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Solar inverter is dead. How to replace it

Francisco CastroMay 22, 20192520


Every part of your home solar energy system needs to be working at optimum condition so that your solar panels convert as much sunshine into electricity as they can possibly do. 
That’s why you need to make sure two of the basic components of the system - the photovoltaic (PV) modules and the inverter - are in tip-top shape. 

The panels, which go on the roof or are ground mounted and exposed to the outside are usually made to sustain all kinds of inclement weather, from the harshest scorching sun, to the heaviest of snowstorms, wind and rain. The solar cells are encased in sturdy frames and a plastic sheet that protects them from these elements. 

Such protection and the way they’re manufactured also makes them very reliable and long-lasting, and thus their warranties last for 25 years. Their lifespan could be even longer.

On the other hand, inverters are complex electronic machines known as the workhorse and the brains of any domestic solar power system. They are constantly working to transform the DC (direct current) electricity being generated by the photovoltaic (PV) modules into AC (alternating current) that your appliances need.

In the meantime, they’re also adjusting to changes in power production from the panels, providing real-time net metering and other details.

As such, their life expectancy and warranties don’t go beyond 10-15 years. Because of the sensitive data and electronics they possess, they should also be placed indoors, in a ventilated room away from heat and moisture. 

But given that they’re lifespan and warranties are shorter than the solar panels, it means you’ll have to replace them at some point during the productive period of your domestic solar power system. 

Replacing an inverter is usually the most expensive part of any maintenance conducted on a home solar energy system. Prices for inverters can range into the thousands and it’s something you must be aware of. If the inverter fails before its warranties are tapped, the manufacturer will simply replace it. But if the warranty time has passed, you’ll have to pay out of pocket for a new one. 

Inverter faults

First, you will need to know whether the inverter is still working. Some simple signs are if the device shows that you are generating no energy or far less energy than normal. Error messages on the inverter or warning light also give clues that something is amiss. 

A drop in electricity production is another telltale sign. 

If you notice any of these scenarios, you will need to contact the solar installer who originally did the work - if the company is still around - so they can check it and replace it, if necessary. The contractor should also check the entire home solar energy system for physical or other types of damage to make sure there are no other parts associated with the drop in production. 

Replacement

If it’s determined that the inverter is the part no longer working, then it’s time to replace. If it’s out of warranty, you will have to purchase a new one. 

Fortune Energy offers a wide variety of high-quality solar inverters from a number of well-known companies with a long-standing track record of the highest efficiency and outstanding warranties.

Changing one can be as easy as swapping an older model for a new one of the same brand. You can also replace it with another brand, as long as it’s the same type. 

Or you may also opt to replace a string inverter with microinverters. However, this option means removing all the panels from your roof and installing these devices on the each module. But this may also give you a chance to do some roof and racking maintenance at the same time.

There are several advantages of microinverters over string inverters, and thus their rapid growth in the industry.

For one, a traditional "string" inverter will only be as efficient as it's worst performing panel. If you have a shaded or broken panel it will affect the performance of the whole system. 

Also, solar arrays connected with a string inverter produce high DC voltage which can create high temperature arcing and fire. The use of microinverters reduces this possibility. High voltage DC also requires high-cost protective switches and fuses.

Since microinverters are not exposed to as high power and heat loads as central inverters, they also tend to last significantly longer. Microinverters typically come with a warranty of 20-25 years – 10-15 years longer than central inverters.

Upgrades to existing domestic solar power systems - even adding more panels - is also easier when it comes to microinverters. There’s no need for restringing or getting a second central inverter installed.

Whichever inverter you choose to replace the old one, you must do it as soon as you can. Your domestic solar power system can’t function without one. And the sooner you do it, the sooner you’ll know you can keep counting on the sun for your power needs. 

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