There has never been more competition for the title of best grid-tie solar inverter as a result of several of the leading manufacturers releasing innovative new models with features such as intelligent online monitoring and smart home energy management. The popularity of home battery systems and hybrid systems is also on the rise, but it is still very early days for batteries, and the vast majority of solar installations still call for a solar inverter that is specifically designed for solar power. Even the well-known Tesla Powerwall, which already has an inverter built in, requires a separate solar inverter in order to function properly with a rooftop solar array.
Solar inverter operation and potential issues
The solar inverter is the most complicated portion of any solar system that is connected to the grid; however, it is also the part that is most prone to experience technical difficulties. This should not come as a surprise given that inverters are typically placed outside where they are subjected to adverse weather conditions such as rain, humidity, and intense heat while also producing thousands of watts of power for up to ten hours a day. Because of this, it is essential to make use of a good inverter and to install it in a protected spot whenever it is practical to do so. Find out more about the process of discovering faults in solar systems.
Where is the best place to install an inverter?
The vast majority of solar inverters have been designed to withstand all types of weather and may be safely put outside. Solar inverters, however, should be positioned in a protected or shaded location like any other piece of electrical equipment. This is because exposure to extreme weather and large temperature fluctuations can decrease both the device’s performance and its longevity. When placed within a garage, beneath a carport, and away from direct sunshine, the lifespan of a solar inverter can be greatly extended. Avoiding places that are in direct line of sight of the scorching afternoon heat is of the utmost importance. In the event that exposure to direct sunlight cannot be prevented, an inverter can have its lifespan extended by using a protective sun cover.
Solar Inverter Types
Although there is a wide variety of inverters available for solar and energy storage systems, we will discuss the four types that are most frequently utilized for rooftop solar installations.
- String Solar Inverters
The String’ solar inverters, which are the most prevalent type of solar inverter. These inverters are wired to a string of solar panels that are connected to one another in a series configuration. In the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, and Asia, string inverters are the most prevalent form of inverter utilized. In the United States, however, where micro inverters are highly widespread, string inverters are gaining favor.
- Hybrid inverters
Similar to string solar inverters, hybrid inverters also go by the name battery-ready inverters. The primary difference is that hybrid inverters allow for direct connection of a battery storage system, which in turn allows for greater solar-based self-sufficiency. The vast majority of hybrid inverters also deliver a fundamental level of backup power in the case of a blackout; however, they are not typically designed for prolonged use away from the grid. As hybrid inverter technology progresses and batteries become more affordable and appealing, cost comparisons between hybrid inverters and solar inverters are becoming more accurate. Hybrid inverters are more expensive, but they are becoming more cost-competitive than solar inverters. Please refer to our comprehensive study of hybrid and off-grid inverters for further information.
- Off- grid inverters
Off-grid or stand-alone power systems typically require significantly more powerful battery inverters with built-in chargers. These inverters and chargers can be set up as either AC-coupled or DC-coupled solar systems. Inverter-chargers designed for usage off the grid that are up to date and adaptable are sometimes referred to as multi-mode inverters. These inverters can also be utilized to develop sophisticated hybrid grid-connected systems. For further information, please refer to the review of the top off-grid solar systems.
Simple maximum power point tracking (MPPT) solar charge controllers, sometimes referred to as solar regulators, are used in off-grid systems that are small in scale and built by the homeowner. These are not inverters; rather, they are DC solar battery chargers that are connected between the solar panel or panels and the battery. Their purpose is to regulate the process of charging the battery and ensure that it is charged correctly, or more importantly, that it is not over-charged.
- Micro inverters
A micro inverter is an extremely small solar inverter that is mounted directly to an individual solar panel. Micro inverters are also known as micros. They are an excellent choice for areas that have shading as well as roof layouts that are complicated because each micro inverter and panel can function independently. Because Enphase has such a strong presence in North America, microinverters are extremely popular there, despite the slightly higher cost. They have a number of advantages over string solar inverters, which are largely responsible for their growing popularity around the world.
Criteria for choosing inverters for your system
The following criteria, along with constant feedback from solar installers and our industry specialists in Australia and North America, were utilized to establish which solar string inverters are now the best available. This comparison focuses mostly on conventional grid-tie solar inverters (single-phase), but we also highlight some manufacturers’ hybrid inverter models due to the growing popularity of battery technology. Although we make every effort to add as many models as possible, there is a possibility that certain newer brands will not be included. This could be due to a lack of feedback from installers, performance and reliability statistics from the real world, or exposure from the manufacturer.
- Price range
There are literally hundreds of different kinds of solar inverters available, and each one has its own unique price point. For instance, the price of a 5 kW inverter with basic features can begin as low as $750, whereas a 5 kW inverter of superior quality that comes with a 10-year warranty can go as high as $1700 or higher. However, taking into account the increased failure rates of many inexpensive inverters as well as the difficulty in claiming warranties, we suggested making an investment in a unit of higher quality. In the field of solar energy, there is a proverb that goes something like this: “the cheapest products will cost you more in the long term.”
- System monitoring
Every single solar inverter comes equipped with some kind of remote monitoring, which is a crucial instrument that’s required to monitor the performance of the system. Learn more about common solar system difficulties and how to discover faults by reading this article. Without dependable and precise monitoring, it can be difficult to determine whether a solar inverter is functioning properly or whether it has a defect that is more significant.
In this analysis, we place a significant amount of weight not just on system monitoring but also on the monitoring of electricity consumption, which is an essential component of a contemporary solar power system. With the inclusion of an energy meter, most contemporary inverters are able to monitor both the generation of solar power and the consumption of electricity within a home. Gain a better understanding of the significance of monitoring both the system and the usage.