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Solar Tech: Inverters
Posted by Mark Bentley on Jun 18, 2015
The concept of an inverter is pretty simple -- Convert the DC that a solar module creates into the AC that your home uses. Some people have basic inverters in their cars; little devices that plug into the accessory port and generate enough AC power to run small electronics, like a laptop.
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At Geostellar, the inverters we install for our customers follow the same basic principle, just on a much larger scale, and with a lot of brains built in. Rather than just convert the current, a modern inverter acts as the gateway between the solar array and the home’s electrical distribution panel. They monitor the health and efficiency of the system, diagnose (and predict) failures, and report back to the consumer or the monitoring partner.

Over the past few years, there has been an inverse relationship to the cost of the products and their capabilities. Basically, inverters have followed the same model as just about any piece of home electronics; as the manufacturing process scales up, the value to the consumer expands dramatically.

Inverters can generally be divided into three classes, string, micro and battery.

String inverters handle all of the current from multiple modules in an array, aggregating it into useful power for the AC installation.

Micro inverters are, as their name implies, smaller and distributed, each one being responsible for only one solar module. Micro inverters use a technology called MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking), which optimizes the output from solar modules regardless of environmental conditions.

Battery inverters are designed for solutions that use battery backup systems. (see our “Battery 101” story here). Since batteries are, by definition, all DC, these inverters work both ways, converting DC to AC and AC to DC.

Which is best? That depends on the design. The good news is that all three types are coming down in price, are becoming more reliable, and are getting more efficient. In some cases, a 98% efficiency is achieved as these little geniuses optimize the DC input voltage before conversion.

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At Geostellar, we are unique because we are not tied to one brand or solution. We work for you, the consumer. So we can recommend the solution that best fits your needs. Both we and our network of installation partners have experience with a wide variety of hardware, from many manufacturers. One of our most popular brands is SolarEdge, a multinational company that has been providing solar products for almost a decade. SolarEdge’s distribution methodology maximizes the power of an array and individual modules, and they add monitoring technology as well. Their unique inverter system employs MPPT at the individual module level MPPT along with a highly efficient central inverter. This combination makes it one of the most efficient systems available. We also like their 12-year universal warranty, which can be extended to 20 or even 25 years.

If all this sounds complicated, you’re right! It is. But we live and breathe this stuff. Our solar techs have taken this mountain of information and technology and are standing by to design the optimal solution for your rooftop.

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