When purchasing and setting up a solar power system for your home, it’s crucial to learn about the major components and the roles they play. This will help you determine what devices are truly necessary to meet your electrical needs. This knowledge also simplifies the process of choosing the correct types of equipment. One vital component of nearly all residential photovoltaic systems is the solar inverter.
What Does a Solar Inverter Actually Do?
Utility lines supply homes with alternating current that can be used to run appliances and lights at 220 or 110 volts. On the other hand, solar panels generate direct current power (DC). The basic role of an inverter is to convert 48-volt or 24-volt DC energy to AC electricity at a higher voltage to power your household devices.
How it Works
Installers connect solar inverters so that they receive energy from solar panels and send it to your home electrical systems. The inversion process uses mechanical or electronic components to rapidly change the direction of the current so that it alternates. They also raise the voltage while reducing the number of amps. Most units use capacitors, transformers and inductors to accomplish these tasks.
One aspect that differentiates solar inverters is micro or string implementation. A micro inverter transforms power from a single solar panel. If you have more than one panel, you’ll need separate inverters for each unit. However, they are sometimes built into individual panels which make installation less difficult.
The advantages of micro inverters are that they can be repaired more easily and operate independently. If one panel stops working or gets covered in shade, it won’t affect the other panels. There are also a couple of drawbacks. Micro units prove more costly when homeowners install multiple solar panels. They are also harder to set up because separate inverters must be attached to every panel.
An alternative option allows a single inverter to be connected to several photovoltaic panels. String inverters are normally less expensive for anyone who intends to install more than one panel. They also result in less difficult installation procedures. However, they can be significantly harder to fix than micro units. This type of equipment also tends to have larger dimensions.
The only major downside of string inverters is that they make all of the solar panels on a roof act like one big panel. When one unit needs repair or stops being exposed to sunlight, the others will produce less electricity. This makes such inverters less appealing for people who live in homes near trees or taller buildings. They slightly reduce the overall reliability of a photovoltaic system.
Another variation between different inversion units is that some inverters are designed for on-grid usage, while others may only be installed in off-grid homes. A grid-tied model will directly send AC power to the utility lines. This allows homeowners to earn electric bill credits that offset the cost of power they consume during nights and cloudy days. Such equipment won’t function in electrical outages or remote locations without utility lines.
Stand-alone inversion equipment works in conjunction with rechargeable batteries. It saves excess power in the batteries and enables home appliances to consume it when the sky turns dark. Both mobile and fixed models are available. If you want to remain connected to the grid while using batteries for backup power, you’ll need to install a more costly bi-directional inverter.
Basically, almost every home photovoltaic system has an inverter but different types are appropriate for each homeowner. You’ll need to decide if you want a grid-tied or off-grid model that uses string or micro technology. Furthermore, it’s important to choose an efficient, reliable unit that is compatible with your solar panels and capable of generating enough AC power for your residence.