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If you plan on going green and switching to renewable sources of energy to power your home, then you will need to make a few investments. Of course you’re going to need solar panels but that alone won’t cut it. Solar panels work by converting the energy from light into an electric current, but that is only the first piece of the puzzle. From there, the current then needs to be turned into a useful alternating current to power your appliances, you may wish to store it in a generator or a battery. To do all this, you will likely need an inverter too.
Many people aren’t familiar with solar inverters however. In this post, we will explore what a solar inverter is and we will look at the best solar inverters to help you get set up.
What is a Solar Inverter
So, a solar inverter is a crucial part of any solar energy system and in many ways can be considered to be the brains of the operation. Inverters are what will invert the direct current into alternating current. This makes the inverter in many ways the ‘gateway’ between the solar power and your utilities and appliances.
Alternating current is ‘AC’ – this is the type of current used by all commercial appliances, as opposed to the other form of current – DC. In direct current, the electrical charge (the current) will only flow one way. Electric charge in alternating currents however will switch direction regularly. This also means that the voltage in AC circuits will frequently reverse.
AC has useful properties: it allows us to easily change the voltage levels via a transformer. At the same time, AC might also be safer. Thus, the mains in your home operate on AC and in order for you to use the direct current that comes from your solar panel, you need to look into the best solar inverter.
How it All Works
To generate AC current, we use something called an alternator. This is an electrical generator of sorts that is used to generate AC. Here, a loop of wire is spun inside a magnetic field and this will then ‘induce’ current along the wire (electromagnetism). This is how something like a wind turbine works: the wind is captured by the propellers and this is then used in order to rotate wire and thereby generate AC electricity
Batteries provide direct current and so too do solar panels. Solar panels that are used to power appliances are known as photovoltaic. These work by using an arrangement of electrons that get excited by light (photons). When those electrons get excited, they start to move and that is what we call a current.
The only problem? This energy is largely useless. When built into a small solar light, it’s fine, because that light uses DC. But in order to be able to send energy to your home to then plug into, you are going to need an invert.
Choosing the Best Solar Inverter
Inverters have come a long way. Today, they are not only capable of converting DC to AC, but can also provide a range of additional benefits for those trying to use solar power around the home. These features include data monitoring, utility controls, applications and more. This way, you can find out exactly how much solar power you are generating, you can set timers for when you want to use your solar panels and more. Like we said: they are the brains of the operation.
You’ll want to look into these features when choosing the best solar inverter for you then, but you also need to ensure that the solar inverter will handle all of your specific requirements.
To that end, there are two types of solar inverter that you need to familiarize yourself with first of all. These are:
These are the most ‘traditional’ form of inverter. They are usually housed in small boxes which will normally be kept in the loft near to the solar panel array. From here, all the cables will be fed from the panels into the box, where the inversion magic will happen. These are the most reliable and common form of inverter but the problem is that they are very susceptible to changes in the efficiency of your panels. If a big cloud should appear overhead then, this might cause your lights to start flickering. Worse, if a single solar panel is damaged or not operating at full capacity, this can potentially cause the entire solar power system to go down.
To solve this problem, we have micro inverters. These are small boxes that are placed behind solar panels to invert sunlight into AC current right at the panel itself. These solve some of the issues involved in string inverters – they allow you to identify panels that might not be working as well for instance and as long as you’re getting a threshold minimum amount of energy, the overall output won’t be affected by a ‘blip’ in your system.
These micro inverters have longer life expectancies and will often come with warranties up to 25 years. As they are newer though, they will cost more (as a result of needing more of them, if nothing else) and they also don’t tend to come with the same wide number of different features as string inverts.
Solar Inverters Reviews
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some solar inverter reviews in a bid to try and find the best!
APS YC500A – Microinverter
The YC500A microinverter is a highly capable and efficient microinverter that comes with all the advantages of any microinverter as we discussed above. This system has a power handling trunk cable and integrated ground. This microinverter is compact but powerful and can handle up to 16 solar modules in a string with a 20A breaker. Its maximum output is 500W from two modules however.
In other words, this is an impressive bit of kit that will help you to generate more power for a more efficient array.
Giandel 12000Watt Power Inverter
This is another sturdy and powerful inverter and is very reasonably priced for what it is. It comes from the leading inverter brand in Australia and provides dual AC outlets and a handy USB charging port for extra convenience. Ideal for powering a couple of lights, a laptop, power tools and more. The isolated output and input design also ensures maximum safety.
This is our pick for best solar inverter 2018.
Overall Rating: 5/5
MicroSolar 12V 3000W HEAVY DUTY Inverter
This microinverter is a sturdily built piece of tech that will attach to your panels without cause for concern. If the previous entry on this list was a little on the delicate side, this model definitely does not have that problem. This is a large, heavy-duty inverter that will provide a lot of power and heft. It’s very efficient with a 92% conversion efficiency and comes with a 6 months free replacement + 1 year warranty.
AIMS Power 6000 Watt 24V DC to 120/240V
Now we’re talking serious power. This is a 6000W inverter that provides 18000 watt peak power in its large, study (marine/industrial grade) chassis. It also comes with a range of premium features, including an auto gen start feature, battery type settings and an in-built smart battery charge and charge controller.
Ideal Power SunDial String Inverter
This inverter is able to double up as storage for your power, allowing you to access it later. This is a fantastic option, doing away with the need to install a second converter for storage and offering a ‘plug and play’ ease to setting up your solar power system. That makes it the best solar inverter for a wide variety of situations and particularly for most homes where storage is a must.
The SunDial is a well-known brand and the product itself comes with lots of features and more than adequate power, making it a brilliant choice for many.
Other Ways to Save Energy in the Home
So now you have your solar panel array set up and you’re collecting energy and converting it with your own inverter.
Your work is done! Or is it? If you really want to save energy and get the most from the sun’s power, then you need to think about all the other little lifestyle choices you make every day. Here are some closing tips to see you off…
Of course if you’re going to have a solar inverter, then you also need solar panels to collect the energy in the first place! Do your research, shop around and make sure you have the best panels possible. THEN make sure to think about placement and use a solar angle calculator to ensure they are pointed directly at the sun.
If solar panels aren’t for you (perhaps you don’t have a large enough roof or you can’t afford the installation), then a wind turbine might offer a viable alternative. Again this will provide you with a small amount of renewable engine, this time using electromagnetic induction rather than solar-voltaic panels. This actually results in slightly more energy, but it also involves higher maintenance costs and can create something of a noise/eyesore in your garden.
Geothermal Heat Pump
This isn’t a replacement for a wind turbine or solar panel array, but if you have a pool or another body of water that you want to heat, then a geothermal heat pump can do the job. This works essentially by running water through pipes deep under the ground where the earth is hot from the sun but not cooled by the wind, which heats the water enough to be used to warm said pool. You’ll need a large garden and it does involve digging up huge amounts of soil, but again it’s an investment in the future that will impress guests, save you money and be good for the planet.
There’s no point investing in all these expensive and high tech renewable energy sources though if you aren’t also going to cover the basics. Sometimes the best way to save energy is simply with a bit of double glazing which will help you to keep more of your heating inside thanks to a layer of insulating air between the two panes of glass. It also keeps noise out and is better for security, so if you don’t have double glazing yet then you’re really living in the past.
Having your lighting and heating on a timer isn’t only an option for offices and businesses – it can work just as well around the home and is a perfect way to keep close tabs on how much energy you’re using on a regular basis. Furthermore, having your best flood lights come on and off on a timer can be very useful when you’re not around as it allows you to make it look like someone is in the house and that way to deter potential trespassers.
If you’re using a solar panel array to collect energy, then you’ll want to make sure it goes as far as possible – and using timer switches will help with that!
This list has provided a range of different green installations for your home that can help you to start saving energy and money. This is only a start though, and only a glimpse of what’s to come. The future is bright, the future is green.
And of course on top of that, you also need to ensure you aren’t running lights and computers when you don’t need them, that you aren’t heating your home unnecessarily… you know the drill by now!