Different Types of Inverters

An inverter is a vital component of a solar system. It’s role is to convert the energy received by the solar array from Direct Current electricity (DC electricity) to Alternating Current electricity (AC electricity). 

There are different types of inverters available which can perform additional functionalities that the standard inverter does not. 

Here are the different types of inverters you’ll have a choice of when selecting a Solar PV System;

Highly Reviewed Inverter Brands When you’ve chosen the right type of inverter for your needs, the next step is to choose an inverter brand. Thankfully, there are plenty of great quality brands available in Australia. Read some of our highly reviewed inverters here!

 

  • Standard String Inverter

    A Standard String Inverter is the most common inverter used. It converts the DC electricity from solar panels to AC electricity, to be used on home appliances. 

    Pros Cons
    Easy to find an inverter to suit your homes particular needs and budget. Limited options for battery storage integration. 
    Reliable and efficient. You may be required to purchase an additional energy management system to increase your system’s efficiency.

    Best Location To Install

    Standard inverters will either be rated as indoor or outdoor inverters. Generally, indoor inverters are cheaper since they don’t need to be built to withstand weather affects such as rain.

    Indoor Standard String Inverter

    Most people prefer these installed in a garage so that they are out of the way, but still protected from the elements. It is critical that the inverters have free air space around them, so that they don’t overheat. If it is placed in a garage, ensure that the usual clutter that ends up there doesn’t surround your inverter. 

    Wherever you decide to install ensure it is:

    • Easily accessible
    • Away from all weather affects
    • In an area with at least ½ foot free space on all sides of it
    • Away from any sources of moisture

    Outdoor Standard String Inverter

    For Standard inverters that are rated for outdoor use there is more flexibility in where they can be placed. However, some of the rules that applied for indoor inverters still apply here.

    These are usually found in garages/carports or on the sides of houses if there is an awning or some shade that keeps them out of sunlight. The key rule still applies, you want to avoid getting inverters too hot because they will lose efficiency and in worst cases reach their heat limit and shut themselves down; so, plenty of air space around them and no direct sunlight.

    Wherever you decide to install ensure it is:

    • Easily accessible
    • Out of direct sunlight at all times
    • In an area with at least ½ foot free space on all sides of it
  • Micro Inverter

    Micro Inverters are small inverters that are installed on the back of individual solar panels to optimise the energy converted. 

    Having several micro inverters will optimise your Solar PV System’s performance, however the initial costs are substantially more expensive than a standard string.

    Micro-inverters are a good option for properties where the roof and panels may be partially affected by shade. If a panel is not working at its usual capacity due to shade the other panels will still function as normal.

    Pros Cons
    Perform better than standard string inverter systems. Every panel’s output is collected individually, meaning under-performing panels  do not negatively impact the output of other panels. More expensive than standard string inverters.

    Best Location To Install

    The way these inverters work is that they operate 1-2 panels each and so they must be connected very close to the panel. For these types of inverters, you have little choice in placement and typically they are attached underneath or to the back of your solar panels.

     

  • Hybrid Inverter

    A Hybrid Inverter performs the same functions as a Standard String Inverter with the added functionality of feeding excess energy generated by the solar system to battery storage for the household to use when the solar system is not generating energy instead of relying on energy from the grid.

    Hybrid inverters are a good option when you are installing a solar system and think you may add battery storage in the future.

    Pros Cons
    Ideal if you plan to add battery storage. Perform two integral functions can cause them to be less efficient than standard string.
    Gives you the flexibility to install a solar battery at a later date.
     

    If you’ve installed a standard string instead of a hybrid, there are batteries that can be added to any existing system regardless of the solar inverter. These batteries are often called retrofit batteries and will be more expensive than the average solar battery.

 
Speak to installers and find out what inverter will be best suited to your future solar system!

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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.