The sun powers the solar cells, but you have to have a way to turn that into usable energy.
Let’s look at what an inverter is and why you need one to power your solar panels.
Why do solar cells need an inverter?
Your appliances run on alternating current (AC) electricity. The stuff coming out of your solar panel system is direct current (DC) electricity.
You now have to take one form of energy and convert it to another. The process is known as inverting. A solar inverter will convert DC electricity to AC electricity so that you can use it.
Can solar panels work without an inverter?
While appliances like refrigerators and microwaves rely on AC electricity, your mobile devices and laptop can run on DC power.
You will connect the solar panels directly to a DC to DC converter or a charge controller. It can produce a 12, 24, or 48-volt output.
What is a solar charge controller?
You don’t want your batteries overcharging; that is where a solar charge controller comes in. It keeps the battery from overcharging and regulates the voltage and the current transfer from the panel and the battery.
Why are solar inverters important?
Just because you can power things without an inverter doesn’t mean it’s always a good plan. Without one, you’re at a greater risk of overloading and short circuits, which is an expensive problem.
A solar panel inverter works as a guardrail that shuts down your entire solar system until the bad situation is resolved. And an inverter protects your property from fire or electrical problems.
Can solar cells be connected directly to an inverter?
Connecting a solar panel directly to an inverter is both possible and possibly a bad idea.
When you connect directly to an inverter, there’s a risk that it will fail because the solar panel’s output is higher than the inverter’s input voltage.
You will want to check and make sure that the output voltage is less than your inverter’s input rating. That makes it safe to connect the inverter directly to the solar panel.
If the solar system voltage exceeds the inverter, you still have a few options.
- Find a charge controller and battery that regulates your solar panels’ output – voltage regulator.
- Connect the charge controller to a series of diodes to reduce the input. It will consume a ton of energy and decrease the invertor’s efficiency.
- Use a buck converter to reduce the voltage from the solar panel. It is less expensive than having to buy a charge controller and battery pack. But, it’s not as efficient.
What is a solar inverter charger?
A solar inverter charger is an upgraded version of a regular inverter and is how you ensure you’ll have energy day or night.
The solar inverter converts AC to DC power while also charging the battery pack when there’s no current power and a lack of sunlight.
Is an inverter charger worth it?
It depends on who you are and what you need from your solar panel system. An inverter charger is worth the investment if you need to recharge your energy.
- If you live in a perpetually gloomy place with few appearances from the sun, you benefit from an inverter charger.
- You will want access to shore electricity if you live off-grid.
- An inverter charger is a practical backup power solution.
Types of Solar Inverters
You have a few options when it comes to solar power inverters.
String Inverters (central)
String inverters are the oldest and most common type of inverter. It connects a string of solar cells to your inverter.
You access a string inverter from the side of a structure which allows easy monitoring and repairing and makes replacing the inverter straightforward.
String investors are risky because they’re not great at optimizing solar output. If one panel ends up in the shade, it will stop the power output of all of the rest in that string.
Power Optimizers Plus Inverter
A power optimizer works with a string inverter to convert DC to AC energy. It keeps solar panels working even if the shade has found one of them.
Like with all things, it does have its drawbacks. A power optimizer is expensive, and if you wish to expand your solar system, you’ll have to invest in more string inverters.
Oh, and the optimizers on the backside of each solar panel. You’ll have to climb on the roof to repair and replace panels.
If you only have a handful of panels, microinverters convert AC to DC power straight from the back of the solar panel. It keeps you from having to invest in a string inverter or an optimizer.
Having microinverters also means that when a panel goes down for whatever reason, it’s the only panel that does. You also have the freedom to add to your solar panel system as you wish.
Microinverters allow you to diagnose problems straight from the solar panel. However, they are likely on the roof, and that always makes it a little frustrating.
Why do you need inverters?
You have to convert DC power to AC power to run washing machines, televisions, and other appliances. The only way to get that from your solar panels is by using an inverter.
You’ll connect the inverter to your battery and then plug the AC devices into that inverter.
FAQs about Solar Cell Inverters
Can I use DC power instead of AC power?
If you’re just looking to charge a cellphone, DC power will do the job. But, you’re comparing 5 volts to charge a device while it takes 120 volts to run a refrigerator.
You can find some lamps that only require 12 volts, which are handy to have around in the case of an emergency.
Can I connect a solar panel directly to appliances?
You aren’t going to find a ton of DC-rated appliances; if you do, they are so expensive right now that it’s not worth it.
Because instead, you can attach a solar panel directly to them and use the inverter to convert the DC power to AC.