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INVERTER EXPLAINED AND COMPARED TO TRANSFORMER WELDERS

old-school welding transformer

If you ever have to start a debate within a group of welders just go and ask the question, “which is the better machine, inverters, or transformer welders?”. The debate can go for hours and hours but in reality, the answer depends on a lot of factors, including what your needs and requirements are?

Inverters can fit inside a suitcase and weigh just 5kgs while transformer can weigh about 50kg. There is a cost difference too, inverter welders usually cost a bit more when compared to transformers but on the other hand, an inverter will use less power saving you money there. There is also an advantage of efficiency on top of everything.

Let’s take a look at each of these pros and cons in detail.

WHAT ARE INVERTER WELDERS

The inverter technology came up during the 1980s and became popular in the ’90s and in some ways has become industry standard. But a lot of professional welders still use transformers for different reasons.

The easiest way to understand what an inverter is to think of it as an electronic device that is used for voltage regulation. If we talk specifically in terms of inverter welders, then mostly they convert an AC power supply into a more usable, lower output voltage. Take the example of an inverter converting a 240V AC to 20V DC output.

Inverter devices are comprised of a number of electronic systems that convert the power, which if compared to conventional transformers, they used to rely on one big transformer to regulate the voltage.

WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF AN INVERTER WELDER

There can be a lot of advantages of using inverter welders over transformers, let’s take a look at some of them:

Size and weight

One of the biggest advantages of using inverters is the size and weight advantage. Think about this, a device that weighs about 5kgs and can be compared to the size of a briefcase or a suitcase can be compared in terms of output capacity to a 50kg transformer. This reason by itself is a big plus for a lot of people who like the portability aspect of inverters.

The efficiency of inverter welders

The other big factor is the improvement in efficiency over conventional devices. Because of the high resistance of larger transformers, there is a larger loss of power through heat dissipation. While the conventional transformer provides an efficiency range of about 50%, some of the better inverters out there can provide anywhere between 80-90% efficiency rates. Think about this while choosing the right device for yourself.

Furthermore, more efficient machines can stand higher duty cycles. Largely because of the difference in transformer size used. One drawback is the quick overheating of the smaller components, but they can usually be cooled down just as quickly. In conventional welders, the components are much larger which might take more time to heat up, but because of their size it takes longer to cool them as well.

Versatility and usability of inverters

One other factor which plays a big role in the decision-making process is the greater versatility of using inverters over transformers. Let me explain: Some of the conventional transformers only provide an AC power output which means that you might only be able to use AC specific electrodes. With inverters, it is much easier to convert this into a DC supply which makes your potential electrode choices a lot greater than before.

A lot of welders also claim that it is much easier to weld and sustain an arc while using inverters, this is usually claimed by people using MMA (stick) welding method. This can be because of the higher open-circuit voltages possible with using inverters. One more benefit is to easily change the amperage and other settings using electronics (auto-set feature), some of the newer welders even come with touchscreens.

DO INVERTER WELDERS USE LESS POWER (HOW MUCH LESS)

At the outset, a lot of people who are trying to sell you an inverter welder will hugely exaggerate the power need of the device. In reality, on average your electricity bill will be reduced by about 10-15%, so yes, they do use less electricity but not a lot. Interestingly, you will end up saving a lot of money on welding gas and consumables because of increased arc stability.

HOW DO INVERTER WELDERS WORK

At a very non-technical level, an inverter works by changing the frequency of the primary power supply. It does this by changing the usual 50Hz power supply to around 20,000-100,000Hz using the various electronic switches present in the inverter which basically switches the power on and off multiple times extremely quickly. This way the transformer doesn’t have to do a lot by itself and its size can be exponentially reduced.

HOW LONG DO INVERTER WELDERS LAST?

The life of an inverter welder varies for everyone, depending on your usage and how good you are taking care of it. I am not sure about the exact life of an inverter, but a lot of people claim about 10-12 years is a good range if you take care of it. Some exceptional cases claim that their inverters have lasted for about 20 years.

HOW TO USE INVERTER WELDER

In short, they work similarly. It is not rocket science to use either of the machines. It has to be noted though that you have only used transformer welders before, using fancy inverters with all the whistles on it might take some time to get used to.

Make sure to learn the functionality and workings of any welder from a professional in real life rather than online, as a lot of safety precautions are important, and some differences may be there in the working depending on your locality. One advantage of inverter welders is the easier amperage and current output setting due to the presence of electronics.

INVERTER WELDERS VS OLD TRANSFORMERS

Most of the differences are about the same when you look at the advantages of using an inverter but there are a few things which I didn’t mention there.

One of the biggest factors which contribute to why people may have a hard time deciding which technology for is the price. Usually, an inverter costs much more than an old-school transformer, although the price difference has become less and less over the last 15 years because of a better manufacturing process and cheaper component cost.

One more thing to consider is the higher maintenance cost of the inverters over transformers, especially after the warranty ends. One other factor which is still up for debate is the downtime costs associated with inverters. They are more prone to environmental conditions and dust, rust as compared to conventional transformers. Heavy copper transformers are still preferred for more industrial machines.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

If you are in the middle of a decision-making process about which technology to invest in, it is common for you to have a lot of questions about the topic. I will try to answer the most common queries that people have about both of these methods, hope this will help your decision.

DO INVERTERS USE LESS ENERGY AS COMPARED TO CONVENTIONAL TRANSFORMERS?

As I mentioned above, one of the biggest advantages of using inverters is the difference in power consumptions, which can justify paying the extra cost as over time the money saved from power consumptions will be more than extra money spent on an inverter welder.

IS THERE A DIFFERENCE IN THE QUALITY OF THE WELD BETWEEN THE TWO METHODS?

This is one of those topics which are highly debated among the welding world, a lot of people claim that inverters provide for a smoother weld and an increase in productivity while some people claim that inverters can lead to lack of fusion.

WHAT IS THE WEIGHT DIFFERENCE OF INVERTERS AND CONVENTIONAL TRANSFORMERS?

As I said before, the size and weight difference alone can make or break the deal. While an average transformer might weigh anywhere around 110lbs, an inverter can weigh about 11lbs and fit inside a small suitcase.

CONCLUSION

While the use of inverters is becoming more and more common among both hobbyists and professionals, there is still a huge community of welders who swear by the conventional methods. And to be honest, there are pros and cons to both, so in the end, the choice is yours depending on the budget and the use for which you are in the market for.

An inverter welder might cost more but it will save you money on power consumption, while they will provide more efficiency, they are also prone to environmental conditions and cost more in maintenance. Conventional methods also last for a longer time. Keep these things in mind while selecting.