What is a hybrid inverter, and why should you care?
A hybrid inverter is an intelligent inverter that provides additional functionality for your solar power & battery storage system.
Whereas a standard inverter may only process your produced power from panels to the inverter to the household, a hybrid inverter lets you directly connect a battery to the existing system and may also offer additional features that vary from one brand to another, such as battery backup for example.
Whilst you can connect a battery onto a standard inverter, the added functionality and features of a hybrid inverter often make it a smarter choice.
One such feature is oversizing, to learn more about this, check out our oversizing post.
How does a hybrid inverter work?
A hybrid inverter converts direct current (DC) electricity from your solar panels and batteries to alternating current (AC) electricity for use in your home. DC electricity flows in a single direction, whereas AC electricity changes direction constantly.
Your system’s solar panels are made up of photovoltaic (PV) cells. PV cells are constructed from multiple layers of materials known as semiconductors. Semiconductors can be altered by electric fields and used to convert energy. When sunlight enters PV cells, it generates an electric field.
This electric field induces electron flow, resulting in direct current electricity.
This direct current electricity is routed to the hybrid inverter. The hybrid inverter reroutes DC power to charge the battery or converts it to AC power for the home.
In the inverter, direct current electricity is routed through a component known as a transformer. This is a two-coil electrical conditioning device. The primary coil is where electricity enters the circuit. The direct current is repeatedly forced to flow more towards one coil than the other.
This is accomplished using semiconductor devices known as transistors. These act as switches, quickly turning the electrical flow on and off.
Because of this flow, the transformer processes the electricity as alternating current.
The electricity that exits through the second coil is AC rather than DC.
When the electricity comes from the solar battery, the hybrid inverter goes through the same process. It is set up in the same way that a string inverter is, with a central unit that is connected to the solar panels of the system. The direct current electricity generated by the solar panels is converted all at once.
If my house is 3 phase, do I need a 3-phase inverter?
If your home uses 3-phase power, a 3-phase inverter is preferable; however, it is not required. Single-phase or three-phase power is used in Australian homes. Three-phase power supplies are more efficient than single-phase power supplies and can transmit three times as much.
Three-phase power is appropriate for high-demand loads and appliances. Look in your fuse box to see if your home has three-phase power. Three-phase power is indicated by three main switches or fuse cartridges.
Due to the higher output of 3-phase power, specialised inverters are prefered; these hybrid inverters have a higher capacity to accommodate increased loads. Aside from that, they operate similarly to single-phase hybrid inverters.
Because hybrid inverters combine all of the key features for solar and battery storage in a single simple plug-and-play inverter, they are generally much less expensive and easier to install than more complex battery storage systems, which frequently require multiple inverters.
Most hybrid inverters can be programmed to operate in one of four modes:
Grid-tie mode – Works like a regular solar inverter (no battery)
Hybrid mode – During the day, excess solar energy is stored and used in the evening to increase self-sufficiency.
Backup mode – When connected to the grid, the inverter operates normally, but during a power outage, it automatically switches to backup power mode.
Off-grid mode* – Works similarly to an off-grid inverter, charging the battery and powering the loads without a grid connection.
* Only a few hybrid inverters are designed for off-grid solar power systems and have the capability of starting and running a backup power source if necessary. One such example is the Sungrow hybrid inverter which features the black start backup. To learn more about Sungrow Black Start backup, click here.
When should a hybrid inverter be used?
If you require an inverter that can function as both a solar and a battery inverter, a hybrid inverter should be used. Getting a hybrid inverter instead of standard string inverter and then AC coupling a battery inverter will save you money, make installation easier, and – if you choose the right type – provide you with continuous power supply during blackouts.
You also improve system efficiency by not converting solar energy twice (via a solar inverter and a battery inverter) before storing it.
A battery inverter is required if you have a solar battery in your system. By using a hybrid inverter, you avoid having to purchase both a battery inverter and a solar inverter.
With a hybrid inverter, we recommend getting a smart meter (customer consumption monitoring device) installed. As this allows you accurately track the amount of power you generate, consume, export and import too and from the grid.
Below are some examples of a system with and without the smart meter.
Will it function without a battery?
A hybrid inverter can function without a battery. A solar-only system keeps converting the electricity produced by solar panels.
Using a hybrid inverter for a system without a battery, on the other hand, is not cost-effective.
The ability of hybrid inverters to function as both solar and battery inverters is their primary advantage, though some hybrid inverters do offer additional features even in the absence of a battery.
Regular solar inverters are a less expensive option for a battery-free system.
What brand of inverter should I get?
Talk to the team at SolarOak, we have extensive knowledge of many of the best products on the market, we’ll help design a solar power or complete battery system tailored to your needs.
Don’t forget to ask us what promo’s, packages and customer perks we’re currently offering, as we constantly strive to offer our customers new perks.
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