What Kind of Solar Inverter Do I Need?

Choosing the right kind of solar inverter is crucial.

Like solar panels, inverters come in several different sizes. Your inverter needs to have the capacity to handle all of the power produced by your solar panel array.

Solar inverters have different ratings based on wattage. Generally, if you have a 2,500-watt solar panel system, then you need a 2,500-watt inverter. 

Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about what kind of solar inverter you need.

How Solar Inverters Work

Solar inverters play an important role in any solar panel array: they convert the DC output from your solar panels into AC electricity your home can use.

Without a solar inverter, you could not use the solar electricity your solar panels generate. 

The inverter acts as the gateway between your solar panel system and every device and appliance in your home.

How to Choose the Right Solar Inverter

There are multiple types of solar inverters, including pure sine wave and modified sine wave inverters. You also need to consider the wattage of your solar panel system and location-specific factors. 

Here are all of the things to consider before choosing a suitable solar inverter:  

Consider the Type of Inverter

There are several types of inverters available today. Depending on your needs, location, and usage, one type of inverter may be right for you.

Types of inverters include:

String Inverters: Most residential solar panel systems use string inverters. They’re common, affordable, and easy to install. They convert the DC power generated by electrical panels into AC power your home can use.

Microinverters: Some PV systems use microinverters, which are small inverters attached to each solar panel. Instead of converting electricity from all panels with a single converter, you convert electricity from a single panel with a single converter. You may want to use microinverters if your panels have irregular orientations, shading issues, or damage in certain areas. Microinverters are becoming more popular because they’re more efficient than string inverters. Microinverters can reduce lost electricity by transferring DC into AC at the source. Microinverters also prevent one or more underperforming panels from reducing the output of your entire system. 

Hybrid Inverters: Hybrid inverters are a combination of microinverters and string inverters. They’re usable with both on-the-grid and off-the-grid systems. Also known as power optimizers, hybrid inverters are placed on each individual solar panel, but they convert DC to AC at the string level. You get many of the benefits of microinverters (like efficiency) with the affordability of string inverters.  

Three-Phase Inverters: Three-phase inverters are most popular among commercial and industrial solar panel systems. They’re designed to handle three-phase power, which is rarely seen in residential systems and more common in commercial or industrial settings.

Battery Inverters: Battery inverters are popular in off-the-grid or hybrid systems for charging and discharging batteries.  

Calculate the Wattage of your PV System

After considering the type of inverter to buy, it’s important to consider the power output of the inverter.

Inverters measure power output in kilowatts (kW). The more power your solar panel system produces, the larger your inverter’s power output needs to be.

How many solar panels do you have in your system? What’s the wattage of each panel? By multiplying your solar panel wattage by the number of panels in your system, you can determine the approximate size of your inverter.

If you have a 6kW system, for example, you should install a converter with 6,000W of power output. Most solar inverters list their power output in watts – not kilowatts (kW). 

Consider Geography & Location

Your geography and site-specific factors impact the type of inverter you need. 

If you install solar panels on a rooftop in southern California, that solar panel should produce more power than a similar solar panel system in Minnesota, all else being equal. That means you need a larger inverter in sunny, southern climates than you do in cloudy, northern climates. 

If you live in a sunny, southern climate, then your inverter should be close to the overall wattage of your solar array. If you live in a cloudy, northern climate, then you may be okay with an inverter with slightly less power output than your solar array.

The more solar radiation your location receives, the larger your solar inverter should be.  

Other Things to Consider

Other things to consider when buying a solar panel inverter include the following:

Warranty: Like solar panels, solar inverters come with different warranties. The longer the warranty, the longer your solar inverter is expected to last. Generally, it’s better to invest in a solar inverter with a long warranty. Look for an inverter with a warranty lasting at least ten years.

Efficiency: Some inverters are more efficient than others. The more efficient your inverter is, the more power you’ll draw from your solar panels. Top inverters have an efficiency rating of over 96%.

Other Features: Some of today’s most popular solar inverters come with the ability to remotely monitor solar production, control your system with an app, connect to a battery storage system, and more. Consider these factors before buying a solar inverter.

Final Word: Talk to a Licensed Solar Installer to Find the Best Solar Inverter

A licensed solar contractor in your area can help you choose the best solar inverter. 

Local contractors know the best inverters for your climate. They know the power output you need for an average residential system, and they know whether string inverters or microinverters work better for your system.

To learn more and to pick the best solar inverter for your system, contact a local licensed contractor today. 

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