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May 31, 2024

What Is a Solar Hybrid Inverter?

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How much power does a solar panel produce

Solar energy cuts electricity bills and reduces carbon footprints. To do this, solar panels need an inverter to produce the type of electricity needed to power our homes.

Hybrid inverters are a new option with key advantages, and they’re revolutionising how we make the most of renewable energy from the sun. 

In the move towards sustainable energy, solar power is becoming increasingly popular. However, using energy from the sun can be challenging, with reliability issues.

The solar hybrid inverter solves these problems. Find out here how it does that and the benefits you can expect.

Crucial Role of Solar Inverters

Knowing what solar inverters do in general will help us better understand how hybrid inverters work. Without an electrical inverter of some kind, we wouldn’t be able to power our homes with a solar setup.

Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels produce direct current (DC) electricity. With electrons flowing steadily in the same direction, direct current is used to power low-voltage electronics and charge battery-powered devices such as mobile phones and laptops.

But we need an alternating current (AC) to provide home heating and lighting and run electrical appliances such as cookers, fridges, and washing machines.

The power stations that supply our mains electricity generate AC power because it can be transmitted over long distances more easily and doesn’t lose as much energy in the form of heat.

A solar inverter converts DC into AC with electrons that keep changing direction. It does this by controlling flow of electricity with transformers and transistors. These rapidly switch direction of the current back and forth.

Types of Solar Inverters

There are several types of solar inverters. The two main ones are string inverters and microinverters.

String Inverters

String inverters, also called central inverters, are the most widely used type of inverters. Only one inverter is needed for an entire solar array. It connects a string of solar panels in one central location, and is usually installed indoors near the electrical consumer unit or electricity meter.

A string inverter is only as efficient as the lowest-performing solar panel. And if the string inverter fails, the whole system will break down. 

Microinverters 

Microinverters are attached to the back of each rooftop solar panel, where DC-AC conversion is completed at source.They’re more efficient than string inverters and work well with complex solar installations.

Because microinverters function in a parallel circuit, electricity production isn’t capped by the least-efficient solar panel. Each panel functions at peak performance independent of other panels.

Hybrid Inverters

Hybrid solar inverters are very different from string inverters and microinverters.The term ‘hybrid’ can be confusing in this context as it doesn’t mean it’s a string inverter and microinverter combined. It refers to a combination of inverter and battery.

Solar hybrid inverters are smart energy managers that streamline solar panel systems. They act as control central for the entire solar energy installation.

Like other solar inverters, a hybrid inverter converts direct current to alternating current, but it can also store energy. A single unit provides solar generation and storage and backup power, connecting solar panels and battery to the national grid, simultaneously managing all three. 

When your solar panels aren’t providing enough electricity for your home, the hybrid inverter draws power from the battery or grid. Alternatively, when your solar panels generate more electricity than you need, they divert it to battery storage or sell it to the grid.

Unlike a standard grid-tie inverter, hybrid inverters have a built-in battery backup system, so you’ll still have electricity during a power cut.

Types of Hybrid Inverters

There are three common types of hybrid inverters.

Grid-Tied Hybrid Inverter

Grid-tied hybrid inverters connect homes to the grid so you can sell excess energy.  You also have a backup source of electricity at night when your solar panels no longer produce power.

Inverter/Charger Hybrid

Inverter/charger hybrids charge a battery with power from the grid. Once battery capacity is reached, or if grid supply is disrupted, the battery will begin to provide power.

Integrated Hybrid Inverter

An integrated solar hybrid inverter has a built-in MPPT (maximum power point tracker) to optimise solar panel output and battery power. 

Benefits of a Hybrid Inverter

Hybrid inverters are a solar innovation developed with groundbreaking technology and are in the vanguard of advances in energy efficiency.They offer households multiple benefits with a versatile solution in harnessing solar power that results in cost savings and environmental advantages.

Solar hybrid inverters monitor energy production, storage and consumption and improve overall solar panel system performance. They combine the best of both worlds of solar energy use and storage, and give you greater control over both. Further reducing dependence on grid electricity in this way can result in significant long-term cost savings and reduced carbon footprint.

With the flexibility of a hybrid inverter, you can choose whether to use your solar energy directly, store it in a battery, or sell it to the grid. Furthermore, you can switch between off-grid and grid-tied modes, depending on your needs and preferences. 

Not only do hybrid inverters convert direct current to alternating current, they can also convert AC electricity from the grid to DC power to charge solar batteries (or electric vehicles).

Hybrid inverters are also highly efficient. They minimise energy loss during the electric current conversion process, and optimise battery charging and discharging. Hybrid inverters can also monitor and manage the performance of your solar panel system and alert you if there are any problems.

You’ll also find that a hybrid inverter is a durable, long-lasting piece of solar hardware requiring minimal maintenance.

Solar Inverter Costs

Inverters are usually included in the installation and cost of a new solar panel system. The panels themselves last 20 to 30 years. With a shorter lifespan, most inverters will likely need to be replaced at some point.

If you’re considering investing in a hybrid inverter, it’s important to know the cost compared with the price of other types of inverters.

String inverters, with a typical lifespan of around 10 years, are the industry standard and generally the least expensive type of inverters. They vary widely in price, averaging from £500 to £1,000-plus.

A microinverter system can cost 10 to 30% more than a string inverter but microinverters last longer – up to 25 years.

Hybrid inverters, which last on average 10 to 15 years, also cost more than string inverters. They’re regarded as a premium rather than standard solar attachment. Mid-range hybrid inverters are usually priced around £1,200 to £1,500 but maximise solar energy use and savings. 

What Size Inverter Do I Need?

Solar panel and inverter sizes are measured in kilowatts (kW). Inverters generally need to be 75% as big as your solar panel system’s kilowatt peak (kWp) – the amount of energy it produces in standard test conditions. Here are a few examples.

  • 5kWp solar panel system – 3.5kW inverter.
  • 8kWp solar panel system – 6kW inverter.
  • 12kWp solar panel system – 9kW inverter.
  • 16kWp solar panel system – 12kW inverter.

 

If the inverter is the same size or bigger than the solar energy system, the panels may at times struggle to generate the increased amount of electricity needed to switch on the inverter

The system may also fail to work all the time if the inverter’s kilowatt rating is too low compared with the system’s kilowatt peak. When solar panels produce more than an inverter’s maximum capacity, the inverter will typically start clipping – limiting how much direct current electricity it handles.

Is a Hybrid Inverter Right for Your Home?

All solar panel systems need an inverter, and each type has its pros and cons. The best inverter system for your home depends largely on your household power requirements.

A hybrid inverter may be a good choice if you’re aiming for a plentiful supply of electricity to make your home more energy self-sufficient by using less mains grid power and more clean, renewable energy.

You can generally upgrade an existing solar power system by switching to a hybrid inverter, with the option of adding more solar panels.

Although initial investment in a hybrid inverter can be significant, it can pay off in the long run because it makes the most of your solar panels and results in substantial energy cost savings and environmental benefits.

If you’re considering installing solar panels or upgrading your existing system, renewable energy specialists Effective Home can help you decide whether a hybrid inverter is your best choice. Get in touch for further details.

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