When designing solar energy infrastructures, solar inverters can often be overlooked during the setup process. Yet, choosing the right solar inverter is pivotal for getting the most energy out of your solar panel system and saving you money on your electricity bills overall.
Whether you are using solar energy at home or on commercial premises, this guide will detail everything you need to know about solar inverters; from their role in your solar energy design to picking the best one for your current system and needs.
What are solar inverters?
Solar inverters (also known as solar charge controllers) are the part of your solar panel system that convert energy collected from your solar panels into electricity that powers your home or business. As solar inverters change the direct current (DC) electricity from solar energy into alternating current (AC) they are essential for ensuring that your home is powered safely and effectively from solar energy.
What do solar inverters do?
High quality solar inverters perform a number of essential tasks as an integral component of solar energy infrastructure, including:
- Converting direct current into alternating current
- Controlling and regulating voltages to ensure the system is operating safely
- Managing electrical currents
- Monitoring solar energy production and providing feedback information
- Maximising energy output efficiency
- Communicating with the National Grid.
Many modern solar inverters also include advanced features, such as Wi-Fi connectivity for remote monitoring and control capabilities, with interactive screens allowing users to easily monitor their solar performance data.
Do you need an inverter for solar panels?
Yes, you need a solar inverter if you want to make use of solar energy.
Solar inverter are essential components of any solar power system as they convert the direct current (DC) electricity generated by the solar panels into alternating current (AC) electricity, which is what powers your home appliances.
Additionally, an inverter helps regulate and monitor the electric flow to optimize and maximize energy output from your PV system. It is important to invest in a quality inverter that is properly sized for your needs to get the most out of your investment and maximise savings on electricity costs.
How much do solar inverters cost?
The cost of a solar inverter varies on the type of inverter, as well as its size and capacity.
A basic solar inverter for a small residential system can range from £400 to over £1,000 (excluding installation costs). High-power commercial-grade solar inverters are typically more expensive, often around £3,500 or more. However, prices can vary significantly between brands, models and service providers, so it is important to do your research before committing to any purchase – or speak to the technical team here at Sunergy for qualified advice you can trust.
Can I fit a solar inverter myself?
The short answer might be yes, but unless you have advanced technical knowledge, good electrical installation skills and the right tools, we would advise against installing a solar inverter yourself.
It is important to understand that solar inverters are complex pieces of equipment and should be installed by someone experienced in electrical work. Additionally, proper installation will not only guarantee your safety, but increase the efficiency of your system.
Most people prefer to hire professionals for the job to avoid any risks and ensure that their system works correctly. Professional installers also have access to the necessary specialist tools and can provide a warranty on their work. At Sunergy Renewables, we offer our customers a 10-year warranty on our solar inverters, which means if the inverter fails or you experience issues during that period for any reasons [that are not your fault], the manufacturer will cover repairs and replacements free of charge.
What are the different types of solar inverters, and which one is right for me?
There are four main types of solar inverter:
This is the most basic and inexpensive type of inverter system, where string inverters are used for solar energy systems where the panels are connected in a series.
To understand how string solar systems work, we can compare them to a string of Christmas lights, where one bulb is broken in the chain of lights and none of the others will work either. Similarly, if one solar panel does not work correctly or is not at the same pitch or orientation as the other panels in a string system, then the rest of the panels will also not work efficiently.
Many string inverters come with 2 or 3 Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT’s) to allow multiple solar panel strings to be attached.
In contrast to a string inverter, in a micro-inverter PV system each solar panel will have an inverter all to itself. The benefit is that should one of the solar panels be experiencing issues that are negatively impacting the performance of the whole PV system, it will be quick and easy to identify which specific panel is the root of the issue. Additionally, micro-inverters are a great option if your home or business premises does not have the room for an inverter either inside or outside.
However, the disadvantages of micro-inverters include higher costs and not being as energy efficient as other solar inverter types, as they are unable to transfer the full power of the each panel.
If you are installing a brand-new solar system with a solar battery storage solution, then hybrid inverters may be a worthwhile option for you to consider.
Hybrid inverters not only perform the typical inverter role of converting DC electricity into AC but can send any surplus DC power to either be stored in your solar battery or sold to the grid.
The startup costs for hybrid inverter PV systems are much higher than string inverters, however in the long run, they can save more money on electricity bills due to the energy storage capacity.
Power inverters (or optimised inverters as they are also known) offer the same benefits as micro-inverters but at a lower cost. Like micro-inverters, they will be located on each solar panel and offer performance monitoring so that if your PV system suddenly stops working properly, the cause can be identified quickly.
However, unlike micro-inverters, power inverters do not automatically convert DC into AC at roof level; instead transferring the DC power through to a string inverter.
Can I connect a solar panel directly to an inverter?
Yes, you can connect a solar panel directly to an inverter instead of the charge controller. To do this, you will need the appropriate wiring and connections so that the DC output from the solar panels can be properly routed to your inverter.
When connecting a solar panel directly to an inverter, it is important to ensure the wattage of the panels does not exceed that of the inverter. Additionally, if you are only connecting a single panel, you must ensure that it is not producing more wattage than the inverter can handle. Additionally, you should pay close attention to any safety requirements for wiring and installation, as well as any warranty information associated with your solar system.
Do solar inverters make noise?
Solar inverters can make some noise, however the intensity of the sound it makes will depend on the size of the system it is attached to and the brand you are opting for.
However, the sounds from your solar inverter should be minimal and are a good sign that your system is working effectively. Should your inverter make excessive noise (especially from the fan) then it is recommended that you call an engineer who can assess whether there is an issue with your product.
Do solar inverters turn off at night?
Yes, solar inverters will switch off at night as they only operate when there is visible sunlight for them to turn into solar energy.
When solar inverters are not operating at night, the electricity supply will either switch to grid power or use the energy that has been stored in a battery (or batteries) if the system has them. The seamless connection between solar inverters and the grid allows home and business owners to continue using their appliances and electrical equipment without interruption.
Can a solar inverter be repaired?
Yes, in some cases solar inverters can be repaired. However, whether they will need repairing or replacing will depend on the nature of the issue and the age of the inverter, as older models will eventually need replacing with more effective and efficient newer models.
Although solar systems are generally reliable and resistant to breakage due to their simple design and few moving parts, when problems do arise it is usually due to an issue with the solar inverter. Solar inverters are considered to be the ‘brain’ of a PV system, working harder than any other part. Therefore, like most electrical equipment, they can occasionally break and need repairing.
You can usually tell that your solar inverter is not working properly when:
- There are error messages or flashing lights appearing on its screen
- The FIT meter is indicating that you are generating far less energy or none whatsoever
- You receive increased electricity bills.
Solar inverters typically come with a 10-year warranty, so if you have had your solar inverter for less than this period then you may be eligible for a free repair or replacement from the manufacturer. If your warranty has expired however, an experienced engineer will be required to assess your solar inverter and provide an estimate to fix the problem. If your solar inverter cannot be fixed or it is not cost effective to do so, then an engineer will advise you on your next best course of action.
Our engineers will run thorough investigations on your solar inverters as well as your entire PV system to assess the source of the issue and get it resolved as quickly as possible. If your solar inverter is the root of the issue, then we will advise you on your most cost-effective options; whether that be repair or replacement. Should you need the latter option, then we can make recommendations on the best solar inverter for you, based on various factors, such as cost, your location and the number and positions of your solar panels.
Can solar inverters be installed outside?
Technically yes – most solar inverters can be installed outside. However, we do not generally recommend this as you will be leaving this expensive and important part of your PV system vulnerable to the elements, which could impact the life and effectiveness of the device.
Ideally, solar inverters should be installed near a sub board or main switch board inside your home or business, such as in a loft space, garage or warehouse. Should installing your solar inverter inside not be an option, then our engineers will do their best to find a location outside that:
- Is as close to your main or sub boards as possible
- Is not exposed directly to the elements i.e.., direct sunlight or heavy rainfall
- Can still connect to your Wi-Fi so that your solar inverter does not lose its smart device monitoring functionality.
Our engineers can provide an assessment of your home or business and advise on some potential locations for your solar inverter. For more guidance, get in touch with our team by calling 02477 752 574.
Do solar inverters need servicing?
Although solar inverters do not typically need a lot of maintenance, you should regularly check them to ensure that no error messages or flashing lights are showing up. If your solar inverter is displaying these, then it may need maintenance from an experienced engineer familiar with the various error codes.
How do I maintain my solar inverter to ensure it lasts as long as possible?
Solar inverters are very low maintenance pieces of technology, so just make sure you keep it clean by wiping away any dust, cobwebs or debris and it should provide years of trouble-free service!
Some other maintenance tips we recommend, are:
- Keep your solar inverter cool. Inverters will get hot during the day as they work, so it is important you keep potentially flammable materials away from it and ensure the airflow is not restricted (around 12 inches of clearance). If your inverter is fitted with a fan, then it is also important the fan is not blocked.
- Ensure the air intake filter is clean, especially if your solar inverter is stored somewhere that collects a lot of dust.
Ready for your solar inverter installation? Call us today for a quote
Every commercial or residential property will require different things from their solar inverter; therefore, it is vital that you select the right one for your system to ensure you get the most out of your solar energy infrastructure.
If you need help deciding which solar inverter is right for you, then Sunergy Renewables offer FREE consultations to assess your needs and make recommendations on the best products for your PV system and budget.
Call us today on 02477 752 574 or drop us a message to request a call back from our team.