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Solar Inverters Guide

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Solar Inverters Australia

Written by

Shaun McGowan

Solar Inverters are the heart of a solar energy system; they receive and distribute energy from and to other parts of your home.

They’re also the hardest-working component, and the most likely to fail early.

In Australia, high temperatures and the fierce sun only increase the possibility of breakdown, so taking a little extra time to compare your options now could mean a bit more money up front to save a costly repair or replacement down the line.

What is a Solar Inverter?

A solar inverter is an electrical component that is commonly either installed beneath/beside solar panels, or as a separate box within the home. 

A solar inverter is the middleman of your system - It receives DC power from the solar panels on your roof and converts it into AC power.

The inverter then distributes this AC electricity within your home, including charging any additional solar battery storage you may have.

But a solar inverter also does another job; helping divert excess energy back to the grid to take advantage of feed-in tariffs (i.e. you receive money for your excess solar).

This illustrates the importance of a quality solar inverter: if a panel fails, you may lose a few % of energy generation, but if your inverter fails, you won’t be able to use any of it.

The second main component of a home solar power system installation is the inverter

Types of Residential Solar Inverters

The two most common types of solar inverters you’ll find for residential solar installations are:

  • String Inverters
  • Microinverters

Let’s look at these in detail below and compare the differences.

String Inverters

String inverters are the most common type of solar inverter for residential use and get their name from the strings connecting the panels directly to the inverter box in your home. 

Each residential solar system will usually only have one string inverter, which will be mounted on the wall near your meter box. 

Microinverters

Microinverters are tiny solar inverters, which are installed panel-by-panel. While this means they’re a more costly option, the main advantage is increased efficiency for each panel, resulting in greater energy output. 

In Australia, they’re a more common choice than in other countries due to their improved performance in harsher conditions with partial shade, but recent improvements in string inverters have made these differences minimal now at most. 

Comparing Solar Inverters

There are plenty of things to compare when choosing a solar inverter, which is no surprise considering the importance of the component within the entire system. 

First, see if the inverter complies with the relevant Australian Standard (AS4777) by reviewing the Clean Energy Council’s approved products list.

All grid-connected solar inverters certified for Australia should be on this list. 

In order for your system to be eligible for Australia’s major solar subsidy, it must be on the list at the time of installation.

Solar Inverter Costs

The cost of a solar inverter can vary, but it’s generally advised to budget around 20% of the cost of a system when buying a mid-range inverter for a mid-range project. 

5kW is the most common size and starts at $1,000 for a budget model. This can integrate up to 6.6kW of panels, while you could spend twice the amount for a premium model of the same type. 

To be absolutely blunt and in BOLD: Never buy the cheapest inverter on offer!

Solar technology simply isn’t accessible on an advanced level that tiny no-name brands can manufacture high-quality inverters, as much as we all wish they could.

To compound this point, Australia’s weather conditions are not your global standard. We have fierce sunlight, extreme temperatures, droughts, and other environmental factors that just aren’t considered when creating a super-budget inverter.

Compare the prices of different solar components such as batteries and panels

Solar Inverter Capacity

The minimum capacity for any solar inverter must be equal to the maximum power that your solar power system can generate:

  • You choose a 5kW solar power system
  • You install 5kW of panels 
  • You install a 5kW solar inverter 

Because of variable performance in the panels, your solar inverter can actually be rated at up to 25% less (in AC kW) than your panel array.

In general, the best advice is to install as many solar panels as you can afford (and fit on your roof), and purchase a solar inverter to suit the maximum power of the system.

Solar energy panel capacity and efficiency, learn more with Money Matchmaker

Solar Inverter Installation

Grid-connected solar inverters come in a variety of shapes, sizes and weights - the smallest is around the size of a computer monitor, while larger inverters can be twice or three times the size.

Before you decide on installation, check your product warranty to see what conditions the inverter is rated for. It may be a requirement to install the inverter inside or under an exterior sunshade to maintain performance.

Find out who to get to install your solar panels with Money Matchmaker

Solar Inverter Quality

Most grid-connected inverters are weather-proof (IP65 rated) to ensure operation in most weather conditions, while other solar inverters may not be rated for outside installation.

Regardless, a solar inverter is a complex box of electronics working at high volume with electricity - keep your inverter clean, cool, and safe, and it will have the best chance of performing at its peak for its entire lifespan.

Understanding your solar energy system thanks to Money Matchmaker

Solar Inverter Warranties

Your inverter’s warranty will be a good indicator of whether the product is decent or not.

Grid-connected inverters have a lifespan ranging from 10 to 20 years, and quality components should last at least 10 of these regardless of conditions.

Solar inverters have warranties ranging from 5 to 12 years - commonly 10 years.

This one is pretty simple: the longer you are protected by a warranty, the better.

Solar panels are all about renewable energy

Solar Inverter Displays

Lastly, most solar inverters have display lights to indicate the status of the unit, and may also have a digital display that shows the information on:

  • the amount of energy (kilowatt-hours) you generate
  • the amount of electricity (kilowatt-hours) you use
  • the amount of power (kilowatts) currently generated
  • the number of hours the unit has been operating

Some inverters may also include apps that can be connected to through Wi-Fi on your home network for easier monitoring and control of the energy you produce.

Get a battery back up for your solar battery

Installation

Once you’ve chosen your inverter, the last step is to decide on installation and start comparing project quotes to find a suitable installer and solar energy system for your budget.

Completely new to solar energy? Read our Residential Solar Starter Guide.

Residential Solar Starter Guide

Learn More about Solar Energy in Australia

You can learn more about each of the components of a complete residential solar energy system in the guides below.

  • Solar Panels capture sunlight and convert it to electricity.
  • Solar Batteries store excess solar electricity generated by your panels.

Before you go ahead with installing solar to reduce your energy bills, it’s worth taking a look at the available solar rebates in your state.

Australian Solar Rebates (state-by-state latest)

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About the Author

Shaun McGowan from money.com.au

Shaun

McGowan

Shaun McGowan

Shaun is the founder of Money.com.au and is determined to help people pay as little as possible for financial products. Through education and building world class technology. Previously Shaun co-founded CarLoans.com.au and Lend.

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