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Solar inverter installation and maintenance tips

Home solar system barely needs any maintenance, but every once in a while you should clean your panels and check your battery. The most vulnerable element of the system, however, is the inverter. Therefore, it's important to install it properly and learn to take good care of it.

Inverter is more likely to fail than any other part of solar system

10-15 years is the average lifespan of most inverters

So why is an inverter so fragile? In fact, it's more likely to break down than any other part of the solar panel system, according to the PVEL report. Inverter is assigned with the widest range of tasks than any other component:
• It converts DC produced by panels to AC, which can be used to power home appliances or fed into the commercial grid.
• It serves to maximize the energy production of the panels.
• It ensure the safety of the whole system.

All this requires inverters to be very complex internally. They are also operated by software, which is another weak spot in their armor: when a manufacturer decides to update the software, it doesn't always sit well with some models. All this makes choosing the inverter, picking the right place and taking care of it very important, because it directly influences its service life.

Make sure an inverter fits your system

Before purchasing an inverter, make sure that it is going to fit your system. The capacity of the inverter is measured in Watts. Generally, you would want your inverter to be equal or close to the DC rating of your solar array.

For example, if you install a 7-kilowatt solar PV system, the inverter needs to be around 7kW, plus or minus a small percentage. Inverter manufacturers usually specify sizing guidelines for the array capacity their inverters can be paired with on their product specification sheets.

Vasilii Smirnov
Solar Installation Expert

It’s okay to oversize your inverter by 20-25%. For a 7-kilowatt solar system, a 5,000-watt inverter will do. The production of your solar panels is almost never as high as the DC rating of the array. That’s why a large inverter will rarely work at its full capacity.

Be careful though when oversizing an inverter. If the DC rating of the solar array is more than 50% bigger than the capacity of the inverter, so-called "clipping" starts: the inverter limits the incoming energy which results in power losses of the whole system.

Be especially careful when choosing inverters for commercial use. They have a higher load capacity than residential-grade inverters and must be certified to handle adverse operating conditions. Fronius Symo Advanced 10kW is exactly the kind of inverter you need: it is field serviceable, compliant with all the relevant standards and comes with a 10 year warranty.

Pick a dry dark place with clean air for an inverter

Microinverters should be just plugged into solar panels and they'll start to convert DC to AC on the spot. String, central and hybrid inverters, however, are stand-alone devices and it's important to pick the right place for them.

Contrary to solar panels, an inverter doesn't want any sunlight at all. It needs a dry place, preferably with clean air. The best spot would be somewhere in a garage. There shouldn't be anything flammable or producing heat nearby. Proper air circulation is important for an inverter, and some companies suggest leaving at least 12 inches of clearance around it.

Power inverter installation and especially its connection to the grid should be performed only by professionals. Keep in mind that if you plan to connect your inverter to the commercial electrical grid, you need to consult your local electric utility first.

Wipe the dust and clean air filters occasionally

After the installation you can leave the inverter to do its job. However, it would appreciate some care from time to time. Here are the main tips for maintaining your solar panel inverter:

• Every once in a while you should wipe the inverter clean: like any other complex electronic device, it fears the heat and the dust. Once a year might be enough but it depends on where you live and how dusty it is out there.
• Inverters have air intake filters and after a while they get dirty. It is necessary to clean them, but for this task it's better to call a technician. An inverter should also have an internal fan, which helps it to cool down. Make sure it works properly.
• Check the connections, make sure that they are fixed tightly.
• Most inverters have a display which makes it easy to monitor their condition. If it shows an error code, consult your manufacturer and they might be able to interpret it.

When it comes to microinverters, hardly any maintenance is required. Manufacturers recommend to simply checking the modules visually after storms and huge hail and also performing yearly inspections with the help of a professional.

The average lifespan of string, central and hybrid inverters for solar panels is around 10-15 years and manufacturers issue warranties for them accordingly. Microinverters, on the other hand, are built to last for 25 years and more, which is basically the normal lifespan of a solar panel. With the proper installation and maintenance you can delay the purchase of a new inverter and avoid any emergency situations. For more information on inverter types and functions, check out our article.

Article updated May 2024

Andrey Gorichenski
Senior Editor

Andrey had been a news editor and freelance writer for a number of medias before joining A1SolarStore team. Climate change and its impact on people's lives has always been among his interests and it partially explains his degree in Philosophy and Ethics.

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