Who Is Responsible for Turning On the Inverter and Why?

Installation
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Rear View of Solar Panels With Inverters

The sooner you can get your inverter up and running, the faster you can start producing power. But why? What role does the inverter play in a solar installation?

What an Inverter Does for a Solar Array

An inverter converts direct current (DC) from the solar panels to alternating current (AC) so homes can use it. It also helps regulate and control the flow of electricity from the system to the home or electric grid. We wouldn’t have a way to power our appliances and devices or turn on our lights.

Because the inverter converts the current and controls the flow rate, it also can control whether the solar array is producing electricity. However, homeowners need permission to operate before the inverter can turn on and power their home with solar.

Why Do I Need an Inverter?

An inverter controls whether your solar installation is producing electricity. But why?

Your solar panels are going to produce DC energy. Direct current energy, when placed on a graph, looks like a straight line. For various reasons, DC energy is much less efficient than AC power. However, it’s more efficient for large amounts of electricity to be transported or stored this way. Most power lines and batteries will use DC power to avoid losing any energy.

Once that energy gets to your home, however, it needs to be modified to be safe for your appliances to use. This is where the inverter comes in — it takes that DC energy and converts it into AC current. There are many types of inverters that can do this, each of which uses its own waveform. The main three are square wave inverters, modified sine wave inverters, and pure sine wave inverters.

What Is a Square Wave Inverter?

This is the cheapest type of inverter. It converts the straight line of DC energy into blocks, squares of energy that alternate between positive and negative charge. However, these squares of energy are unstable and the inverters that produce them are often loud. Because of this, they see little use.

What Is a Modified Sine Wave Inverter?

A modified sine wave inverter lies in-between square wave inverters and pure sine wave inverters. It also produces blocky waves instead of rounded curves, but it also leaves a small amount of downtime between the positive and negative blocks. Because of this, modified sine wave inverters aren’t as loud or unstable as square wave inverters. They are much more popular in the consumer market.

What Is a Pure Sine Wave Inverter?

A sine wave is one of the three main graph waves that you’ll learn in high school — the other two being cosine and tangent. These are the regular-shaped curves that you see on many graphs. Pure sine waves are the most harmonic of the three types of waves, which means that there is little loss of power and they can be used safely in your home.

Pure sine wave electricity is the type produced by most utility companies and, for this reason, many cities require these types of inverters for your home. Luckily, Go Solar Group’s SolarEdge inverters produce pure sine waves.

When Solar Installers Receive Permission To Operate

Homeowners interested in solar quickly find out that they can’t get solar installed the next day. They have to go through an installation process where the solar company designs the system to meet their energy needs and available space. Then they have to get approval through various permits. Once these permits are acquired, the installation can start.

However, after installing the solar array, the homeowner still has to wait. The solar array goes through city and utility inspections before receiving permission to operate, known as PTO.

Who Turns On the Inverter?

Once the solar company receives notice that the array has gained PTO from the city and the local utility, the solar installer or the homeowner can turn on the solar inverter. Often the solar installer will provide the homeowner with instructions to turn on the inverter or walk them through it over the phone. However, if the homeowner wants the solar company to send someone, they can turn it on for them. It will just take longer for the installer to schedule someone to come out than it would for the homeowner to do it, which may mean that the homeowner would miss out on time they could have enjoyed generating solar power.

For more information about setting up your own inverter, let Go Solar Group’s own Colin walk you through it.

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