One of the first steps in choosing a solar power inverter is determining whether you need a grid-tie, off-grid, or hybrid inverter. For those new to solar power, it can be tough to know which is best for your system. This article will present you with three questions; if you answer “yes” to all 3 of them, then the odds are that a grid-tie inverter is the best option for your system.
Are You Connected to a Power Grid?
This is clearly implied in the name, but a grid-tie inverter is only for systems that are connected to a city power grid. If you hope to disconnect from city power altogether, then you won’t be able to use this type of inverter. Most new solar power systems are in residential neighborhoods and are typically still tied to the grid. So if this is true for you, then you now know you can use either a grid-tie or hybrid inverter (but not an off-grid inverter). Now it’s time to break this down further.
Is Your Grid Reliable?
Next, you need to ask yourself whether or not your city grid is actually reliable. Does your power go out in every thunderstorm or when there’s any strong wind? If so, then it might be worth having a backup power source. Contrary to what many people think, solar power doesn’t stay on when the city grid goes out. It must be shut down to ensure your system doesn’t feed power back into the grid, endangering workers who might be trying to repair electrical lines.
So, if your grid is unreliable, or if your city frequently institutes rolling blackouts that you don’t want to be subjected to, then you’ll need a hybrid inverter with a backup power source. However, if your grid is reliable and doesn’t do blackouts often, then a grid-tie inverter could still be a good option for you.
Are You Satisfied without Backup Power?
Finally, you need to decide if you’re personally satisfied without backup power. While not necessary for your solar power system to operate, having a backup power option does have a lot of benefits. In addition to keeping the lights on during a power outage, as mentioned above, battery banks offer greater energy independence and the ability to save more money on utilities via “peak shaving;” this is a tactic where your system utilizes backup power during peak utility hours, so you only ever pay the lowest prices for energy from the city grid.
However, many people find backup power unnecessary, especially if their grid allows net metering. With net metering, you can get credit for all power fed back into the city grid, effectively turning the grid into your own gigantic power bank. If you’re happy with the grid as your backup power and have no interest in adding batteries, then a grid-tie inverter is for you!