Advancing home solar technology is making solar power one of the most popular alternative energy choices for homeowners throughout the country. A residential solar system that harnesses the sun’s rays is made up of a few key pieces of technology.
While solar panels are usually the most visible part of a home solar system, your solar inverter is the workhorse that converts the energy created by the sun into power that your home can actually use. An inverter is also integral to monitoring your solar production and is the first place to look if you think you might be experiencing a drop in energy production.
Understanding the types of inverters used in home solar installations and how to check for any potential operational issues can make a huge difference in keeping your home solar system performing at its best.
As a homeowner, there are a few different options you have when solving any inverter issues. Being prepared will help to make fixing problems as stress-free as possible.
What is an Inverter?
As solar panels absorb sunlight an electrical charge is created. That charge is converted into usable energy by your inverter, and powers your home throughout the day.
Without an inverter, the power created by your solar panels would be useless for your home. Solar panels produce what’s known as Direct Current (DC) energy, and your home requires Alternating Current (AC) energy to power electrical functions like lights, air conditioning, and appliances. The inverter takes the DC energy and converts it to AC energy.
There are three main types of inverters most commonly installed in home solar systems:
- String inverters work by converting the energy produced by a “string” of panels that are all connected to a single inverter. These inverters are larger and are usually installed in your garage. This is convenient for you as a homeowner because you’ll be able to see error messages easily and clearly during visual inspections.
- Microinverters are smaller inverters that are installed with each individual panel. These inverters work by converting the energy that each individual panel creates, without the need for a big, central piece of equipment. Microinverters can minimize the impact of partial shading that can sometimes cause energy production to stall with string inverters.
- String inverters + power optimizers are an option that combines individual panel optimization and string inverter technology. In this case, optimizers are installed at each individual panel, and process the DC energy produced before sending it off to the string inverter.
How Do I Know if My Inverter is Working?
If you’re worried your inverter isn’t working as it should, there are a few indicators to look for:
You may not realize that your inverter is experiencing an issue until you receive a high utility bill. If your inverter isn’t converting enough energy, your home will need to draw more electricity from the grid than usual, resulting in a higher utility bill. If you are enrolled in net metering, you may notice a sharp decline in the amount of energy that you’re feeding back into the grid.
Aside from higher than normal energy bills, your inverter may display an error message. If you have a string inverter, you may see an error message displayed, or the light on the inverter may have changed from green to yellow or red. Microinverters and power optimizers are installed directly on panels, and we do not recommend you climb on your roof and inspect them yourself.
Sunnova customers have the added security of 24/7 monitoring. We’ll notify you if your solar production levels dip below normal levels and help you to determine the cause of the issue. You can even keep track of your solar production through our online portal, MySunnova. If you’re worried there’s an issue, call us.
Protect Your Solar Investment with a Service Plan
If you purchased your solar system and you don’t have a protection plan in place, when something goes wrong with your inverter, you might be left on your own to negotiate repairs and replacement parts with the manufacturer.
With the Sunnova ProtectTM Services Premium and Platinum plans, we can handle the hassle of negotiating with the manufacturer to help repair or replace your inverter. Not only will you have the peace of mind your inverter will be protected, but these plans also take care of any necessary repairs for the entire system.
A service plan can help make sure you are getting the full return on your solar investment. All of our service plans include 24/7 system monitoring – we will alert you to any solar production issues. You can also track your solar system details, including energy production, in our online portal, MySunnova.
Switching to solar is easy. Protecting your system and ensuring that you get the highest possible return on your solar investment is even easier with Sunnova. We’re here to help you monitor your system and cover you when you need it.
If you’re interested in best-in-class, hassle-free protection for your home’s solar system, learn more about all our Sunnova ProtectTM Service plans.
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