What Is A Solar Power Inverter and Why Do I Need One?
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. Modern version of these solar power inverters do much more than simply converting the power your solar panels provide into power you can use in your home. Understanding the different features and functions of these modern solar power inverters will help you make the right selection for your system.
The Heart of Your System
The solar power inverter is the part of any solar power system that is responsible for the conversion of DC power being generated by the solar panels into AC power that can be used by the home. In their simplest form they do little more than accept this DC power directly from the panels and connect to your homes 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 a 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 actually sit between the locally supplied utility power to the home and the solar power system itself. They act like a traffic cop for power being supplied to the home and will intelligently switch between solar power when it's available and to utility supplied power in the evenings when the solar power system is dormant. By being able to sense when the solar power system is active, these modern solar power inverters ensure the home will always have a reliable supply of electricity.
Spin Your Electric Meter Backwards
Many modern solar power systems are designed to actually supply more power during the day than the home is using. These modern solar power inverters are sophisticated enough to send this excess power back up the power lines to the local utility which generates a credit for the home. 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. 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 home whenever possible and the excess power doesn't go to waste.
Charge Your Batteries at the Optimal Rate
Another duty that many of these solar power inverters have taken on is the charging of any batteries connected to a solar power system. Some homeowners will install a bank of batteries in their home that are charged with the excess power being generated by their systems during the day that can then be used later that evening to lower the amount of power they need to purchase from the local utility company. These batteries can also be used to 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 converted all the power supplied by the solar panels. This required long lines be run from the panels on the roof of the home to the solar power inverter that was 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 and this could reduce the efficiency of the system. Newer systems are being installed with a group of smaller micro inverters that are actually located at the solar panels themselves. By doing the conversion of DC power to AC power right at the solar panel you can eliminate much of the loss that older systems suffered.
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