What is a Solar Inverter and how do they work?

What is a solar inverter and how do they work

A solar inverter is an essential component part of the solar panel system. Its job is to convert the direct current, also known as DC, into alternating current, or AC. The Direct Current is electricity that is maintained at a constant voltage in one direction. With AC the current flows in both directions as the voltage changes from positive to negative. The Solar Panels turn the light into DC electricity. However, AC is the standard electricity that comes from the National Grid. AC powers the lights, washing machine, TV and all the other home appliances. It would be impossible to power your home with Solar Panels without a Solar Inverter. The Inverter regulates the flow of the electrical power.

What Does A Solar Inverter Do?

As previously described, the Solar Inverter converts the direct current into alternating current, but it also has other functions. The Solar Inverter monitors the system and communicates with the National Grid. Additionally, it provides a continual update on the solar system’s status and power production. Lastly it also maximises the power output. Some more advanced Solar Inverters operate without any support from the National Grid if there are outages. However, these Solar Inverters are specifically designed for this purpose.

What Different Types Of Inverters Are Available?

There are currently four different types of Inverters:

  • String Inverter
  • Micro Inverter
  • Hybrid Inverter
  • Power Optimisers

What Is A String Inverter?

A String Inverter works directly with Solar Panels and converts the Direct Current into Alternating Current. A string is a number of solar panels connected and arranged in rows or groups. These are what you commonly see on the roofs of houses. Solar panels on a string must be positioned at the same pitch and direction in order for the string inverter to work efficiently. A String Inverter cannot be used with a battery. Therefore, power cannot be stored for later use with a String Inverter. A String Inverter can be connected to multiple strings of panels to maximise energy generation. In fact, many string inverters have 2 or even 3 MPPTs (Maximum Power Point Tracking).

What Is Solar Shading?

If shading from a tree etc causes obstruction to a panel on a string, every panel on that string is affected. This means the energy production for all the panels will be the same as the shaded panel. However, the benefit of having more than one string is that the reduced production will not impact the panels that are on any other string that is attached to the inverter.

What Is A Micro Inverter?

Individual Solar Panels use a micro-inverter, also known as a solar micro-inverter, to convert the DC to AC. Each Solar Panel must have its own micro inverter in contrast with String and Hybrid Inverters, where one can work with a several Solar Panels. The micro inverters’ output combines and powers the house. All excess energy is fed to the National Grid. The main advantage of micro inverters over conventional inverters is that if one panel is shaded or has debris on it, it doesn’t impact the rest of the solar panels. Another benefit is if one solar panel fails, the rest of the solar panels can work effectively. Micro inverters  produce Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) and therefore harvest optimum power. The downside to micro inverters is that they are more expensive than an individual conventional inverter.

Different Microinverters

What Is A Hybrid Solar Inverter?

A Hybrid inverter is also known as a Hybrid Grid-Tied Inverter or a Battery-based Inverter. It combines the String inverter with a Battery inverter. This type of Solar Inverter has many advantages. Firstly, Hybrid Solar Inverters are very resilient. All String Inverters cut off in the event of a power cut. Still, some Hybrid Inverters with Energy Storage Batteries have both on-grid and off-grid capabilities. Therefore, in the event of a power outage can continue to run on solar power generated by the Solar Panel System. Hybrid Inverters are also the centralised point for all the power that is generated by the solar panels in the system. It is, therefore, possible to monitor the solar panel system performance and battery performance centrally through just one platform.

Hybrid Solar Inverters And Storage Batteries

This type of Inverter is installed when there are Energy Storage Batteries included as part of the system, The reason for this is that Solar batteries store the power in DC form. When the house calls for power, the Hybrid inverter converts the energy from DC to AC. Any surplus stored power flows to the National Grid. A Hybrid Inverter can be retrofitted to an existing Solar Panel System. With the addition of batteries, the system can then be upgraded to enable the household to store energy for later consumption. This increases the savings on energy bills from the day one of the installation. There are a number of Hybrid Solar Inverter Manufacturers, including Sofar, GivEnergy, Growatt and Solis.

A Solax inverter on an outside wall

What Is A Power Optimiser?

Power Optimisers work at a single panel level as with the Micro Inverter. Power Optimisers are also commonly known as DC Power Inverters and monitor performance and panel-level optimisation. The Power Optimisers differ from the Micro Inverters as they do not convert the energy generated from DC to AC. Instead, the optimiser passes the energy down to the String Inverter or Hybrid Inverter. The energy is then converted to AC. They are cheaper than Micro Inverters, but there is still the requirement for a String or Hybrid Inverter for the Solar Panel System.

How Do I Know Which Solar Inverter Is Right For My Solar Panel Installation?

Every house and inhabitants have different needs, which is why at SolarGain, we offer a Free Solar Survey. All our installers are MCS certified. Therefore you are in safe hands with SolarGain. 

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us at 0800 001 6258 or complete our form for a Free, no-obligation Survey.

Don't hesitate to contact us

We are happy to answer any Solar questions you may have and also offer a free, no-obligation, solar quotation service.

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