What are off-grid solar panel inverters?
Solar power has become the world's energy source of choice, but the cost can be prohibitively high for some people. Solar panels and their inverters are among the most expensive parts of a solar installation. If you're not interested in paying through your nose for your electricity, then look into an off-grid solar panel inverter as a way to make your home or business more affordable to run on electricity from sunlight. Off-grid solar panel inverters allow you to collect power from a nearby grid connection and use it later on in emergencies or during cloudy days when the sun isn't shining full blast.
What exactly is an off-grid solar panel inverter?
The off-grid inverter is the part of a solar system in charge of converting the DC power from the solar panels into an AC current that can be used by your household appliances. In most systems, the inverter will be built into a unit called a hybrid inverter that has both microinverters and central string inverters inside (for more about these components, see What Are Microinverters And How Do They Work?). An off-grid solar panel inverter differs from standard grid-tie systems in that it doesn't connect to your meter and feed excess power back into the grid.
Why would you need an off-grid solar panel inverter?
Off-grid solar panel inverters can be very helpful in situations where excess power is generated by the solar panels in your system. However, it is important to understand that only certain types of off-grid solar system configurations need to use an off-grid inverter. For example, a homeowner using a battery bank with a photovoltaic (PV) panel array system could use the grid instead of installing an off-grid inverter. Those who live on islands or areas with unreliable electric service should also look into other options before installing an off-grid solar panel inverter.
If the main purpose of your remote solar panel system is to provide power in the event of a power outage, then you will definitely need an off-grid inverter. It's also worth noting that some off-grid inverters allow you to choose between a grid connection and solar energy during a power outage.
How do off-grid solar panel inverters work?
The off-grid inverter accepts the direct current (DC) electricity from the solar panels and converts it into alternating current (AC) that can be used in your home. Because of this process, off-grid inverters tend to have higher energy efficiency ratings than grid-tie inverters.
What are some types of off-grid solar panel inverters?
Off-the-shelf inverters usually fall into two categories: passive and active. Passive off-grid solar panel inverters use one of two methods to power your home or business during a power outage. The first method is known as a bypass switch, which essentially redirects all unused power back into an array or battery bank that you can use later on.
The other method involves turning on an external circuit breaker for your home or business that provides continuous power. Both methods are more expensive than using a grid-tie inverter, but they provide better protection from the risk of blackouts.
Active off-grid solar panel inverters use battery banks to power your home during a power outage. These inverters are usually microinverters and central string inverters in one device. Because you won't need an additional circuit breaker, these systems do not require bypass switches because they don't create unused energy after the sun goes down. However, these types of systems are more expensive than passive systems; some even cost thousands of dollars each to install.
Passive off-grid solar panel inverters however use a system of switches to turn on your appliances during a power outage. These inverters can have anywhere from one to several bypass switches. Your solar panels are connected to one side of each switch, and your house or business is connected to the other side. When there is no disconnection between the solar panel array and your home, you'll get power from your panels during a power outage. This method will work for smaller off-grid systems, but only if you have enough of them to support all the necessary household appliances that need an active inverter in standard systems.