With more power outages happening and people moving to greener solutions for power, the number of people looking at solar panels and incorporating them in their homes is rising. But as you may be aware, there are a lot of questions around solar panels and their inverters too. One very important question is where should I place my solar inverter?
If you have a microinverter, this will be pre-installed on the panel itself. For any other types of inverters, they should be placed where there is no direct sunlight to them. This spot should also have no moisture and provide proper air circulation. You also want the inverter to be close to the battery bank and consider the AC cabling.
The list of questions is growing as more people dive into the world of renewable energy. With that in mind, I’ve decided to put together a specific guide revolving around solar inverters. This guide will cover in more detail what are the best spots to put inverters, but also cover the types of inverters – including the systems – as well as other considerations and maintenance of inverters. So do read on and I hope this guide will be helpful to you!
What Is The Best Place For A Solar Inverter?
Going into more detail, inverters are tricky when it comes to placement as there are a number of factors contributing to its placement. Such factors are the type of solar system you’re setting up and even the type of inverter that you are planning to get.
Broadly speaking though, an inverter should be placed in an area with plenty of air circulation, and not a lot of moisture or direct sunlight. This applies to both inside and outside placement of inverters
The reason to avoid those is due to inverters work. Electricity has plenty of heat to it so if it’s out in the sun, it’s going to overheat and fry. All the same, if there is a lot of moisture, that’s going to cause the inverter to sweat and create water. Water and electricity don’t mix well at all.
By having the inverter in a place with proper airflow, there’s not going to be enough heat or moisture that’ll be able to build up in that area since it’ll be pushed out naturally.
Regardless of the system, if you can place an inverter, you’ll want it to have a free space of half a foot on either side and above. It’s also smart to have the inverter be three feet off from the ground to keep it out of range of flood or rising water level incidents.
You’ll also want to be looking at how far the inverter is from the battery bank. The battery bank is found on the solar panels themselves and they produce a lot of volts. It’s to the point that depending on where you are placing your inverter will directly affect the length and thickness of these cables.
This is important since the closer as possible an inverter can be to your solar panels, the smaller the cords are and the less space they’ll take wiring through your home.
On the note of cables, the final consideration is the AC cabling. This will be determined by the inverter itself since inverters can be hard-wired while others can’t. In certain circumstances, you may need to wire AC plugs to the inverter.
All that said, there are some other considerations to keep in mind. These can also help you pinpoint a prime location for an inverter:
- The end location doesn’t have to be near the panels themselves. The inverter can be inside or outside of your home so long as it meets the above conditions.
- Be mindful of maintenance. You’ll want to make sure the inverter is located in a place where maintenance can be done on the system without a lot of issues.
- If it’s going to be outside, consider the weather conditions. Have it in a place where the weather won’t cause a huge problem to it.
- If you’re planning to have it in a utility closet or basement, you’ll want to be extra mindful of it being above three feet from the ground to avoid damage due to floods.
- Another consideration is temperature. I said already direct sunlight and heat is bad, but being able to create a cool atmosphere will be ideal. While you’d think that means all inverters can be indoors, you could place an inverter outside if you’ve got it in the shade.
Is It Better To Place My Solar Inverter Indoors Or Outdoors?
Generally speaking, there is no better option to place your inverter inside or outside. There are several factors that contribute to whether it would be better to have inside or outside though. The big factors are things like:
- What kind of inverter you have.
- What sort of solar system do you have.
- How far away you want the inverter from your solar system.
Does The Type Of Inverter Affect Location?
One of those factors is the type of inverter that you’re getting. So yes, the type does matter.
In order to pick an optimal spot for your inverter, it helps to know what kind of inverter you’re getting and what sort of problems it has. Every inverter has upsides and downsides to them and those factors into where an inverter is located as you’ll find out.
This is the standard inverter you’ll find for most homes. It’s the most convenient of the three as it connects to an entire grid of solar panels. Because you’ve got one inverter covering many, it’s cheaper since you won’t need multiple inverters – unless you have a large number of panels.
The downsides to these models are:
- With a massive demand, there are many bound to be of low quality. Otherwise, they’ll be difficult to find in the first place.
- If one of the solar panels malfunctions, your inverter won’t work.
The second type is microinverters which you’ll find attached to the solar panel itself or at the least very close to the panel. This allows the solar panels to be independent of one another so if one panel malfunctions, your entire system is not cut off from power. Also with these inverters, you won’t have to worry about placement.
But these come at a huge cost. Those costs being:
- Significantly higher price.
- Higher maintenance costs as well due to inverters getting damaged as a direct result of the installation process. Solar panels are hot and don’t provide a lot of air circulation. This will cause these inverters to break down more.
The last type of inverter is the central inverter. It works as a sort of combined string inverter. You’ll find these inverters to be very efficient and it’s not difficult to install them. They’re also pretty cheap as well as they fall between the microinverters and string inverters.
The downsides of this system are:
- It’s bulkier and creates more noise pollution than the other types of inverters.
- If it fails, your entire grid is shut off too.
Does The Type Of Connection Between Solar Panels And Solar Inverter Influence The Location?
Not at all. There are different wiring techniques involved when it comes to wiring solar panels but it all results in a single wire leading back to the inverter in the end. If you’ve got multiple, then the wiring will have to be adjusted to reach those inverters.
The thing with wiring though is since you’re connecting the volt output of each solar panel to the wires, you’re going to need thicker wires once you reach a certain level of volts.
Depending on the number of solar panels, the worst-case scenario is that the wires themselves will be thicker and cover a little more space.
How Far Can My Solar Inverter Be From The Solar Panels?
As far as you would like them to be. That said, the further the electricity has to travel from the panel to the inverter and then into the house will determine how much thicker the wires will have to be as well.
Other Considerations For Location
While the above are great guidelines to follow for inverter placement, there could be other considerations that can change the location of an inverter. A lot of these are hypotheticals, but they are still important to keep in mind if you are thinking of expanding more into relying on a solar panel system for your future energy needs.
Whether You Want It Indoors Or Outdoors
Your own preferences do play a factor in this with regards to placement. While there are multiple factors involved, of course, you still can place an inverter anywhere you like so long as you’re trying to mitigate the downsides of these decisions.
Placing an inverter inside is smart since there is way more protection from things going wrong. The only problem is during routine maintenance and repair will be more of a hassle. Again, the big problem with central and line inverters is that they stop working when a solar panel isn’t working. Inverters won’t tell you directly which panel isn’t working so you’ll have to test each one and compare it to the inverter. Moving between those will be a pain. There is also the issue of space. It’ll be hard to justify an inverter inside if your utility closet is cramped and your garage has a lot of stuff in it.
On the flip side, outdoors will make it easier for maintenance and you’ll have plenty of open space available to put it. The downsides are the potential noise – depending on the inverter you’re getting – that comes from it. You’ll also need to protect it not only from the elements but animals as well. Overall, an inverter has more threats outside and will possibly need to be repaired more often as a result.
Regardless of whether you have it indoors or outdoors, the guidelines mentioned above will apply to inverters overall inside or outside. That said, each environment clearly has its own unique aspects to be mindful of when you place your inverters.
Space and Orientation
Microinverters may sound like the best option for you, but when going for that inverter, you may have to think about the space and orientation. Unless you’re planning on digging massive holes into your property, you’ll more than likely be installing solar panels on the roof of your home.
Roof space and orientation in those instances are crucial since the solar panels will need to be placed in a location where there is a lot of sunlight available. When considering where the solar panels are, consider your geographical location and note where the sun rises and where the sun sets. Once you know that pattern, you want to make sure that there aren’t any trees or other objects blocking the panels from receiving direct light.
The Number of Panels
While solar energy is a growing trend, you still want to be mindful of how much energy you actually need. What sort of appliances do you use on a regular basis? How much power does that use? By knowing how much your energy usage is, you can figure out how much energy you need and compare that to how many panels that you need.
This can influence your choice of what kind of inverter system that you need since an inverter does have a capacity for how much power it can convert. If your household is energy-hungry, you may need to buy an extra inverter in order to properly produce enough power to meet demands.
One other aspect of solar panels is that they’re producers. When the sun is shining, they’ll collect energy and they’ll stop when the sun goes down. You won’t run into this so much if you connect your solar panels to the local electricity grid, but for other systems, you’re either doing the same thing or looking for a way to store energy.
Fortunately, many of the installation companies will install backup batteries or other batteries for you to store that power so you can live off the grid. While that’s nice, it does create a big problem in figuring out where to put these batteries in the first place.
That’s only the start though. But before determining location, you’ll want to consider how many batteries you’ll need. There are all kinds and provide different amounts of power for certain periods of time. Knowing your energy needs will determine what the best kind of batteries to get.
The other thing to keep in mind is that you’ll need a special battery inverter as well in order to charge and discharge the batteries which will cause them to be larger and therefore you need to provide more space.
The final consideration is the price. Batteries are expensive and they also have a limited lifespan of about 5 years depending on how often you’re discharging them. While they do provide you a way to live off-grid, it’ll cost you a lot to have that luxury.
How this involves inverters is this could cause an issue if you have your solar inverter near the spot where you are storing excess power. Again, electricity creates a lot of heat and that’ll lead to the solar inverter sweating which isn’t good.
What Should Be Done About Maintenance?
No matter what type of inverter you are getting, there will have to be maintenance involved in it. This is especially important if you have microinverters since routine maintenance is key for those inverters.
To deal with maintenance, there are some basic rules that apply. First, you’ll want to make sure that the inverter is installed properly. This shouldn’t be a big issue if you’ve got professionals to install this. This I strongly recommend doing since solar panels are complicated pieces of tech and not every handyman or handywoman can do this properly despite what others say.
Second is that you want the area around it to be clean. Similar to moisture and heat, other things like dust, spiderwebs, and the like can cause problems so make sure to clean it often.
The last thing is to avoid overloading it in any way and to keep it protected. Make sure that there isn’t any moisture building up in the area or if there are other heat sources near it.
Overall, following the tips above for picking a spot should be good as well. If you’ve followed those, then maintaining your inverters between routine checkups should be good.
It’s amazing to see that solar panels are growing in popularity. When thinking long term, solar panels provide a number of benefits such as clean energy, and huge financial savings long-term. But when it comes to these complicated systems, it’s important to be asking questions and understanding all of these systems.
With that said, I hope that this guide was able to help you in considering more about where you should place your inverter and help you to understand how important all of it is.