Radio & Energy

Inverter Use With Solar Panels

When the power grid goes down, assuming you don’t have a self-sustaining source of power, you’ll be all out of luck.

That’s why it’s important to have that self-sustaining power source, and a perfect option for this will be solar panels that you can install on your rooftop, your front yard, or on your patio or balcony.

However, using solar panels to create electricity is hardly a simple subject.  If you’re very new to this subject, you may think that you just have to lay some panels out on the grass and then hook them up to a power outlet, but that couldn’t be any farther from the truth.

In addition to the solar panels themselves, you’re also going to need to invest in a solar inverter.  A solar inverter is simply an electric converter that will convert the DC power gathered from your solar panels and then convert that into AC power, which you can use.

In other words, without the power inverter, your solar panels will be literally useless to you.

And just as there are different types and materials of solar panels out there, so there are different types of power inverters as well.

The four primary types of power inverters are as follows, presented in alphabetical order:

Battery Inverter

Battery power inverters used to be very rare but that has changed in recent years to the point that they have greatly increased in popularity.

Basically, a battery-powered inverter requires a battery in order to work (obviously).  The main benefit to this is that they can allow your solar panels to continuously operate regardless of what the condition of the power grid is.

This means that your solar panel system will continue to work one hundred percent even after the power grid has gone completely down.  There is considerable debate as to whether or not solar panels will be affected by power grid down scenarios such as EMP attacks, but with a battery inverter, it’s almost guaranteed that your solar panel system is going to work.

In the event that the power grid goes down, the battery powered power inverter requires the original generating source of power to the solar panels to quit trying to generate power.  This is called anti-islanding, which is the direct opposite of islanding, or when power is generated to power a location in the event of a power grid down.

The battery inverter itself will monitor the energy between the grid and your solar system while keeping the batteries fully charged.  It can also monitor the status of the batteries as well.

Central Inverter

If you’re looking for a power inverter that will be able to provide power to as many solar panels as possible, then your best option may be central inverters.

Central inverters function very similar to string inverters, which we’ll get to in a bit.  But basically, central inverters are designed to support more panels at once.  Instead of the strings of each panel running to the inverter, like how string panels work, in the case of a central inverter the string are all connected together in what is called a ‘combiner box.’

This combiner box is designed to run DC power to the central inverter, where it will then be officially converted into the usable AC power.  So yes, the combiner box is an added expense and accessory that you’ll need to get, but if it can power more solar panels at once it may work best for you.

In all honesty, though, central inverters are rarely necessary for powering simple homes or RVs and are instead better suited for larger installations or production facilities.  Nonetheless, it still is an option to be aware of.

Micro Inverter

The next option is what is called a micro-inverter, which is becoming an increasingly popular option for suburban homes and other residential homes.

In the case of a micro inverter, you need to buy an inverter for each individual solar panel.  The inverter will then convert the panel’s DC power into the AC power that you can use right at the panel.

This is significant for one big reason: if all the solar panels are connected to the same inverter, if just one panel is malfunctioning or at least not collecting as much power as it should, it can screw up the whole system by reducing the amount of overall power that you’re receiving.

But if you only have one inverter connected to each panel, then this problem is negated, and the performance of any of the other solar panels will not become compromised in any way.

Another big plus to micro inverters is how they will also monitor the performance of each individual panel, so you can easily detect when a panel is underperforming.  Some micro inverters are sold with the panels themselves and are already integrated by the manufacturer, which makes them a convenient option for installation.

Solar Inverter

The last type of solar inverter that we will discuss is a solar inverter.  With this setup, you will need to install your solar panels in a row, or in this case referred to as a stream.

So if you have fifteen overall panels, you may opt to divide them into five ‘strings’ of three panels each, for example.

You will then have multiple strings that connect each panel to your inverter, hence the term string inverter.  The inverter then takes all of the DC power from the solar panels at once and converts it into AC power.

String inverters are definitely the traditional option when it comes to inverter use with solar panels and remains the most popular option.  It’s a proven technology, and it’s also cheaper than using micro-inverters.

But as was noted above, with this set-up, just one bad solar panel can compromise all of the others and reduce your overall power.  This is really the big negative aspect of this system that you will have to contend with.

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