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Solar inverters turn direct current generated by solar panels into alternating current, so your system definitely needs it. But where should you install it? Not to worry as I will explain in this the ins and outs of inverter installation, whether you are on or off the grid.
String inverters can be installed indoors or outdoors. Just make sure it is not exposed to moisture and direct sunlight. Microinverters are installed under solar panels and designed for outdoor use.
If your solar panels are grid tied (as most are), the installer will recommend the best place to install the inverter. In this guide I will explain the factors that determine where it should be installed.
Installers consider several factors to decide the best spot. As a homeowner your input will be important too. Keep the following in mind especially if you’re off the grid and going to do a DIY installation.
Indoor vs. Outdoor
This is the most common question I hear: should solar inverters be indoors or outdoors? It depends on the type and specifications.
If you are going to install microinverters, they will be outdoors. You cannot put microinverters indoors because they have to be under or right next to the solar panels.
Microinverters and solar panels are 1:1. For each solar panel there is one microinverter for it. Although there are now some microinverters that can support two solar panels at once.
Microinverters have to be protected from direct light and moisture, which is why they’re often installed under solar panels. If it is installed adjacent to the panel, the device will have built-in protection against the elements.
The best place to install string inverters like the Renogy 3000W is indoors. If you want to install it outdoors, it should be in your shed or garage to safeguard it against the elements.
I want to point out that most grid tied string inverters are rated IP65. This means the device can be installed outdoors and it will work.
But there are many reasons why it’s better to install a solar inverter indoors.
Heat exposure. Outside, the inverter will be exposed constantly to sunlight. While this is good for solar panels, the constant heat is going to take its toll on the inverter and hasten wear and tear.
Inverters get hot when they run, that’s normal. But under intense heat, the system is going to operate at even higher temperature. This can have a negative effect on efficiency and might cause overheating.
Other elements. Outdoor inverters are rated IP65, but being subjected to heavy rain, snow, dust and other elements isn’t ideal.
Inverters may stop working if exposed to moisture or intense heat. Be sure to read my guide on what to do if solar panels stop working.
Can You Install an Inverter in the Garage?
If it’s not possible to install the inverter indoors, choose a location outside that protects the device from the elements. I recommend the garage for two reasons.
One, a garage will shield the inverter from harsh weather. It is not indoors but there is ample protection from heavy rain, moisture and heat.
Second, most homes have their sub boards in the garage. A sub board or electrical sub panel contains the circuit breakers for every circuit in your home.
The sub board is linked to the main switchboard so you can plug the inverter here. This is also where the meter is installed, another good reason to set the inverter here.
A solar inverter can also be installed in a shed or any outdoor location that protects it from the elements. It isn’t required to set up inverters near sub boards, but most installers recommend it for convenience.
Does Installation Location Affect Inverter Performance?
Yes it does. A lot of off grid solar inverters are not waterproof for instance. Constant exposure to the elements leads to faster wear and can reduce efficiency.
A solar inverter generates heat when it converts solar panel current (DC) into AC. The hotter the device is, the more energy might be lost.
If the inverter is constantly exposed to heat and dust, its parts are going to wear off quickly. Eventually the DC to AC conversion efficiency drops as the inverter gets worn out. The same problems occur if the inverter is exposed to constant rain.
If the inverter is not waterproof, you have to install it indoors or garage. Even a waterproof inverter can only take so much rain and heat, so I still recommend placing it in the garage if possible.
On the other hand there are some solar inverters which only work outdoors. Microinverters are installed under solar panels so it cannot be placed inside.
These inverters are built to withstand the elements, and being under a solar panel, the device is shaded from the elements.
Some off grid inverters are built for indoor use only. Check the IP rating if you are not sure.
Should Inverters be Installed Near the Meter?
Inverters should be installed as close to the meter as possible to minimize voltage drops and efficiency loss.
If the inverter cannot be placed near the meter, use thick wires. The thicker the wire, the lower the voltage drop. Check your inverter manual for the thickest cable it can support.
Inverters and batteries. If your setup includes solar batteries such as the LiTime 200ah, place the inverter close by to avoid significant voltage drops.
If you cannot install the inverter near the battery bank, use thick cables. The wider the cable, the lower the voltage drop. It’s the same situation with the meter, so you should approach it the same way.
Inverter Installation Safety Guide
Grid tied inverters. Grid tied inverters are installed along with the solar panels. This is done by the installer so you don’t have to worry about making mistakes.
- Follow the advice the installer gives you about inverter use, safety and maintenance.
- Do not make any changes to the setup without informing the installer. Tinkering with the inverter or solar panels could cause damage and void the warranty.
- Do not hesitate to ask questions before, during and after installation. The more you know about the inverter installation, the better equip you’ll be to handle any potential issues.
Off grid inverters. If you are going to install the inverter DIY style, here are some things to keep in mind.
Install the inverter indoors. Place the inverter outdoors only if its rating is at least IP65. Regardless where you install it, the inverter must be in a shaded spot.
Place the inverter as close to the batteries as possible. The farther the inverter is, the less efficient it will be.
You can use wide, thick wires to offset the distance, but thick cables are expensive. So try to keep distance to a minimum.
If you have to choose between a shaded location and being close to the battery, choose the shaded spot. Use thick wires in this instance.
Inverters need ventilation. It produces heat during operation so airflow is required. Inverters should not be placed near flammable materials or objects.
Water vapor and humidity makes inverters vulnerable to corrosion. Do not place the inverter close to swimming pools, ponds, or any body of water.
Inverter Use Safety Reminders
Inverters run on electricity, and all electronics carry some risk. Handle it with care as you would any electronic appliance or device.
- Turn off the inverter if it is smoking or overheating.
- Do not load the system beyond its stated capacity limit.
- Replace frayed, damaged wires immediately.
- Do not touch the inverter if your hands are wet.
- If the inverter is outdoors, inspect the vents regularly. Remove any debris that accumulate.
- Read the instruction manual. Use the device only as indicated there and as directed by the installer.
- Do not attempt to fix the inverter if it’s under warranty. You could damage the unit and void it.
Even if your inverter is running smoothly, it’s a good idea to perform a thorough inspection once a year. You can ask the installer to do this, or you can do it yourself if you’re familiar with its operation.
I am an advocate of solar power. Through portablesolarexpert.com I want to share with all of you what I have learned and cotinue to learn about renewable energy.