Solar Power Inverter

An Essential Part of your Home Solar Power System

What is a solar power inverter and why is it important? Learn all about this humble but essential device, and which type of inverter you'll need for powering your solar appliances or for larger home solar power systems.

Solar panels, solar power inverter and battery in a remote rural area

It's likely you've seen solar inverters mentioned on solar energy sites and perhaps have wondered what that particular component is all about.

A solar power inverter is used to convert the direct current (DC) electricity coming from a solar cell or photovoltaic array into an alternating current (AC).

Why is this important? Given that the appliances in your home require the AC to operate properly (not the DC), the DC entering into the solar grid via the sun's rays must be converted to be effective and efficient in powering your home.

An inverter used in conjunction with a solar panel is used to power residential appliances or sometimes is used to power a utility grid. It's a vital component of a top-notch solar panel operating system.

In other words, you can't have a solar panel system without having a solar inverter to connect the dots” so to speak. Really, what it comes down to is what type of inverter you'll need for powering your appliances or for larger projects.

Types of Solar Inverters

There are three types of solar panel inverters on the market currently:

  1. Stand-Alone Inverters - this type of inverter will store the DC energy in batteries until it is needed and then converted into the AC that appliances, motors, or electronic equipment require to operate.

    Low wattage inverters are used to power smaller devices such as laptop computers. However, a high-watt stand-alone inverter can be utilized to help power the whole entire house.

  2. Multi-function Inverters - this type of solar power inverter can handle both functions that the stand-alone and the synchronous inverters can manage, and at the same time.

    A multi-function inverter is a bit more specialized, so it's best to contact your solar energy professional to get the best advice.

  3. Synchronous Inverters - a synchronous solar inverter will allow the power captured during the day by the solar panel system to sit in the battery until there is a need for it.

    In the event there is an excess of energy stored in the battery, then that extra power can be sold (yes, sold) back to your local energy provider.

    Another advantage of this type of solar inverter is that if for some reason your solar panel system is unable to provide the energy you require to power your home, this type of inverter allows the power company to provide the remaining power needed, at the time it's needed.

Choosing a Solar Inverter

How do you choose the correct solar power inverter for your residential or commercial application?

First, it is important to know that your inverter will be one of the more expensive parts of your solar energy system. Make sure that you choose one that has a good warranty, generally 15 years of more.

Choose a reputable manufactures with longevity and experience in the solar energy field. After, all, your warranty will not do you any good if the company is no longer around in 15 years!

To determine what type of (class) inverter you'll need for your project, you must first figure out what is called the maximum sum of all the AC loads” in your project (home or commercial building).

You'll also need to consider the power quality delivered to your project by the inverter, the capacity or power rating of the inverter, and the efficiency of the inverter. These factors will help you to determine which solar power inverter is the right choice for your residential or commercial solar project and solar panel system.

Image Credit: Claus Ableiter via Wikimedia Commons

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