What is a Solar Inverter?

String Solar Inverter

Solar inverters change the electricity generated by solar panels from direct current (DC) into alternating current (AC) so it can be used by standard appliances around the home. They are a crucial part of solar panel systems and there are a variety of types to choose from.


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What is a Solar Inverter?

A solar inverter is an essential part of any solar PV system as it converts the direct current (DC) generated by the solar panels into alternating current (AC) so that it can be used to power electrical appliances.

Without a solar inverter, all of the free renewable solar energy being generated by the panels would simply go to waste.

Types of Solar Inverter

There are 2 main kinds of solar inverter – string and micro – while you also now have the additional option of a hybrid inverter which also acts as a solar battery too.

String inverters

String Solar Inverter

Also called central inverters, string inverters are commonly found in grid-tied systems and work with multiple solar panels wired together. These devices convert power for all of the modules at once, meaning if one panel in the system produces a reduced output it can be difficult to determine which panel is malfunctioning and influencing the entire system. There are however two big benefits to opting for string inverters:

  • The technology has been used for many years meaning it is a tried, tested and commonly used option.
  • String inverters cost a lot less to install than micro inverters.

Micro inverters

Micro Solar Inverters
This kind of inverter works with panels on an individual level, with one inverter being installed on or behind each module.

Although they are more expensive, micro inverters come with many benefits:

  • They don’t see performance reduction from shading like string inverters do, meaning they can sometimes generate more yield.
  • They are easier and safer for engineers to install thanks to the lower DC input reducing the risk of injury from electrocution.
  • They are seen as the most reliable inverter type and tend to have longer warranties.

Hybrid inverters

As solar technology has developed there have been great advancements in solar inverters. In addition to converting the generated electricity from DC to AC, modern solar inverters can also double up as solar batteries.

While a solar inverter is essential for any solar PV system, a solar battery isn’t but they are still a valuable addition. Solar batteries store excess solar energy generated by the panels for use when the panels aren’t generating as much energy (such as in the evening or during the night).


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How Efficient is a Solar Inverter?

Most solar inverters are about 92% – 98% efficient, meaning you only lose between 2% – 8% power when converting DC to AC. This amount will vary between the different makes and models available.

As there is some energy loss when the solar inverter converts the energy, you might want to consider having a solar system capable of generating more power than your home is likely to use.

How Much do Solar Inverters Cost?

Solar inverters vary in price depending on whether you’re having a string, micro or hybrid inverter installed.

Type of Solar Inverter Potential Cost
String Inverter £500 – £1,000
Micro Inverter £80 – £200 per inverter
Hybrid Inverter £225 – £580+

Micro inverters might look like the cheapest option but remember that one needs to be fitted for each solar panel in your solar system. So if you have a 4kW system, this could mean 16 solar panels and if each micro inverter costs £200, that’s a total cost of £3,200.

How Long do Solar Inverters Last?

The lifetime of a solar inverter will vary between make and model but as a general rule of thumb you should expect it to last for at least 10-15 years.

Most warranties will cover 5-10 years for a string inverter whilst the majority of warranties for micro inverters are likely to be longer. Many companies will also offer extensions so this is certainly something to look into when you are having a solar system installed.

The life expectancy of a solar inverter is shorter than the solar panels (around 25 years) which means that you will probably need to have it replaced before your solar panels need replacing.

Solar inverter replacements should only be carried out by a qualified tradesperson and you can get free quotes from MCS certified (or equivalent) solar installers by using our simple online quote request form.

Best Solar Inverters

There’s a number of solar inverter manufacturers, each with a series of inverters to choose from. Let’s take a look at some of the best solar inverter manufacturers.

Fronius

Fronius are widely considered one of the best manufacturers and their range of solar inverters backs that up.

  • Range of sizes from 1.5 kW up to 27 kW
  • Hybrid inverter allows for energy storage
  • Monitor performance with the Fronius Smart Meter
  • An active cooling system prevents overheating and increasese performance
  • Add the Fronius Ohmpilot to heat water using excess solar energy
  • Available with a lengthy 10 year warranty

Growatt

Growatt is a trusted name for solar products around the world, with 1.3 million of their solar inverters installed in more than 100 countries.

  • Wide range of outputs from 1 kW up to 630 kW
  • Can achieve high efficency levels (99%)
  • Compact design for simple installation
  • Check performance online

Prime Hybrid Energy

Prime Hybrid Energy aim to deliver their customers with efficient renewable energy systems that will help achieve a return on investment.

  • Energy storage means excess solar energy can be used after sunset
  • View up-to-date performance via the Smart Monitoring Portal
  • Emergency back-up power system in the event of a power cut
  • Off-peak charging
  • Lengthy 10 year warranty
  • Knows whether to consume, store or turn to energy from the supplier depending on generation

SolarEdge

SolarEdge inverters are some of the lightest on the market and can also achieve the highest levels of efficiency.

  • Larger 5-10kW inverters can achieve 99% efficiency
  • Small and light for straightforward installation
  • DC Optimisers mean that generation from individual panels can be monitored
  • Industry leading 12 year warranty

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