Like any living organism, the solar inverter is like the brain in a solar energy system; the solar panels are like the brawn. They cooperate so that electricity can reach you. The solar panels are the visible part of the system, but solar inverters are just as important. Of course, there are Solar System Batteries, too, which store energy.
The Working of a Solar Inverter
A solar inverter changes the direct current that your solar panels generate to the alternating current that your home needs. It also mediates between the national grid and your home power system. The term for this is a grid-tie inverter. This enables you to enjoy an uninterrupted power supply through a solar battery, even if your solar panels generate more or less energy than your home needs.
There might be times when your solar panels generate more electricity. This is when the inverter comes into play and diverts that extra power to the grid. There might also be instances where your solar panels are doing poorly in generating power, then the inverter takes some of that grid power and combines it with the solar power so that you can power your home needs.
The Advantages of a Solar Inverter
Not only does a solar inverter get you power, but it also gives the most of that power, interacts with the national grid and Solar System Batteries, monitors all the things to keep them in check, and spots any damage in the power system, so there isn’t any problem.
They also focus on the solar array voltage to derive the most power from the solar panels at their maximum capacity. This way you get the most of this clean energy.
Surprisingly, technology has come such a long way, so most people want to monitor their solar energy performance by keeping tabs on their electricity use and supply. Many inverters come with a monitoring app or software to track your electrical needs. They also warn if there is a malfunction or fault in the system or the solar battery so that you can fix it as soon as possible.
Different Solar Inverters
There are four types of solar inverters:
- Hybrid Inverter
- String Inverter
- Power Optimizer
These are the latest inverters in the market. They combine a photovoltaic inverter with a solar battery. The best thing about them is that they can convert AC to DC and vice versa. You can use them to store energy on days of sunshine with no power outages and take power from them when the rates are higher or when you need more energy.
Microinverters are placed with each solar panel instead of one big inverter siphoning all the power from many solar panels and storing that energy in a solar battery. They are an amazing choice for homes that have a decent shade or homes where there is a complex solar array design. The energy output is significantly increased with individual solar panels having their own inverters. However, microinverters might be more costly and difficult to maintain.
Unlike a microinverter, it is a central inverter taking power from all the solar panels connected to it. It can be located in an accessible place of your home. It is easy to maintain and is cheap too. Due to its basic setup, it lasts more too. The only disadvantage is that the overall performance will be reduced if one solar panel does not receive the same sunlight.
They are a mixture of microinverters and string inverters. A central inverter receives power from solar panels, but power optimizers are fitted with panels too. They optimize the voltage and keep it so that even if one panel underperforms, the rest can compensate for it. It can help in complicated setups where there is shading. They are pricy, but they need less maintenance.
The Efficiency of a Solar Inverter
As an inverter converts electricity from DC to AC, heat energy is lost, either by the solar battery or the solar panel. Efficient inverters produce more energy and less heat. The efficiency depends upon the brand, but most good quality inverters are 97-99% efficient. However, other factors like shading can have significant effects on efficiency. This is why an inverter works on reducing the loss of energy.
The Cost of a Solar Inverter
Every inverter system is different, and so are the prices so pinning down an exact number is difficult. An inverter is sold based upon the energy needs of any home and its design. Moreover, unlike a typical buyer, installers purchase these inverters in bulk from the suppliers so that prices will vary.
String inverters cost anywhere from $1000-2000. This includes the sellers, the solar agreement that has taken place, the locality of the home, and the system size. Power optimizers range from $50-200. However, you need to be wary that the number of power optimizers should match the solar panels, plus you need an inverter connection.
Microinverters can be priced at $1000 or above. Even if you buy double the number of string inverters, the price will not be twice as costly, but in the case of microinverters, where each panel requires a microinverter, the price will be high.
The Lifespan of a Solar Inverter
Solar inverters have a pretty decent lifespan. With string inverters, you get 10-15 years of service, which is amazing. However, this lifespan is only possible if the inverter is properly taken care of and placed in a properly ventilated and cool place. With the best care, the lifespan can be extended to 20 years.
Power optimizers and microinverters are recent inventions so there is less research regarding their lifespan. However, manufacturers make sure that these new inverters perform better than their older counterparts and easily reach a lifespan of 20-25 years of service.