Solar Inverter is a device capable to convert DC into AC electricity. Inverters are typical components of solar electric systems since solar panels generate DC electricity and most devices used in homes or offices operate on AC voltage.
There are two main types of solar system – connected to the grid (grid-tied) and disconnected from the grid (off-grid).
Although inverter’s main function is always the same – converting DC into AC electricity – these two kinds of systems use different kinds of inverters.
Grid-tied inverter is the heart of any grid-tied solar system since a grid-tied system must contain an inverter.
A grid-tied inverter converts the DC voltage from the solar array into AC voltage that can be either used right away or exported to the utility grid.
A grid-tied inverter must strictly comply with utility grid’s requirements and regulations. For example grid-tied inverters must generate AC voltage of a strictly sinusoidal form.
One of the main features of a grid-tied inverter is that it stops operating in case of a grid failure. Thus technicians doing any repair works on utility network are prevented from getting an electric shock.
Off-grid inverters are different from grid-tied inverters.
An off-grid solar system might not contain an inverter if DC loads only are to be powered.
Since off-grid systems are disconnected from utility grid, off-grid inverters need not to match utility grid requirements and regulations.
Depending on its size a photovoltaic system could comprise either a single inverter or multiple ones.
Each of these two concepts has its benefits and drawbacks. Most of the modern inverters are provided with a Maximum Power Point Tracking feature enabling generation of solar electricity at maximum solar panel performance.
Inverters are expensive and often bulky devices especially the ones for high power solar systems.
Nevertheless inverters are neither mysterious nor that difficult to understand.
To be in clear what inverter you need for your solar system, you just need to know a couple of basic things.
That info would help you not only in selecting the right kind of inverter but will also make you confident upon receiving an offer from a solar vendor or installer. In other words, your background about inverters can help select the right solar offer matching best your energy needs and available budget.
As a potential solar buyer you are supposed to know the following basics:
- What kind of maintenance an inverter needs and how much is such maintenance per year
- How to estimate ‘AC power rating’ – the key parameter of any inverter
- What to be careful about when selecting an inverter with MPPT feature
- In which cases a single inverter is not enough
How a microinverter can increase system performance even if your solar array is shaded