Selecting a Solar Inverter

Invest in the right inverter to maximize your solar system’s potential.

Inverters are an indispensable component of almost all solar electric systems. They work long hours converting the direct current (DC) electricity generated by a photovoltaic (PV) array into alternating current (AC) electricity—the type used in homes and businesses. In battery-based systems, inverters contain circuitry to perform a number of additional useful functions.

In this article, I’ll discuss the three types of inverters and the features you should look for when purchasing one. But first, do you actually need an inverter? 

A good inverter is key to the success of most solar electric systems.
Photo by Adobe Stock/DIY Ana Dimitrova

Do You Need an Inverter?

Although this may seem like a ridiculous question, some solar applications operate solely on DC power and, as a result, don’t require inverters. Included in this category are small solar electric systems that power a few DC circuits in rustic, out-of-the-way cabins and cottages; recreational vehicles; and sailboats. It also includes direct water-pumping systems that produce DC electricity to power DC water pumps—for livestock, for example. My DC solar pond aerator and the DC fans in my Chinese greenhouse are powered directly by PV modules. But virtually all other renewable energy systems require an inverter. The type of inverter needed depends on the type of system.

Inverters come in many shapes, sizes, and prices. The smallest inverters, referred to as “pocket inverters,” range from 50 to 200 watts. They’re ideal for supplying small loads, such as computers, radios, and televisions. Most homes and small businesses, however, require inverters in the 2,500-to-12,000-watt range. So, which inverter should you select?

Types of Inverters

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