Where should you put the inverter

What is the ideal location to put your inverter?

A solar inverter is a crucial component of a solar panel system. It is used to convert the DC power (produced by the solar panels) to AC power that you can use to run various electric appliances at home. There are different types of solar inverters – string inverter, micro-inverter, and power optimizers.

Micro-inverters and power optimizers are installed near or under the solar panels. But string inverters can be installed indoors or outdoors as per the homeowner's requirements and installer recommendation. However, a shaded spot, away from direct sunlight and moisture, is always recommended for installing a solar inverter.

However, there are several factors that you should consider when choosing a place for installing a solar inverter. In this guide, we are going to discuss the same. Without ado, let’s get started.

What factors should you consider when installing a solar inverter?

Indoor or outdoor

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While the grid-tied inverters are tailored for outdoor use, you can install them indoors as well. On the other hand, off-grid inverters don’t come with IP65 waterproof ratings. So, they can only be installed indoors, near the meter.

The reason behind it is the voltage drop between the meter and the inverter, which reduces the efficiency of the inverter and the overall performance of the solar system.

Also, most grid-tied or string inverters are designed for outdoor use and enclosed either in NEMA 3R or NEMA 4X enclosures. The NEMA 3R enclosures protect against dirt, rain, and snow. On the other hand, NEMA 4X enclosures protect against corrosion, windblown dust, and jet water.

So, before you go ahead, check the NEMA rating, and then choose the location for your inverter depending on its purpose of manufacturing.

Cable Distance from panels

Since there is always some voltage drop between the battery and inverter, it varies with the wire length and width. So, you have to use wires of the appropriate size. If you want to ensure that your inverters operate reliably, make sure the maximum voltage drop due to wire is less than 1%.

Otherwise, the higher voltage drop will cause issues in the local grid. It may further lead to overvoltage tripping in the grid-connected inverters. Since the ideal voltage drop/rise depends upon the local state rules, it is wise to check out the regulations as per the state. As per the CEC guidelines, around 1% AC voltage drop/rise is recommended from the inverter to the point of connection.

The voltage drop is directly proportional to the wire length and inversely proportional to the width. Wider the cable, lesses the voltage drop. So, try to keep the meter and the solar inverter as close as possible and use short but thick cables.

However, if you have to choose between a shaded spot or being close to the meter, prefer the shaded place. You can reduce the voltage drop by using a thick cable.

Environmental factors

Environmental conditions play a vital role in deciding the location of a solar inverter. It includes temperature and humidity. Since exposure to direct sunlight can cause overheating of the components, it can reduce the inverter efficiency. So, choose a shaded spot away from direct sunlight. Not only it enhances inverter efficiency, but it also promotes lifespan.

Apart from this, a properly ventilated and cool place is recommended for installing a solar inverter as almost all inverters produce heat as a normal part of their operation and require space for heat dissipation.

Apart from this, the humidity and water vapors can lead to corrosion. So, choose a location away from the potential water sources, including rain and swimming pool pumps. As per Green Power Energy, it will be great if the water clearance level for any flooding area is above 3 feet.

Safety

A solar inverter is an electric appliance that can cause a serious hazard if someone comes in contact with it. Hence, it should be installed at a safe location where it may not harm the people passing by it, including a narrow passageway. A safe location can either be a garage or a basement, where you can easily connect your inverter to the local grid.

As per ESV.vic.gov.au, the minimum height to the bottom of the inverter can’t be less than 500mm from the ground, floor or platform & the maximum height to the top of the inverter is 2 meters above ground, floor, or platform.

When you install your inverter on a wall, make sure it must have free space of at least 6 inches on all sides for proper heat dissipation. Make sure you choose a location that is away from the reach of children.

Also, ensure that no bird builds its nest in the heat dissipation vents. Otherwise, it may harm the wiring, which can further lead to an electrical hazard. You can either mount your solar inverter on a wall or shelves.

Maintenance

Your solar inverter needs a comprehensive diagnosis periodically. From the inspection of connected cables to keep it clean and dust-free, it all includes in the maintenance process. It helps you to ensure that your inverter is working properly. So, make sure your solar inverter is easily accessible so that it can be electrically isolated in such situations or an emergency.

Does the selection of installation place void the warranty?

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Generally, solar inverters come with a 5-year warranty that can be extended up to 10-years. However, your inverter warranty can be prematurely nullified due to installation errors. It includes faulty connection, roof damage, no space for heat dissipation, and more.

If you don't want to void your warranty period, hire the right expert to install your solar inverter. The technician will install your system as per the manufacturer’s specifications. 

Conclusion

Now that you know the basic things you should consider when choosing a location for your solar inverter. I hope you will make an informed decision. However, before you go ahead, remember the following points:

  • Not to install your solar inverter at a tilt of more than 15-degree.
  • There must be some space between the right and the left sides of the backplate of the inverter.
  • The wall should have enough strength to hold the weight of the inverter.
  • Also, pay attention to its indicators, temperature, sound regularly. If you find something auspicious, consult your installer.

All the Best!