What is an inverter?

Buying an inverter will let you keep at least some of the lights on during load shedding, as well as use devices like laptops, TVs and your Wi-Fi router. It will let you carry on working, keep the kids entertained until power is restored and bidorbuy is here to help.

An inverter changes DC current into AC. The mains power that you get from your wall sockets is AC (alternating current), whereas batteries supply DC (direct current). To power devices in your home during loadshedding, you need a source of AC power.

A complete inverter set-up actually consists of the inverter itself, plus batteries. The idea is that you have your inverter plugged in all the time – while the power is on, it charges the batteries. When there’s an outage, it draws power from the batteries and converts it into AC that your appliances can use. In terms of your electricity bill, it uses about the same as a TV, so you probably won’t even notice.

You can actually keep your most important appliances plugged into the inverter all the time, so that when the power cuts out, the inverter instantly switches over and your power supply continues without interruption.

Features to look out for when buying an inverter

Most inverters come as all-in-one appliances, with the batteries and inverter contained in a single housing. Some of the larger ones are on wheels, so that you can move them around the house.

If you’re thinking of buying an inverter, it’s important to know their limitations. While they can happily power most regular devices, inverters can’t deliver the amount of power drawn by anything with an element. So unfortunately, you won’t be able to use your stove, hairdryer or kettle! This is due to the very high power demands they make when you switch them on.

Types of inverters: wave goodbye to the darkness

There are two main kinds of inverter: pure sinewave and modified sinewave. Without getting too technical, pure sinewave is the same as mains power. It’s better for devices like laptops and monitors, and pure sinewave inverters have better overload protection.

Modified sinewave inverters can cause issues when paired with modern devices, including electrical interference, overheating and distorted displays. They also tend to have weaker protection against surges and overloads.

Inverter Prices: Crunching the numbers

You’ll notice that each inverter has a rating in either W or  KVA. Essentially, the higher number, the more devices you can run, for longer. Each household appliance will have a wattage rating – for example, a typical laptop is 20 – 50W, while a Wi-Fi router might be 10W and charging your phone uses about 5W.

Work out which devices you’ll need power for to get your “total connected load”. When you do your research, check out the total battery power in Watt hours (Wh) – then divide this by your total load to get an approximate length of time you can run everything for. It’s worth allowing at least 10% extra for the initial draw when you connect devices.

Most outages last for 4 – 5 hours, so choose an inverter that will give you the power you need for at least that long. With your inverter connected to a wall socket, it will automatically switch back to using mains power as soon as loadshedding ends and start replacing the battery power you’ve used.To avoid feeling powerless during loadshedding, check out our range of great inverter deals here.

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