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What is a Solar Inverter?

Deciding to switch to solar energy is one of the best decisions you will make as you move more and more towards sustainable living. However, this decision comes with its respective set of concerns. You would ideally want to know as much as possible about components.

 

These concerns are practical, and it is always better to have a basic understanding of the system before interacting with them. While most people know about solar panels and batteries by now, solar inverters are still a component the general public is familiarizing themselves with.

 

We have prepared a short guide to help you get an idea about solar inverters, their function, and their types.

 

What is a Solar Inverter?

A solar inverter is one of the main components of a solar energy system used to power the house. Solar panels utilize solar energy from the sun to generate direct current (DC). Because most houses are developed to function using alternate current (AC), the DC from the solar panels needs to be converted to AC before it travels through the electrical wiring.

 

This is where the solar inverter comes in.

 

What Does a Solar Inverter Do?

A solar inverter is used to convert the DC from the solar panels to AC so it may be allowed to pass through and power the house.

 

Where Is the Solar Inverter Installed?

Solar inverters are typically mounted on a wall such that they are relatively protected from weather conditions. While solar panels can withstand most weather conditions, solar inverters act as any other electrical equipment does and will sustain damage if exposed.

 

How Durable Are They?

Solar inverters last for about 5-10 years with the ones from better brands generally faring better on the durability scale. You will need to replace yours anytime between half a decade and a decade, so keep a provision for that. Ideally, invest in a better quality model so you do not have to replace it too frequently.

 

Types of Solar Inverters

There are several types of inverters available, so you will have a variety to choose from when it is time for you to make the shift towards renewable energy.

 

1. Micro Inverters

Micro inverters are a relatively new development in the area and a convenient one as well. They are smaller in size compared to the usual inverter and are fixed to each solar panel. Not only do they convert DC to AC at the very beginning of the current’s journey, but they will also help you monitor the status of the panel they are attached to.

 

The per-panel monitoring is useful because, unlike the string inverter, a micro inverter is attached to each panel, and therefore, the output from each panel is treated separately.  Even if one panel produces less DC due to unforeseen circumstances, the remaining panels will produce and distribute their fair share.

 

2. Grid-Tie Inverters

Grid-tie inverters are designed to convert DC into the form of AC compatible with the electrical power grid it is connected to. The factors they need to take into account are the voltage and phase, both of which should be the same as the waveform of the electrical grid.

 

Grid-tied inverters do not transfer electricity to the electrical grid system in case of an outage.

 

3. Battery-Based Inverter

Battery-powered inverters are a charger and an inverter both in the same piece of equipment. Battery-based inverters can be interactive, stand-alone, grid-tied, or off-grid depending on their design.

 

Battery-based inverters are usually grid-tied. Therefore, although they can be programmed to transfer energy to the more critical area, they generally don’t transfer more than this base amount.

 

4. Stand Alone Inverter

Stand-alone inverters are off-grid and usually operate independently instead of on a grid. They are usually connected to a solar battery generating DC energy. They convert this energy into AC and provide it to the system they are connected with.

 

5. String Inverters

String inverters are the most common type of inverters. The term string refers to the fact that they receive current from a string of solar panels positioned together and generating DC current.

 

The problem with string inverters is that they do not treat each panel separately. If one panel generates less electricity due to shade or because it is dirty, the string inverter will reduce the output of all panels to match the lowest amount produced.

 

However, technological progress has allowed us to create ways to avoid or mitigate this problem. More recently, string converters are being used with power optimizers. These power optimizers minimize energy lost due to the mechanism of the string inverter, making it more efficient given its main framework.

 

6. Central Inverters

Central inverters have the same framework as that of string inverters but on a much bigger scale. They are typically used to power big buildings or installations instead of any residential structures or an average house. The simple reason is that a central inverter has a larger capacity and accommodates several more strings of solar panels to generate the necessary amount of electricity to power the area.

 

A central inverter looks like a series of boxes called a combiner box and converts up to 500KW per compound. Its heavy-duty capabilities are useful in attaining sustainability in running larger-scale operations similar to how a micro inverter does the same for residential panels.

 

Our Final Thoughts

To sum up, a solar inverter uses the electricity produced by solar panels and converts it into a form that is compatible with the system that needs to use the electricity. The key type differences are based on the size of the inverters and the size of the buildings they power.

 

It is also dependent on the base framework and their intended usage can make a lot of difference when it comes to durability.