What is a solar inverter and how does it work?
The Inverter is the brain!!! Treat it well.
So often I have someone saying to me ‘Hey Simon I have a quote and am looking at getting ——- panels installed what do you think?’
The first question I ask is:
What inverter are they quoting on?
Too often the answer is:
I’m not sure but the panels are this.
Here is my opinion regarding an inverter. To me they are the brain of your system, inside they look like a computer therefore are also the most fragile component of your system. Believe it or not ALL panels are designed to go outdoors and in the sun, so they are durable. If you want a quality system buy a Quality Inverter. Pay extra for it… This is a big investment which you want to repay over and over for a long period of time. You don’t want to have to fork out for another inverter in 5 years time as the old one has packed it in and is now only good as a boat anchor. Also care about its location. Would you leave a computer outside on the north wall of your house and expect it to be working in 10years??? NO you wouldn’t! Talk to your installer about location. Just because it may save him an hour or two at install and a few bucks in cable by putting it outside near your switchboard it may reduce its life span by 5 years….
Get it installed in your garage or an area like this and if for some reason it must be outside try to get it under a veranda or at the very worst on the south wall to keep the sun off it! Remember this is they key to the system… Think Fronius, SMA, SolarEdge, Selectronic. Yes they are more expensive but the larger investment now will keep you smiling in 15 years!!
An inverter works by converting the variable direct current (DC) output of a photovoltaic (PV) solar panel into alternating 240V current (AC). This AC electricity then can be fed into your home to operate your appliances.
What is a microinverter?
A microinverter is a very small inverter attached to each PV module or panel. They are mounted under each panel and convert the dc current into usable ac current. They are connected to the switchboard with an ac cable. These are used when a PV array has shading issues and are also helpful for individual panel monitoring.
What Solar Panels should I choose?
Installing a solar system should be viewed as an investment into your future. You are buying a system that is going to create electricity for you and should save you money well into the future. For this reason you should do your homework and choose the best quality system that you can afford.
Solar panels are an integral part of your system and are exposed to extreme weather day in day out, so it is important you have good quality panels on your roof.
A few things you should know before choosing panels:
Tier 1 – most panels sold in Australia are ‘tier 1’ so when you hear a company spruiking tier 1 panels this does not automatically mean superior quality. The term tier 1 is provided by Bloomberg and is based on the number of panels produced in a 3 month period. High production = tier 1. This can be good, as in it’s a good quality panel that sells at high volume. But, mass produced panels of lower quality also get branded ‘tier 1’, so do your research!!
Warranties – Take the time to understand the warranties offered on your solar panels. There are 2 distinctly different types
A Performance warranty. (A sales ploy) Companies will often spruik a 25 year Performance warranty on their panels. This can be very confusing. A performance warranty basically states the performance of a panel at a given time. i.e a panel may be warranted to perform at 80% of its nominated value in 25 years time… This sounds great however the life of the panel may only be warranted for 10 years making the performance warranty useless. Claiming against a performance warranty is also virtually impossible unless you have monitoring for each panel and historical data to back up your claim (highly unlikely).
A product warranty (The real warranty!) This covers any failures in the actual product and this is where you will see big differences. Solar panels with long product warranties are superior and usually have the price point to match. We have partnered with REC Solar Panels as it is a product we believe in. We have invested time into extra training which in turn provides our customers with an extended 25 year product warranty. (usually 20 year warranty)
Our Solar Panels – We offer 3 panels based on price.
Entry level: Canadian Solar. 12 year product warranty.
Mid Level – REC. 25 year extended product warranty.
High Level – LG. 25 year product warranty.
If you have any more questions about Solar panels, don’t hesitate to get in contact!
Should I Get Batteries With My Solar System?
Most people who are considering solar are interested in batteries. After all, once you have the ability to create your own power, why not get batteries so you can use the power whenever you want. Right? Unfortunately, it’s a little more complicated than that.
Firstly, batteries are expensive. If you are going off grid, or are more interested in the environmental benefits of solar, then sure batteries are an essential element to your system. But if you are installing solar more for the financial benefit, batteries are currently not in your best interest. With energy retailers currently paying a feed in tariff of around 20c per Kw/hr, you are best to install a large enough solar system now which will produce enough energy so that batteries can be retrofitted at a later date. Batteries will become a better investment as prices of batteries come down, or feed in tariffs reduce.
Installation of production and consumption monitoring will provide accurate data to size your future battery system perfectly for your needs. This is an essential investment for anyone even thinking about battery storage.
What we will say now though, is to know how you are being charged for electricity and what you are being paid for the electricity you send back to the grid (this is your feed in tariff). Most households will not use all of the power they produce during daylight hours. You sell this back to the grid at a price set by your retailer. Do your homework and make sure you are getting the best possible deal! A little shopping around can save you hundreds of dollars.
What is Battery Capacity?
Battery capacity is the amount of energy stored within a battery, however this can sometimes be mis leading as it is the ‘Useable capacity’ which you need to understand when going into battery design. Lithium batteries for instance typically have between 80 and 100% usable capacity where lead acid batteries typically are around 30-40%. So if you had a Tesla Powerwall 2 for instance which advertises 14kwh of storage only 13.5kwh of this is usable. With a Lead Acid setup of 14kwh of storage only 4.2kwh would be usable.
Lead Acid Batteries
These are similar to car batteries. They are commonly used on off grid solar systems in Australia and are a somewhat affordable option. They have been around a long time and the technology is well understood and trusted (hence the use mainly in off grid). There are some limitations however, including: Depth of discharge (usable capacity) typically around 30%-50%, some require maintenance and regular checks and installation location is restricted as venting is required.
These have been used in portable technology for many years and are becoming a more popular choice on household solar. Think Tesla power wall. Benefits of Lithium-Ion include; Depth of discharge is typically 80% or more, prices are reducing as technology becomes more freely available and they are lighter in weight and higher in voltage. They are still however a lesser known technology and there are limited recycling options currently in Australia.
Let us know if you have any more questions about batteries!