Types of Solar Inverters

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Inverters are an integral part to any solar PV system, and are responsible for converting the DC electricity generated by solar panels into AC electricity that can be utilised in your home or sent to the grid. While different inverter products may have distinct features and characteristics, they must perform the DC to AC conversion to be considered an inverter.

To learn more about the different types of inverters available, and find out which is the right choice for your needs, read on.

Standard String Inverters

Standard string inverters are the most commonly installed inverter type in Australia. The DC electricity generated by solar panels is fed into this central inverter, which converts this electricity into AC electricity.

✓ Pros ✘ Cons
With literally hundreds of approved inverters available in Australia, it’s easy to find an inverter to suit your home’s particular needs and budget. A standard string inverter by itself does not allow for battery integration. You’ll need to install a separate battery inverter.
With millions of string inverters installed around the world, the technology behind standard string inverters is reliable and efficient. Depending on which inverter you opt for, you may be required to purchase an additional energy management system to increase your system’s efficiency.

Micro Inverters

Like their named suggests, micro inverters are much smaller in size and capacity than standard string inverters. While the latter range from 1.5 to 5kW in size for residential applications, micro inverters are usually around 200 to 250W in size.

Instead of one central inverter that converts all the DC electricity your panels collectively produce, micro inverters are usually installed on the back of every individual panel, and are only responsible for the conversion of the panel on which they are installed.

✓ Pros ✘ Cons
Micro inverter solar PV systems usually perform better than standard string inverter systems. As every panels output is collected individually, underperforming panels (whether due to shading or degradation) do not negatively impact the output of other panels. Micro inverters are significantly more expensive than standard string inverters.

For a more in-depth look at the differences between micro inverters and power optimisers, click here to view out blog post on the subject.

Battery Inverters

Battery inverters are responsible for the charging and discharging of the electricity stored in a solar battery. Battery inverters are often installed alongside a standard string inverter, which it will AC couple or “talk” with.

✓ Pros ✘ Cons
Thanks to a long history of research and development similar to standard string inverters, good quality battery inverters are robust and hard-wearing. Although it’s dependent on your state’s network, the rules surrounding retrofitting battery inverters can sometimes be complicated and expensive. While the act of retrofitting is simple, gaining the approvals to do so can be complex.
Battery inverters can often be retrofitted easily and quickly into existing solar PV systems. Retrofitting a battery inverter in the future will usually cost more than installing a hybrid inverter when initially purchasing your system.

Hybrid Inverters

Hybrid inverters perform the same function as standard string inverters and battery inverters. Not only can a hybrid inverter convert the DC electricity into AC electricity your home can use, it can also charge and discharge your solar battery bank.

✓ Pros ✘ Cons
Hybrid inverters present a more seamless and cost-effective solution than installing both a standard string and battery inverter. Because hybrid inverters perform two integral function, they can be less efficient than standard string or battery inverters.
The majority of hybrid inverters can be installed without a battery. This gives you the flexibility to retrofit a solar battery at a later date, when it might suit your circumstances better.  

Grid-Tie Inverters

Grid-Tie inverters are simply inverters which are connected to the grid. Without getting too technical, these inverters produce a pure sine wave that is congruent with the AC waveform produced by the grid.

This allows you to send any unused, surplus solar electricity your system has generated back into the grid, which you may or may not receive a feed-in tariff for. (This depends on your electricity provider, and which state in Australia you reside in.)

In the majority of cases and for most states, it’s a requirement that the inverter you install is grid-tied, whether it’s string, hybrid, or micro.

Off-Grid Inverters

Like standard string inverters, off-grid inverters are responsible for the conversion of DC electricity generated by your system’s panels into AC electricity that can be used by the appliances in your home.

Unlike standard string inverters however, they do not have the ability to export excess solar electricity into the grid. Off-grid inverters are used in either remote areas, or where the homeowner wants to separate entirely from the grid.

✓ Pros ✘ Cons
An off-grid inverter system means your home is no longer susceptible to power outages caused by the grid, giving your home greater energy independence. Deciding to go off grid is a costly procedure and will often require total disconnection from the grid. This can be hard to undo, so you’ll need to consider the future implications (re-sale value of your home, future energy needs, etc).
Some off-grid inverters come with a built-in AC charger option, that not only allows you to connect a backup generator, but also charge a battery. You may also need to invest in a diesel generator which can be extremely costly, and become much more conscious of your energy usage to avoid your system tripping from an overload.

When you’ve chosen the right inverter for your needs, the next step is to choose which inverter brand. Thankfully, there a plenty of world class brands available in Australia, including SMA, Fronius, SolarEdge. To read our top 5 list, click here.

If you’re confused about which inverter is right for your home, or you’re ready to get the ball rolling on your new solar PV system, the first step is to request three, no obligation quotes, from three providers in your area.

Receiving multiple quotes will give you exposure to a wider range of inverter types and brands, some of which you may not have considered, and will enable you to gain a more competitive price.

To request your free, three quotes, click here.

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