Solar Inverters: How to Choose the Best Type for You

Solar inverters play a critical role in photovoltaic systems, converting the direct current (DC) energy generated by the solar panels to alternating current (AC).

AC power is the standard used across the United States for household appliances and electronic equipment. So in effect, these devices make the sun’s energy usable in your home or business.

The following guide can help you choose the best type of inverter for your needs.

Types of Solar Inverters

String inverters are most commonly used in grid-tied residential and small commercial photovoltaic systems.

These low-cost, highly efficient devices convert the energy produced by an entire array of photovoltaic panels. Large panel installations also typically use string technology; however, these require ground-mounted central inverters.

Micro-inverters are quickly becoming a more popular choice, as they can help optimize energy output.

With this technology, each photovoltaic panel has its own small inverter. So, unlike string technology, a single malfunctioning panel will not affect the entire array. Micro-inverters are reliable and easy to install, but they’re more expensive than string models.

If your photovoltaic system is not connected to the utility grid, you will need an off-grid inverter.

These devices are capable of converting DC to AC as well as the reverse. This allows the energy output of the solar panels and the energy stored in the batteries to be effectively managed.

Shopping for Solar Inverters

When shopping for an inverter, you must select one to match the size of your photovoltaic array.

If, for example, you have a 4-kilowatt system, you will need an inverter with an AC power output of about 4 kilowatts. In some sunnier climates, an undersized inverter can effectively handle the load.

But since the price difference for slightly larger models is negligible — and since oversizing can allow you to capture more solar output and to expand in the future if you choose to do so — getting a larger model may be the right choice.

As you consider various models, take a close look at their DC voltage input range. This tells you the maximum voltage an inverter can manage from the solar panels. Make sure that your photovoltaic system is configured so that this voltage rating is not exceeded, or damage could occur.

Factors that Affect Costs of Solar Inverters

Solar inverters generally only represent a small fraction of total system costs.

Several factors can affect pricing, however, including the specific technological design and application, whether grid-tied or off-grid. Power output, voltage and electricity quality also influence costs.

Finally, some models offer extra tools and services such as advanced data monitoring and utility controls, which raise their prices.

Intermountain Wind & Solar is the leading provider of residential and commercial solar technology in the Intermountain West. We serve customers throughout Utah, Wyoming, Nevada, Idaho and Colorado. An important part of our service involves working closely with you to design a system that meets your needs.

Contact us today to learn more about adding a photovoltaic solar energy system to your home or business. We will be sure to match your system design to your goals and needs, particularly when it comes to selecting the right solar inverter.