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Use of solar inverter. WHICH INVERTER IS BEST?

Use of solar inverter. WHICH INVERTER IS BEST?

    What Kind of Solar Inverter Do I Need?

    Inverters are an essential component of a solar system. These complex bits of technology are what turn the raw DC power generated by your solar panels into the electricity you can use at your business, home, or farm.

    They’re also the part of your solar system that’s likeliest to fail first. Because of that, the type of inverter you choose to have installed on your solar system is an important decision. You want an inverter that maximizes your system’s production while also having a low failure rate and a good warranty.

    In this blog, we’ll share the information you’ll need to help make an informed decision regarding which kind of inverter is the best for your solar system.

    The Three Types of Solar Inverters

    When you boil it down, your decision comes down to which of the three inverter types you see as being the most beneficial:

    Before we get into each type, we want to touch on the main differentiator between them: converting DC electricity on a string level or converting on a panel level.

    With string inverters, the electricity produced by entire groups, or strings, of your panels are converted together. On the other hand, string inverters with optimizers and systems with microinverters offer module-level optimization, which means the power from each individual solar panel is converted separately. Microinverters do this by converting power from DC to AC for each module, while optimizers are essentially a DC-DC converter that allows the power from each module to be harvested separately.

    Each type has its own pros and cons, which you should weigh against one another to make your decision.

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    String Inverters

    String inverters, which you may also see referred to as centralized inverters, are the most common, and often the most cost-effective, type of inverter. Your solar panels are arranged in rows or groups called strings. String inverters convert the DC energy produced by each string of solar panels into AC power.

    String inverters tend to be the most affordable option. Some smaller commercial systems and some residential systems may find the more expensive microinverter to be worth the increase in price. However, this is often not the case on larger projects.

    Reliability Warranty

    String inverter technology has been used since solar energy’s early days, lending credence to its reliability. However, failure rates will vary from brand to brand.

    At Paradise Energy, we most often offer SMA string inverters. With nearly 40 years of inverter design and manufacturing under their belt, they not only have the experience to ensure they’re producing a quality product, but they also have financial stability. That’s important because financially stable companies are more likely to be around to honor their warranties.

    Out of the gate, SMA inverters come with a ten-year standard warranty, with the option to extend it for five or ten years. For 2020, SMA has updated its residential inverter line to extend the standard warranty to 15 years at no additional cost!

    Ease of Maintenance

    With string inverters, all of the equipment is located on the ground level, whether your system is installed as a ground mount or a roof mount. While many solar inverters are reliable and can fall under warranty for 20 years, they are the piece of your system likely to have problems first.

    Because of that, ground-level equipment makes it easier for operations and maintenance (OM) teams to access your system in case anything goes wrong. There’s no need to get up on the roof and remove solar panels to get to the root of the issue, as there would be with microinverters.

    While ground-level technology is preferred from a maintenance standpoint, it may not be so from an aesthetics standpoint. While they’re not particularly large (a little smaller than the size of a standard residential electrical panel), string inverters will take up space somewhere on or in your home or business. And if you have a large system, you will need more than one inverter.

    Depending on how streamlined you’d like your system to look, or whether or not you have a good place to install the inverter(s), microinverters may be your preferred option.

    Shade Mitigation

    Because string inverters convert electricity for groups of solar panels, you may lose out on some electricity production if your roof is shaded. This is because the inverter must convert an equal amount of electricity from each panel in the string. So if one panel is partially shaded and produces less electricity because of the shade, the inverter will only convert that amount of electricity from all other panels in the string, regardless of whether or not they’re shaded.

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    For example, say there are four solar panels in a string. A nearby tree shades half of one of the four panels for a few hours a day, while the remaining three panels are in full sun. With a string inverter, all four panels will be limited to half production while that one panel is shaded. This only applies to panels in that string. There can be more than one string connected to one inverter.

    solar, inverter, which, best

    So the roof where your solar system will be installed is partially shaded, you may want to reconsider going with a string inverter, depending on the size of your system, as you could lose out on some electricity.

    Microinverters

    Microinverters convert your panels’ DC electricity into AC electricity on a module level. While string inverters convert electricity for several solar panels and are located separately from the panels at the ground level, microinverters are installed underneath each individual panel, preferably on the racking of the system.

    Compared to string inverters and string inverters with power optimizers, microinverters are oftentimes the most expensive option. Because of this, they are not typically used on larger solar installations.

    Reliability Warranty

    Compared to string inverters, microinverters are a newer technology. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re less reliable, but there will be more of them up on your roof, which means more opportunities for failure.

    At Paradise Energy, we offer mostly Enphase microinverters. Over the years, Enphase has greatly improved the failure rate of its microinverters. They’ve worked to simplify the design and reduce the parts counts, giving less opportunity for something to go wrong.

    Additionally, Enphase microinverters are back by a 25-year warranty. the most robust in the solar industry.

    Ease of Maintenance

    String inverters are easy to access for maintenance because they’re located at the ground level. But with microinverters, this isn’t the case. Each panel has a small inverter tucked underneath. That means if they’re having problems, your maintenance team will have to get up on your roof and remove panels to access the inverters that are having issues.

    Microinverters eliminate the need to have a string inverter somewhere inside or outside your building. About the size of an internet router, a microinverter is neatly tucked under your solar panels out of sight. However, microinverters will require a combiner box at ground level.

    Shade Mitigation

    One of the biggest benefits of microinverters is their ability to convert DC electricity to AC electricity for each individual panel. That means if just one of your eight solar panels is half-shaded, only the shaded panel’s production will be limited, and the other seven panels will produce full electricity.

    Depending on how much shade your roof has, this may make microinverters the better choice, even if they are more expensive than a string inverter initially. They’ll also offer module-level monitoring, meaning you can see how much electricity each solar panel is producing on your monitoring software. With string inverters, you’ll only be able to see how much electricity each string is producing.

    What Is a Solar Inverter?

    A solar inverter converts direct electrical current (DC) generated by your solar panels into alternating electrical current (AC) needed to run your home appliances. The inverter also synchronizes with your local electrical grid, which uses AC voltage, allowing you to use both power sources simultaneously. Home appliances are designed to use AC voltage from the local grid and cannot run on solar energy directly. But since solar inverters are DC-to-AC power conversion devices, you can solve this problem by installing an inverter between your solar panel array and your electrical wiring system.

    AC vs. DC Electricity

    • When your home energy consumption is higher than your solar generation, the utility grid provides electricity and bills you for the difference through your power company.
    • When your solar generation is higher than your usage, you can utilize a solar battery to store excess energy. Or, if you live in a state with net metering, you can export energy to the power grid in exchange for power bill credits.

    What Are the Types of Inverters?

    You can classify solar power inverters into three main types:

    • String inverters
    • Microinverters
    • String inverters with power optimizers
    • Hybrid inverters

    As a general note, hybrid inverters can handle solar panels and batteries simultaneously. Traditional inverters, like string and microinverters, are not hybrid and are meant only for photovoltaic panels. You would need a separate inverter to add battery storage.

    We outline each type of inverter, including pros and cons, in the following sections.

    String Inverters

    String inverters are the most common type of inverters for a home solar array. This setup wires your solar panels together in “strings” or series circuits that connect to a central inverter. The inverter, which connects to your home wiring, converts the combined output of your panels into AC power.

    Benefits of String Inverters

    String inverters have a lower installation cost since it only requires one device to convert the electricity output of all your solar panels into AC power. In other words, you do not need to install a power conversion device on each panel. Since string inverters are so popular, you can find more vendors and solar installers familiar with this equipment.

    Disadvantages of String Inverters

    The main disadvantage of using a string inverter is having to wire your solar panels together in a series of circuits. So if a single panel malfunctions or becomes obstructed, all the panels in that string suffer a drop in performance — even if the remaining panels are under full sunlight and in working condition.

    Solar panels in a string circuit can also suffer from performance loss if they have different energy production profiles. This generally happens when panels are facing in different directions and exposed to uneven sunlight.

    • For example, east-facing solar panels are more productive in the morning since they face the sunrise while west-facing panels produce more energy in the afternoon.
    • If you wire east-facing and west-facing panels together, panels receiving less sunshine can drag down the performance of those with more exposure.

    Microinverter

    A microinverter system involves small inverters you can install directly on each solar panel. There is no need for a string inverter since the output of each panel is converted into AC power directly.

    Benefits of a Microinverter

    The main advantage of microinverters is having a dedicated power conversion device for each solar module. If any of your panels become shaded or malfunction, the rest of your solar panel system is not affected. As a result, microinverters increase the overall energy output of your solar system. You can also take advantage of roof areas with different orientations since your PV array is not affected by uneven sunshine — unlike solar panels that utilize a string inverter.

    Microinverters also have longer warranties than string inverters. Generally, you can expect a 10 to 12-year service lifespan with a string inverter, but you can find microinverters with up to 25-year warranties.

    Disadvantages of a Microinverter

    One of the main drawbacks of microinverters is the higher price — if you plan to install a solar system with 20 panels, you also need 20 microinverters. Since installers place microinverters behind solar panels, they are harder to access for maintenance and replacements.

    Microinverters can reduce your solar battery options if you’re considering energy storage. Keep in mind that you charge batteries with DC power, while microinverters convert the output of solar panels directly into AC power. This means you need a dedicated battery inverter and a device called a charge controller to manage a battery’s charging and discharging process.

    String Inverters with Optimizers

    Some string inverters use power optimizers installed directly on each solar panel (like microinverters). Optimizers regulate the voltage and current of each PV module, which increases total electricity output.

    Unlike a microinverter, an optimizer does not directly convert DC power into AC power. As previously described, string inverters wire panels in a DC series circuit and convert the combined energy output into alternating current.

    Benefits of Optimizers

    An inverter with power optimizers combines certain advantages of microinverters and string inverters. When using a traditional inverter without optimizers, any issue that affects one panel negatively impacts the entire circuit. Power optimizers mitigate this dynamic by controlling the power output of each panel individually.

    String inverters with power optimizers allow you to install a solar battery without a second inverter. The battery can connect to the DC side of an inverter and charge before the system converts solar electricity into AC power. However, this is only possible if the inverter is compatible with solar batteries.

    Which Type of Inverter is Best for Solar Panels?

    Each type of inverter has advantages and disadvantages, and the best option depends on the solar project. Most solar installation companies are familiar with all inverter types and can help you choose the ideal option for your solar array. For example:

    • Microinverters and power optimizers make sense if you have a complex roof geometry where solar panels will face in different directions or cannot avoid shadows.
    • A traditional string inverter is best if you have an unshaded roof area where solar panels can face in the same direction. In this case, the productivity boost achieved by microinverters and power optimizers is minimal.
    • You should consider a hybrid string inverter if you plan to add energy storage, which works with both your panels and a battery. A battery can add over 10,000 to solar installation costs, and without a hybrid inverter, you would need to buy a second inverter if your current unit is incompatible.

    What Is a Solar Inverter and How Does It Work?

    Solar energy is on the rise. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), 3% of all electricity produced in the United States comes from solar panels. Solar panels are devices that produce electricity in response to sunlight. Solar panels, however, typically require the use of a separate component known as a solar inverter. Without a solar inverter, they won’t be able to produce usable electricity. What is a solar inverter exactly, and how does it work?

    Overview of Solar Inverters

    A solar inverter is a component in a solar panel installation that’s designed to convert direct current (DC) electricity into alternating current (AC) electricity. Power grids, of course, typically distribute AC electricity. AC electricity lives up to its namesake by alternating its direction. It can change direction, thereby allowing it to travel across longer distances than that of DC electricity. Solar inverters are responsible for converting the DC electricity produced by a solar panel installation into AC electricity.

    Whether monocrystalline or polycrystalline, solar panels almost always produce DC electricity by default. Exposure to sunlight causes the electrons within their photovoltaic material to move around and become “excited.” This movement results in the production of DC electricity. To use the solar panel installation’s electricity in a home or building, it must be converted into AC electricity, which is the solar inverter’s job. The solar inverter will perform the DC-to-AC conversion so that the electricity can be used to power devices in a home or building.

    How Solar Inverters Work

    Most solar inverters look like small boxes. They are installed between a solar panel installation and the home or building that it powers. The DC electricity produced by a solar panel installation will enter the solar inverter where it’s converted into AC electricity. After leaving the solar inverter, the newly converted AC electricity will enter the home or business.

    Of course, there are different types of solar inverters. Some of the most common types include battery solar inverters, central solar inverters, micro solar inverters and hybrid solar inverters. Regardless, they all work by taking the DC electricity produced by solar power installation and converting it into AC electricity.

    WHAT OTHER INVERTER FEATURES SHOULD I CONSIDER?

    Every inverter has different strengths and drawbacks. Make sure you consider what aspects are most important to you and your situation.

    For example, some inverters are easier to set up than others. If you are doing a lot of the work yourself, easy installation options might suit you best!

    If you live in a state with harsher weather conditions, you must consider how durable the inverters are. Look up an inverter’s NEMA rating, or check reviews, to see which can handle constant rain, harsh sunshine, strong winds, or any weather you deal with constantly.

    Efficiency comes back to using modified or pure sine wave inverters.

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    Of course, the more features you have, the more expensive it can end up becoming. Costs can range wildly, but generally, the more you spend, the more features and valuable qualities you’ll have included.

    That’s not to say you should throw all your money at the biggest and most powerful inverters. You don’t want one that’s too big or doesn’t have a chance to use the advanced features it may have.

    Consider what is crucial for you and your situation, then select an inverter accordingly.

    DOES BEING ON OR OFF THE GRID MATTER?

    There are a few key differences to be aware of when going on or off the grid, so be wary!

    Solar panel inverters on the grid are easier to set up since you don’t need a battery bank. Not to mention, putting the electricity you produce onto the grid will be shaving tons of money off your electricity bill without worrying about battery life and what time of day you use your electronics.

    However, being on the grid means power outages will affect you since the inverter shuts off for safety reasons. You’ll also not be completely self-reliant since your home will still connect to the grid. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But, it’s much more tempting to use electricity if you’re not worried about battery storage and whatnot.

    Inverters off the grid take a bit more to set up and require more planning. You need to consider your battery bank and how much electricity you can run during the day and night.

    However, being completely self-reliant means you don’t have to worry about electricity bills or power outages on the grid in case of emergencies. It’ll be work, but you will have complete control and save a lot of money.

    Lately, there have been hybrid setups with both an emergency battery bank and a connection to the grid. However, you will need to recognize this will cost more initially and require more planning. Despite this, finding a middle ground between both can be beneficial for those interested.

    WHAT IF I’M STILL NOT CERTAIN?

    Many factors go into selecting an inverter for your home. Being overwhelmed is shared with anyone looking to set up their solar panel system. Luckily, we have a lot of experience helping customers pick out whatever equipment they may need, inverters being no exception!

    Please check out our website for various product selections, or contact us with any questions you might have. Are you looking to learn more about anything and everything solar? Check out our blogs and learn from the experts about the benefits and experiences of going solar.

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