Voltage converter buying guide
Jeremy, construction site supervisor, Cardiff127 guides
- Square signal
- Pseudo-sine wave
- Pure sine wave
- Network coupling
- Input voltage
What's a voltage converter used for?
What different types of converters are there?
- Squared signal converters: less and less widely used because the quality of the output signal is poor, both in terms of waveform and consistency of frequency. They are low power (lightweight and compact). With this type of converter, you can't power and operate any device equipped with a motor or winding (such as drills, refrigerators, etc.). <>
- Pseudo-sinusoidal converters: the most common type, these are suitable for almost any appliance. The shape of the generated signal is close to a sinusoidal wave and its frequency is relatively constant. They are available at a whole range of power ratings, from 50 to 2500W. They are suitable for all common uses and give good value for money.
- Sine-wave converters: high-end kit, these guys! Packed with sophisticated filters and electronic components, they recreate a near-perfect sinusoidal wave (very similar to that of a mains electricity signal). Thanks to the good quality signal, they can power sensitive devices such as computers, audio-visual gear etc. Like pseudo-sinusoidal converters, they offer a range of powers ranging from 200 to 2500W. However, they are generally more expensive.
- Converters for network coupling: a somewhat specialized type, distinguished by their ability to synchronize with a grid supply rather than to provide a good quality voltage signal. It's actually quite common for inverters to be equipped with an additional electronic chip which allows them to detect the voltage oscillations of the network and synchronize to them. If you have or plan to install solar panels, these are what you need to feed your excess generated power back into the grid. In this case, the voltage you supply back to the grid must exactly match the voltage delivered through the mains. Thanks to this type of converter, this is now easy to achieve.
How do I make my choice?
- Input voltage: this is the starting point! What kind of DC voltage are you starting off with? Are you a sailing fanatic, caravan enthusiast, truck driver, etc, or do you want to convert power from your solar panels?... It's essential to choose a converter in line with your source of DC voltage.
- Output voltage: as a rule, the output voltage you want to aim for is 230V AC with a frequency of 50Hz (Hertz). This converted signal will allow you to use any device you would normally plug into a mains power outlet.
- Power: this is also an essential parameter, and may require a little work on your part! Make an inventory of all the devices you want to connect to your converter. For each of them, you'll want to assume a higher value than the rated power. For any device with a motor, look for peak power (or multiply the rated power by 2). When you add up, add a 10% safety margin by multiplying your result by 1.1. This will give you the maximum power to deliver your converter. Be careful not to get confused between the different 'powers' (useful, rated, peak...) Some converters clearly indicate their range of use: for instance, you'll find 12/230V, 500/1000W sine-wave converters (this means that the converter's rated output power is 500W, but when starting up a power tool for example it can produce a peak power of 1000W for a short period). If you still do not know what you're planning to hook up to your converter, try to leave a comfortable margin of error (think peak power if you plan to use power tools).
- Efficiency: not the same thing as power, remember! To narrow down your choice, consider the efficiency factor (%). This expresses the loss of power caused by converting the signal. For example, the majority of pseudo-sinusoidal converters have an efficiency factor around 85%. This means that a "1000W" converter actually delivers 850W.
- Signal type: as we've already seen, it all depends on what you're going to plug into your converter. In most cases, a pseudo-sinusoidal signal is sufficient (you can ignore the square signal, now in decline). If you plan to use your laptop or another electronic device, you'll need a perfect sine-wave.
Final advice on choosing my voltage converter?
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Jeremy, construction site supervisor, Cardiff 127 guides écrits
for 4 years now, I am restaoring and bulding an extrension to a bungalow in the heart of the welsh countyside. My experience in manual work and my knowledge means I am proud to be of service. Terraces, interior design, roofing, plumbing, electricty, anything goes! We have, my wife, daughter and I, built almost everything we have from scratch! So to answer all of your questions, and to orientate and advise you on coosing your tools? Easy!
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