In this post we will try to learn how to diagnose and repair an inverter, by comprehensively learning the various stages of an inverter, and how a basic inverter functions.
Before we discuss how to repair an inverter it would be important for you to first get fully informed regarding the basic functioning of an inverter and its stages. The following content explains regarding the important aspects of an inverter.
Stages of an Inverter
As the name suggests DC to AC inverter is an electronic device which is able to "invert" a DC potential normally derived from a lead-acid battery into a stepped-up AC potential. The output from an inverter are normally quite comparable to the voltage that is found in our domestic AC Mains outlets.
Repairing sophisticated inverters are not easy due to their many involved complex stages and requires expertise in the field. Inverters which provide sine wave outputs or the ones which use PWM technology to generate modified sine wave can be difficult to diagnose and troubleshoot for the folks who are relatively new to electronics.
However, simpler inverter designs that involve basic operating principles can be repaired even by a person who is not specifically an expert with electronics.
Before we move into the fault finding details it would be important to discuss how does an inverter work and the different stages normally an inverter may comprise:
An inverter in its most basic form may be divided into three fundamental stages viz. oscillator, driver and the transformer output stage.
This stage is basically responsible for the generation of oscillating pulses either through an IC circuit or a transistorized circuit.
These oscillations are basically the productions of alternate battery positive and negative (ground) voltage peaks with a particular specified frequency (number of positive peaks per second.) Such oscillations are generally in the form of square pillars and are termed as square waves, and the inverters operating with such oscillators are called square wave inverters.
The above generated square wave pulses though are too weak and can never be utilized to drive high current output transformers. Therefore these pulses are fed to the next amplifier stage for the required task.
For info on Inverter oscillators you can also refer to the complete tutorial which explains how to design an Inverter from the scratch
Booster or Amplifier (Driver):
Here the received oscillating frequency is suitably amplified to high current levels using either power transistors or Mosfets.
Though the boosted response is an AC, it is still at the battery supply voltage level and therefore cannot be used to operate electrical appliances which work at higher voltage AC potentials.
The amplified voltage is therefore finally applied to the output transformer secondary winding.
Output Power Transformer:
We all know how a transformer works; in AC/DC power supplies it is normally used to step-down the applied input mains AC to the lower specified AC levels through magnetic induction of its two windings.
In inverters a transformer is used for similar purpose but with just opposite orientation, i.e. here the low level AC from the above discussed electronic stages is applied to the secondary windings resulting in an induced stepped up voltage across the primary winding of the transformer.
This voltage is finally utilized for powering the various household electrical gadgets like lights, fans, mixers, soldering irons etc.
Basic Principle of Operation of an Inverter
The above diagram shows the most fundamental design of an inverter, the working principle becomes the back bone for all conventional inverter designs, from the simplest to the most sophisticated ones.
The functioning of the shown design may be understood from the following points:
1) The positive from the battery powers the oscillator IC (Vcc pin), and also the center tap of the transformer.
2) The oscillator IC when powered starts producing alternately switching Hi/lo pulses across its output pins PinA and PinB, at some given frequency rate, mostly at 50Hz, or 60Hz depending as per the country specs.
3) These pinouts can be seen connected with the relevant power devices #1, and #2, which could be mosfets or power BJTs.
3) At any instant when PinA is high, and PinB is low, the Power Device#1 is in the conducting mode, while Power Device#2 is held switched OFF.
4) This situation connects the upper tap of the transformer to ground via the power device#1, which in turn causes the battery positive to pass through upper half of the transformer, energizing this section of the transformer.
5) Identically, in the next instant when the pinB is high and PinA is low, the lower primary winding of the transformer becomes activated.
6) This cycle repeats continuously causing a push-pull high current conduction across the two halves of the transformer winding.
7) The above action within the transformer secondary causes an equivalent amount of voltage and current to switch across the secondary by means of magnetic induction, resulting in the production of the required 220V or the 120V AC across the secondary winding of the transformer, as indicated in the diagram.
DC to AC Inverter, Repairing Tips
In the above explanation a couple of things become very critical for obtaining correct results from an inverter.
1) First, the generation of the oscillations, due to which the power MOSFETs are switched ON/OFF, initiating the process of electromagnetic voltage induction across the primary/secondary winding of the transformer. Since the MOSFETs switch the primary of the transformer in a push-pull manner, this induces an alternating 220V or 120V AC across the secondary of the transformer.
2) The second important factor is the frequency of the oscillations, which is fixed as per the country’s specifications, for example countries that supply 230 V, generally have a working frequency of 50 Hz, in other countries where 120 V is specified mostly work at 60 Hz frequency.
3) Sophisticated electronic gadgets like TV sets, DVD players, computers etc. are never recommended to be operated with square wave inverters. The sharp rise and fall of the square waves are just not suitable for such applications.
4) However there are ways through more complex electronic circuits for modifying the square waves so that they become more favorable with the above discussed electronic equipment.
Inverters using further complex circuits are able to produce waveforms almost identical to the waveforms available at our domestic mains AC outlets.
How to Repair an Inverter
Once you get well versed with the different stages normally incorporated in an inverter unit as explained above, troubleshooting becomes relatively easy. The following tips will illustrate how to repair DC to AC inverter:
Inverter is “Dead”:
If your inverter is dead, do preliminary investigations such as checking battery voltage and connections, checking for a blown fuse, lose connections etc. If all these are OK, open the inverter outer cover and do the following steps:
1) Locate the oscillator section; disconnect its output from its MOSFET stage and using a frequency meter confirm whether or not it is generating the required frequency. Normally, for a 220V inverter this frequency will be 50 Hz, and for 120V inverter this will be 60 Hz. If your meter reads no frequency or a stable DC, it may indicate a possible fault with this oscillator stage. Check its IC and the associated components for the remedy.
2) In case you find the oscillator stage working fine, go for the next stage i.e. the current amplifier stage (power MOSFET). Isolate the MOSFETS from the transformer and check each device using a digital multimeter. Remember that you may have to completely remove the MOSFET or the BJT from the board while testing them with your DMM. If you find a particular device to be faulty, replace it with a new one, and check the response by switching ON the inverter. Preferably connect a high wattage DC bulb in series with the battery while testing the response, just to be on the safer side and prevent any undue damage to the battery
3) Occasionally, transformers can also become the major cause for a malfunction. You can check for an open winding or a loose internal connection in the associated transformer. If you find it to be suspicious, immediately change it with a new one.
Although it won't be that easy to learn everything about how to repair DC to AC inverter from this chapter itself, but definitely things will start "cooking" as you delve into the procedure through relentless practice, and some trial and error.
Still have doubts...feel free to post your specific questions here.