Installing a solar-powered electric system in your home is not an easy task. It requires a certain amount of research and level of expertise to get absolutely right.
If you’ve made the decision to switch to solar, the payoff is well worth it. The benefits of solar power are not restricted to simply reducing your carbon footprint—it can also reduce utility bills, increase the value of your home, and, in some cases, get you through power outages.
The main elements you need to build a solar-powered system include solar panels, solar inverters, a rack to keep the panels in place, and, if you want, solar storage batteries.
While solar panels are now quite ubiquitous, and their purpose is well understood, the function of the solar power inverter is not so straightforward.
With this handy guide, you can understand its purpose and get your solar inverter system up and running in no time.
Solar panels capture energy from the sun. They transform it into electricity that powers homes and businesses.
For an effective and efficient system, inverters should be of high quality and purchased from a reliable source. But before we get to choose the best possible inverter, we first need to answer the question: what does a solar inverter do?
In simple terms, an inverter in a solar system converts electricity from a direct current (DC) into an alternating current (AC), which powers most electrical appliances.
How do inverters work with solar panels? The panels collect energy from the sun through various semiconducting materials. The inverter then takes this energy and runs it through a transformer, which generates an AC current.
This is far from being the only purpose of an inverter. They can also help you maximize the power output of a solar system and track how much energy is being generated.
Be warned: not every device is capable of all these functions. This brings us to the next important distinction: the types of solar panel inverters.
There are two main types of inverters for solar systems. Each has its pros and cons, as well as different functions and requirements.
How many inverters do you need for solar panels? Which one of these inverter systems works best for your needs? Let’s take a look.
Central inverters are usually located at ground level, near the main electrical panel. As its name suggests, it collects energy from each individual solar panel and sends it to one central location.
These inverters work well when solar panels are directly under the sun. They are also the more affordable type of solar inverter. However, they can store a dangerous amount of voltage.
Micro-inverters are relatively new variations. They are individually connected to each panel in the system and immediately convert DC power into AC. As a result, these inverters store a slightly lower voltage than central inverters, making them marginally safer.
They are also the best inverter for solar energy for solar panels that receive different amounts of sunlight throughout the day. Because micro inverters are connected to individual solar panels, if one is covered by shade for a few hours, the others can compensate for the loss.
Because it is a relatively new technology, not all solar technicians know how to install solar panels with micro inverters. This means you could end up paying more for this expertise. Additionally, because micro inverters are placed directly under the solar panels on the roof, they tend to heat up, thus reducing their life span.
Because inverters do a lot of heavy lifting, they can be quite expensive to purchase, install, and replace. It’s vital to pick inverters made with high-quality materials and sold by trusted experts.
How long an inverter lasts depends on the type you choose to install in your home. Standard central inverters could last around 10 to 15 years—the variation centers on their overall quality and the wear and weathering they will be regularly subject to. When compared to the average solar panel’s lifespan, which is around 20 years, you will likely have to replace this kind of inverter much earlier.
Micro-inverters generally have a better outlook in this regard. They’re said to last anywhere between 20 to 25 years, which is perfect considering the lifespan of the average solar panel. However, because micro-inverters are a relatively new technology, there’s limited data about exactly how long they last.
Solar inverter pricing depends on the number of panels you need and the kind of inverter you decide is best for you.
To calculate how many solar panels you need, you must first determine the theoretical amount of energy your home uses. You can use previous energy bills to come up with a ballpark figure in kWh. You should also determine the number of peak sun hours in your location.
Factors like the quality of materials could also impact the amount of energy output of each panel.
Still confused? Learn how to precisely calculate your solar panel needs here. Once you have an idea of your household or business requirements, you can take the next step.
Find out exactly how much a solar panel kit with battery and inverter could end up costing you with this calculator by AMECO, the leading solar and roofing company in California.
Now that you know the exact purpose of an inverter, as well as its types and costs, it will hopefully be easier for you to make an informed decision on what will work best for you.
If you’re looking for more technical expertise regarding solar panels or have more questions regarding your switch to solar, AMECO experts are ready and available to help you out.
Contact AMECO to answer related questions such as, “Do solar panels work during a power outage?” or “How long does solar panel installation take?”
Don’t hesitate to reach out for help. It could save you a lot of money, as well as contribute to saving the world.