1. Blog
  2. Solar

Explain Like I’m 5: Solar Inverter (ELI5)

A solar inverter, which changes electricity from direct current (DC) into alternating current (AC) for use in the home.
Visit our Facebook pageVisit our Twitter

As any teacher knows, kids need concepts explained in easy-to-understand ways without complex vocabulary words and confusing terms. At Palmetto, we believe adults would benefit from this approach as well. After all, solar can be confusing! In our “Explain Like I’m 5” (ELI5) series, we’ll examine key elements of the clean energy revolution to help everyone understand the concepts, kids and adults alike.

What Is A Solar Inverter?

A solar power inverter changes the direct current (DC) electricity created by solar panels into the alternating current (AC) electricity your house uses.

Imagine that an electric wire is like a tube filled with air. DC is like blowing air into one side of the tube, while AC is like breathing in and out into the tube. DC electricity flows in one direction, but AC electricity flows back and forth.

Changing electricity from DC to AC is done by the solar panel inverter, which lets you use solar energy to power your home.

How Does A Solar Inverter Work?

A solar power inverter helps your solar panels and your house talk to each other.

  • The solar panels send DC electricity to the inverter.
  • The inverter changes the electricity from DC into AC.
  • The inverter sends the AC electricity to the electrical panel so it can be shared around the house.

The actual change from DC to AC is done by transistors, which are like very fast switches. By turning those switches on and off in a specific pattern, you can change the direction that the electricity flows.

This process sounds simple, but it might be the most important work your home solar panel system does.

Why Can’t My House Use Direct Current?

Around 150 years ago, there was a big competition between Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, and Nikola Tesla to decide if homes would use DC or AC electricity. This is now known as the “War of the Currents”.

Edison had developed DC, and in the early years, that was the standard for U.S. homes. The only problem was that it’s hard to change the voltage of DC (voltage is like the pressure of electricity) which is important for sending power over long distances.

That changed with the invention of the transformer, which is basically a box of iron with wires wrapped around it. A transformer allows electricity to be changed from high voltage to low voltage, or from low voltage to high voltage.

Low voltage is much safer to use in the home, so the transformer allowed high voltage power to be sent through over long distances, and then changed into low voltage power to use in the home. As a result, AC electricity, popularized by Westinghouse and Tesla, ultimately became the standard used in all American homes.

What Else Can A Solar Inverter Do?

A solar power inverter can do other important tasks based upon what your home’s solar panel system needs:

Why Do I Need A Solar Inverter?

It’s pretty simple: You can’t use the solar energy from your solar panels without a solar inverter. Whether you install one solar panel on a garage yourself, or pay a solar company to install enough panels to power your entire home, you need at least one solar panel inverter. 

Ready to see how much you could save by going solar? Check out Palmetto’s Estimate Your Savings Tool.

Visit our Facebook pageVisit our Twitter

There’s More Where That Came From

Get the latest news in solar, climate change, and sustainable living delivered right to your inbox every month.

Read More From The Clean Energy Learning Center

Palmetto is your go-to resource for news, updates, and questions. Knowledge is power. Invest with confidence.

The words "Solar Shingles" over an image of a roof covered in solar shingles, representing the advantages and disadvantages of a solar shingle vs traditional solar panels, and if they’re worth the investment.

Homeowner’s Guide To Solar Shingles

Comprehensive guide to solar shingles, advantages and disadvantages of solar shingles vs traditional solar panels, if they’re worth the investment, and more.
The words "Georgia Solar Incentives" over an outline of the state of GA, representing Georgia solar incentives, Georgia net metering, Georgia tax credits, and other ways homeowners can save money when going solar in GA.

Georgia Solar Incentive, Tax Credit, and Rebate Guide (2022)

Georgia solar incentives, Georgia net metering, Georgia tax credits, and other ways homeowners can save money when going solar in GA.
The words "Disaster Resilience" over an image of a wildfire below the electricity grid, representing the importance of disaster resilience in emergency scenarios like hurricanes, flooding, tornadoes, and wildfires, and increasing emergency preparedness with solar panels.

How Solar Power Helps With Disaster Resilience

The importance of disaster resilience in emergency scenarios, increasing emergency preparedness with solar panels, and solar generators vs gas generators.

See how much

you can save

going solar with Palmetto

What's your monthly electric bill amount?
Track Your Savings with the Palmetto App

Track Your Savings with the Palmetto App

Track Your Savings with the Palmetto App

The Palmetto App puts solar energy savings in the palm of your hand. Track system performance by day, week, or month. With an intuitive user dashboard and one-click customer support, it’s easy to track your goals and boost your results.
Get it on Google Play
Learn More