Everything you need to know about inverters for solar panels

One of the best things about solar panels is that they help you take control over your energy production. Another great thing? Our MakeMyHouseGreen tool and expert team of Gurus will help you make an informed decision! We are happy to share our knowledge also in this article section - our Green Guides! Continue reading and find out everything you need to know about inverters for solar panels.

What are solar panel inverters?

A solar inverter or PV inverter is a type of inverter which converts the energy from your solar panels into usable electricity that can be fed into an electrical grid and used to power your home.

to converting solar energy into usable electricity, inverters monitor the performance of the solar system and help maximise energy output. They can be connected to the National Grid, and ensure that the solar system is operating safely.

How do solar panel inverters work?

Solar inverters work by running solar energy through a transformer. The transformer changes the electrical current to the one suitable for use at home. That is, from DC to AC!

The different types of solar inverters

There are two main types of solar inverters and here’s what you need to know about each one:

String inverters

Advantages:

  • Cheaper option than a hybrid inverter.

Disadvantages:

  • Not suitable for battery systems.
  • If one panel has lower output (e.g. due to shading or damage), the performance of the entire string is affected.

Hybrid inverters

Advantages:

  • In addition to converting the solar energy into usable electricity, hybrid inverters can send solar energy to a battery for storage.

Disadvantages:

  • They are more expensive than string inverters. 
  • Best to install at the same time as solar panels if you want a battery in the future, as you'll be battery ready. Going with a string inverter to begin with, and then exchanging this for a hybrid inverter in the future will be more expensive.

Do I need inverters for my solar panels?

You will need an inverter to use solar power. As we briefly touched on above, inverters convert solar power into electricity that can be used by your household appliances. Without a solar inverter in your system, the energy from the sun would be unsuitable to use.

How large are the inverters?

Inverters tend to be the same size as solar power batteries - about 0.5mx0.5mx0.2m. They can weigh between 10kg to 25kg.

What’s the best place for the inverter?

Most solar inverters can be installed outside but when possible, it is recommended to install inverters inside. It is a good idea to select a place that:

  • is away from any hazardous or flammable materials,
  • is dry and away from direct sunlight, 
  • has enough free space around the inverter, 
  • and where the cables between inverter and battery can be kept short.

Optimising your system

There are also ways to optimise your panels. These are optional add-ons and not necessary for your system. We'll list them below to avoid confusion, as "micro-inverters" are otherwise easily mistaken for the type of product listed above.

Micro-inverters

Advantages:

  • Fitted to each individual solar panel so if one panel is damaged or shaded, it will not affect the rest of the system.
  • Makes it possible to monitor the performance of each panel.

Disadvantages:

  • Relatively new technology.
  • Makes the cost of the system more expensive. A micro-inverter costs around £100 and you will need one for each panel that you want to optimise in this manner.

Optimisers

Advantages:

  • A cheaper alternative to micro-inverters.
  • Optimisers are used on individual panels to put these in a parallel circuit. This means that if this specific panel receives some shading or has a performance reduction due to damage, it won’t decrease the performance of the whole string.

Disadvantages:

  • This will add a small additional cost to the price of the installation. An optimiser costs around £40 and you will need one for each panel that you want to optimise in this manner.

We hope that this article about solar panel inverters has helped you to better understand how to make your house green with solar panels. If you want to learn more about green solutions, check out the rest of our Green Guides, or check out our Guru FAQS – a place where our green energy experts answer questions on everything solar panels.

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