The Differences Between an Inverter and Multilevel Inverter

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Invertors provide power in the case of a power outage.
Invertors provide power in the case of a power outage. (Image: electrical outlet image by Mat Hayward from Fotolia.com)

Inverters are often used to provide power to electronics in the case of a power outage or for activities such as camping, where no power is available. An inverter converts a direct current (DC) or battery power into an alternating current (AC) or household power. A multilevel inverter is a more powerful inverter, meaning it does the same thing as an inverter except provides energy in higher-power situations.

Inverter

Inverters convert DC power into AC power through waves called either sine waves or modified sine waves. Sine waves are the waves that are typically found in power from a power plant. Modified sine waves are made to simulate sine waves. Inverters with modified sine waves work well for backup power in houses and are much less expensive. Although there are several types of inverters, all standard inverters use only one switch, or in other words, one power circuit.

Multilevel Inverter

Multilevel inverters are a a source of high power, often used in industrial applications and can use either sine or modified sine waves. Instead of using one converter to convert an AC current into a DC current, a multilevel inverter uses a series of semiconductor power converters (usually two to three) thus generating higher voltage. While with an inverter you would transfer energy with the flip of one switch, with a multilevel inverter you would have to flip several switches, each switch requiring a circuit. These multiple switches and circuits usually make multilevel inverters more expensive than inverters.

Renewable Energy

Unlike standard inverters, multilevel inverters make use of renewable energy sources. Wind, fuel cells and even photovoltaic energy can be added to a multilevel inverter as DC sources. These environmentally-friendly energy sources can then be converted into AC currents. However, while multilevel inverters are capable of producing large amounts of energy, the amount of energy produced is dependent upon how much DC power is being used. Higher sources of DC power will provide more powerful AC power.

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