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What is a solar inverter?

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In this guide, Canstar Blue explains what a solar inverter is, what type of inverter you may need and how much they cost.

When you think of solar, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Solar panels, right? Of course, solar panels are  important, but they’re only one of a number of components required for rooftop solar. An equally important and often overlooked component is the inverter. Inverters are essentially the brains of a rooftop solar system – while solar panels produce electricity, it’s the inverter that makes it possible to use this power.

But does it matter which inverter you buy? Although your solar installer will have some tailored advice about the best inverter for your property, it’s always handy to have some basic knowledge yourself. In this article, Canstar Blue explains the importance of a quality inverter and discusses what to look for, plus how much you could be expected to pay for one.

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What is an inverter?

solar inverter

An inverter is an electronic device that is instrumental in converting direct current (DC) power into alternating current (AC) power. They are great for use in homes, offices and industries, as they increase the efficiency and flexibility of electrical power systems. 

Most commonly, you’ll find an inverter in a solar panel system, however they can also be integral in the operation of electric vehicles, marine vessels and boats and motorhomes or recreational vehicles. 

For the purpose of this article, we will be looking at solar inverters. 

How does a solar inverter work?

For a solar inverter to work it needs to be connected to a solar panel system. Once connected to a system, the inverter is able to invert the electricity generated from the solar panels from its DC electricity into usable AC electricity. This then allows the electricity to be passed through to appliances for use in the home, or exported to the grid in exchange for a solar feed-in tariff. 

Types of solar inverters

There are generally six types of solar inverters available: String inverters, micro inverters, battery inverters, hybrid inverters, grid-tie inverters and off-grid inverters.

  • String inverters: A solar string inverter is probably the most common type of inverter. With this inverter, all electricity generated by solar panels in a single system is fed into one central inverter. 
  • Micro Inverters: Instead of having one central inverter, as seen with string inverters, micro inverters are smaller units that are placed on the back of each individual solar panel. 
  • Battery inverters: Unlike the previously mentioned inverters, battery inverters work specifically to convert stored DC electricity in a power storage unit, like a solar battery, to AC electricity to then be used within the home.
  • Hybrid inverters: A hybrid inverter is essentially a battery and string inverter combined. Hybrid inverters can be installed even if you don’t have a solar battery so you can be ‘battery ready’.
  • Grid-tie inverters: These inverters are capable of matching the grid’s electricity wave to allow your solar system to export electricity to the grid. Most string, hybrid and micro inverters are also grid-tie inverters.
  • Off-grid inverters: These inverters are built for off-grid living and are generally compatible with diesel-generated electricity.

What is the best solar inverter in Australia? Check out some of the popular models available in Canstar Blue’s solar inverter guide.


Compare solar plans and prices

Here are some of the cheapest solar-specific deals from the retailers on our database. These costs are based on the Ausgrid network in Sydney but prices will vary depending on your circumstances. We show one product per retailer, listed in order of lowest price first. Annual price estimates assume general energy usage of 3911kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Price estimates exclude solar feed-in tariff credits. These are products from referral partners†. Our database may not cover all deals in your area, and please check retailer websites for up to date information.

Here are some of the cheapest solar-specific deals from the retailers on our database. These costs are based on the Citipower network in Melbourne but prices will vary depending on your circumstances. We show one product per retailer, listed in order of lowest price first. Annual price estimates assume general energy usage of 4000kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Price estimates exclude solar feed-in tariff credits. These are products from referral partners†. Our database may not cover all deals in your area, and please check retailer websites for up to date information.

Here are some of the cheapest solar-specific deals from the retailers on our database. These costs are based on the Energex network in Brisbane but prices will vary depending on your circumstances. We show one product per retailer, listed in order of lowest price first. Annual price estimates assume general energy usage of 4613kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Price estimates exclude solar feed-in tariff credits. These are products from referral partners†. Our database may not cover all deals in your area, and please check retailer websites for up to date information.

Here are some of the cheapest solar-specific deals from the retailers on our database. These costs are based on SA Power network in Adelaide but prices will vary depending on your circumstances. We show one product per retailer, listed in order of lowest price first. Annual price estimates assume general energy usage of 4011kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Price estimates exclude solar feed-in tariff credits. These are products from referral partners†. Our database may not cover all deals in your area, and please check retailer websites for up to date information.

How much does a solar inverter cost?

The cost of a solar inverter varies from about $1,000 to $1,500, depending on the size and quality of the inverter, as well as any additional features. If you purchase the inverter as part of a solar system, you may have some of the cost discounted through the use of Small-scale Technology certificates. If you are just replacing an inverter, you will likely have to bear the full cost.

How to install a solar inverter

In order to install a solar inverter, you’ll need to enlist the help of a licensed professional. If you need help picking out a solar installer it may help to look out for a Clean Energy Council accredited installer. These are installers that are certified and trained to meet industry best practice standards for solar systems in Australia.


Looking for more assistance when choosing a solar installer? See which installers Aussies rated best in our solar installer customer ratings.


What to consider when buying an inverter

When buying an inverter there are several factors to consider. These include the inverter type, capacity, warranty, efficiency and features. You’ll also need to consider the longevity of your solar system and whether you plan to make any upgrades to your system in future. 

All of these points can be discussed with your solar installer at the time of your quote to ensure you are getting the right system for you. 

If you are in the market for a new solar system then be sure to check out our solar hub. Here you’ll find tips for beginners as well as a guide to your solar options in Australia. To get started, click the button below. 

Visit the Solar Hub

 

Image credit: Douglas Cliff/Shutterstock.com

Kelseigh Wrigley
Energy Specialist
Kelseigh Wrigley was a content producer at Canstar Blue for three years until 2024, most recently as an Energy Specialist. She holds a Bachelor of Journalism from the Queensland University of Technology.

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