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Pure sine wave or modified sine wave inverters?
There are generally two types of inverters on the market for residential use. Th
ese are pure sine wave and modified sine wave inverters. The differences between
the two are quite substantial in overall usefulness and cost.
They are 'pure'. This means a cleaner running system that allows most equipment
that would run on standard electrical power outlets to be powered by the inverte
r. This purity of this sine wave allows for a lower harmonic distortion factor s
imilar to the standard power outlet.
With a pure sine wave power inverter sensitive electronics will run better overa
ll with more efficient processes and less audible noise. There are some types of
electronics that will not work at all with a modified sine wave and this much m
ore expensive version is the only true answer to your power needs.
Modified sine wave power inverters are generally much cheaper in cost than the p
ure sine wave inverters. However, the price drop comes with a cost in efficiency
and noise reduction. They will reliably run equipment that isn't as sensitive a
s some high-end electronics but they may generate an electrical hum or distort s
ounds in some manner.
There are a few types of electronics that a modified sine wave power inverter ca
nnot run effectively. Generally any highly technical piece of electronic compute
r should be checked with the manufacturer to determine if a modified sine wave w
ill work for you. Laptops, laser printers, optical hard drives, and a great deal
of medical equipment such as oxygen concentrators will not work properly with t
his type of power inverter.
General rules of thumb to maintain a solid power connection

So how can an inverter give us a high voltage alternating current from a low vo
ltage direct current.
Let's first consider how an alternator produces an alternating current. In its s
implest form, an alternator would have a coil of wire with a rotating magnet clo
se to it. As one pole of the magnet approaches the coil, a current will be produ
ced in the coil. This current will grow to a maximum as the magnet passes close
to the coil, dying down as the magnetic pole moves further away. However when th
e opposite pole of the magnet approaches the coil, the current induced in the co
il will flow in the opposite direction.
As this process is repeated by the continual rotation of the magnet, an alternat
ing current is produced.
Basic alternator diagram
Now lets consider what a transformer does. A transformer also causes an electric
current to be induced in a coil, but this time, the changing magnetic field is
produced by another coil having an alternating current flowing through it. Any c
oil with an electric current flowing through it will act like a magnet and produ
ce a magnetic field. If the direction of the current changes then the polarity o
f the field changes.
Now, the handy thing about a transformer is that, the voltage produced in the se
condary coil is not necessarily the same as that applied to the primary coil. If

the secondary coil is twice the size (has twice the number of turns) of the pri
mary coil, the secondary voltage will be twice that of the voltage applied to th
e primary coil. We can effectively produce whatever voltage we want by varying t
he size of the coils.
Basic transformer diagram
If we connected a direct current from a battery to the primary coil it would not
induce a current in the secondary as the magnetic field would not be changing.
However, if we can make that direct current effectively change direction repeate
dly, then we have a very basic inverter. This inverter would produce a square wa
ve output as the current would be changing direction suddenly.
Basic inverter diagram
This type of inverter might have been used in early car radios that needed to ta
ke 12 volts available in the car and produce the higher voltages required to run
radio valves (known as tubes in America) in the days before transistors were wi
dely used.
A more sophisticated inverter would use transistors to switch the current. The s
witching transistors are likely to be switching a small current which is then am
plified by further transistor circuitry. This will still be a square wave invert
er.
The Sine Wave Inverter
To get a sinusoidal alternating current from the output of our transformer, we h
ave to apply a sinusoidal current to the input. For this we need an oscillator.
An amplifying transistor can be made to oscillate by feeding some of the amplifi
ed output back to its input as positive feedback. We will all have heard this ef
fect at sometime when someone is setting up a PA or microphone system. If the mi
crophone is too close to the speaker, some of the output from the speaker is fed
back to the microphone and inputted to the amplifier again. The result is a how
ling sound.
The positive feedback in an electronic circuit can be tuned using extra componen
ts to produce the frequency we require (generally either 50 or 60 cycles per sec
ond to mimic mains electricity). If a crystal is used to control this frequency,
as in a battery watch or clock, the frequency can be very accurately controlled
.
As with simpler switching transistor circuit, the oscillator will be producing a
low current output. This will then need to be amplified by what will be roughly
equivalent to a powerful audio amplifier to produce the high current for the pr
imary coil of the transformer (the frequency of mains AC current is roughly equi
valent to the lowest notes on a bass guitar).
Sine Wave inverter diagram
The transformer, while being very useful, does not do something for nothing. Whi
le increasing the voltage, the current will be reduced, and the power (voltage x
current) will stay the same (less any inefficiency of the transformer). In othe
r words, to get 1Kw of high voltage AC current out, you have put 1Kw of low volt
age AC current in.
Grid Tied Inverters
If the above example were a grid tied inverter, ie able to feed power back into
the national grid, it would need to use a sample of the mains voltage to then be
amplified within the inverter, or to synchronise the oscilator with that sample
.
Grid tied inverters will also sense if there is a "power cut" and disconnect the

mselves from the grid. If they did not have this facility, in the event of a pow
er cut, your inverter would be attempting to power all your neighbours houses an
d would present an electrocution risk to anyone working on power lines that had
supposedly been turned off.

Sinewave vs Modified Sinewave


True sinewave inverters supply power with an output waveform that matches that o
f conventional shore power. All appliances running on this time of inverter sho
uld run in a completely normal manner. Modified sinewave inverters actually use
a square wave output where the duration of the pulses is adjusted to match the
demand of the load. They work well for most applications but can cause motors t
o run hot and so may not be suitable for extended duration running of air condit
ioning or refrigeration motors. They can also cause small battery chargers and
converters such as laptop power supplies to run hot, and there are sometimes pro
blems with speed controllers, timers and other equipment. True sinewave inverte
rs tend to be more expensive but dont suffer the same problems described above.
A: The following gadgets work well with a modified sine wave: electric blankets,
computers, motor-driven appliances, toasters, coffee makers, most stereos, ink
jet printers, refrigerators, TVs, VCRs, many microwave ovens, etc.
Appliances that are known to have problems with the modified sine wave are some
digital clocks, some battery chargers, most light dimmers, some battery operated
gadgets that recharge in an AC receptacle, some chargers for hand tools (Makita
is known to have this problem in the past). In the case of hand tools, the prob
lem chargers usually have a warning label stating that dangerous voltages are pr
esent at the battery terminals when charging. We would like to add to this FAQ a
ny appliances that you have had trouble with, or had success with, using modifie
d sine wave inverters.
Q: Why don't I measure rated voltages when using a multimeter on my modified sin
e wave inverter?
A. The rated voltage is an RMS (root mean square--they square the value to make
sure it is always positive, then average it, then take the square root of the av
erage to make up for having squared it in the first place) measurement. Most mul
timeters are designed to give correct RMS readings when applied to sine waves, b
ut not when they are applied to other waveforms. They will read from 2% to 20% l
ow in voltage. Look for a voltmeter that brags about "True RMS" readings, and th
at will read correctly no matter what the wave shape is.
Q: Why would you use a 24 volt inverter instead of a 12 volt inverter?
A. At a given power rating a 24 volt inverter will need half the current as a 12
volt inverter. This makes the entire system more efficient, and since high curr
ent transistors are expensive, the inverter will be cheaper.

How exactly does induction heating work? It helps to have a basic understanding
of the principles of electricity. When an alternating electrical current is appl
ied to the primary of a transformer, an alternating magnetic field is created. A
ccording to Faraday's Law, if the secondary of the transformer is located within

the magnetic field, an electric current will be induced.

inverters
Pure sine wave or modified sine wave inverters?
There are generally two types of inverters on the market for residential use. Th
ese are pure sine wave and modified sine wave inverters. The differences between
the two are quite substantial in overall usefulness and cost.
They are 'pure'. This means a cleaner running system that allows most equipment
that would run on standard electrical power outlets to be powered by the inverte
r. This purity of this sine wave allows for a lower harmonic distortion factor s
imilar to the standard power outlet.
With a pure sine wave power inverter sensitive electronics will run better overa
ll with more efficient processes and less audible noise. There are some types of
electronics that will not work at all with a modified sine wave and this much m
ore expensive version is the only true answer to your power needs.
Modified sine wave power inverters are generally much cheaper in cost than the p
ure sine wave inverters. However, the price drop comes with a cost in efficiency
and noise reduction. They will reliably run equipment that isn't as sensitive a
s some high-end electronics but they may generate an electrical hum or distort s
ounds in some manner.
There are a few types of electronics that a modified sine wave power inverter ca
nnot run effectively. Generally any highly technical piece of electronic compute
r should be checked with the manufacturer to determine if a modified sine wave w
ill work for you. Laptops, laser printers, optical hard drives, and a great deal
of medical equipment such as oxygen concentrators will not work properly with t
his type of power inverter.
General rules of thumb to maintain a solid power connection

So how can an inverter give us a high voltage alternating current from a low vo
ltage direct current.
Let's first consider how an alternator produces an alternating current. In its s
implest form, an alternator would have a coil of wire with a rotating magnet clo
se to it. As one pole of the magnet approaches the coil, a current will be produ
ced in the coil. This current will grow to a maximum as the magnet passes close
to the coil, dying down as the magnetic pole moves further away. However when th
e opposite pole of the magnet approaches the coil, the current induced in the co
il will flow in the opposite direction.
As this process is repeated by the continual rotation of the magnet, an alternat
ing current is produced.
Basic alternator diagram
Now lets consider what a transformer does. A transformer also causes an electric
current to be induced in a coil, but this time, the changing magnetic field is
produced by another coil having an alternating current flowing through it. Any c
oil with an electric current flowing through it will act like a magnet and produ
ce a magnetic field. If the direction of the current changes then the polarity o
f the field changes.

Now, the handy thing about a transformer is that, the voltage produced in the se
condary coil is not necessarily the same as that applied to the primary coil. If
the secondary coil is twice the size (has twice the number of turns) of the pri
mary coil, the secondary voltage will be twice that of the voltage applied to th
e primary coil. We can effectively produce whatever voltage we want by varying t
he size of the coils.
Basic transformer diagram
If we connected a direct current from a battery to the primary coil it would not
induce a current in the secondary as the magnetic field would not be changing.
However, if we can make that direct current effectively change direction repeate
dly, then we have a very basic inverter. This inverter would produce a square wa
ve output as the current would be changing direction suddenly.
Basic inverter diagram
This type of inverter might have been used in early car radios that needed to ta
ke 12 volts available in the car and produce the higher voltages required to run
radio valves (known as tubes in America) in the days before transistors were wi
dely used.
A more sophisticated inverter would use transistors to switch the current. The s
witching transistors are likely to be switching a small current which is then am
plified by further transistor circuitry. This will still be a square wave invert
er.
The Sine Wave Inverter
To get a sinusoidal alternating current from the output of our transformer, we h
ave to apply a sinusoidal current to the input. For this we need an oscillator.
An amplifying transistor can be made to oscillate by feeding some of the amplifi
ed output back to its input as positive feedback. We will all have heard this ef
fect at sometime when someone is setting up a PA or microphone system. If the mi
crophone is too close to the speaker, some of the output from the speaker is fed
back to the microphone and inputted to the amplifier again. The result is a how
ling sound.
The positive feedback in an electronic circuit can be tuned using extra componen
ts to produce the frequency we require (generally either 50 or 60 cycles per sec
ond to mimic mains electricity). If a crystal is used to control this frequency,
as in a battery watch or clock, the frequency can be very accurately controlled
.
As with simpler switching transistor circuit, the oscillator will be producing a
low current output. This will then need to be amplified by what will be roughly
equivalent to a powerful audio amplifier to produce the high current for the pr
imary coil of the transformer (the frequency of mains AC current is roughly equi
valent to the lowest notes on a bass guitar).
Sine Wave inverter diagram
The transformer, while being very useful, does not do something for nothing. Whi
le increasing the voltage, the current will be reduced, and the power (voltage x
current) will stay the same (less any inefficiency of the transformer). In othe
r words, to get 1Kw of high voltage AC current out, you have put 1Kw of low volt
age AC current in.
Grid Tied Inverters
If the above example were a grid tied inverter, ie able to feed power back into
the national grid, it would need to use a sample of the mains voltage to then be

amplified within the inverter, or to synchronise the oscilator with that sample
.
Grid tied inverters will also sense if there is a "power cut" and disconnect the
mselves from the grid. If they did not have this facility, in the event of a pow
er cut, your inverter would be attempting to power all your neighbours houses an
d would present an electrocution risk to anyone working on power lines that had
supposedly been turned off.

Sinewave vs Modified Sinewave


True sinewave inverters supply power with an output waveform that matches that o
f conventional shore power. All appliances running on this time of inverter sho
uld run in a completely normal manner. Modified sinewave inverters actually use
a square wave output where the duration of the pulses is adjusted to match the
demand of the load. They work well for most applications but can cause motors t
o run hot and so may not be suitable for extended duration running of air condit
ioning or refrigeration motors. They can also cause small battery chargers and
converters such as laptop power supplies to run hot, and there are sometimes pro
blems with speed controllers, timers and other equipment. True sinewave inverte
rs tend to be more expensive but dont suffer the same problems described above.
A: The following gadgets work well with a modified sine wave: electric blankets,
computers, motor-driven appliances, toasters, coffee makers, most stereos, ink
jet printers, refrigerators, TVs, VCRs, many microwave ovens, etc.
Appliances that are known to have problems with the modified sine wave are some
digital clocks, some battery chargers, most light dimmers, some battery operated
gadgets that recharge in an AC receptacle, some chargers for hand tools (Makita
is known to have this problem in the past). In the case of hand tools, the prob
lem chargers usually have a warning label stating that dangerous voltages are pr
esent at the battery terminals when charging. We would like to add to this FAQ a
ny appliances that you have had trouble with, or had success with, using modifie
d sine wave inverters.
Q: Why don't I measure rated voltages when using a multimeter on my modified sin
e wave inverter?
A. The rated voltage is an RMS (root mean square--they square the value to make
sure it is always positive, then average it, then take the square root of the av
erage to make up for having squared it in the first place) measurement. Most mul
timeters are designed to give correct RMS readings when applied to sine waves, b
ut not when they are applied to other waveforms. They will read from 2% to 20% l
ow in voltage. Look for a voltmeter that brags about "True RMS" readings, and th
at will read correctly no matter what the wave shape is.
Q: Why would you use a 24 volt inverter instead of a 12 volt inverter?
A. At a given power rating a 24 volt inverter will need half the current as a 12
volt inverter. This makes the entire system more efficient, and since high curr
ent transistors are expensive, the inverter will be cheaper.