What are solar inverters?
What are the different types of solar inverters?
How do solar inverters work and what should guide you when you are trying to buy solar inverter batteries?
This and many more are some of the things that I will be sharing with you in this article.
Solar Inverter Classifications
Solar inverters can be classified as a type of electronic device that is responsible for converting Direct Current (DC) created by solar panels to usable Alternating Current (AC) that can be then used to power household appliances or sent to the grid.
It is considered an integral part of any solar PV system and has been configured to allow expert installers to monitor and fix any system issue(s) that might occur.
Its efficiency in this contemporary technological world has been rated at 98%.
Its usefulness has also been rated highly as it presents a comfortable replacement or assistance to main electricity considering the irregularities and instability of electricity in some countries and high-maintenance and high bill cost of electricity in other countries. It is also a preferred choice because it helps to save energy for future use.
How Do Solar Inverters Work
It is important to note that due to its expiration earlier than the solar boards, the inverters have to be changed from time to time in order to have a long-lasting solar system.
To guarantee efficiency, a solar inverter must have sufficient solar boards hooked up to it, this means that the lesser the panels, the higher the probability of it not functioning properly.
5 Main Types of Solar Inverters
There are five main types of solar inverters that will guide a prospective user into choosing whichever suits their purpose, system, and budget best.
#1: Standard String Inverters
These are considered to be the most commonly used inverter type, especially in Australia. The installed rows are connected by strings or groups of solar panels, they each transfer direct current power to the inverter where it is in turn, converted into alternating current electricity. Depending on the sizing of the strings and other design technicalities, each inverter handles several strings. Its technology is considered dependable and efficient due to its wide usage running into millions all over the world although it is important to know that a user may be required to obtain a supplementary energy management system to increase the system’s efficiency, depending on the inverter decided on. For this type of inverter, the monitoring of individual panels is not required although the monitoring of individual strings is done in order to recognize and diagnose any irregularity. It is ideal for both residential and commercial users and it comes highly recommended as it has been “tested and trusted” and reported as the most affordable of any kind of solar inverter. With all things in place, it usually lasts for 15 years before it needs to be replaced.
#2: Battery Inverters
As its name implies, the battery inverters are designed to generate energy from batteries, using the onboard charger to manage the energy charge (charging and discharging) and channeling the excess energy to the designated utility grid. Battery inverters are most times installed side-by-side with a standard string inverter, it kicks into action the most when there is a power outage in a particular utility by supplying alternating current to selected loads in such utility, as such, it is required to have anti-islanding protection for this type of inverter. It is considered durable, long-lasting, and hard-wearing, it is also considered easy to use due to the fact that it can be physically fixed basically and proficiently into existing solar systems. Worthy of note is the fact that even though the physical process is simple, other mechanical factors to put into consideration while fixing the battery inverters into the string ones are most times complex and can be expensive, this also depends on the network operator available in one’s state or the environment.
#3: Micro Inverters
This type is often installed directly into each solar panel and monitors individual performance. Although it is much smaller in terms of both physical size and capacity (200-250W), it does pretty much the same work as the standard string inverter. It is even better due to the fact that the performance of individual solar panels is monitored and every panel output is converted separately, more, malfunctioning or underperforming panels do not affect negatively the output of other panels; either due to degeneration or shading. It also withstands harsh environments and is best suited for panels facing different directions. It is germane to sound a note of warning that this type doesn’t come cheap, it is usually two to three times the cost of the standard string inverter. Also, it has the potential for multiple points of failure and its increased output only surpasses the standard inverter by a percentage of 8, therefore, one might not get the worth of one’s money. It is recommended for home solar installations as it can present a challenge for large-scale projects.
#4: Hybrid Inverters
These ones combine the job of the standard string inverters and the battery inverters, they will not only convert the direct current generated by the panels to alternating current electricity that can be used for home appliances but also charges and discharge the solar battery bank. Most of these inverters can be installed and will work properly without a battery at the initial phase, this can be done much later whenever the user so desires, it presents a more stress-free and cost-effective solution compared to installing the combination of a standard string inverter and a battery inverter. On the offside, due to the fact that it performs two essential functions, it can be less efficient than standard string inverters or battery inverters.
This is not so much a type of inverter as much as a form, this is the reason why. Grid-tie inverters produce a pure sine wave (which can be any of the inverters mentioned above; micro, battery, hybrid) connected to the grid and these sine waves must be in tandem with the alternating current waveform produced by the grid. What it does is to send any unused or excess solar electricity the solar system has generated back into the grid. In essence, in most states, it is mandatory to grid-tie (i.e. connect to the grid) any inverter of your choice unless if such user stays in a remote area.
Factors to Consider When Buying Solar Inverters
Beyond installing the solar system, one must be concerned with the maintenance and management of such a solar system. Knowing fully well that solar cells convert the light radiated by the sun into electrical energy, it is, therefore, germane to harness efficiently and cost-effectively this energy in order to have maximum output.
The first step is to make an informed decision, do not purchase based on hearsay or feelings, consult an expert, and know the best inverter that suits your home, it is also important to get the best value for one’s money as well as get the best output from the solar system, this is why necessity is laid upon a potential user to make findings and consult an expert in this field.
Secondly, it is advised to avoid shaded areas and this is why; if the solar panels or cells are connected in a series, the energy generated will be drained and this is most particular to photovoltaic cells, this is because these cells perform the role of a resistor thereby leading to a negative effect on the total output.
Thirdly, it is advisable to also install alongside a solar concentrator and the purpose of this is to be able to concentrate the light falling on a large area to smaller areas, thereby distributing the light evenly. This increases the overall efficiency of the panels/cells and is money-saving.
Fourthly, correct installation is of utmost essence especially the photovoltaic panels. This will ensure efficiency in the output from the solar system, installation involves the right orientation, tilts as well as angles. Getting it right will guarantee that the panels take in optimal sunlight all through the day. For those living in the northern hemisphere, the panels should be angled towards the south while those living in the southern hemisphere should have their panel angled towards the north. The essence of correct tilts and angles is to ensure receiving the sunlight without obstruction for the better part of the day.
Lastly, it is as essential as getting the installation right to keep the solar panels clean as the accumulation of dust on the glass surface reduces the efficiency when this happens, the sunlight taken in by the photovoltaic cells reduces, drastically sometimes. Thus, it is of utmost essence to make sure that no dust, dirt, or debris collects on the surface of the cells/panels.
All these are to ensure that:
- The solar system lives up to expectation
- Serves the user for a longer time
- The output is efficient and effective
In conclusion, it is advisable to consult an expert in the solar system and installation to know the type which suits your home best and the best approach to manage the system for optimal output and longevity of the system.