What Is A Solar Power Inverter and Why Do I Need One?

Understanding the different features and functions of these modern solar power inverters will help you properly select your system.

Solar power inverters are essential to any solar power system and can be one of the most critical decisions you make when designing your system. The modern version of these solar power inverters does much more than simply converting the power your solar panels provide into energy you can use in your home. Understanding the different features and functions of these modern solar power inverters will help you properly select your system.

Home solar power systems provide an easy and cost-effective way for the average homeowner to generate all the power their home requires with simple sunlight. These systems have continued to improve and constantly incorporate new and innovative features into their design. One component that has changed substantially in recent years is the solar power inverter.

The Heart of Your System

The solar power inverter is the part of any solar power system responsible for converting DC power generated by the solar panels into AC power that the home can use. In their simplest form, they do little more than accept this DC power directly from the panels and connect to your home’s wiring panel to allow you to use the free AC power they convert. Even though this seems like a trivial function, these solar power inverters still require fairly sophisticated circuitry to ensure they generate AC power that conforms to a common standard of 60 Hz and 120 VAC that most homes require.

Expanding Their Functionality

Over the years, these simple solar power inverters have taken on additional functionality and can be found today performing several critical functions in addition to their conversion tasks. Most modern inverters are more intelligent than older models and sit between the locally supplied utility power to the home and the solar power system itself. They act as a traffic cop for power being provided to the house. They will intelligently switch between solar power when it’s available and utility-supplied power in the evenings when the solar power system is dormant. By sensing when the solar power system is active, these modern solar power inverters ensure the home will always have a reliable electricity supply.

Spin Your Electric Meter Backwards

Many modern solar power systems are designed to supply more power during the day than the home. These modern solar power inverters are sophisticated enough to send this excess power back up the power lines to the local utility, which credits the house. This way, the homeowner can use these credits to help offset the cost of power they need to buy back from the utility in the evenings. In addition, because the solar power inverter is connected to both the home and the local utility, it can guarantee that the free solar power is used by the house whenever possible and the excess energy doesn’t go to waste.

Charge Your Batteries at the Optimal Rate

Another duty that many of these solar power inverters have taken is charging any batteries connected to a solar power system. Some homeowners will install a bank of batteries in their home that is charged with the excess power generated by their systems during the day that can be used later that evening to lower the energy they need to purchase from the local utility company. These batteries can also supply power to the home if the local power utility has a blackout due to a storm. Most modern solar power inverters can handle the charging of these batteries and then convert their stored power for use by the home when needed.

Micro-Inverters Minimize Electrical Losses

One recent innovation to these solar power inverters is the way they are installed. Older systems would typically have a single large solar power inverter that converts all the power supplied by the solar panels. These required long lines are run from the discussions on the home roof to the solar power inverter typically located at ground level near the electrical panel. The challenge with this design was that there was some loss of power because of these long lines, which could reduce the system’s efficiency. Newer methods are being installed with a group of smaller microinverters that are located at the solar panels themselves. You can eliminate much of the older systems ‘ loss by converting DC power to AC power right at the solar panel.