Different Types of Inverters

Inverters are the part of the solar system that converts the electricity generated from the solar panels; Direct Current electricity (DC electricity) to Alternating Current electricity (AC electricity).

Here are the different types of inverters you’ll have a choice of when selecting a Solar PV System;

Highly Reviewed Inverter Brands When you’ve chosen the right inverter for your needs, the next step is to choose which inverter brand. Thankfully, there a plenty of great quality brands available in Australia. Read some of our highly reviewed inverters here!

 

  • Standard String Inverter

    A Standard String Inverter is the most common inverter used. It converts the DC electricity from solar panels to AC electricity, to be used on home appliances. 

    Pros Cons
    With literally hundreds of approved inverters available in Australia, it’s easy to find an inverter to suit your homes particular needs and budget. A standard string inverter by itself does not allow for battery integration. You’ll need to install a separate battery inverter if you choose to add battery storage to your solar system.
    The technology behind standard string inverters is reliable and efficient. You may be required to purchase an additional energy management system to increase your system’s efficiency.

    Best Location To Install

    Standard inverters will either be rated as indoor or outdoor inverters. Generally, indoor inverters are cheaper since they don’t need to be built to withstand weather affects such as rain.

    Indoor Standard String Inverter

    Most people prefer these installed in a garage so that they are out of the way, but still protected from the elements. It is critical that the inverters have free air space around them, so that they don’t overheat. If it is placed in a garage, ensure that the usual clutter that ends up there doesn’t surround your inverter. 

    Wherever you decide to install ensure it is:

    • Easily accessible
    • Away from all weather affects
    • In an area with at least ½ foot free space on all sides of it
    • Away from any sources of moisture

    Outdoor Standard String Inverter

    For Standard inverters that are rated for outdoor use there is more flexibility in where they can be placed. However, some of the rules that applied for indoor inverters still apply here.

    These are usually found in garages/carports or on the sides of houses if there is an awning or some shade that keeps them out of sunlight. The key rule still applies, you want to avoid getting inverters too hot because they will lose efficiency and in worst cases reach their heat limit and shut themselves down; so, plenty of air space around them and no direct sunlight.

    Wherever you decide to install ensure it is:

    • Easily accessible
    • Out of direct sunlight at all times
    • In an area with at least ½ foot free space on all sides of it
  • Micro Inverter

    Micro Inverters are small inverters that are installed on the back of each solar panel and converts the energy from the panel it is connected to. The number of solar panels you have, will determine how many micro inverters you require.

    These are in place of the one standard inverter you’d usually have. Having several micro inverters will make your Solar PV System perform better than it would with one standard inverter, however the initial costs are substantially more expensive.

    Micro-inverters are a good option for properties where the roof and panels may be partially affected by shade. This is because each panel has its own inverter, so if one panel is not working at its usual capacity due to shade the other panels will still function as normal.

    Pros Cons
    Micro inverter solar PV systems usually perform better than standard string inverter systems. As every panels output is collected individually, meaning under-performing panels (whether due to shading or degradation) do not negatively impact the output of other panels. Micro inverters are significantly more expensive than standard string inverters.

    Best Location To Install

    The way these inverters work is that they operate 1-2 panels each and so they must be connected very close to the panel. For these types of inverters, you have little choice in placement and typically they are attached underneath or to the back of your solar panels.

     

  • Battery Inverter

    A Battery Inverter is usually installed alongside a Standard String Inverter, if your Solar PV System has upgraded to include a battery system. The battery inverter’s purpose is to charge and discharge the electricity stored in a solar battery.

    Pros Cons
    Good quality battery inverters are robust and hard-wearing. Although it’s dependent on your state’s network, the rules surrounding retrofitting battery inverters can sometimes be complicated and expensive. While the act of retrofitting is simple, gaining the approvals to do so can be complex.
    Battery inverters can often be retrofitted easily and quickly into existing solar PV systems. Retrofitting a battery inverter will usually cost more than installing a hybrid inverter when initially purchasing your system.
  • Hybrid Inverter

    A Hybrid Inverter performs the same functions as a Standard String Inverter and a Battery Inverter combined. It is a good option when you are installing a solar system and think you may add battery storage in the future.

    Pros Cons
    Hybrid inverters present a more seamless and cost-effective solution than installing both a standard string and battery inverter. Because hybrid inverters perform two integral function, they can be less efficient than standard string or battery inverters.
    The majority of hybrid inverters can be installed without a battery. This gives you the flexibility to install a solar battery at a later date, when it might suit your circumstances better.
     

    If you’ve installed a standard string instead of a hybrid, there are batteries that can be added to any existing system regardless of the solar inverter. These batteries are often called retrofit batteries and will be more expensive than the average solar battery. It’s best to do a price comparison between a hybrid inverter with a compatible battery and a retrofit battery to see which is going to benefit you more in the long term.

  • Grid-Tie Inverter

    Grid-Tie Inverters are simply inverters which are connected to the grid. Grid-Tie Inverters allow you to send any unused, surplus solar electricity that your system has generated back into the grid which you may receive reimbursement for in form of a Feed-in Tariff.

    Being Grid-Tied also means if your solar system has not produced enough energy during the day or you don’t have battery storage for night, then your household will run off of the Grids electricity. Standard String and Hybrid Inverters are usually Grid-Tie also.

  • Off Grid Inverter

    Like standard string inverters, off-grid inverters are responsible for the conversion of DC electricity generated by your system’s panels into AC electricity, so that they can be used by the appliances in your home.

    However, unlike standard string inverters, they do not have the ability to export excess solar electricity to the grid. Off-grid inverters are used in either remote areas, or when the homeowner wants to separate entirely from the grid.

    Pros Cons
    An off-grid inverter system means your home is no longer susceptible to power outages caused by the grid, giving your home greater energy independence. Deciding to go off grid is a costly procedure and will often require total disconnection from the grid. This can be hard to undo, so you’ll need to consider the future implications (re-sale value of your home, future energy needs, etc).
    Some off-grid inverters come with a built-in AC charger option, that not only allows you to connect a backup generator, but also charge a battery. You may also need to invest in a diesel generator which can be extremely costly, and become much more conscious of your energy usage to avoid your system tripping from an overload.
 
Speak to installers and find out what inverter will be best suited to your future solar system!

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Understanding Batteries

Off-Grid Systems

For some households a battery system can be of great benefit and minimise a home’s reliance on the grid. However, it’s important to understand for a battery to be useful your solar system needs to be generating excess energy for the battery to store, which you can then use at night or when the sun is not out.

When selecting a battery, you’ll want to invest in a system that is most suited to your home and can drive the best return on investment (ROI). Despite a larger upfront cost, a higher quality battery may significantly increase your ROI.

    Battery systems start from $6,000 and costs can vary greatly based on the following factors:

  1. Cycle Life-Time

    The number of times a battery can fully charge and discharge.

  2. Battery Power (kW)

    How fast it can be charged or discharged.

  3. Storage Capacity (kWh)

    The maximum amount of energy a battery system can store.

  4. Battery Management System (BMS)

    An electronic ‘smart’ system that gathers data and manages the battery ensuring it does not overload or operate outside of its safe functioning zone..

  5. Inverter

    Battery systems require their own inverter if your solar system does not have a hybrid inverter.

  6. 'All-In-One Unit’

    A system which includes the battery, BMS and an inverter all in one unit.

  7. Warranty

    Length of time or cycles the battery system is under guarantee.

  8. Blackout Protection/Backup

    It’s important to note this is not a common feature of a battery system and could cost thousands of dollars to include. Blackout protection not only requires additional components but also a specialised installation and rewiring. For grid-connected homes, the cost for blackout protection can outweigh the benefit.

Additionally, if your purpose for adding battery is to go Off-Grid and become completely independent from the grid you will need to ensure your solar system can generate enough energy to power your home and your battery system is large enough to store this energy. For homes in metro areas going Off-grid is not cost effective and is only recommended for those in remote areas with limited access to the grid. Off-grid solar systems with battery start at approximately $30,000.