Whether it’s the financial incentives or concern for the environment, no one can deny the benefits of utilizing the sun’s natural power. It’s a free energy source available at all hours throughout the year. It makes you wonder why it ever took so long.
The realization that utilizing the big, yellow ball in the sky can benefit the planet has led to amazing technology like solar panels. However, while it’s typically the shiny, black solar panels that get all the fame, it’s just an expensive decoration without a solar inverter.
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What’s a Solar Inverter?
The global emphasis on transitioning to renewable energy had a slow start, but it’s shown a massive 15 percent average annual growth in the last five years.
The increased interest and adoption of solar energy have led to a downward trend in installation costs. This has made owning a personal solar energy system much more affordable for the average homeowner.
If you’ve been shopping around for solar panels, it’s likely you’ve come across solar inverters. Simply put, it converts the energy output into usable electricity.
The photovoltaic cells in the solar panels contain positive and negative semiconductor layers. The energy absorbed from the sun bounces around the layers and produces direct current (DC).
Depending on if your system uses a grid-tied, hybrid or off-grid system, the DC is then directed towards a battery or directly to the inverter. From there, the inverter funnels the current through a transformer which produces usable alternating current (AC).
Types of Solar Inverters
Choosing the right solar inverter highly depends on your solar system, budget and required output.
Off-grid systems are much more complex because they require additional equipment like battery monitors, an inverter charger controller and circuit breakers.
Off-grid inverters are portable, unlike hybrid and grid-tied inverters. These models take DC stored in your batteries, convert it into AC and direct it to your appliances rather than the grid.
Because batteries are involved, inverter charger controllers play a crucial role in preventing battery damage. They work to regulate the voltage and current levels from the panels to the battery, so they don’t overcharge and create gas bubbles.
A hybrid inverter is for those who want to get the best of both grid-tied and off-grid systems. They’re the most versatile option, but only if you have a hybrid system as well.
It can direct AC to your home, the grid and back and forth from a battery in the event of a blackout. It’s an excellent option for those who want to be more self-sufficient without entirely disconnecting from the grid.
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New vs. Old
Choosing between a micro inverter vs. string inverter means choosing between something fitted with the newest technology and something old and reliable.
A micro inverter is interesting because it’s highly effective and about the size of an average book. It’s the most expensive inverter available, but the benefits can outweigh the costs if you live in a shadier area.
Because there’s one micro inverter per panel, shading doesn’t decrease the entire system’s output. Rather, it reduces the production of one panel while the others retain full functionality.
String inverters are the most common inverters you’ll find on the market. Because the technology is decades old, there’s been enough time to work out most of the issues, making them the most reliable.
Unlike micro inverters, string models are centrally located. This makes them easier to repair, monitor and replace. However, those living in shadier areas will find decreased output compared to micro inverters.
Choosing between the two comes down to how much sunlight your panels can get and the amount of output you require. If you’d prefer to save a few dollars and aren’t concerned with your panel’s output, a reliable string inverter will work just fine.
However, if you plan on expanding your panels in the future or want to maximize the use of your system, micro inverters are well worth the investment.
Central inverters are massive fixtures reserved for systems like solar farms that require hundreds of kilowatts. You’d never find these in residential homes due to their large size and the unnecessary amounts of output.
Choosing the Right Solar Inverter
Installing a solar energy system for your home or business is an investment with short and long-term rewards. It can become daunting choosing everything from the right panels to the right solar inverter. Leverage the expertise of the leading solar professionals at Unbound Solar to help you choose the best inverter for your system.