What Is A Solar Inverter | What You Need To Know

 

You may have heard of solar panels and solar batteries, but do you know what a solar inverter is?

What is a solar inverterWhat Is A Solar Inverter?

A solar inverter is a crucial component of a solar energy system.

As explored recently in our blog, How Does Solar Energy Work, inverters change direct current energy (DC) produced from the solar panels into alternating current energy (AC).

A direct current is a form of energy that cannot be used within our households so it is the job of the inverter to change it into an energy type that we can use.

As inverter technologies have progressed over the last decade, inverters now have a range of other capabilities such as preventative maintenance, O&M management, and basic system repair.

Different Types Of Solar Inverters

There are 5 different types of solar inverters on the market:

String Inverters:

Solar panels are installed in rows on your rooftop on a string. Multiple strings are then fed into inverters mounted on the roof.

Central Inverters:What is a string inverter

Similar to string inverters, central inverters connect directly to the panel strings. Instead of connecting to multiple strings, central inverters connect all the strings in a common combiner box.

These kinds of inverters are usually used for commercial installations.

Micro Inverters:mirco-inverters

Micro inverters are connected on each solar panel. These micro inverters change the energy from direct current to alternate current right from the panel.

Hybrid Inverters:

A Hybrid Inverter performs the same function as a string inverter except that it also feeds additional energy into battery storage if you have it attached to your system.

Battery Inverters:

If you already have a solar system installed but now you are looking at adding battery storage, instead of swapping your inverter for a hybrid you can add a battery inverter.

This inverter will connect to your battery and switch the energy stored into an alternate current you can then use around the house.

solar battery storageWhere Should A Solar Inverter Be Installed?

String, hybrid and battery inverters are usually mounted on a shaded wall on the outside of your house. Although inverters are designed to tough out the elements they do not like intense heat. Exposure to sunlight and high temperatures can degrade their performance over time.

How Much Does An Inverter Usually Cost?

Although the price of solar inverters varies depending on brand and size, here are some ball park figures to solar inverter costs for residential designs:

Inverter Type

Costs

String Inverter

$1000-$7000

Micro Inverters

$200 per solar panel

Hybrid Inverter

$1000-$7500+

Battery Inverter

$2000-$8000+

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Understanding Batteries

Off-Grid Systems

For some households a battery system can be of great benefit and minimise a home’s reliance on the grid. However, it’s important to understand for a battery to be useful your solar system needs to be generating excess energy for the battery to store, which you can then use at night or when the sun is not out.

When selecting a battery, you’ll want to invest in a system that is most suited to your home and can drive the best return on investment (ROI). Despite a larger upfront cost, a higher quality battery may significantly increase your ROI.

    Battery systems start from $6,000 and costs can vary greatly based on the following factors:

  1. Cycle Life-Time

    The number of times a battery can fully charge and discharge.

  2. Battery Power (kW)

    How fast it can be charged or discharged.

  3. Storage Capacity (kWh)

    The maximum amount of energy a battery system can store.

  4. Battery Management System (BMS)

    An electronic ‘smart’ system that gathers data and manages the battery ensuring it does not overload or operate outside of its safe functioning zone..

  5. Inverter

    Battery systems require their own inverter if your solar system does not have a hybrid inverter.

  6. 'All-In-One Unit’

    A system which includes the battery, BMS and an inverter all in one unit.

  7. Warranty

    Length of time or cycles the battery system is under guarantee.

  8. Blackout Protection/Backup

    It’s important to note this is not a common feature of a battery system and could cost thousands of dollars to include. Blackout protection not only requires additional components but also a specialised installation and rewiring. For grid-connected homes, the cost for blackout protection can outweigh the benefit.

Additionally, if your purpose for adding battery is to go Off-Grid and become completely independent from the grid you will need to ensure your solar system can generate enough energy to power your home and your battery system is large enough to store this energy. For homes in metro areas going Off-grid is not cost effective and is only recommended for those in remote areas with limited access to the grid. Off-grid solar systems with battery start at approximately $30,000.
 

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