The inverter is your solar energy system’s brain, and solar panels are its brain.
Together, they work to guarantee that you obtain the most power possible.
The solar inverter, which enables electricity from the sun’s rays to be converted into usable electricity for your home, is an equally important component to take into consideration.
Solar panels are the component of a solar power system that most people are familiar with because they’re the most visible part of the system.
In this article, we’ll examine the functions of solar inverters, how they operate, why you need solar inverters, and how much they cost.
Table of Contents
- A Solar Inverter’s Operation
- Electricity in DC vs. AC
- Advantages of Solar Inverters
- Comparing Various Solar Inverter Types
- Efficiency of Solar Inverters
- Size of a Solar Inverter
- Local Laws Governing Solar Inverters
- What Is The Price Of A Solar Inverter?
- What Is the Lifespan of a Solar Inverter?
- Which Inverter Is the Best for My Home?
A Solar Inverter’s Operation
You have a dilemma because although solar panels provide Direct Current (DC) power, your home uses Alternating Current (AC).
Your home need assistance in order to utilize solar energy.
A solar inverter may help in this situation.
An inverter is what, then? The main function of a solar panel inverter is to convert the DC power generated by solar panels into useable AC electricity for your house.
As a result, the solar inverter may also be thought of as a solar converter.
Your solar power system must convert this DC energy to usable electricity before it can be utilized to power those appliances since the majority of appliances run on AC power.
Your inverter is the brains behind this conversion, enabling your solar power system to power your electrical gadgets.
Additionally, the inverter for home energy serves as a bridge between your house and the electrical grid when a solar-powered home is linked to it.
It is referred to as a grid-tie inverter.
No matter how much electricity your solar panels are producing, a grid-tie inverter enables your house to have constant power.
The photovoltaic inverter may send excess power back into the grid if your solar power system is generating more energy than your house is using.
Alternatively, your panels could be generating some electricity but not enough to power your full house, in which case the inverter will combine solar power with grid power.
Your house may need 100% of its energy from the grid at night when solar panels aren’t generating it, or the inverter may be able to combine some grid power with some energy from solar batteries.
In any case, the grid-tie inverter is in charge of ensuring that your house gets all the electricity it needs in either of these circumstances, and you won’t notice a difference when it shifts between them.
Electricity in DC vs. AC
Understanding the distinction between DC and AC power is the best method to respond to the question, “What does an inverter do?”
Electric charge can only flow in one direction with Direct Current (DC) power.
Alternating Current (AC) electricity, on the other hand, occurs when the direction of the current flow varies (or alternates direction).
The electrical system in the US operates at a frequency of 60 hertz AC, which implies that energy changes direction 60 times every second.
Your photovoltaic (PV) panels are what cause the solar cells’ electrons to flow when the sun’s rays strike them.
DC power is produced as a result of this movement in one direction.
This current is gathered by the circuits within your solar panels and sent to the solar PV inverter, which converts the DC electric current into AC energy.
Advantages of Solar Inverters
Your solar PV inverter is capable of more than just converting solar energy into useable electricity.
A solar panel inverter may help you produce the most energy possible, monitor the performance of your system, connect to the utility grid, and identify problems that might otherwise harm your solar power system.
#1. Increased Energy Production
To optimize the power that the solar panels work at and provide the most and cleanest energy possible, solar inverters monitor the voltage of your solar array.
Grid-tied home solar inverters also produce a sine wave that is more pure (a measure of how smoothly the direction of current changes) than low-cost inverters, which guarantee the efficient and smooth operation of your delicate equipment.
#2. Output Monitored by System
The majority of homeowners naturally desire a means to track the effectiveness of their investment since it’s thrilling to watch your solar power system produce thousands of watts on a bright day.
The majority of solar panel inverters include a means to see how much electricity they are presently generating, and some even let you monitor the operation of your solar system via a smartphone app or website.
Some house inverters evaluate the operation of your solar power system automatically and inform you if it finds a problem with any component if things aren’t performing as they should.
Additionally, you can use the home inverter’s performance monitoring to check on your system’s parts on a regular basis and make sure it’s producing the right quantity of power.
#3. Utilizing the Utility Grid to Communicate
Solar inverters make sure that energy is not transferred from your panels to the external power lines in the event of a brief power loss.
Any line workers who may be inspecting or maintaining the grid will be safeguarded from harm in this manner.
The inverter may also transfer the excess power onto the grid to help you produce net energy credits if your family doesn’t consume all of the solar electricity generated or if your solar battery bank is full.
#4. Fault Finding
If your electrical wiring and solar equipment deteriorate and age, it might lead to dangerous electrical failures like arcs or ground faults if they are not properly maintained.
If such a situation arises, the solar power inverter will promptly identify the problem and shut down, safeguarding the rest of the system and notifying you that maintenance is required before any more harm is done.
Comparing Various Solar Inverter Types
The solar energy inverters your solar firm will employ are determined by the intricacy of your roof, the amount and frequency of roof shadow, the reason you will be using solar electricity, the utility regulations in your residential region, the manufacturers they have agreements with, and other considerations.
String inverters, microinverters, power optimizers, and hybrid inverters are the four primary categories of solar power inverters, and each has pros and cons.
#1. Switching String
A string inverter, which is sometimes known as a “central” inverter, is appropriate for more straightforward solar power system designs.
A solar panel array (group) is joined together to form a “string,” and you may attach many strings to a single central inverter.
The central inverter receives the electrical energy flowing from the panels and transforms it into AC energy before making it accessible to power your house.
Since a string inverter is often installed in a basement, garage, or other easily accessible position, it is the simplest to maintain.
As you only need one inverter to support several strings of panels across various roof planes, it is also the least expensive option.
Last but not least, a string inverter often lasts longer due to its easier setup and more straightforward operation.
A string inverter’s drawback is that poor performance in one panel might have an impact on the other panels in the string.
A string inverter is not a good fit for roofs with frequent shadowing since it cannot optimize for the performance of each panel.
A string inverter also performs poorly in complicated system designs where it is difficult to link panels together.
If you’re looking for a less expensive alternative, your property’s roof is simple in design, and it gets constant sunlight, a string inverter is often the best choice.
Microinverters are dispersed, and a tiny inverter is positioned next to each solar panel, in contrast to string inverters, which are central.
This technology converts DC to AC energy immediately at the panel, as opposed to having power travel from each panel to a single inverter before conversion.
Homes where the architecture of the solar array is complex or the roof has continuous shadowing are suitable candidates for microinverters.
To lessen the impacts of shade, they enhance each panel’s performance on site, and you may check the system’s output at each panel.
Since each additional panel has its own inverter, microinverters may also make it simpler to extend the size of your system in the future.
The inverter for a string inverter is typically scaled for the amount of panels that will be originally placed, therefore it is not intended to handle further energy production.
The cost of microinverters is higher than that of string inverters, which is a drawback.
Furthermore, if maintenance is required, it may be more difficult due to their rooftop location.
For optimal energy production on a difficult roof, where panels face different directions, or in locations with shading concerns, microinverters are the ideal option.
#3. Power Boosters
Between string inverters and microinverters, power optimizers provide a middle ground.
Your solar panels’ electricity travels to a central inverter similarly to a string inverter.
Similar to microinverters, power optimizers are placed near to individual panels.
Before transferring power to the string inverter, power optimizers optimize the voltage of the electricity (thereby conditioning the DC energy).
They may lessen the impact of shadowing on any particular panel by boosting the output of each one.
Power optimizers may also assist your system be optimized for difficulties posed by a complex roof on your house (think roofs with chimneys, gables, and other obstacles).
Although they normally cost less than microinverters, the biggest drawback of power optimizers is their higher price when compared to a straightforward string inverter.
Power optimizers may complicate maintenance, much as microinverters.
If your roof is more sophisticated and you want better performance without having to spend money on microinverters, power optimizers are your best bet.
#4. Blended Inverter
The most recent innovation in the field of solar energy inverters is the hybrid inverter.
You may buy a hybrid inverter in both a straight string and an optimized string configuration.
It combines a PV inverter and a battery inverter.
The main benefit of a hybrid inverter is that it can convert electricity in both directions.
It can do things like charge a solar battery or an electric vehicle by converting DC electricity from solar panels to AC for the home, and it can also do that by converting AC electricity from the grid to DC power.
As a result of its ease of installation and low extra cost when it comes time to add a battery to your system, this technology is being embraced by homeowners searching for energy backup choices.
While you have that battery, you may utilize the grid to charge it so you can store energy when it’s less expensive and use it later when prices are higher and solar power isn’t able to meet all of your energy needs.
Some hybrid inverters also have the additional advantage of being able to assist with charging electric vehicles (EVs), which is beneficial given the rising popularity of EVs.
The hybrid inverter may be used to immediately connect an EV charger, so you won’t need to invest further money in main panel modifications.
Hybrid inverters are again more expensive than string inverters, and because of this, they don’t adapt as well to shading or roof designs that are more intricate.
For those who are looking into energy storage solutions or who want to add an electric car that they wish to solar-charge, hybrid inverters are a suitable choice.
Efficiency of Solar Inverters
Some energy is wasted as heat when the inverter converts DC power to AC electricity.
The efficiency of higher-quality solar power inverters allows them to convert more energy while minimizing losses.
Brand-specific conversion efficiency varies, but most high-quality inverters are between 97 and 99 percent efficient, thus the energy loss is minimal.
That being said, your solar inverter helps to reduce losses caused by shading and other variables, which may affect how efficiently an energy system operates.
Size of a Solar Inverter
The maximum power output of an inverter as well as the input energy it can handle are typically specified by the manufacturer.
For instance, a string inverter with a 4,000 watt maximum input energy capacity can manage 4,000 watts of solar energy.
You seldom ever use your inverter’s nameplate power rating in real life (achieved at Standard Test Conditions, or STC).
In reality, your regular everyday activities may cause you to use up to 20% less power than the nameplate power rating.
Solar power inverters are often chosen to have a maximum input power that is lower than the maximum output of your solar panels in order to save expenses.
Since you won’t often encounter that power level on most days, there will be some clipping at maximum power output since the system isn’t built to manage the maximum amount of power that the panels can create.
Making ensuring the photovoltaic inverter size is matched with the solar array size for optimal power conversion is a vital stage in the design of a solar power system.
The fact that it’s often not an exact match and that just because you have 5kW of solar panels doesn’t imply you should combine them with a 5kW inverter may surprise you.
Choosing an inverter that can handle less energy than the maximum amount of power that the solar panels can output is often more cost-effective.
Clipping occurs when the inverter cannot manage the additional power the panels are producing, which results in a loss for the system.
Inverter clipping is just the top of the wave being cut off if you imagine electricity generation as a wave that increases over the day as the sun rises higher in the sky and emits more direct sunlight.
Nevertheless, because a solar panel array seldom generates its full output, it makes sense to “throw away” this additional power.
Even if doing so results in a little reduction in capacity on days when productivity is very high, it is preferable to build the system to handle the typical amount of electricity that may be anticipated.
The majority of the production capacity of a system that is built to handle the greatest amount of power output is underutilized on regular days.
Local Laws Governing Solar Inverters
A competent solar installation will be aware of any local restrictions that may apply to the use of solar energy as well as any rules and connectivity requirements that may apply to net metering.
For instance, in order for your solar system to be eligible for net metering in many states, it must conform to a set maximum size or maximum quantity of energy output as a proportion of your usual use.
The maximum energy output of your inverter (rather than your panels), which defines the total amount of electricity your installation can give back to the grid, often determines the size limit of the system.
What Is The Price Of A Solar Inverter?
Each system design is unique, making it difficult to pin down the cost of a solar PV inverter to a single figure.
The size of the photovoltaic inverter is scaleable up or down depending on the energy needs of your house and the overall system design.
Additionally, installers often purchase in bulk and have direct connections to suppliers, so their prices may vary from what you would pay to purchase directly.
Prices for string inverters normally vary from $1,000 to $2,000 or more, depending on the system size, solar agreement type, supplier, and any characteristics unique to your region.
The cost of a power optimizer normally ranges from $50 to $200 or more, but bear in mind that you’ll need to buy one for each solar panel in addition to an inverter to connect them to.
Microinverters may cost $1,000 or more more than a similar string inverter for a system of the same size, making them more costly than string inverters.
A string inverter that is twice as large isn’t always twice as costly; keep in mind that string inverter size may be changed for a reduced additional cost.
Contrarily, microinverters must be put on every panel, therefore doubling the number of panels is likely to result in a doubling of the inverter cost.
What Is the Lifespan of a Solar Inverter?
The usual lifetime of a string inverter is 10 to 15 years, but if it’s put in a cool, well-ventilated area and properly cared for, it may live up to two decades.
Less information is available about the predicted lifetime of microinverters and power optimizers because of their relatively recent entry into the market.
Despite this, the majority of manufacturers are certain that their devices will live longer than the 20- to 25-year guarantees that come with them.
Which Inverter Is the Best for My Home?
Our free Solar Savings Estimator is a simple way to get started if you’re seeking to invest in a solar power system for your house and attempting to select which inverter choice is appropriate for you.
You’ll get a cost estimate for installing residential solar that takes into account local installation standards, such as the kind of inverter that is often advised.
Additionally, you’ll be put in touch with a solar professional who can go through the many solar solutions that are practical for your house, including inverter possibilities, and assist you in choosing the best one for your family’s requirements.