A power outage is a common problem all over the world. One major culprit of sudden power outages is natural disaster. Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and even earthquakes can cause power outages. When that happens, it may take days before electricity is restored. Also, there are several locations that lack electricity.
The second case is common in several African countries as they struggle with stable electricity. This is why many homes have installed solar panels as a backup. When there’s a power outage, the solar panels will kick in. You will agree that most of the appliances in homes are powered by electricity.
The TV set, DVD player, washing machine, electric burner, air conditioner, refrigerator, and microwave oven, all use electricity. Even your tablet, smartphone, and laptop need electricity for charging.
However, there’s a problem with solar panels. They generate DC currents while our appliances run on AC currents. How do you reconcile that? That is what led to the manufacture of inverters. They convert DC currents from solar panels to AC that goes into homes for appliances to use.
In other words, without inverters, solar panels or the entire solar power system will be of little use. Now that you understand the importance of an inverter, you should pay more attention to this article. We have discussed two types of inverters.
They are Micro-inverters and SolarEdge. This article gives you important information about both of them. Towards the end of the article, we have compared both of them. Now, let’s get straight down to business.
What is a Micro-Inverter for Solar Panels?
This is a small device that converts the DC current generated by solar panels to AC current that can power your appliances. Every micro-inverter is connected to each module of solar panel. It does more than DC-AC conversion.
Solar panels are usually connected in series. So, they all output the same amount of power. A series connection has a big drawback. When a single panel is shielded from the sun or gets faulty and its output drops, the output of the others will drop to the same level.
Let’s quickly illustrate this. If you are using five panels and each of them generates 200 volts, you will get a total output of 1,000 volts.
If an object drops on one of the solar panels and obstructs it from the sun and its output drops to 100 volts, other panels connected to it will also drop their output to 100 volts. So, the issue that should have caused a lot of 100 volts will cause a total loss of 500 volts (100 volts x 5 panels).
Micro-inverters help to correct this anomaly. So, even if a panel fails completely, it won’t affect the others because every solar panel has its separate micro-inverter.
Although many people do not like the idea of giving every panel its micro-inverter, we believe that the disproportionate distribution of current from the solar panels is a worthy tradeoff.
Apart from the higher initial equipment cost, it is also more difficult to install and maintain micro-inverters. To address this, some manufacturers have begun to produce solar panels with in-built micro-inverters.
Also, we believe that the initial higher cost of installing micro-inverters will become an advantage in the long term because micro-inverters have a longer lifespan. In other words, it will become more cost-effective.
How to Maintain Your Micro-Inverters?
One of the advantages of micro-inverters is little or no maintenance, however, you need to do a few things for them to give you optimum performance and to last long. Here are the “rites” you have to perform for your micro-inverters regularly.
1. Monitor System Performance
You need to check the level of energy production of your entire solar system regularly. One major reason for a drop in energy production is cloudy weather. The sunnier it is, the more energy your solar panels will generate.
So, if the current generated drops on a sunny day, it could be that a module has failed or shielded from the sun. It could also be that micro-inverters are not working to capacity. You can hire a professional to investigate the cause of the drop. Without proper monitoring, you may not detect the drop early.
2. Inspect the Modules Visually
After storms, hails, or high winds, you can take a look at the surface of your solar panels. Use binoculars if need be. The wind may blow an object or debris on the surface of the solar panel. Remove the objects or debris. The cleaner the surface of your solar panels, the better they can work.
3. Clean the Modules Regularly
Even without high winds or storms, dust and debris will still accumulate on your solar panels. Over time, it may have an impact on their performance.
So, you need to clean the panels regularly. You could make it a once-in-six-months affair. That is if you don’t live in a dusty region. Otherwise, you should clean them more often.
4. Conduct an Annual Check
It is also necessary to hire a professional to conduct a check on your array of modules, electrical connections, mechanical connections, and micro-inverters. You need to confirm if everything is intact and working fine. During this process, a potential fault may be detected and averted.
If you carry out the four activities outlined above on your entire solar system, it will not only give you optimum performance always, but it will also last so long.
How to Wire Solar Panels with Micro-Inverters?
Wiring solar panels with micro-inverters is a part of the installation of your micro-inverters. So, we will explain how to install your solar panels. But before we do, it is necessary to advise you that it is always better to allow an expert to handle it, if you can afford to hire one.
This will help avert costly mistakes. However, many of them come with installation instructions. So, if you can read and follow instructions, you should be able to handle the wiring yourself. Here are the steps involved.
Step 1 – The first thing to do is to put the AC cabling in their right position, according to the manufacturer’s installation instructions.
Step 2 – After positioning the cable, you should install the AC branch circuit junction box.
Step 3 – Begin to connect the micro-inverters to the PV racking one by one. You may also want to create an installation map as a guide.
Step 4 – Ground the micro-inverters and organize their cabling.
Step 5 – Now, you can connect the micro-inverter to the cabling.
Step 6 – Finally, you must tactically terminate what is left of the cabling. Seal up any unused cable connection. Connect the cabling to the AC branch and connect the PV modules to the micro-inverters.
Benefits of Micro-Inverters:
1. Failure of one Solar Panel does not Affect Others
The most important benefit of micro-inverters is that the failure of one panel does not affect the others. This is because each of the modules has its micro-inverter. So, if a module gets shielded from the sun and its performance drops, this will not affect the others.
Let’s go back to the same illustration we used above. If you are using five panels and each of them generates 200 volts, you will get a total output of 1,000 volts. If an object drops on one of the solar panels and obstructs it from the sun and its output drops to 100 volts, other panels connected to it will also drop their output to 100 volts.
Because of micro-inverters, you will only lose 100 volts from only the affected module. Others will still generate 200 volts.
2. They are Ideal for Complex Roofs
If your roof is complex and divided into different planes that face different directions, you need micro-inverters. For string inverters to work well, all the panels must face the same directions.
With micro-inverters, this may no longer be necessary. The panels have different micro-inverters, so they operate differently.
3. Easier Monitoring
Since every solar panel has its micro-inverter, when any of them has a problem, you will be able to isolate and fix it much easily. There are apps and web portals created for monitoring inverters and solar panels. That also means that you can troubleshoot them easily.
4. They Last Longer
Micro-inverters last much longer than string inverters. In fact, they can last for about 30 to 40 years. This is why they have longer warranties.
You can enjoy up to a 25-year warranty on micro-inverters. Not only that; many manufacturers will also extend the warranty for an additional cost.
5. Not limited by String Voltages
Solar panels using micro-inverters are not limited by string voltage. Based on our explanation above, string voltage is determined by the voltage generated by the solar panel with the least voltage when using a string inverter.
For instance, if all your solar panels are generating 250 volts each, the string voltage will be 250 volts which is the least voltage generated among them. If anything happens, and the voltage generated by one of them drops to 230 volts, the string voltage will drop to 230 volts, and it will limit the other modules to generate this voltage. So, all the panels will generate 230 volts.
On this note, when you notice a drop in the output of your solar system, you will have to check each of the solar panels one after the other. What if you have up to 30 solar panels?
You will have to check each of them to determine the cause of the drop. With micro-inverters, there will be nothing like a string voltage. The drop in the power generation of one solar panel will not affect others.
6. Easy Expansion
It is possible for your power needs to increase after installing your solar power system. This may be because you acquired more appliances, and your power consumption has increased.
With micro-inverters, expansion is easier. You only need to add more modules and their micro-inverters. For string inverters, you need to disable the whole system, add the new panels, and reconfigure them.
Micro-inverters offer other benefits, but these six benefits are the major ones. And they are enough to tip the scale of your judgment to their favor.
Major Causes of Low Performance in Micro-Inverters and Entire Solar System:
1. When Your Roof is too Small
Your solar panels can perform below expectations when your roof is too small for the number of modules that you require. We have seen that in several homes.
The number of solar panels cannot be increased because there’s no more space for another solar panel. In this situation, you’ll have two clear options. You either make do with the voltage generated by the existing panels or erect a structure on which more solar panels will be placed.
2. Complex Roof Layouts
Some roofs are divided into smaller parts and they face different dimensions. The solar panels placed on such roofs will face different directions and they will have different orientations and angles. This usually reduces the performance of the solar panels. However, micro-inverters will correct that.
Some structures like antennas, poles, buildings, and even trees, can shield solar panels from the sun. This will also affect the performance of the solar panel. This is why you should always place your solar panels where they are least likely to be shielded from sunlight.
4. Aging of Panels
Solar panels are very durable but they also have a lifespan. When they are approaching the end of their lifespan, their performance will drop gradually.
Panel degradation will begin to occur at that time. So, when the performance of your panels begins to drop due to aging, start preparing to replace them.
5. Dirt and Debris
When dirt and debris accumulate on your solar panel, it will also reduce the performance of your solar panel. That’s why it is necessary to clean them once in a while. Also, the accumulation of bird droppings can impact their performance negatively.
6. Technical Issues
Some technical issues can also prevent your solar panels from operating maximally. One of them is panel mismatch. When your panels do not have the same specifications, there won’t be any form of synergy in their operation.
In addition, panel faults like water ingress, hot spots, micro-cracking, or LID can reduce the performance of your panels. Finally, temperature difference can cause a problem too. When the panels have different temperatures, it is called a thermal mismatch.
What Is SolarEdge?
SolarEdge inverters work with power optimizers to increase the energy output of your solar panels through the technology known as MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking).
To ensure that your solar panel gives an optimum performance, SolarEdge power optimizers monitor the performance of the panels and they relay the performance data to the SolarEdge monitoring platform.
SolarEdge was established in 2006 and since then, the company has been growing in popularity due to the quality of their products. SolarEdge has become the best alternative to Micro-Inverters. Just like how micro-inverters have their benefits, SolarEdge inverters also have theirs too. SolarEdge inverters cost between $1,500 and $3,000.
Benefits of SolarEdge Inverters:
The best advantage of SolarEdge inverters is their durability. You can be sure that they will last for up to 25 years or more. In addition to that, buyers of the product will enjoy a 12-year warranty. The system is designed for extreme environmental conditions.
Another reason to consider SolarEdge is high efficiency. The system offers up to 99.2% efficiency. Only very little of the amount of power generated by solar panels is lost to heat.
This is why the product will give you good value for your money. With SolarEdge, you will get up to 7,600 watts on a sunny day.
The device is compliant with the NEC 2014 690.12 rapid shutdown requirement. It is also compliant with the NEC 2017 and the revised PVRSS 2019.
4. Little Maintenance
As explained earlier, the inverters are connected to power optimizers that carry out performance checks regularly. So, the system runs a safety check automatically before supplying power.
How to Turn on SolarEdge Inverter?
Turning on your SolarEdge inverter requires only three simple steps and we will discuss the steps right here, right now.
Step 1 – Go to the circuit breaker and open it. Towards the bottom, you’ll see a large, usually black knob. Switch it on. Once you that, the circuit breaker will send power to the inverter immediately.
Step 2 – Go to the inverter and look at the bottom. You’ll see another black knob. Switch it on.
Step 3 – Right at the top of the knob, there’s a tiny switch. Turn it to “1s”.
Now your inverter should be on. It will indicate through its digital display unit at the top of the black knob. To switch it off, you must take the three steps in reverse order. That means you will turn the tiny switch to “0s”. After that, you will turn the black knob on the inverter to off. Then, you will go to the circuit breaker to switch it off.
To activate your SolarEdge inverter, you will need to enter the activation code that is on your activation card. However, if the card is damaged or lost, there’s another way around it.
The activation code is on the right side of the inverter. Enter it by moving the buttons on its LCD unit up, down, or forward. When you are through with the code, press and hold the “enter” button. It will come on.
How to Set Up Solaredge Monitoring?
To Activate Your Account
- Click the link in the invitation mail that you received. This will display the registration form.
- Enter your details and check the required boxes.
- Click Save to complete the registration.
- Wait for the “Thank You” page to open up and log into the monitoring platform.
To Launch the SolarEdge Monitoring Platform
- Visit https://monitoring.solaredge.com.
- Click the login link.
- Enter your email and password (the ones you entered during registration).
- The site dashboard will display automatically.
To Set a User Preference
1. Click the dropdown arrow beside your username and select user settings. The window will be displayed immediately.
2. Enter your first name, last name, Email, phone number, zip code, and address.
3. Change your password if it is necessary.
4. Select your preferred language. All the information displayed on the platform will change to the preferred language, including numbers and currency.
5. End it by clicking “save”.
How to Interpret the Information Displayed by your SolarEdge Inverter?
One of the problems people face with SolarEdge inverters is the inability to understand the information displayed by the inverter. That is why we have taken the time to explain the information here.
- <S_ok> – This indicates that you’re connected to the internet. If you don’t see this, it means you are not connected to the internet.
- ON – This one is self-explanatory. It indicates that your inverter is turned on. If it says OFF while it is on, contact SolarEdge. Also, if it displays NIGHT MODE during the day, you should contact SolarEdge immediately.
- P-Ok – This displays the number of panels that are online and functional. If you have five panels and this information displays “4”, it means there is a problem with a panel.
- Pac[W] – This displays the current watts your system is producing.
- Vac[V]- This displays your mains voltage, which should be between 230 and 252V.
- Vdc[V] – This gives you the voltage generated by your array of solar panels. It is usually 300 to 600V.
Micro-Inverter Vs. SolarEdge – Which is Better?
Buyers usually ask us which is better between micro-inverter and Solaredge inverter and our answer has remained “none”. Both of them have great qualities and no one is clearly better than the other. They both have the following qualities:
- They are very durable.
- They come with warranties.
- Both of them boost the power generated by your solar panels.
- Of course, they are both expensive, but they are also cost-effective.
- They both prevent the failure of one solar panel from affecting the performance of other panels.
One advantage that SolarEdge has over micro-inverter is continuous self-performance checks. However, we believe that both of them are still work-in-progress. In other words, providers of both technologies are still improving on them. So, neither of them is clearly better than the other.