Inverter Terminology


  1. “Grid” (a.k.a. “the grid”, “commercial power grid”, power lines, and others)
  2. Grid tie inverter
  3. Hybrid (“intentional island”) inverter system
  4. Inverter
  5. Island
  6. Stand-alone inverter


Grid” (a.k.a. “the grid”, “commercial power grid”, power lines, and others)

Power distribution lines energized by utility companies for delivery of electric power to utility company customers. Power sources used commonly include coal, nuclear, hydroelectric, natural gas, and others.

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Grid tie inverter

An inverter designed to connect to the commercial power grid and feed power back into the grid. A grid-tie inverter must be connected to the grid in order to function. Safety regulations require a grid-tie inverter to cease operating in the event of a power failure on the commercial power grid. The most common energy source for a residential grid-tie inverter are “solar modules” that make electricity from sunlight.

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Hybrid (“intentional island”) inverter system

A hybrid inverter combines features of the stand-alone inverter and the grid-tie inverter. Hybrid systems use batteries for storage, and are able to provide power for critical loads in the event of a grid power failure. Hybrid systems achieve this intentional islanding by first disconnecting from the commercial power grid (by use of a heavy-duty mechanical relay), then continuing to operate as a stand-alone inverter until the utility power is restored, at which time the hybrid inverter returns to grid-tie mode.

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An electronic device that converts direct current (“DC”) into alternating current (“AC”). In this context, an inverter produces 60Hz sine-wave electricity identical to what is produced by US domestic power companies.

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An “island” condition exists when an inverter continues to provide power to one or more residences or other structures. If this occurs in a grid-tie inverter, the inverter is malfunctioning. Sometimes, systems are designed to intentionally island (see “Hybrid system”).

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Stand-alone inverter

An inverter designed to operate independently of the commercial power grid. A stand-alone inverter creates its own 60Hz reference (50 Hz for international models), and is not designed to connect to or feed power back into the commercial power grid. Mechanical relays may be used in conjunction with stand-alone inverters to allow a load to be powered from either the grid or the inverter, and have the relay change position to use the respective other power source as needed, but at no time are the stand-alone inverter and the power grid connected to each other.

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