What’s the crucial part of a solar system? Yes, it’s a solar inverter. You need to convert the energy into AC current to harness the full potential of solar panels. There are different types of solar inverters and they all have the basic purpose of converting energy into a form that can be used for industrial and residential purposes.
Let’s unravel the world of solar inverters and understand the advantages and disadvantages of an inverter.
Without wasting another moment, let’s begin with understanding how to set up a solar inverter.
Solar Inverter – The Installation Process
Before you start the installation of a solar inverter for your home, gather the necessary tools and materials:
- Solar inverter: This includes the main inverter unit.
- Mounting bracket or rack: To securely attach the inverter to a wall or other surface.
- Electrical wiring: Appropriate gauge wiring to connect the solar panels to the inverter and the inverter to your home’s electrical panel.
- AC and DC disconnect: To safely shut off power to the inverter and disconnect it from the electrical grid when needed.
- Circuit breakers or fuses: For overcurrent protection.
- Junction boxes: To connect the solar panels and route wiring.
- Electrical conduit: To protect and route the wiring from the solar panels to the inverter.
- Extra hand tools: Screwdrivers, wrenches, pliers, wire strippers, and a drill.
- Safety equipment: Gloves, safety glasses, and, if necessary, fall protection gear.
Step 1 – Select a suitable location for your solar inverter. It should be close to the electrical panel to minimize wiring runs but protected from extreme heat, cold, and direct sunlight. It’s typically installed indoors or in a weatherproof enclosure.
Step 2 – Use the mounting bracket or rack to secure the inverter to the chosen location. Ensure it’s securely attached to the wall or surface and that there is enough space for proper ventilation to prevent overheating.
Step 3 – The AC disconnect is a safety feature that allows you to shut off power to the inverter. Install it on the wall near the inverter.
Step 4 – The DC disconnect is used to isolate the solar panels from the inverter during maintenance or emergencies. Mount it near the inverter and connect it to the DC wiring from the solar panels.
Step 5 – Route the DC wiring from the solar panels to the DC disconnect and then to the inverter. Ensure the wiring is properly secured and protected from environmental elements.
Step 6 – Connect the DC wiring from the solar panels to the input terminals on the DC disconnect. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper connection.
Step 7 – Connect the DC output from the inverter to the output terminals on the DC disconnect. Double-check the polarity and secure all connections properly.
Step 8 – Route the AC wiring from the inverter to the AC disconnect and then to the electrical panel. Install conduit if necessary to protect the wiring.
Step 9 – Connect the AC output from the inverter to the input terminals on the AC disconnect and then to the appropriate breaker in your electrical panel. Again, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and ensure secure connections.
Step 10 – Before turning on the inverter, thoroughly check all wiring connections to ensure they are secure and correctly installed. It’s crucial to avoid any loose connections or improper wire sizing. There are battery-less solar inverters too.
Step 11 – Once you’re confident that all connections are secure and correct, you can turn on the solar inverter. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for power-up procedures.
Step 12 – Most modern inverters have built-in monitoring systems or can be connected to external monitoring systems. This allows you to track the performance of your solar energy system and detect any issues promptly.
Next, let’s cover the different types of solar inverters and their pros and cons in detail.
Types of Solar Inverters
Solar inverters are crucial in the solar power system, as they convert the direct current (DC) electricity generated by solar panels into alternating current (AC) electricity, which is used to power our homes and appliances. There are several types of solar inverters available in the market, each with its unique characteristics and applications.
1) String Inverters
String inverters, also known as central inverters, are the most common type of solar inverter. They are typically used in residential and small-scale commercial installations. String inverters are named as such because they are connected to multiple solar panels in a series or “string”.
- Cost-effective: String inverters are generally more affordable.
- Easy to install and maintain.
- Suitable for straightforward installations.
- Susceptible to shading: If one panel in a string is shaded, it can reduce the output of the entire string.
- Limited monitoring capabilities.
Microinverters are an innovative solution that has gained popularity in recent years. Unlike string inverters, microinverters are installed on each individual solar panel.
- Enhanced performance: Microinverters maximize the output of each panel, as shading or panel malfunction does not affect the entire system.
- Improved monitoring: They offer panel-level monitoring, enabling you to track the performance of each panel.
- Higher initial cost: Microinverters can be more expensive to purchase and install.
- Reliability concerns: As they are exposed to the elements on the roof, their durability may be a concern in harsh weather conditions.
3) Power Optimizers
Power optimizers are a compromise between string inverters and microinverters. They are installed on each solar panel like microinverters but work differently. Power optimizers maximize the energy harvest at the panel level and then send DC power to a central string inverter for conversion to AC power.
- Enhanced performance: Like microinverters, power optimizers mitigate the impact of shading on individual panels.
- Improved monitoring: Panel-level monitoring is possible.
- Moderate initial cost: They are generally more affordable than microinverters but still costlier than traditional string inverters.
- Slightly more complex installation than string inverters.
4) Hybrid Inverters
Hybrid inverters, also known as battery inverters, are designed for systems that incorporate energy storage solutions like batteries. They can manage the flow of electricity between the solar panels, the battery, and the grid.
- Energy independence: Hybrid inverters enable you to store excess energy for use during the night or during power outages.
- Grid support: They can provide backup power to the grid during peak demand periods, potentially saving you money.
- Higher cost: Hybrid inverters are more expensive than standard string inverters.
- May require regular battery maintenance.
5) Off-Grid Inverters
Off-grid solar inverters are designed for systems that are entirely independent of the utility grid. They are commonly used in remote areas or for emergency backup power.
- Complete energy independence: Off-grid inverters are a must for locations with no access to the grid.
- Reliable backup power: Ideal for critical systems in case of grid failures.
- High initial cost: Off-grid systems require not only specialized inverters but also a battery bank and backup generator, making them more expensive.
- Regular maintenance: Batteries and backup generators require consistent upkeep.
Now that we’ve explored the advantages and disadvantages of solar inverters, let’s address some frequently asked questions about the different types of solar inverters.
FAQs – Types of Solar Inverters
Which solar inverter is best for you?
Selecting the best solar inverter for your solar energy system is a crucial decision that depends on several factors like the system’s performance, efficiency, compatibility, and your specific energy needs.
What are the different types of inverters?
There are several types of solar inverters available, each catering to different applications and preferences including string inverters (Central Inverters), microinverters, power optimizers, hybrid inverters (Battery Inverters), and Off-Grid inverters.
How to choose a solar panel inverter?
Selecting the right solar inverter depends on your specific needs and the characteristics of your solar energy system like system size, shading and panel orientation, budget, Monitoring, and battery Integration.
Which solar inverter is compatible with an on-grid solar system?
On-grid solar systems are connected to the utility grid. In such systems, string inverters, power optimizers, and some microinverters are typically compatible. The choice depends on the specific characteristics and needs of your on-grid solar system.
Who is a microinverter best for?
Microinverters are best suited for the following scenarios: shading concerns, panel mismatch, panel-level monitoring, and small to medium-scale installations.
You are fully aware of what is a solar inverter. The various types of solar inverters offer different advantages and disadvantages. It’s crucial to consider your unique requirements and budget when selecting the appropriate inverter for your solar energy system. If you are interested in setting up your solar system, get in touch with Sustvest for in-depth professional advice on the solar industry.
Also read: Solar Panel Maintenance Tips for Long Life.
Founder of Sustvest
Hardik completed his B.Tech from BITS Pilani. Keeping the current global scenario, the growth of renewable energy in mind, and people looking for investment opportunities in mind he founded SustVest ( formerly, Solar Grid X ) in 2018. This venture led him to achieve the ‘Emerging Fintech Talent of the Year in MENA region ‘ in October 2019.