Solar inverter, under panels

Guide to solar inverters (2024)

Inverters: what they are, how they work and why you need one.

The solar panels on your roof don't produce electricity that can be pumped straight into your kettle. Before you can use the energy your solar panels capture, you need to convert it into useful AC electricity. For that, you need an inverter. This page walks you through everything you need to know about solar inverters.

What is a solar inverter?

When the sun shines on your solar PV panels, it creates DC electricity similar to your car battery. All homes use AC electricity, not DC. So the electricity produced by the solar panels needs to be converted for use in your home and this is where the solar inverter comes in.

How do solar inverters work?

Solar inverters work in the below sequence;

  • DC electricity is channelled through solar PV cables from the solar PV panels.

  • Solar PV cables are connected directly to the solar inverter.

  • The solar inverter transforms the DC electricity into AC electricity.

  • The solar inverter sends AC electricity to the house by a dedicated AC cable from your fuse board.

How does your home use solar power if you are also connected to the grid?

Solar inverters supply electricity at a higher voltage than the national grid. Appliances in your home are voltage hungry and will always take the higher voltage available. Therefore your appliances will always consume the solar electricity first.

What types of solar inverters are there?

There are a few types of inverters in the market today - from ones without batteries and ones that are fitted underneath the solar panel.

  • String Inverter - Or, simply known as an inverter, is standard type of inverter if you have solar panels but no battery. It is typically installed in your attic.

  • Hybrid Inverter - Commonly known as a smart battery inverter, it is similar to the above string inverter. However, the hybrid inverter can also charge and discharge a battery. It is more expensive that a string inverter by roughly €900 - €1,100

  • Microinverter- In principle, a microinverter performs the same way as a string inverter, except they are installed underneath the panel on the roof. It's like having a dedicated string inverter for each panel. The size of a microinverter is similar to an internet modem.

For those without a battery, a string inverter would be the most common solution. Though there are cases where micro-inverters are the best option (for example where shading is an issue). For those with a battery, a hybrid inverter is the only solution.

Warranty and lifespan

The lifespan of your solar inverter depends on its type, but it is an important consideration when planning and investing in your PV system.

How long do solar inverters last?

Even though solar panels can last 30 years, solar inverters have a shorter lifespan due to ageing electrical components. A standard domestic type solar inverter will last about 10 - 15 years. Microinverters have a longer lifespan, generally ranging from 20 years to 25 years.

What is the warranty on solar PV inverters?

Solar inverters have warranties as standard, ranging from 5 to 10 years. Most solar inverter manufacturers offer extended warranties of up to 15 years for an additional fee.

How can I monitor my inverter's performance?

Many inverters have digital displays that record a vast amount of solar data. The majority of solar inverters come internet ready with an app that you can download onto your phone where you monitor solar generation remotely.

Do Solar Inverters require maintenance?

Keeping your inverter in a cool, dry place will prolong the life of your inverter. Ensuring the inverter is free from any objects blocking the cooling fins at the back of the inverter or any dust or debris. Other than that, keeping an eye on your generation from time to time is all the maintenance you need.

Where are solar inverters made?

Similarly to solar PV panels, the majority of the solar inverters are manufactured in Asia, with some premium solar inverters made in Europe.

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