What is an inverter, and what types of inverters are available?
Inverters are electrical devices that convert DC electricity to AC which is suitable for powering regular household appliances. There are different types of inverters, each with its pros and cons. Among the common inverter types used in photovoltaic systems are grid-tie inverters, microinverters and hybrid inverters.
Grid-tie inverters are the most commonly used type of inverters for photovoltaic installations. They are not intended for off-grid use and only work when there is grid power, as they sync their output to the grid. As such, they don’t feature battery charging functionality or anti-islanding protection.
As their name suggests, microinverters are a smaller version of traditional grid-tie inverters. They connect to a single solar panel, which offers multiple benefits, but at a higher cost. A system using microinverters is more flexible as each solar panel functions independently. It is also more resilient, as the failure of a single inverter only removes the corresponding panel from the solar array instead of an entire string or multiple strings of panels.
Hybrid inverters are suitable for grid-connected and off-grid applications, as they can also charge batteries and work on battery power alone. Hybrid inverters can feature multiple MPPT tracking inputs and communication functionality, but this depends on the specific model.