Solar technology can confuse many people, particularly those unfamiliar with all the jargon and equipment. We frequently receive questions about connecting a solar panel to an inverter. The reason you would do this depends on what you want the solar system is designed t do and what equipment it is powering.
An inverter to convert power from one form to another is necessary for most solar installations. Some inverter-related ideas we will explore are:
- Is an inverter necessary in a solar system?
- Can you connect an inverter directly to a solar panel?
- Do you need other equipment with an inverter?
There are two main scenarios for using an inverter in a solar system. The configuration and nature will be determined by how the inverter is implemented in the system and its intended function. We will clarify using an inverter and how it can be connected and implemented in your solar system.
When Do You Need An Inverter In Your Solar System?
Many newcomers to using solar energy in their homes or for outdoor activities are uncertain of the inverter’s role in the overall scheme of solar equipment.
Some questions revolve around whether an inverter is a required piece of equipment in a solar system or if you only need it in certain circumstances.
An inverter is not a necessary piece of equipment for a solar system to generate electricity. Still, it is a device required to use that electricity in certain circumstances.
Essentially, the role of an inverter is to transform the energy generated by the solar system into a different format, depending on the power needs of the devices connected to the system.
The primary role of an inverter is to convert the DC voltage generated by the solar panels and batteries into AC power for home appliances.
There are primarily two scenarios where an inverter is necessary.
- Where you are using a hybrid system. This is where you use solar panels in a hybrid solution for your home. Solar panels generate electricity that supplements the power you receive from the grid. Here an inverter is used to convert the DC electricity from the panels into the AC power required in your home and feed excess power in AC format back into the grid.
- In a non-hybrid system where you have AC appliances. If you are totally off-grid, you will be utilizing solar energy as the total energy supplier for your home. If you have home appliances that use AC power, an inverter will convert DC power to AC for use by those devices.
Can You Connect An Inverter Directly To A Solar Panel?
Theoretically, you can connect an inverter directly to a solar panel, but in most cases, the narrow input tolerances of an inverter will not allow for this connection arrangement.
The voltage generated by any solar panel is not always the same as the rated voltage output of the panel. So, a 12-Volt solar panel output voltage can fluctuate from voltages less than 12-Volts to 18 or even 22-Volts.
This fluctuation as an input voltage is not something that most inverters can handle. Input voltages lower than 12-Volts will cause the inverter to stop operating, and voltages well above the 12-Volt limit can damage the internal circuitry and electronics in the inverter.
Consequently, you need either a special inverter designed to handle the voltage fluctuations or other equipment to rectify the voltage output from the panel into a steady stream at a constant voltage.
In most cases, the equipment that will stand in the gap to perform this role is the solar charge controller and a battery, which is generally for non-hybrid installations.
A battery is not necessary for hybrid installations, but an inverter specifically designed for the task is required in this case. The inverter will have electronics built into it to regulate the voltage coming in from the solar panel.
Do You Need Batteries With An Inverter On A Solar System?
As we have mentioned already, connecting a solar panel directly to an inverter is not a sustainable or efficient way to use the power from your solar panel and could damage your inverter.
Do You Need Batteries With An Inverter In A Non-Hybrid Solar System?
In a non-hybrid solar system, a battery or a bank of batteries is required to store electricity and deliver a constant voltage power source to the devices needing the power.
In this configuration, a solar charge controller is also needed to regulate the voltage from the solar panel to charge the batteries.
An inverter can then safely be connected to the battery output to convert the battery DC voltage to AC voltage required by the device needing the power.
People with this off-grid solar configuration system often opt for 12-Volt devices, which removes the need for an inverter in the system. This removes one more piece of equipment that reduces cost and complexity in the system.
Do You Need Batteries With An Inverter In A Hybrid Solar System?
Hybrid systems are generally not off-grid. They are grid-tied, providing the home with a combination of solar energy and grid electricity.
The purpose of these systems is to reduce the cost of energy consumption in the home. The solar system is not intended to replace the grid’s electricity during a power outage.
In this solar configuration, there are no batteries required in the system since power storage is not required. These systems do not need batteries, but they need an inverter to convert the power from the panels from DC power to AC power for the home.
These inverters require additional electronics to regulate the voltage supplied by the panels before the inverter can convert the electricity into AC power and supply it to the circuits in your home.
How Is An Inverter Connected To A Solar Panel?
How you connect an inverter to a solar panel will depend on the type of solar system you are running and the devices being powered by the system.
If your solar system is powering DC 12-Volt appliances and AC 120-Volt or 220-Volt appliances, you can not connect the inverter directly to the battery and then to the main circuits. This arrangement will convert the electricity supplied to all the circuits to AC power.
In this instance, the inverter must be connected only to the circuit supplying the device requiring AC input. This will only convert the power to his device instead of making the entire system AC power.
If your home only uses AC power devices, you can connect the inverter immediately after the battery to supply every circuit downstream from the battery to AC power.
In a hybrid solar system in your home, a conversion kit is used, which comes with an inverter specifically designed to take input directly from the solar panels, even out the voltage, and supply AC power into your home electricity circuits in combination with power from the grid.
These inverters will connect the solar panel, the grid, and your home circuit distribution board. They will control power from the solar panels into your home and the connection to the grid to regulate the power coming into your home from both sources.
These inverters usually require specialist installation by a certified electrician.
As you can see, connecting an inverter to your solar panels will depend on the type of solar installation you are implementing.