Summertime is a great time to take advantage of solar power. However, it can also be a challenging time for solar inverters. In this blog post, we will discuss how to keep your solar inverter cool in the summer temperatures. Follow these tips and you can rest assured that it will function properly all season long!
How does heat affect solar inverters?
Solar inverters are designed to operate within a specific temperature range. When the ambient temperature exceeds this range, the inverter, depending on its configuration, may shut down to prevent damage or may stop working entirely and this obviously isn’t a good thing for the power output of your solar system.
The semiconductors used in solar inverters are quite resilient and can endure high temperatures without breaking down (to a point).
The heat generated by an inverter as it transforms DC power to AC power is added to the ambient temperature of the inverter enclosure. The heat is dissipated by fans and/or heat sinks in the inverter enclosure, which is then increased. Heat levels must not be too high, because the materials in the inverter would begin to deteriorate. Insulation will become brittle, solder will expand and fracture, and metal components in capacitors may fatigue.
In order to keep the heat low, the inverter will stop generating power or reduce the amount of power it generates by “derating” as it passes programmed temperature milestones.
Types of cooling
Solar inverters can be cooled in one of two ways: by using a passive cooling system or through active cooling. Passive or natural cooling means that the inverter’s cooling fin dissipates heat without the need for a fan. This lack of air circulation leads to hotspots of warm air, which reduce the lifespan of the solar inverter.
The second alternative to passive cooling is to utilise active cooling. Active cooling lowers the temperature by effectively cooling all of the electrical components and heat sinks, reducing hot spots. This reduces component strain, which extends solar inverter component life. The inverter’s cooling fan is crucial since power generation is dependent on heat dissipation performance.
Install your solar inverter in a shaded area
First and foremost, make sure that your solar inverter is installed in a cool, shaded area. If possible, install it in an air-conditioned space. This will help to keep the temperature of the inverter lower and prevent it from overheating.
Many people don’t realise that your inverter shouldn’t be installed in direct sunlight. Have a read of the instruction manual and you will see many manufacturers state that the inverter should be installed “where it is not exposed to direct sunlight”. It doesn’t matter if its the morning sun or afternoon sun, you should be taking precautions to avoid direct sun exposure and extreme temperatures at all times.
If your home or commercial office doesn’t have a suitable shaded area and you are a handy DIYer, you could also make your own shade cloth box that fits over the inverter and anchors to your wall.
Another solution could be installing some shade cloth to create an awning type of cover as seen in this example image below.
According to this Whirlpool thread, some handymen have enough rigged up computer cooling fans around their inverters to keep them at an ideal temperature.
Ensure there is sufficient airflow
It is important to make sure that there is adequate airflow around your solar inverter. If the inverter is installed in a confined space, this can cause the temperature to rise and potentially damage the solar inverter.
Make sure that there is at least 30cm of space around all sides of the solar inverter for proper ventilation. You should also check that the solar inverter is not installed near any heat-generating appliances such as stoves or dryers.
Inverters usually have vents on the side or bottom to allow hot air to escape. These need to be kept clear so that the solar inverter can function properly.
If you live in an area with high temperatures, it is especially important to make sure that your solar inverter has good ventilation.
You can improve airflow by:
- Installing a solar inverter in an airy location such as on a wall near a window or door
- Using a desk fan to create cross ventilation
- Opening windows and doors to let cool air in
Keep your panels clean
Another important tip is to ensure that your solar panels are clean. Dust and dirt can accumulate on the panels over time, which can reduce their efficiency. In turn, this can cause your solar inverter to work harder and potentially overheat. Clean your solar panels on a regular basis to help prevent this from happening.
Use a solar fan
Finally, be sure to keep an eye on the temperature of your solar inverter. If you notice that it is getting too hot, take action to cool it down. One way to do this is to use a solar fan. Solar fans are designed to circulate air around the inverter and help keep it cool. If you don’t have a solar fan, you can try pointing a regular fan at the inverter. Just be sure not to blow the dust and dirt from the solar panels onto the inverter, as this can cause it to overheat.
For multiple inverters, ensure there is adequate space between
Arrange multiple inverters in such a way that they do not draw heat from one another. To allow the heat sinks to release heat upwards, offset passively cooled inverters.
In Australia, we aren’t blessed with cooler weather year-round. There are times when both your solar power system and its inverter/s can feel the strain from the higher temperatures of the sun on a hot day. By following these tips, you can keep your solar inverter cool and functioning properly all summer long! So take advantage of the sun’s energy and power your home with solar today.
If you have any questions about how to keep your inverter cool, contact the friendly team at Skyline Solar today.