If you’ve been looking into home solar solutions, you may have heard the terms ‘inverter’, ‘string inverter’ or ‘microinverter’ along the way. Inverters play a central role within a solar panel system, in fact, they are crucial. The inverter is the device within a panel system that converts the direct current (DC) collected by a solar panel from the sun’s energy into alternating current (AC), which we are able to use in our homes and send back to the grid.
There are two main types of inverters in the solar niche, known as microinverters and string inverters. are broad, though the main one lies with a microinverter’s ability to monitor the usage of each panel. This allows a homeowner to monitor their energy output more efficiently and in a way which is not possible within a string inverter system.
In this blog, we look specifically into what the role a microinverter plays in a home solar system.
So, what exactly is a microinverter I hear you ask?
A microinverter is a device used in solar energy systems to convert direct current (DC) generated by individual solar panels into alternating current (AC) for use in homes or the electric grid. Unlike traditional string inverters, which are connected to multiple solar panels in a series (string), microinverters are installed on a per-panel basis.
Key functions and benefits of microinverters
Here are some key functions and benefits of microinverters in a solar energy system:
Microinverters are fitted to each solar panel within a solar panel system and operate independently too, optimising the performance of each panel individually. This means that shading, dirt, or malfunctions in one panel do not significantly affect the entire system’s output.
Microinverters can improve overall system efficiency by mitigating the impact of shading and other factors that might reduce the output of a single solar panel. In a traditional string inverter system, the output of all panels in a string is limited by the lowest-performing panel. Therefore, if leaves, debris, or shade covers even a small section of one panel, the performance and efficiency of the whole system will be affected.
Monitoring and maintenance
Many microinverters come with built-in monitoring systems that allow homeowners and installers to track the performance of each solar panel in real-time. This makes it easier to identify and address issues promptly, improving overall system reliability.
Microinverters allow for easier system expansion. If you want to add more solar panels to your system in the future, you can do so without major modifications. In contrast, adding panels to a string inverter system may require adjustments to the entire string.
Microinverters typically have safety features that help ensure the safety of the system. For example, they often have rapid shutdown capabilities, allowing the system to be quickly and safely de-energised in case of an emergency or maintenance. In the event of a power cut or fire, for example, a microinverter system will stop producing power and will drain the power from the system within 30 seconds.
Can you add batteries to a microinverter system?
Yes! It is possible to add batteries to a solar power system that uses microinverters. In fact, we highly recommend adding battery storage to a microinverter system.
The integration of energy storage, such as batteries, with a solar photovoltaic (PV) system offers several benefits, including increased energy independence, backup power during grid outages, and optimised energy usage.
In a DC-coupled system, the batteries are connected directly to the DC side of the solar panels and microinverters. This setup allows the batteries to store excess DC electricity generated by the solar panels before it is converted into AC by the microinverters. DC-coupled systems are generally more efficient in capturing and storing solar energy.
In an AC-coupled system, the batteries are connected to the AC output of the microinverters. This means that the microinverters first convert the DC power from the solar panels into AC power, which is then sent to the batteries for storage. While AC-coupled systems are simpler to install and allow for greater flexibility in choosing different components, they may be slightly less efficient than DC-coupled systems.
To integrate batteries, you may need a battery inverter/charger or a hybrid inverter that can manage both the solar energy and the battery storage. These devices are designed to handle the charging and discharging of batteries and can work in tandem with microinverters.
Some advanced energy management systems or smart controllers can be employed to optimise the charging and discharging of batteries based on electricity prices, time-of-use rates, or other factors. These systems can enhance the overall efficiency of the solar and battery setup.
Adding batteries to a microinverter system requires careful planning and consideration of the compatibility between the microinverters, batteries, and any additional inverters or controllers. It’s advisable to consult a qualified solar installer, like the team at Tarven Solar Energy, to ensure that the components are properly integrated and meet local regulations and safety standards. Additionally, factors such as the capacity of the batteries, the desired level of backup power, and the specific energy goals of the system should be taken into account during the design and implementation process.
It’s important to note that while microinverters offer these advantages, they may have a higher upfront cost compared to string inverters. The choice between microinverters and string inverters depends on factors such as system size, shading conditions, installation constraints, and budget considerations.
If you are looking to introduce home solar in the coming months, don’t hesitate to us a call on 020 8087 0216 to chat things through.