How Do Solar Inverters Work?

If you are reading this article, you must be mulling over using solar power for your electrical needs.  And no surprise there, as the benefits for the long run looks promising.  You’d probably have basic knowledge of how solar power, or solar photovoltaic (PV) systems work.  Solar panels generate direct current (DC) electricity from the sun’s rays, making it an excellent alternative source of energy.

But aside from solar panels, solar inverters are just as needed aselectrical devices work on alternating current (AC) electricity, and not DC from the panels.  And solar inverters do just that, convert DC to AC electricity to run your appliances.It also serves other purposes, such as:

  • net metering, so that any excess electricity from solar PV is monitored and sent back to the electrical grid (power lines) and the users can get energy savings through credits on your utility bill. On the flip side, if you need more electricity, the inverter switches to the grid to meet the demand.
  • regulates and controls if electricity will be taken from the solar PV or the grid. If the system is using a battery for storage, it will also manage the flow for charging the battery or discharging stored electricity when the solar system is not used (night time, cloudy days).

 

Solar Inverter Replacement and Maintenance:

Solar Inverters have a much shorter lifespan than the panels, and would also require more care, repair and maintenance to function optimally.  Most inverters have a lifespan of around 10 years, while panels are expected to last 25 years or more.  In the solar PV system, replacement cost for the inverter would be the expensive part of this investment, but this can be remedied with a long term warranty.

 

 

Currently, there are 3 Kinds of Solar Inverters to Choose From:

  • String inverter or “centralized” inverter. Electricity from panels wired or “stringed” together flows to a single inverter usually at the side of the structure or in the basement.  This is the more popular, least expensive, easiest to maintain kind of inverter.  But it is also the least efficient as it can create bottlenecks if there are even a few panels not fully performing (in the shade, etc.)
  • Power optimizer installed next to the panels and is paired with a separate string inverter. It does convert the electricity yet, but rather “pre-processes” it by fixing its voltage before being sent to the string inverter.  This makes the system more efficient than with string inverter alone.  In this way, power optimizers can also monitor and maximize performance from each solar panel.  Though it is more expensive and would require higher maintenance.
  • Microinverters are “distributed” and located at each solar panel for maximum efficiency, such that electricity are converted right on the spot. And because it is installed on each panel, it can monitor its output performance, making it easier to detect any problem.  Suffice it to say that it is the most expensive of the options.

 

 

Other Factors to Consider When Choosing Solar Inverter for your System

Aside from the abovementioned, it’s also worth it to take note of the following:

  • There should be a balance in the number of solar panels for each inverter, for maximum operating capacity. Ask your solar company for the configurations and if they are a match with your selected inverter.
  • Choose a high quality solar panel inverter a good cooling system for longer lasting solar PV system.
  • Always check on the warranty and its requirements.

 

Now that you have a working knowledge of what inverters are, what they do and what kinds are there, it would be easier for you to negotiate with solar power providers and decide which best suit your needs.