There are many different types of inverters for solar panels, and you may be wondering which one is best for your situation. It’s pretty simple really. You want to choose the best inverter for your solar panels that will give you the most energy with the least amount of cost involved.
I know it sounds like a tall order, but there are different types of inverters out on the market and each one has its own pros and cons depending on what your specific needs are. It can be overwhelming if you don’t know much about them. I’m going to tell you all about the most common types and what they do for your system!
How Do Solar Inverters Work?
Basically, an inverter is a device that converts direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC). Most of the power we use in our homes runs on AC. We need this conversion to run household appliances and other electronics. Inverters are a core component in solar energy systems
Solar panels produce DC power which needs to be converted before it can be used like traditional electricity. The inverter takes power from the panels and converts it to AC. From there, the inverter sends this power out through wires to your home’s circuits. This is where you will use most of your electricity.
Different Types of Solar Inverters
1. String Inverters
The most common type of solar inverter, string inverters work by connecting a set number or array to one central device. It will convert the DC input into AC that can be used for things like power conversion for buildings to maintain lighting schedules while also powering electronics with ease. No need for messy batteries!
The number of solar panels connected via wiring harnesses determines how much electricity can be produced at any given time. There should always be more panels than what the string inverter is rated for.
- Less expensive than a microinverter system
- Can be easier to design and install
- Chances of breaking down are low
- No energy storage, so there is no power at night or when it’s cloudy.
- Less efficient than microinverters because of the higher number of connections and conversions that need to be made
- Shading can affect the output of the entire system
- Diagnostics can be more difficult
Microinverters are the latest in solar inverter technology, and they function by converting DC to AC right on-site without any need for a string or central unit. With these micro-sized powerhouses, you don’t even need an extensive installation because each one takes care of the conversion from your panels themselves.
- More efficient than string inverters because power doesn’t need to be converted and transmitted multiple times before reaching its destination
- Each panel is essentially a self-contained system with its own micro inverter, which increases efficiency by preventing shading from affecting the entire system
- Modules can be monitored individually for diagnostics, therefore less time is needed to diagnose problem panels
- More efficient when converting DC to AC because one microinverter can work on an entire solar panel instead of passing the current between modules in a string setup
- More expensive than traditional string inverters and so are repairs
- Can amplify noise issues caused by standard inverters due to frequent switching on and off during operation
- Installation of microinverters may require more labor and time than traditional setups
- Not all panels work together with microinverters
4. Hybrid Solar Inverters
These inverters work by combining the best of both worlds: micro and string inverters. They function in a similar way to microinverters, but they can also work with multiple solar modules connected in a string.
The inverter provides both DC power to a battery and AC current. It’s equipped with MPPT, so it can track how much charge your batteries need when running on their own without being connected to an external source of energy like the grid or home appliances. If there is ever any problem going around in standby mode instead of shutting off completely.
- In standby mode, the inverter can keep a battery bank charged without using an electric utility
- The microinverters provide greater efficiency because they are installed directly on each solar panel
- This style of inverter takes up less space than a string inverter and even a centralized system.
- Almost as expensive as a microinverter would be but with the price difference between those two technologies narrowing what you pay comes down to which type of system you want to go for.
- Repairing individual panels is more difficult due to the number of connections that it needs for it to work properly
- – Not all panels work together with these inverters
5. Central Inverter
A central inverter is a device that separates the strings of panels in order to convert DC into AC. It does this by moving through all connected strings, then linking them together before passing onto an alternating current (AC) converter which will make your home’s electricity needs more manageable because you’ll only need one type for everything. It’s more common to see central inverters in commercial setups or homes with large arrays.
- Won’t have to worry about compatibility issues when it comes time to hook up your appliances
- More standardized than systems that require individual modules to be monitored, making installation much easier for professionals due to lack of complication in using a single inverter.
- A central inverter can help prevent shading caused by poor module design or roofs that aren’t flat because it eliminates the need for power conversion on every panel. So even if one panel isn’t working, there’s no loss of efficiency.
- Slower upgrades because swapping out microinverters is more convenient than swapping out an entire central inverter.
- If your panels are obscured by trees or a roof, then you’re going to need additional devices to allow for the amount of power that’s being harnessed.
- Power conversion is done at a lower level due to a separate converter for every panel. So, if something happens in one string, the problem will be amplified throughout all of them because it’ll have to go through more conversions on its way from the array.
6. Battery-based Inverter/Charger
A battery-based inverter can be used for standalone systems that are not tied into the grid or on homes that have an external source of energy hooked up. They work using any type of rechargeable battery system like lithium, lead-acid, nickel-cadmium (NiCd), etc. You can also use it with an AC connection to store power when you generate more than you need so it doesn’t go to waste.
- Can act as a backup if your power goes out or if you want to disconnect from an external source of energy like the electric utility.
- An inverter that works with batteries can provide constant power because it will continue to work even when networked sources are not available.
- It provides stable power without interruption so your appliances won’t need to be reset up or turned off due to fluctuations in wattage.
- Expensive than central inverters and string inverters because buying one battery system for every panel is more expensive than having one converter do all of the work.
- If your battery is too small, then you won’t be able to get enough power to get through the day and night.
- It’s not as efficient as a central inverter due to its more limited range of motion so it would only work on single strings.
7. Power Optimizers
Power optimizers act like microinverters but they only work on single panels instead of an entire system. It will track the production of each panel and convert it back into usable energy that’s stored in your storage medium. A power optimizer will work on panels that are linked in either AC or DC. The only difference between them is that one will have its own system while the other shares power with an entire string.
- Because it works like a single microinverter, this will make installation easier and significantly reduce concerns about compatibility issues
- Power conversions are all done at the same time so they’ll happen more efficiently due to the lack of differences between each system being converted
- If your solar array is large enough then it doesn’t matter how many panels you have because you can use a power optimizer on every panel and still get the same amount of energy.
- Allow panel-level monitoring, as well as system-level monitoring. Any problems with solar output can be easily diagnosed and identified on a panel-by-panel basis.
- More expensive than string inverters so if you don’t have enough panels, it might not be worth it
- Each unit isn’t as powerful as the central ones due to a lack of cross-connection between strings so they won’t work on larger arrays or those with more systems in them
- You’ll only be able to work with one system at a time
- If your battery is too small then you’re going to need more units which means shelling out even more money for an installation setup that will overload your storage space.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the average life of an inverter?
Most inverters can last up to 20 years if properly cared for. As long as they’re not exposed to too much heat or cold, inverters can last you a long time so don’t be afraid of investing in one.
How many inverters do I need for solar panels?
If you have a very large array then you might need several different inverters to accommodate your entire setup. If it’s not that big, then one unit should suffice but if you want more power then it might be worth looking into investing in something larger.
How long do solar inverters last?
On average, they can last up to 20 years if properly maintained. Although you’ll need to replace batteries every so often and inverters will need upkeep as well, it’s not too hard to keep them up and running smoothly.
Why do solar inverters fail?
This usually happens when dust and debris builds up over time which causes them to overheat. Although inverters aren’t very prone to failure, it’s best to clean them regularly especially if you live near the beach or in a dusty environment otherwise, they’ll become less efficient and shut down due to overheating.
The most common reason for inverter failures is poor maintenance. Always make sure that your inverters are free of dust and dirt because that can cause them damage and reduce their overall lifespan. You should also replace batteries every 5-7 years to keep your system running smoothly!
Can you overload a solar inverter?
Yes, and this will cause them to overheat and become damaged. If you’re looking to add more solar panels then make sure that your inverter can handle the amount of energy that you need before installing anything new because it’ll get overloaded otherwise.
Inverters are devices that convert DC energy into usable AC energy. All of this happens in the space of a second and if you use an optimizer then you’ll be able to monitor your solar panels by themselves or as a greater whole.
Although it isn’t the cheapest option, using power optimizers will make installation easier and provide more control over each system’s performance.
A central inverter will have one microcontroller while power optimizers have their own dedicated system so they’re better for larger arrays that can overload central units.
If you just have a few solar panels then investing in an inverter is fine but if it’s an array then it might be worth looking into getting either power optimizers on each panel or having one large unit that connects to different strings.
The choice is yours and it’s all dependent on your needs and personal preference!
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