What Is a Solar Panel Inverter? + Which Are the Best

Guide to the best solar panels

So, what is a solar panel inverter? It’s a device that converts the DC power from solar panels into AC power suitable for use in your home. This technology has become increasingly popular in recent years thanks to its ability to provide renewable energy solutions for residences, businesses, and even remote areas.

But what kind of inverter should you buy? Solar inverters come in several different quality levels and prices, which can make it difficult to choose the right product. The best solar inverters provide clean energy in a reliable and sustainable way. Therefore, we’re going to answer the question: what is a solar inverter and review the top options on the market.

How does a solar inverter work?

The inverter is a box on the wall or sometimes micro versions mounted under panels on the roof that transforms direct current (DC) generated by solar photovoltaic (PV) panels to alternating current (AC). It’s usually the most complex component of the solar PV system, and unfortunately, can be the one most prone to failure so it’s important to choose right. Your home’s appliances operate on alternating current, not direct current, therefore the solar inverter is required to transform the DC output collected by your solar panels.

To put this more simply, the sun shines on your solar panels (PV cells), which are made of semiconductor layers. The cells are made of crystalline silicon or gallium arsenide. A stack of alternating layers of positive and negative ions is formed by an electric field. The layers are linked at a junction. When the sunlight is available, the semiconductor film absorbs it and transmits the power to the PV cell. It runs around and bumps electrons, causing them to lose energy. As a result, they migrate between the positive and negative layers, generating direct current (DC). The electricity generated by a solar power system is either stored in a battery for later use or immediately sent to an inverter (this is dependent on the sort of solar power system you have).

The power going to the inverter is in DC format, but your home demands AC. The inverter absorbs the power and converts it to alternating current, which is then sent through a transformer. The inverter, in a nutshell, ‘fooles’ the transformer into believing that the DC is actually AC by forcing it to operate as if it were AC – the inverter causes two or more transistors to switch on and off rapidly and share two separate sides of the transformer.

Transformerless inverters are generally more efficient than conventional inverters because they are able to avoid internal energy losses and extra component costs. Due to the absence of a transformer, transformerless inverters are light, compact, and relatively cheaper than conventional inverters types of solar inverters

Solar inverters must meet the Australian Standard AS 4777 and be Clean Energy Council (CEC) approved. In terms of safety, all the main manufacturers are satisfactory. However, if a solar company offers you a brand you’ve never heard of, ensure they supply you with CEC certification for it, all inverters sold by Skyline Solar are CEC approved.

String inverters

String inverters are the most popular type of solar inverter. They’re easy to install and cost-effective, making them a popular choice for residential PV systems. String inverters come in two main types: central string or microinverters. Central string inverters are more efficient but can be difficult to install because they require DC wiring connections on each module, which may not be possible if your roof is inaccessible. Microinverter systems are smaller units that connect directly to the system’s AC power cables without any hassle. One downside of microinverter systems is that they have an increased risk of failure due to their small size and limited cooling capacity – it’s important to keep this in mind when choosing your panel inverter!

In terms of negatives, there’s a chance the solar panels will underdeliver on power. Because the panels in a string are linked together in series, if one panel becomes shaded, is heavily soiled, or fails completely, the entire string’s output is decreased.

If one panel’s output drops to 50%, the whole string of panels’ output can reduce as well. You can lose most of the output that is in a string. But this won’t happen if there’s no shading problem and you pay attention to the solar power system and take care of it.

Microinverters

Rather than using a single inverter for the whole system, each panel may have its own microinverter.

Microinverters on the roof are more expensive to install and because they’re directly connected to each panel, are more prone to weather than a string inverter on the wall. If one goes down, a professional has to go up on the roof to fix it. Microinverters don’t have many of the negatives that can plague string inverters, most notably if a single panel fails (or suffers from shade) you will only lose the output from that one particular panel. Because microinverters convert DC power to AC, there’s no danger of arcing or fire from DC connections.

Microinverters are great when your solar area experiences shading throughout the day, or if your roof is of an unusable shape that doesn’t suit a string of panels.

Optimised string systems

Optimised systems are a combination of two or more inverter types in order to give you the best of both worlds. For example, they’ll combine string inverter and a type of microinverter called a POWER OPTIMISER which operates on a DC level to allow your solar system to produce more power when there is shading on one side.The advantage of these products such as TIGO is that you can deploy them on required panels only . Say if you had a chimney that would shade 3 panels then you can put 3 tigos on the effected panels to reduce the shade effect or you deploy them on all the panels should you wish. Previously the disadvantage of these optimised systems is that they tended to be more expensive than their counterparts; this is no longer an issue due to the increased demand and popularity of some better known brands with higher manufacturing quantities bringing costs down.

Optimisers are also great when your solar area experiences shading throughout the day, or if your roof is of an unusable shape that doesn’t suit a string of panels.

Hybrid inverters

Be careful about choosing a hybrid inverter if you’re adding a new solar system but aren’t yet opting for a battery. Batteries and inverters may have some degree of compatibility, depending on the brand/type. You don’t want your future battery selection to be limited by the hybrid inverter you pick. Inverters have a range of power output. It’s best to check the inverter has enough power for your solar system and future battery needs. You can still use hybrid inverters without adding a battery, but the solar system will only run when the sun is out. If you have limited access to daylight hours, this may not be for you.

If your plan for adding a battery is more like “sometime later, possibly” then focus on getting a decent Solar system now and dealing with the battery installation if and when it comes to you now will suffice. Theres less chance you will need to replace your inverter at that time. Inverters must meet network guidleiines for connection and the network will change these rulles or requirements every so often as technologies change so if an older inverter doesnt meet new requirements then theres a chance a battery may not be able to be fitted.

Battery inverters

Solar panel manufacturing has advanced rapidly over the years. When you buy solar panels today you are able to access higher efficiency solar energy technology that wasn’t around years ago. In a nutshell, solar panels work by utilising what is known as the ‘photovoltaic effect’. During this process, photons (light particles) hit electrons (negatively charged particles), ejecting them. These ‘free’ electrons are then able to flow through the material, producing electricity that can be used by appliances or sent back into the grid.

Put simply, this is the process where solar panels absorb sunlight and convert it into electricity. This electricity can then be used, sent back to the grid, or stored in a built-in battery storage unit that can be used to power your appliances at a later time.

Power optimiser systems

A power optimiser is not an inverter, an optimiser does all the Maximum Power Point Tracking at the module and not the inverter making it a superior system to others mentioned previously . An optimiser is like a microinverter for solar panels. It will help your solar panel work better when it gets dirty or shaded. It can also make your solar panel to work more efficiently and benefits the output of the system in the way of communication accross the DC lines so they are regulating the voltage up on the roof. This way when the shade comes over a panel or two then the voltage drops on the string , other optimmisers will notice and raise in voltage to make up for the loss to a certain degree . SolarEdge is the only brand in the market to have this smart capability.

SolarCity, the company run by Tesla’s Elon Musk, is now selling SolarEdge power optimised systems. Power optimisers are a relatively new technology and don’t always completely replace microinverters or string inverters. Here at Skyline Solar we can offer you integrated same-brand inverters and optimisers from reputable manufacturers like SolarEdge which also incorporate software that allows you to monitor the entire solar power system as well as the site loads.

Inverter home install

What size solar inverter do I need for my home?

The exact size of inverter you will need depends on a number of factors, including how many solar panels you have and what appliances in your home are going to be run off the electricity produced.

However, in general terms, you can work out how big an inverter you’ll need by thinking about this in the following way:

If you plan to run two big appliances off the inverter (e.g., an air conditioning unit and electric oven), you may need around 6kW of inverter power to meet your energy needs so you would have a 8 kW solar system ( 8 kW of panels) . When sizing a system we alsways over size DC rated panels due to conversion losses for the AC output rating of the inverters . Although this is just a rough guide, it should give you a good idea of whether you need to consider buying a larger or smaller system.

A second factor worth considering is whether you will be using your solar energy to power appliances that are on for short periods (e.g., an electric kettle) or for longer periods (e.g., washing machine, clothes dryer). If it’s the latter, you may want to consider getting an inverter with a higher surge rating than needed.

As a general rule, the inverter’s maximum output must be at least 75% of the solar array capacity. The capacity of the array can be 133% of the inverter capacity.

The CEC has issued this regulation, and solar PV systems must follow it in order to receive STCs (Small-scale Technology Certificates, the financial incentive scheme or “rebate” that applies to solar panels).

Where does my solar inverter get installed?

While it’s possible to choose a solar power system that can accommodate multiple inverters, most solar systems have one central inverter. Inverters are generally installed in a garage or utility room where they’re out of the elements or next to the meter box if the location is suitable..

Most battery-powered equipment has a higher standby current, so install it on a shaded wall where possible. If not, the most important switchboard should be placed on the same level as the unit to ensure safe operation of both products. Hybrid inverters and battery inverters, on the other hand, maybe mounted on a shady wall if they are connected. Inverters are made to be placed outside and are generally weather resistant, but they don’t like extreme heat; it can harm their performance and lifespan.

Consider security as well. Theft is rare but not unknown. If they are in an easily accessible location, string inverters may be a tempting target for a clever thief. Installation behind a fence or locked gated area is best. Anti-theft locking devices are built into some versions.

What is the best solar inverter brand?

The best solar inverter brands are the ones that you can trust to give you a good product that will last. This means they should have a solid track record in the industry and be recognised for producing high-quality products.

It is also wise to research how long these companies have been in operation, as this is indicative of their experience in the market and can tell you a lot about their reliability.

As with all products, the best solar inverter brands also tend to offer good warranties on their devices, which provides peace of mind knowing that they will support you if something goes wrong.

At Skyline Solar, we supply SMA, SolarEdge and Sunways Inverters, along with Enphase Microinverters.

SMA Inverters

SMA is recognised as one of the top manufacturers and distributors of some of the best solar inverters and other related products. SMA is a German company that has been around since the early 80s. They have since expanded across Europe and are now one of the leading companies in Australia.

SMA’s products use state-of-the-art technology to ensure they are at the cutting edge of solar inverter design. These devices are well known for looking great but also being able to handle harsh Australian conditions. The components used by SMA technicians are also sourced from other companies in their group, ensuring they are made to high-quality standards, which you can trust.

In a nutshell, when you buy an SMA Inverter you are getting German-engineered quality from the world’s longest-serving solar inverter manufacturer. Other features include:

  • FREE and automatic monitoring service through SMA Smart Connected which ensures minimal downtime and rapid troubleshooting.
  • FREE integrated inverter software that optimises energy yield in every situation – even when shading occurs.
  • FREE online monitoring via Sunny Portal and Sunny Places, letting you look into the performance and status of your solar system at any time.

SMA Inverter Review

The SMA is one of the most popular inverters on the market. They are also one of the best-selling models at Skyline Solar, making them an excellent choice for those looking for solar panels and inverters to suit their budget.

Sunny Boy inverters come with a range of power ratings – from 3k W to 6kW – The Sunny Tri-Power 3phase models range from 3kw -25 kw – and then there is the Core 1 & 2 which come in a 50kw and 110kw model which ensures you can find an inverter that is perfectly suited to the size of your array. They also come with a range of warranties, from 5 years through to 25 years, giving you peace of mind knowing your inverters will last.

If you don’t require panel-level power optimization, the Sunny Boy is our first recommendation. However, if you have problems with panel layout or light distribution, the SolarEdge HD-Wave or Enphase micro-inverters are a better option.

SolarEdge Inverters

SolarEdge has quickly become one of the leading providers of inverters in Australia for its smart technology and design. With features that reduce the size and weight of inverters, they allow for simple installation.

And the inverters are not just compact – they are also sleekly designed to blend into any surrounding, making them suitable for homes or businesses. SolarEdge’s products are based on their intelligent design that reduces power loss, which means you can get more output from your solar panels without additional equipment. This results in an overall reduction of costs in the long-term.

SolarEdge single-phase inverter

The SolarEdge single-phase inverters with HD wave technology have won several awards.

It’s the newest form of single-phase inverters with unprecedented 99 percent efficiency. This implies more energy generation, which equals greater energy savings.

It’s backed by the most comprehensive 12-Year/25-Year Limited Warranty in the Industry.

SolarEdge Three-phase inverter

The SolarEdge VMC-300 is a battery ready hybrid inverter that can be used to connect multiple SolarEdge batteries.

The SolarEdge residential three-phase inverter includes a new technology that allows the same design freedom as its inverter technology.

SolarEdge Inverter Review

The SolarEdge inverters are the ideal choice for anyone looking for panels that can handle heavy shading or complex layouts. They are our best recommendation if you require panel optimization, but not necessarily top-tier power generation capability.

SolarEdge has established itself as one of the most popular inverters in Australia since its inception, owing to its cutting-edge technology, which employs DC optimizers in each panel to maximize efficiency. The firm’s headquarters are in Double Bay, New South Wales, and they have an office there.

Solar inverters from SolarEdge have several advantages that are important to consider for nearly all end-users.

The primary goal that most customers pursue when buying grid-tie solar, however, is more attainable—the capacity to reduce energy expenses. Ensuring constant internet access SolarEdge solar inverters are one of the most feature-rich platforms available, with a complete ELITE grid-tie solar solution.

Sunways Inverters

Sunways is a German owned company that manufactures inverters out of there plant in China for both home and commercial use. With products that range from 3kW to 100kW, they’re suitable for most household and commercial solar systems.

A market leader in Australia, it’s only been formed relatively recently (in 2012). The company was established by two companies who became frustrated by the poor quality and low efficiency of the inverters they were using.

If you’re looking for an inverter that is rugged with a ‘bullet-proof’ design, then Sunways is a good choice for you. Reliability is key with this company, which is why they offer such long warranties on most of their products – up to 20 years.

SolarEdge offer a unique feature called self-monitoring that provides a ‘health check’ of every component in the system via the web. The SolarEdge monitoring portal provides you with info on the status and health of your grid-connected system in real time, letting you know how it’s performing at any given moment.

Sunways offer a unique feature called Auto-Tuner which automatically tunes your inverter to the best settings despite any weather or environmental conditions.

Protection is the key word here. Their inverters offer protection from both lightning strikes and power surges, which can severely damage your system. To prevent this damage occurring in the future, make sure you have surge protection installed.

Sunways STS – 5KTL Review

This is the smallest inverter of the Sunways range, but still incredibly powerful. It can be used on a roof with pitches as low as 1:3 and has almost zero grid loss due to its 97% efficiency. Despite this high efficiency and power output, it’s incredibly quiet.

Light weight and with an impressive IP65 rating, it’s the ideal inverter for sunny areas with high levels of dust or humidity. An excellent inverter that will serve you well.

Enphase Microinverters

Enphase Microinverters are the new kid on the block when it comes to solar power inverters. They’re made by Enphase, a California-based company that’s been in operation for over 15 years.

Enphase Microinverters offer three major advantages over traditional grid-tied inverters: they don’t require an electrician, they’re smaller and lighter weight than other types of inverter systems, and they have better performance in low light conditions. This last one is especially important because many homes can’t rely solely on sunlight for their energy needs during winter months when days are shorter.

Enphase Microinverters offer flexibility as they can be used with most brands of solar panels. This makes them a good choice if you’re looking to upgrade your system in the future as well as now.

Enphase Microinverters Review

The Enphase microinverter design is based on the idea that it can be challenging to find an electrician who’s willing to help install your grid-tie inverter. They also invented their technology with low light conditions in mind—it’s a challenge getting enough sunlight during the winter months. Lastly, they wanted to offer flexibility to solar system owners who might want to upgrade their panels in the future—you don’t have to buy all new inverters just because you’ve got a different panel.

Enphase Microinverter Advantages:

  • They don’t require an electrician to install
  • They’re smaller and lighter weight than other types of inverter systems
  • Have better performance in low light conditions (winter)

Enphase Microinverter Disadvantages:

  • They cost more upfront than using a traditional grid-tie inverter system. If you use Enphase Microinverters, you’ll probably spend somewhere around $500 -$1,000 more on your equipment.

All in all Enphase microinverters are excellent devices when used correctly and installed properly to allow for maximum efficiency.

Solar inverter cost

How much does a solar inverter cost?

The cost of string inverters usually depends on the brand you choose and the size of the string inverter. Expect to pay anywhere from $500 to over $2000 for the device.

The cost of microinverters is usually dependant on how many solar panels you have in your configuration and their output rating. As a rough guide, a system complete with microinverters will most often have a price around 20% more than the same type of system running a string inverter.

Power optimisers cost less than microinverters and you should ideally only look to use them on the solar panels that most need them.

Expect to pay between $1000 to $2000 for a hybrid inverter however there are some top of the line models that can retail for more than $3000 each.

If your battery unit requires a separate battery inverter, these will usually retail around $2500.

Can I connect a solar panel directly to an inverter?

No, you cannot connect solar panels directly to an inverter. You need a string of solar panels before connecting them.

How can I tell if my inverter is faulty?

If you suspect there’s a problem with your solar inverter, check that all of the connections are intact and clean any connectors that may be dirty or corroded. Any connections that look damaged should be replaced. As well as this: If an LED light on the front of your solar inverter is not operating, it could mean there’s a problem. You can check your inverter with a voltmeter to see if the power is coming through and how strong it is. If your system was installed by Skyline Solar, simply give our support team a call and we will happily handle this for you, its all part of our ongoing commitment to quality service.

How do you install a Solar Panel Inverter?

Installing a solar inverter is relatively straightforward for a qualified technician . It Simply mounts it somewhere where it’s not going to get wet, connect all of its cables, and then turn it on. Some inverters have additional settings that you can configure to make sure they’re working optimally.

We strongly recommend having the installation of your inverter handled by CEC accredited installation specialists, like the team at Skyline Solar.

Can inverters handle the Australian climate?

The majority of grid-connected inverters are weatherproof (typically IP65 rated), allowing them to be placed in locations that may be exposed to the weather. Some cheap solar inverters are not weather-proof and, as a result, may require the installation of a weather-proof cage (at additional cost to you). Solar inverters can handle strong winds and even light hail without being damaged. However, if you have a solar inverter that is not weatherproof, it’s suggested that you try to avoid installing it in an area where it may be exposed to hail as this could result in damage.

The better your solar inverter is protected from heat and weather, the better it will perform and the longer it will last. It might also be covered by the guarantee, which stipulates that the equipment is not placed in a location where it will be exposed to direct sunlight.

Conclusion

Solar panel inverters convert the DC power from solar panels into AC power suitable for use in residential or commercial solar systems. This technology has become increasingly popular in recent years thanks to its ability to provide renewable energy solutions for residences, businesses, and even remote areas. Inverters come in several different quality levels and prices which can make it difficult to choose the right product. The best solar inverters provide clean energy in a reliable and sustainable way – we hope you’ve found this article informative and it has given you a good understanding of some top options on the market today! If you would like more information on the best solar inverters, hybrid inverters, grid connected inverters, in fact, anything related to producing power from your roof – give our friendly staff at Skyline Solar a call today.

Get a free quote today.

Please feel free to contact our friendly staff with any questions you may have. We’re heappy to help.

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