The Difference Between 12 Volt and 48 Volt Solar Systems

Regardless of whether you are looking to purchase a new solar system for your home or if you are already working with one, you’ll want to know the difference between a 12 volt and 48 volt solar system. The difference is substantial.

The key equation is:

Voltage x Amps = Watts (power)

Inverters are devices that convert solar energy into AC power

Whether you want your solar energy system connected to the grid or an off-grid system, you’ll need inverters. These devices transform DC electricity into AC electricity. AC is the type of electricity most of us are familiar with. It’s also the type of electricity most of our household appliances use.

The difference between DC and AC is that AC can travel farther and shift direction more easily. It is also easier to shift voltage. Nearly all home appliances use AC, and most electrical bills are in kilowatt hours (kWHs).

Inverters can be broken into two main groups, based on their output power: string inverters and microinverters. We will look at the two types of inverters in a separate article, but briefly, string inverters are designed to convert electricity produced by a series of solar panels into AC power. Microinverters are smaller inverters that are located on each solar panel. They enable each panel to operate independently, minimizing the impact of shading on overall system performance.

12 Volt Inverters Vs 48 Volt Inverters

Depending on the size of your needs, a 12 volt inverter or 48 volt inverter can be the best choice for your energy requirements. However, there are some differences between the two. The first thing to consider is your energy load. The amount of energy you need is measured in watts. If your energy load is less than 2,000 watts, a 12 volt inverter can handle your needs. However, if your energy load is over 4,000 watts, a 48 volt system is the best option for you.

The advantages of using a 48 volt system include efficiency and lower wiring. A higher voltage also reduces losses when converting to 240 VAC, improves inverter regulation, and reduces fire risk. A higher voltage also increases the usable operating voltage window. In addition, a 48 volt system can run higher voltage appliances than a 12 volt system.

There are a few disadvantages to using a 48 volt system. First, it is more expensive. This is mainly because of the more expensive materials that must be used.

Second, using a 48 volt system can help you run more appliances at once. Compared to a 12 volt system, a 48 volt system can output four times the wattage of a 12 volt system. This makes it a better choice for larger systems. A larger system also creates more heat, so the system needs to be able to handle the increased heat. A 48 volt system is also more efficient, meaning you can run appliances at a lower cost.

Finally, a 48 volt system is safer than a 12 volt system. A higher voltage increases the likelihood that you will be able to avoid a shock hazard. The higher voltage also minimizes resistive losses, which are a loss that occurs when a current flows through a resistive device.

Lastly, a higher voltage battery bank can help you save money in the long run. Compared to a 12 volt battery bank, a 48 volt battery bank has a higher capacity and can be used with thinner cables for the same amount of power. A higher voltage also improves battery life.

The video below explains in layman’s terms the practical limit of 12 volt, 24 volt, and 48 volt systems. Remember, voltage times amps = watts. Amperage means ” “electrical current,” which is measured in amperes (amps). It describes the amount of electrical charge that is flowing through a system or alternately the maximum amount of electrical current that a system is capable of handling safely.”

200 amps is really the limit for home electrical systems. 400 to 800 amp systems are industrial scale, and are extremely powerful – as well as dangerous. Anything over 200 amps is NOT recommended for residential use.

Safeopedia states:

Although electricity may be referred to in terms of wattage, voltage, or amperage, it is specifically the amount of amperage (electrical current) in a system that determines how dangerous that system is to humans.

Safeopedia explaining amperage