the condition for this is that the electrical load must run on a DC form of supply. Additionally, another component (the charge controller) should be in-between these to regulate the intermittent power from your solar panel.

First, we will address the issue of why there is a need for an inverter with solar panels. Then, we will look into the matter of running solar panels without an inverter.

Understanding your existing electrical network

Existing electrical networks consist of four major aspects: generation, transmission, distribution, and utilization. The conventional methods of generating electricity are through thermal or hydroelectric energy. All of the conventional methods generate electricity by turning the prime mover of the source’s electrical machine, and this ultimately generates electrical power in the form of alternating current.

After generation, the voltage level of the generated power is increased and transmitted at higher voltages to reduce power loss over long distances. Voltage levels are then decreased for distribution purposes. Finally, this power is distributed to consumers to run their appliances.

As all of the existing electrical networks are in AC form, the majority of appliances are also designed to run on AC power. Even the appliances that run on DC internally are designed to take AC input, among these items being modern LED TVs, computers, and LED bulbs.

Needing an inverter in solar cell-based energy systems

A device or converter that converts direct current into alternating current is called a “power inverter.” The output from solar panels is in DC form. Nearly all of our home appliances and even industrial machines run on alternating current. Although these appliances and common devices all typically run on direct current inside, most of them are designed to take AC input as well.

If you’re installing a solar cell-based energy generation system with an existing electrical network, you’ll need an inverter to convert DC into AC. Therefore, an inverter is an essential part of an electrical system with this type of energy generation.

Functions of modern-day inverters

Modern-day solar power inverters have multiple functions for working efficiently and in parallel with existing electrical systems. Not only do they convert DC into AC, but they also regulate the output voltage directed to the appliances. This is incredibly important as electrical appliances are sensitive to voltage fluctuation, and they need a constant voltage level to run smoothly.

Output power from solar cells is not constant or smooth as it depends on the sun’s intensity, so this type of power is always fluctuating. A modern solar inverter will not only provide AC conversion to the load, but it will also provide a constant voltage and frequency at its output regardless of intermittent solar panel output.

Hence, the need for a solar inverter is not only about converting DC from solar panels into AC, but it is also essential in providing reliable and smooth electrical power to your appliances.

Running DC load on solar panels

As we have discussed in previous sections, most systems are AC and therefore we need an AC source to run them. With the integration of solar-based energy systems that give output in DC, engineers are now shifting basic appliances from AC to DC.

A benefit of DC loads is that this removes the losses incurred with conversion, such as when the load is first in DC form, then converted into AC, and then converted back from AC into DC inside the appliances. The use of DC loads improves the efficiency of the system and reduces these losses.

DC fans

One of the basic needs within a home is a fan. Conventional fans are actually run with induction motors (AC motors), and these run on AC. However, if you replace the AC motors in fans with DC motors, you can then run your fans directly on DC.

Lighting

Another essential thing that we use electricity for is lighting. Typical methods of lighting use a choke (inductor) that uses AC to light the mercury inside of vacuum tubes. Nowadays, lighting is shifting towards the use of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that run totally on DC power. With this change coming about, the problem of lighting using DC is resolved since LEDs use a fraction of the power and give the same output as conventional lighting sources.

Battery charging

Similarly, we know that batteries give output in DC and are also charged in DC. Therefore, we can charge any battery directly in DC without converting the load into AC and back again into DC. Mobile charging, camera charging, and laptop charging can all be done via DC. Additionally, batteries for backup electrical power can also be charged without the need for an inverter.

The need for a charge controller

You’ve now seen that an inverter is not an essential part of a solar panel system if you wish to run DC loads and simply charge batteries. However, there is one component that lies between a load and a solar panel that is 100% essential: a charge controller. Charge controllers regulate the power from a solar panel and provide that power to your appliances at a constant voltage.

The output of solar panels is high. For a 36-cell solar panel, its output is 21.6 volts; and for a 72-cell solar panel, it’s 48 volts. These voltages drop when the load is on the solar panels themselves, but this voltage is what can be expected at maximum irradiance (1000 W/m2). No common household appliance or batteries run on these voltages, so there is a need for charge controllers to regulate the power and adjust the constant voltage to run the load properly or simply charge batteries. Buy a charge controller here

Charging batteries on direct solar panel output would be catastrophic due to the higher output voltage of those solar panels. This is also highly dependent on the sun. A charge controller regulates the power and provides an output at a constant voltage so that appliances can run smoothly. Any fluctuations in power will result in the burning of the electrical components in your appliances.

Choosing a charge controller

Charge controllers are chosen based on primary use and your system’s output load or current. If you want to just charge batteries, it will generally be either 12 volts or 24 volts. You will need to check the current needed for charging, too. Typically, a 30Amp charge controller is enough to charge 200Ah batteries at 24 volts.

Similarly, mostly DC loads run on 12 volts. Therefore, there should be a 12-volt port too to run DC loads. Additionally, the current rating of a charge controller again depends on the total load current.

Final Words

Nearly all existing electrical networks run on AC power, and the output of solar panels is in DC form. With this being the case, you will need an inverter to convert your DC loads into AC. You can also run appliances without using a solar inverter, but you’d need DC loads and a charge controller to successfully do this. A charge controller not only gives constant voltage to the loads and batteries, but it also adjusts the voltage level so that you can run DC loads and charge batteries safely and effectively.

See Also:
What Can a 1000-Watt Solar Panel Power?
What Wattage Solar Panel is Required to Charge a 150Ah Battery?
How Many Amps Does a 25-Watt Solar Panel Produce?
Goal Zero Yeti 150 Solar Generator Review

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