Inverter vs Converter: What’s the Difference?

Trying to work out the difference between an inverter and a converter?

At first, it might not be obvious what the two different devices do.

In many ways, they perform very similar roles in your off-grid electrical setup, but look a little closer and you’ll realize each of them performs a very specific task.

In this article, we’ll give you the exact difference between inverter vs converter, plus an in-depth look at each device.


What is the Difference Between Inverter and Converter?

Inverter and converters are both used in converting the current of electricity. But they perform the opposite tasks to each other.

A converter converts Alternating Current (AC) to Direct Current (DC).

An inverter converts DC to AC.

InverterConverter
DC to ACAC to DC

That’s the difference between the inverters and converters. 


What is AC and DC?

Let’s quickly touch on the two different types of current. 

Alternating Current, known as AC, is the electricity type you get at home from the mains power grid. The majority of home appliances use AC electricity so you need an inverter to switch DC to AC power in order to run these appliances and electronics.

Direct Current, known as DC, is the type of electricity you find in batteries and solar panel systems. It is used because it is easier to store this type of energy, and you can’t store AC power. There are many reasons you might want to convert AC to DC power with a converter. The most obvious is to charge a deep-cycle or vehicle battery. But also, not all electronics require AC. In fact, many smaller devices use DC power too quite often this is a portable device with a battery such as a phone, laptop, or tablet. 

Adding to this, you can also get lower powered DC appliances that are designed to work from deep-cycle batteries. Usually, these are created for use in things like RVs, semi-trucks, boats, etc, which rely on battery energy.


What is an Inverter?

An inverter is used to swap DC to AC. It converts the energy stored in a battery into the electricity needed to run appliances.

They are essential pieces of equipment if you want to run a normal AC appliance from an off-grid power setup. Most commonly, you will see them used with deep-cycle batteries for leisure use in vehicles such as RVs, boats, campers, and trucks. Adding to this, many people keep batteries and inverters to run their homes in the event of a power outage.

Without an inverter, you would not be able to draw power from a battery to power your electronics. To use an inverter you first need to hook it up to a battery and then plug your devices into the inverter.

Solar panels also deliver DC electricity from the sun’s energy so you need an inverter to change this into AC.

Along with the current type, an inverter also switches the voltage (V) from low to high. Most home appliances require 120V to 240V. DC is usually 12V or 24V and AC is 120V or 240V, an inverter makes this switch.


What is a Converter?

A converter does the exact opposite of an inverter. It switches AC to DC. You would use a converter in order to take mains electricity power and convert it into DC in order to charge batteries. 

A converter can also be used to deliver DC power (via a battery or the mains) to electronics that require this type of electricity. Once again, smaller devices like phones, tablets, and laptops charge their batteries with DC power. This is because you can’t store AC so all batteries use DC.

Example of a converter

A converter will also reduce voltage from 120V or 240V down to 12V or 24V. This is important as smaller devices run using lower voltages. Plus batteries are designed to be 12V or 24V.


Key Differences Between Inverter and Converter

You should have a better understanding of inverters and converters by now. They perform opposite current conversions. I put together this handy table to give you a quick overview of the differences. 

InverterConverter
FunctionDC to ACAC to DC
Input Voltage12V/24V120V/240V
Output Voltage120V/240V12V/24V
Input CurrentDirect Current (DC)Alternating Current (AC)
Output CurrentAlternating Current (AC)Direct Current (DC)
TypesModified Sine Wave
Pure Sine Wave
– Analog to Digital
– Digital to Analong
– Digital to Digital
Advantages– Allows you to run home appliances off-gird from batteries
– Run home appliances from solar power
– Power appliances from vehicle battery/engine
– Limited energy sourceIncrease voltage from 12V to 120V
– Create DC for batteries from mains electricity
– Run DC electrics
– Charge batteries
– Reduce voltage from 120V to 12V

Final Words on Inverter vs Converter

There you have it, the difference between inverters and converters.

They actually perform the exact opposite task of each other.

Inverters switch DC to AC and increase the voltage. Converters switch AC to DC and decrease the voltage.

In general, DC is used to store energy in a battery and AC is used to power most appliances. So you need to make a conversion based on these factors.