A solar inverter converts the direct current (DC) produced from solar panels into alternating current (AC) that can be fed into the commercial electrical grid or used by the local home/office network.

The inverter is a piece of equipment that converts the direct current (DC) electricity generated from a solar panel or solar battery storage to alternating current (AC).  Alternating current (AC) is the type of electric that our homes and businesses run off.

Without an inverter you would never be able to use the electricity generated from the solar panel system.  You also would not be able to feed any electricity that you did not need back into the electric grid.  An electric inverter converts the direct current (DC) electricity into useable 240 volt alternating current (AC).  240VAC allows you to use appliances and electronics in your home or business.

There are differences in the types of inverters available.  It is important that when you select the type of inverter for your solar panel system that you choose a nice high quality inverter as opposed to a lower quality inverter.  Quality definitely means more in this business and there are different types of inverters for you to choose from.

How does an Inverter Work

Now, as I stated before, your solar panel will provide direct current (DC) electricity which cannot be used by your common household appliances.  The inverts are used to convert the useable electricity.  These are known as ‘grid tied’ inverters and it is recommended that you use a high quality Australian version.

As shown here, the electricity is produced by the solar panel (1) on the roof of your home and then goes directly to your inverter (2).  The sun’s energy is produced in direct current (DC) electricity and is converted into alternating current (AC) and then flows to a switch board (3) and to the electric meter (4) for utility collecting and pricing.  You will receive a solar feed-in-tariff (FIT) for providing electricity produced back into the grid (5).

Types of Solar Inverters

There are different types of inverters, but there are three main types of inverts: a micro, a string, and a central.

A micro-inverter is a small box that is placed right next to the solar panel.  Its purpose is to convert the direct current (DC) electricity of a single solar panel into alternative current (AC).  The main advantages here are the ability to provide maximum power point tracking, increased availability, monitoring, low DC voltage, safety, flexibility, increased yield, and the ability to use most makes and models on any system.

However, there are disadvantages of a single panel inverter and the main one is higher costs.  For example, right now it is double the cost compared to other inverter options.  Micro-inverters are fairly complex installation wise and have some heat issues.  The maintenance side of things causes some increases in cost as well.

String inverters are probably the most common form of inverters used in the industry today for both home and commercial solar panel systems.  Typically the box is placed away from the solar panel array and depending on the size of the system, there could be more than one string of inverters.  The main advantage with this type of inverter is the ability to be flexible and efficiency.  The design is robust and has a three-phase variation that is fairly low cost.  The best part is that the system provides for remote monitoring capability and is extremely well supported.

Now, as with most designs, there some disadvantages.  As for the string inverters, there is no maximum power point tracking or panel level monitoring.  There may also be a threat of high voltage safety issues.  The important factor to remember is that you purchase from a reputable company.  This always diminishes the amount of disadvantages.

Finally, central inverters are typically used for larger solar panel systems that are on commercial buildings or large field systems.  These are very similar to the string inverter, but very large.  For this reason, they are cost efficient, efficient, and fairly easy to install.  However, their size, noise and single point of failure make cause for concern.

All in all, each of these inverter types are all great solutions.  The type of solar panel system you have will vary greatly on the type of inverter you need.

Inverter are an integral component of all types of solar power systems. Read here for an overview of different components of a solar power system.