Choosing the right solar inverter for your home solar power system
Advice on the best solar inverter for your home solar power system
In this guide, Solar Fast help homeowners get to grips with which solar inverter is right for their home solar power system.
According to recent statistics, the UK has seen massive growth in residential solar installations over the past two years. In fact, it saw almost 80,000 installations completed by the end of summer 2022, up by 144% from 2021 figures.
With energy prices rising and the general population increasing their knowledge of green energy alternatives, it is easy to see why solar has made such a significant jump in recent years.
One critical part of these residential solar installations is the solar inverter. This is often overlooked when assessing your needs but can have a significant impact on how much electricity your solar panels generate.
Understanding the Role of Solar Inverters
Without a solar inverter, your solar panels are effectively useless.
Why? Because your inverter is what turns the energy that is captured by your solar panels into actual electricity which you can use at home.
The electricity generated by a solar panel is DC, Direct Current, and if you want to boil your kettle you will need AC, Alternating Current. The job of an inverter is to convert the DC electricity into usable electricity for your home - then you can boil your kettle.
There are three main types of solar inverters:
- String inverters - oldest/most common type, solar panels are connected to each other in a string and run into one inverter.
- Microinverters - a newer option which is more costly, each panel is connected to its own microinverter. This can help increase panel efficiency.
- Power optimizers - a hybrid approach, a power optimizer is connected to each panel and then individually run to one inverter.
Choosing the right option for you will involve getting the right balance between meeting your needs in terms of efficiency and cost.
Assessing Your Solar Power System Requirements
Before picking your inverter, you need to understand the requirements you will be placing on it. Here are some key areas to consider:
Current Energy Consumption
Checking your current energy consumption is fairly simple. You can do this by looking at your latest energy bill or by using a helpful free online calculator.
Evaluate Your Space
Work out how much space you have to install solar panels. This could be roof space on your property or on an outbuilding. Alternatively, it may be unused land which can be used to install solar panels – but that does require planning permission in some cases.
Consider Other Factors
Some factors will impact the efficiency of your solar panels. These include things like shading from trees, other buildings and roof furniture.
The direction of the face is important too. For example, south-facing solar panels are the most efficient, at least in the Northern Hemisphere, but both west and east facing panels will work perfectly well.
Potential Future Requirements
Although your current energy consumption will give you a good idea of what inverter you may need, you will also want to consider future requirements.
For example, if you are thinking of buying an EV, then you want to factor this into your calculations.
Understanding your energy consumption needs and potential will help you better understand what inverter capacity and features you may require.
Understanding Inverter Efficiency and Performance
Inverter efficiency refers to the ratio of power that is fed into the invert (DC) compared to the power which comes out (AC). The higher the efficiency the more of the DC power is converted into AC power which can then be used in the home.
When assessing inverter suitability you will likely come across two types of efficiency ratings:
- Peak efficiency - the highest efficiency achieved under ideal conditions
- Weighted efficiency - the level of efficiency you should expect to see under real-world conditions
Picking a high-efficiency inverter offers several benefits.
The higher the efficiency, the less energy is wasted during conversion. Ultimately, this will help your solar panel installation generate more energy without the need to install more panels. In turn, this reduces the strain on your PV system, lowering heat generation and increasing its lifespan.
Evaluating Inverter Features and Technologies
Modern inverters can come with several optional features, technologies and added extras. Which of these are right for you will depend on your needs and budget. Here are some factors to consider:
- Real-time monitoring of your system performance (via an online portal or app)
- Compatibility with battery storage systems
- Overall durability and reliability of the inverter
- Warranty and after-sales support
Considering Budget and Cost
Depending on the inverter you choose, you will be looking to spend anywhere between £150 and £3000.
Although inverters at the lower end may seem like an easy option, there is a trade-off to consider. Micro inverts are comparatively cheap, but you need one for each panel.
The pricier string or hybrid inverters will typically help you to increase the efficiency of your solar installation. This will make paying off your panels quicker and help you generate more profit from energy sold back to the grid under the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG).
A more expensive inverter may also put less strain on the system, making them last longer than cheaper options. Typically the inverters at the higher end of the budget also come with a more comprehensive warranty and often include some of the advanced features we explored above.
Seeking Professional Guidance
Ultimately, deciding on the right inverter for you can be a little tricky. If you are still confused, we strongly recommend discussing your needs with an energy professional or installer. They will be able to offer you advice based on their advanced understanding of inverters and their experience in helping others in the same situation.
The Right Solar Inverter for Your Home: Summary
It is clear that a solar inverter is an essential part of any home solar power system. Picking the right inverter for you can have a big impact on how efficient your system is and how much it will cost to install.
We encourage you to carefully evaluate your needs when assessing your system requirements and use this guide alongside consulting with a professional to help you find the best inverter for you. As a rule of thumb, picking the best inverter you can reasonably afford will help you get the most from your system, future-proofing you against your future energy needs.