If you’ve been looking at solar panels for your home, you’ve probably come across the term “solar inverter.” A solar inverter is an essential piece of equipment for using solar energy, and it can be a little confusing to understand just what it is. So what exactly is a solar inverter, and how does it work?
A solar inverter is a device that converts the direct current (DC) energy that solar panels produce and turns it into alternating current (AC) energy that your home can use. This is important because most homes’ electrical wiring is designed to handle AC power.
If you are considering getting solar panels installed on your home, understanding the role a solar inverter plays is essential. Luckily, we have put together this handy article to explain everything you need to know about solar inverters!
Table of Contents
What is a Solar Inverter?
A solar inverter is a device that allows you to utilise the energy generated from your solar panels in a way that your home’s electrical wiring can handle. Solar panels produce DC energy, but most homes are wired to use AC energy, so an additional device is required to convert the power to something your home can use.
There are multiple types of solar inverters. The difference between solar inverters comes down to their ability to manage and monitor the energy produced by your solar panels. Some solar inverters can connect long chains of solar panels, while others must be connected to solar panels individually. Different solar inverter brands will have inverters with different capacity and efficiency ratings, so it’s important to compare a range of solar inverters before making your final choice.
How Does a Solar Inverter Work?
A solar inverter works by taking the DC energy produced by your solar panels and turning it into the AC energy that homes require. Without a solar inverter, the DC energy produced by your solar panels would be wasted because your home couldn’t make use of it.
Inside a solar inverter, there is a device called a buck converter which takes the DC energy from your solar panels and converts it into AC power. This AC power then travels through your home’s electrical wiring and is used to power appliances and lights.
Most homes are wired to accept AC power, which is why a solar inverter is necessary if you want to use solar energy. If you attempt to power your home with DC power, it could damage your appliances or cause fires.
Do I Need a Solar Inverter for Solar Panels?
In most cases, you will need a solar inverter for solar panels. This is because most solar panels produce DC energy, which isn’t compatible with most home electrical systems without an inverter.
Solar panels will naturally generate DC energy as they absorb energy from the sun. However, most homes are not set up to use DC power and instead use AC power. This poses a problem because trying to use DC power in your home can cause all sorts of electrical issues, such as shorts and damage to your appliances.
A solar inverter alleviates this problem by converting the DC energy produced by your solar panels into AC power that your home can use. This way, you can safely and effectively use solar energy in your home without damaging your electrical system. Because most solar panels produce DC power, and almost all homes use AC power, you will almost always need a solar inverter in order to use your solar panels.
What are the Different Types of Solar Inverters?
There are three main types of solar inverters: Microinverters, Hybrid Solar Inverters and String Inverters. The difference between these inverters is how they input and output power, and how they can be connected to your home and to each other.
A solar inverter is a required piece of equipment when having solar panels installed for your home. But there are actually multiple types of solar inverters, each serving different functions. The three types of solar inverters are:
Microinverters – These are the smallest type of inverter, and they’re typically used on smaller systems. Microinverters are designed to convert DC energy from your solar panels into AC power, and they’re typically connected to your solar panels directly, instead of being connected to your entire electrical system.
Microinverters are installed on each solar panel, making them cheaper and easier to install and replace, as required. Many microinverters can be installed in parallel, which means they can be used on very large solar systems.
Hybrid Solar Inverters – These are a type of inverter that can be used with both AC and DC solar panels. This means that they can be used to power your home either way, and they’re also less expensive than central inverters.
A hybrid solar inverter is a type of solar inverter that can draw and deposit power from multiple sources, such as solar panels, batteries, and the grid. Hybrid inverters can draw power from solar batteries, panels and the grid. From there, they can convert it for household use.
String Inverters – These are the most common type of solar inverter, designed to be used with string arrays of solar panels. This makes them useful for both residential and commercial installations.
String inverters are designed to take DC power from your solar panels and convert it into AC power. The difference between string inverters and microinverters is that string inverters are connected to multiple solar panels at once, instead of just one.
How Do I Choose a Solar Inverter?
To choose a solar inverter, you need to consider how many solar panels you have, how they are connected and whether you have any solar batteries. These factors will help you choose a solar inverter that is going to be efficient and cost-effective.
Solar inverters will fluctuate in efficiency depending on how your solar panels are set up. If you have a lot of solar panels covering your roof, connecting them all together and running them through a string inverter is going to be the most efficient option.
However, if you have DC solar batteries and want your solar inverter to use that power, a hybrid inverter is going to give you the most flexibility, since it will be able to withdraw and deposit power to the batteries.
Ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to solar inverters, and it will depend entirely on your home and solar panel set-up. If you are unsure about which solar inverter to choose, it’s best to consult a local solar specialist.
Solar Inverter FAQs
What’s the Difference Between a Solar Inverter and a Regular Inverter?
An inverter turns an energy source like fuel or gasoline into electricity that can be used in the home. Solar inverters, on the other hand, are specifically designed to convert solar energy into usable AC power for your home.
Can I Leave My Solar Inverter on All the Time?
Yes, you can leave your solar inverter on all the time. Typically, you will want to leave your solar inverter on whenever your solar panels are generating energy. This is because you want to ensure that all energy your solar panels generate is converted to AC power.
While you can keep your solar inverter on at night, it’s unnecessary. Although it won’t damage the unit to keep it on overnight, you’ll be running it for no reason since your solar panels will not generate energy, which can lead to needing a replacement sooner.
Do Solar Inverters Turn off at night?
Yes, solar inverters will usually turn off at night to conserve energy. Because there is no sunlight to generate solar power, there is no need for the inverter to be on.
What Does a Solar Inverter Look Like?
Solar inverters come in various shapes and sizes, but most look like a large box usually mounted on your home’s wall. Solar inverters have a small digital display used to display information like energy passed through the unit or error codes.
Can You Connect a Solar Inverter to the Internet?
Yes, you can connect a solar inverter to wifi or your home internet connection. Solar inverters come with simple instructions to connect them to the internet, allowing you to monitor the electricity generated and the overall efficiency of your solar panels from a mobile app.
This article is published in good faith and for general informational purposes only. JFK Electrical does not make any warranties about the ongoing completeness and reliability of this information. Always seek personalised advice on solar energy to ensure any recommendations suit your property and scenario.
John Lyons, the owner of JFK Electrical Solar & Air, started his career in the electrical industry in 1997. With years of experience gained in the industry across multiple continents, he relocated to Australia and decided to specialise in solar and air conditioning. After deciding he wanted to be closer to his family, John began his own local electrical business in Mandurah, using his extensive knowledge and training in the industry. At JFK, John’s number one goal is to provide tailored solutions to his customers. And thanks to his experience and commitment to his customers, JFK Electrical is now one of the most trusted local businesses in Mandurah for solar and electrical services.