What are solar inverters?

Learn about solar inverters as part of our solar PV system DISCOVER SERIES. Read the first part of the DISCOVER SERIES about solar panels if you haven’t. Now back to solar inverters.

  • Solar inverters are another major part of a solar PV system

  • Generated electricity from solar panels get converted by solar inverters

  • Familiarize yourself with some solar inverter brands

Introduction to solar inverters

We learnt that solar panels generate electricity from sunlight in our previous article. And this is in the form of direct current (DC) electricity.

Home appliances on the other hand, use alternating current (AC) electricity.
To convert DC to AC electricity, is the task of a solar inverter.

What are solar inverters - converting dc to ac electricity

The conversion of DC electricity to AC electricity by a solar inverter

What makes solar inverters so important?

It is the heart of a solar PV system; taking in DC electricity and converting it to AC electricity every day. This day-to-day task of electricity conversion will slowly toll away any electrical device’s life though, so it would be in your best interest to get the best made solar inverter your budget allows. As a faulty solar inverter would most likely result in no conversion of electricity.

What are solar inverters - installation at a home

A solar inverter during installation (L). “AC OUTPUT” label identifies the port which the converted AC electricity will travel (R)

Solar inverter pricing

The pricing constitutes to about 10-20% of the complete total bill of a solar PV system. I would advise spending as much as your budget allows for a good quality solar inverter. For a good build quality but also the extra features. Among the features you should be looking out for are network enabled, anti-islanding and maximum power point tracking (MPPT).

Network enabled solar inverter’s data to be sent out, like inverter health, PV generation and more – so long as an internet connection is available.

Anti-islanding is a safety feature whereby the solar inverter will shut itself off in the event of a power outage. This helps prevents injuries and potential electrical hazards.

Maximum power point tracking (MPPT) is a feature that optimizes the amount of solar energy generated and allows for additional solar panels to be installed later for upsizing purposes.

Types of solar inverters

Common types of solar inverters include string, micro and hybrid inverters. While each type of solar inverter has its own functionality, most residential solar PV systems utilize string (inexpensive, marginally lower electricity output) or micro inverters (marginally more expensive, higher electricity output). While hybrid inverters are utilized when there is a form of energy storage in the system like a lithium-ion battery.

What are solar inverters - sunnyportal monitoring network 01

SMA’s SunnyPortal monitoring web interface – features to look for when choosing a solar inverter

Solar panel brands

Below is a list of well known brands which manufacture solar inverters. Picking one of these would generally be a safe bet as they all are market leaders with good service, warranties and products.

  • SMA

  • GoodWe

  • Fronius

  • Enphase

  • Sungrow

  • SolarEdge

  • ABB

Conclusion

With that, we conclude this part of the DISCOVER SERIES on solar inverters. If I could part some knowledge with you is that solar inverter warranties are shorter than those usually given for a solar panel. It would be advisable to get an extended warranty or a coverage plan if possible for your solar inverter – it’s worth it. Until next time and thank you for reading!

The views expressed by the author, Michael Leong, are of the author’s own and do not represent the opinions of any entity with which he have been, am now, or will be affiliated.

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