5 Solar Inverter Steps You Need to Know

Solar Inverter
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SMA Sunny Boy Inverter

Understanding Your Home’s Solar Inverter

This is the large gray and black box we installed on or inside your home.

This device turns your solar power’s DC (direct current) electricity into AC (alternating current) electricity, which matches that of the grid’s. In this picture you can also see the rapid shutdown switch and solar source outlet; all of which are described below.

5. Power Switch

Inverter Power Switch

You will find this switch on the upper left-hand side of the inverter, which is labeled as shown in the photo to the left. This switch should be placed to the “On” position when turning on your system for the first time (as it is in the photo). The “On” position will have the dial vertical and a 1 showing on the front of the switch.

The “Off” position will have the dial horizontal with a 0 showing on the front. It is important to note that there will be more switches to your system that are dependent on your system’s design. This switch alone will not start the inverter. If there is any uncertainty during initial start up, please call us and we will be happy to walk you through the process.

4. Solar Inverter Lights

Solar Inverter Lights

You have 3 capsule-shaped lights on your inverter face plate, and all have their own purpose. We will assess each light from left to right.

The left light is your production signal. This light will pulse green when your system is producing as normal. Remember, during nighttime your system will not produce and thus this light will go off. The middle light is an event signal. If you see this light on, there could be an error occurring with your system.

However, if your home’s grid power is out, this light WILL turn on and is no reason to be concerned, so long as it goes off once your power is restored. IF for any other reason this is off, CALL us and we will begin the repair process.

The right light is your web communication signal. If you have SMA monitoring setup, this light should be solid blue, but will periodically flash. This light tells us that the inverter is connected to the web either through WiFi or ethernet input.

3. Inverter Display

The display is a hub for information regarding your system. If your screen is dark, you wake it by knocking on it. Knocking also allows you to scroll through various screens of information.

There are several screens shown in this display and many have no relevance to production or web connectivity. As a result, We will talk about the ones most commonly referenced.

Power Output & E total

This is the screen shown above. (P), short for power, is the AC output of your inverter as measured in watts. This power gives you a live snapshot of what your system is producing at any given point in time. E-Total is the sum of the AC energy this system has output since being initially turned on. In other words, this is your system’s total production since day one.

Solar Inverter Serial Number (Ser)

Inverter serial number

This screen shows us the serial number of your inverter. If you ever need to reference this, you may find it by scrolling through your display to the screen shown above..

String Output

Solar Inverter String Output

As this is a string inverter you are able to see what your individual string inputs are producing. “DC” is referring to the solar power in DC being input into the inverter. We can input up to 3 strings so (A, B, C). Thus, each “DC (A/B/C) refers to an individual string. These are also live power values so what you see is the power input by each string at any given point in time.

Web Connect (Ethernet Cable and Wi-Fi)

Solar Inverter Ethernet and WiFI

These inverters can connect to the web to transmit their data. So, they display information about the internet signal they are connected to. You may connect these with an ethernet cable or to a wifi signal. “Ethcom” (A/B) would show that you have internet wired through one of these inputs. The photo on the right shows the more common approach. Connecting with wifi. The SSID is your network name and the RSSI is the connection strength to your router.

2. Rapid Shutdown of Your Solar Inverter

This is the isolated switch with a key and a large red button on it. This switch should be located outside next to your inverter (if also located outside) or by your main service panel. These switches are basically remote disconnects for your solar system. Feel free to remove this key and place it anywhere you like as this key is NOT needed to disconnect the system.

The Reason You Have One 

Why would you want this you may ask? Firstly, we install these as they are required by law. Secondly, when a certain range of light frequency strikes a solar panel, they produce a certain amount of power. This is due to what is known as the photoelectric effect.

As a result, when light is striking your panels, the wiring between your array(s) and your inverter is live up to your inverter even if your inverter is turned off. So, why is this a problem? Well, in a fireman’s eyes, this would mean that in the event your home caught fire and people were inside, they may have to break through the roof to get to those trapped inside.

Now if there are live wires in the way of the section of roof they wish to break through, this can obviously further complicate the situation. This switch allows the firemen to disconnect the system at its source so that all wiring between the array(s) and the inverter is dead. Allowing them to safely break through it in the event of an emergency.

1. Secure Power Supply for Your Solar Panels

This is your solar source outlet which is also a GFI outlet. In the event of a power outage and ONLY in the event of a power outage, you can provide power to this outlet by flipping the switch, located in this box, to the “On” position, then wait for the small black square to turn red (as seen in the 3rd to the right photo above), then press the reset button above and this outlet will be live strictly with solar power.

Do remember though, at night your system will not be producing so this outlet will be unable to provide power. Also, do not forget to flip the switch to the off position once the power is restored.

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