Essential Facts About Solar Inverters
Commonly, consumers think about solar panels without evaluating their need for a solar inverter. This component is as important as the panels in your solar system. The inverters convert electricity that the panels gathered. This way, you can use it to power your appliances and lighting.
There are different types of inverters that you can choose from:
As the name suggests, this type is connected to the grid. It is often known as an inverter, which means it accepts both AC and DC power. A grid-connected inverter is the most versatile and performs various functions, including:
Grid-tied inverters can be a string inverter, a solar optimiser, or a micro inverter. A micro-inverter is a smaller type of inverter and is designed to work with individual panels. The traditional inverter is made to work with a string of modules. Although they are not new (introduced in the late 90s), microinverters have recently gained in popularity.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of using micro-inverters is that the outputs are not dependent on each panel. For instance, one of the panels is experiencing a lower output because of shade issues. When you use a micro-inverter, the rest of the panels will not be affected and will remain efficient.
The US National Renewable Energy Laboratory confirmed that using micro-inverters can give homes as much as a 12% increase in energy output.
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Solar Inverters FAQs
An inverter is one of the most crucial components of your solar PV system. Its task is to convert the variable Direct Current (DC) input to Alternating Current (AC). The DC input is actually the output produced by the photovoltaic solar panels. It can also come from a battery where excess solar power is stored. Once DC is transformed to AC, you can use the electricity to run household appliances.
Quality inverters are a must to ensure the longevity of the solar power system. The inverter should:
- Meet the Australian Standard AS4777
- Have a robust convection cooling system, especially in the harsh WA climate
- Have a minimum warranty of eight years, but ideally at least 10 years
- Offer remote monitoring or data logging so you can check its performance anywhere at anytime
The most important of all is to ensure that the solar inverter meets the Australian Standard AS4777. It should be one of the Clean Energy Council’s approved inverters.
The different types of solar inverters include:
- String Inverter, the most common type used in residential settings where you connect several solar panels to one inverter (like a string)
- Optimised String Inverter, which is essentially a string inverter attached at the back of a solar panel to optimise its output
- Central Inverter, used in commercial buildings or solar farms with up to megawatts of capacity
- Microinverter, a tiny inverter connected to one panel and is used for optimising the panels individually
- Hybrid Inverter, which allows plugging batteries into the PV system
Battery inverters are also growing in popularity where you have a battery system apart from your solar PV system.
Inverter prices vary widely, depending on their brand, capacity, and features. Usually, you do not buy inverters on their own because they are part of a solar system package. You can assume that the inverter makes up approximately 20% of the quoted price.
Cheaper 5kW inverters cost around $1,000, which are single-phase models. Premium options typically begin at $2,000. A 5kW inverter can carry up to 6.6kW panels, which is often the ideal size for households. Meanwhile, if you have a three-phase system, you will generally pay $400 in the prices mentioned.
You will need to enlist the help of a solar system professional to determine the best size for your home. But the general idea is to ensure the inverter is suitable for the maximum power of your solar system.
Therefore, if you have a 5kW system, you should have 5kW of panels and a 5kW inverter. But inverters are still efficient even if they have up to 25% less capacity than the panels. That’s because of the system losses, which occur in the panels.
The efficiency of the inverter is based on its ability to convert solar power into usable electricity in your home. Grid-tied or grid-connected transformer-based inverters have a 93% efficiency or higher. However, they are not as popular as before, so fewer of them are sold these days. Meanwhile, a transformerless device offers 95% efficiency or higher.
Inverters are best if they are inside the house, particularly in a dry and well-ventilated space. You can place the inverter outdoors but make sure it is weatherproof, especially in grid-connected systems. A weatherproof inverter is typically rated IP65, which means you can install it outdoors despite the harsh weather conditions.
Outdoor installation, however, does not mean the inverter should be placed directly under the sun. It should be in a dust-free area with enough space for proper air circulation.
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