Sun's Out, But Power's Out in Didsbury? A Guide to Inverters and Their Faults

Sun's Out, But Power's Out in Didsbury? A Guide to Inverters and Their Faults

Didsbury is known as a charming suburb in South Manchester, with an increase of young professionals and families in recent years. 20-40 year olds are the highest demographic of residents in the area, a generation who are at the forefront of environmental awareness and who recognise the importance of adapting a more eco-conscious lifestyle.

However, we can’t forget about the older residents who made the decision to be at the forefront of renewable energy advances, and who were some of the first to install solar PV systems in their homes, over a decade ago. Solar PV installations increased by an extraordinary 4500% from 2011 to 2012 in the Manchester region, and Didsbury residents were certainly a large part of this jump in installations.

Although solar panels can last decades, their inverters are unfortunately on a much shorter lifespan. Subsequently as the years go by, more errors and faults on inverters are beginning to appear. Didsbury homeowners with inverter faults find themselves looking at solutions – but where to begin? The first step is identifying what inverter you have, and go from there.

What is an inverter?

In a solar power system, a solar inverter is a crucial piece of equipment that acts as the translator between the electricity generated by your solar panels and the electricity used in your home. Here's a breakdown:

  • Solar panels: These capture sunlight and convert it into direct current (DC) electricity.

  • Solar inverter: This device takes the variable DC output from the panels and transforms it into alternating current (AC) electricity.

  • AC electricity: This is the standard type of electricity used in homes and businesses. Appliances and electronics are designed to run on AC.

The inverter essentially changes the raw, unusable electricity from your panels into a form that can power your entire home. It's like a behind-the-scenes hero, ensuring all the clean energy you generate gets used efficiently.

Inverters work alongside other ancillary equipment such as generation meters, battery storage, immersion controllers and EV Chargers.

What types of inverters for domestic properties are there?

String Inverters are the most common and cost-effective type of inverter for homes. They work by connecting multiple solar panels together in a series, like a string of lights. The inverter then converts the combined DC output from all the panels into AC electricity. String Inverters are generally affordable, simple to install and good for most solar system setups.

However, their performance can be affected if one panel in the string is shaded or malfunctioning, as it impacts the entire string's output. They aren't ideal for complex roof layouts with areas of potential shade.

Microinverters are small inverters attached directly to each solar panel. Each microinverter converts the DC output from its individual panel into AC electricity. This means that if one panel is shaded, the performance of the other panels isn't affected. They are ideal for complex roof layouts or areas with potential shading issues, maximising power production from each panel, and good for monitoring individual panel performance. They do tend to be more expensive than string inverters, more complex to install, and require more wiring.

Hybrid Inverters are a multi-function inverter that combines the features of a string inverter with a battery backup system. They allow you to store excess solar energy in batteries for later use, increasing your self-consumption of solar power and reducing reliance on the grid. These are a good choice if you are looking to increase your energy independence, or you live in an area with frequent power outages. They are the most expensive option, and are often complex installations.

The best type of inverter for your property will depend on your specific needs and system setup. Here are some factors to consider when choosing an inverter:

  • Size of your solar panel system: String inverters are typically best for smaller systems, while microinverters or hybrid inverters may be better suited for larger systems or those with complex roof layouts.

  • Shading: If your roof is likely to be shaded at any point during the day, microinverters may be a better option to ensure optimal performance.

  • Budget: String inverters are the most affordable option, while microinverters and hybrid inverters are more expensive.

  • Energy storage goals: If you want to store excess solar energy for later use, a hybrid inverter is the best option.

Do I need to start looking at an inverter replacement?

Signs of your inverter beginning to fail can include decreased energy generation, warning lights or error messages, or even unusual noises such as buzzing or humming.

As time passes, solar inverters can begin to underperform due to degradation of its internal components, much like any mechanical equipment. Common components to experience degradation are the capacitors and fans, which can impact the functionality of the inverter.

Environmental factors like extreme heat, humidity, and dust can also accelerate these issues with your inverter.

Sourcing spare parts for older inverters can be difficult. These installation and part costs can potentially be more than a standard swap to a newer, more modern inverter model. The models are most likely out of production or discontinued, or the manufacturers are no longer trading.

Some examples of these manufacturers include;

  • ABB (acquired by FIMER in 2019)

  • Aurora Power-One PVI (acquired by ABB – see above!)

  • Samil Power Ltd – Solar River (dissolved in 2018)

  • Eversolar (acquired by SMA Solar Technology in 2011)

Further inverter manufacturers to name a few include;

  • SMA Sunny Boy (German Manufacturer)

  • Schucho (Made by SMA as above)

  • Growatt

  • Sun Power (Made by SMA as above)

  • Mastervolt

  • Fox

  • SunSynk

  • SolaX Power

  • Lux Power

  • Trannergy

From a cost-benefit perspective, replacing your inverter may be the best solution. According to a report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), between 2010 and 2019, the cost of Solar Photovoltaic Systems dropped globally by 82%. The cost of sourcing spare parts and additional labour costs may add up to more than the cost and installation of a new solar inverter, not to mention the additional time your solar system isn't generating power.

Another benefit of an inverter replacement is the advance in the technology, with inverters now including features such as online monitoring, and the ability to combine with power optimisers, allowing each panel’s power to be regulated. This allows panels, even in shaded areas, to achieve maximum power.

How long does a typical inverter replacement take to swap?

Depending on size, location of the inverter in the property, this can typically take 1-3 hours.

Which Replacement Inverter Should I Choose?

There is an array of different solar inverter manufacturers today, providing equipment to the UK solar customer. Some of these include;

  • GivEnergy

  • SolarEdge

  • Enphase

  • Solis

  • Fronius

Which inverter you choose is dependent on your current solar PV system, and your electrical consumption habits. Atlantic Renewables will advise you to ensure the most appropriate inverter is supplied to suit your system specifications and budget.

Atlantic Renewables has supplied solar systems, inverter maintenance and inverter replacement services in the Didsbury area and beyond since 2011. We can advise which inverter would be the most beneficial for you based on your existing array, your budget, and your current electrical consumption habits, giving you peace of mind that you have made the right choice.

We supply and install a range of different manufacturers, models and capacities, ensuring you get the perfect inverter replacement, and your solar system is back up and running at maximum efficiency.

If you are in Didsbury, and your inverter needs maintenance or replacing, contact us today to discuss your existing solar PV system, and how we can assist you with any inverter issues or an Inverter Swap.

Atlantic Renewables

Atlantic Renewables are a solar PV design and installation company, providing affordable solutions in Manchester, Cheshire and throughout the North West.