Solar

What is a Hybrid Inverter?

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A diagram showing how a hybrid inverter works with solar panels, battery storage, electricity generators, and the utility grid to power a home.
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Hybrid inverters are a new piece of solar technology that combines the benefits of a traditional solar inverter with the flexibility of a battery inverter into a single device. A hybrid inverter is an up-and-coming solution for homeowners who want to install a solar power system that has room for future upgrades, including a battery storage system. 

With this guide, you will learn everything you need to know about hybrid inverters, including what a hybrid solar inverter does, the options a hybrid grid-tie inverter gives you for home solar, how hybrid inverters compare to other types of inverters, and more.

What is a Hybrid Solar Inverter?

A hybrid solar inverter is the combination of a solar inverter and a battery inverter into a single piece of equipment that can intelligently manage power from your solar panels, solar batteries, and the utility grid at the same time.

A traditional solar grid-tie inverter converts direct current (DC) electricity produced by your photovoltaic (PV) system into the alternating current (AC) electricity that powers your house, which also allows excess electricity generation to be transferred to the utility grid.

A battery inverter handles the process of inverting DC electricity that’s stored in your solar battery storage into AC electricity that can be used by your home.

By combining these functions into a single device, a solar hybrid grid-tie inverter streamlines and improves the operations of the classic solar inverter. Even better, since the amount of solar power that’s available can depend on the weather and seasonality, a hybrid inverter can draw power from the electricity grid to charge your battery storage system if needed.

What are the Functions of a Hybrid Solar Inverter?

The basic purpose of an inverter is the conversion of DC input from your solar panel into AC output that your home can use. The function of hybrid solar inverter use takes this process to the next level, including the following benefits:

DC-to-AC Bi-Directional Power Conversion: Normally solar batteries are charged by either DC electricity received directly from solar panels (DC coupled), or DC electricity that has been converted from AC electricity by a solar inverter (AC coupled). Then to release that power, an inverter needs to convert that stored DC electricity back into AC electricity.

With a hybrid inverter and battery, one device can do both roles. The hybrid grid-tie inverter can convert DC electricity into AC electricity to power your home, but it can also take AC electricity from the grid, and convert it into DC electricity that can be stored in batteries for later use.

Power Regulation: Solar power can fluctuate as sunshine levels increase and decrease, based upon the time of day and weather patterns. A hybrid inverter regulates this power to ensure the whole system operates within the required parameters.

Power Monitoring: Solar hybrid grid-tied inverters can be fitted with solar power monitoring software to measure and monitor your photovoltaics system via the display screen or a connected smartphone app to help identify any faults. 

Power Maximization: Hybrid inverters with Maximum Power Point Trackers (MPPT) check your solar power output and correlate it to the battery's voltage. This enables optimum power output and conversion of DC electricity to the best voltage for the battery's maximum charge. MPPT guarantees your solar power system works efficiently under every condition, such as varying amounts of solar light, solar panel temperature, and electrical loads.

How Does A Hybrid Inverter Compare To Other Types Of Inverters?

A grid-tied hybrid inverter allows for a seamless merger between your home’s solar power system and the electricity grid. Once your solar array generates enough power for your home, you can use any excess electricity to charge your solar battery system, and then transfer the rest to the grid after your battery storage is fully charged.

What makes the hybrid inverter stand out from the other central inverters available for your home is its bi-directional power transfer abilities. As we discussed earlier, a battery inverter converts between AC and DC power for storage, while a solar grid-tie inverter manages the relationship between the home, the home’s solar power system, and the electricity grid. (There are three primary versions of solar inverters: string inverter, micro-inverter, and power optimizer. To learn more about the pros and cons of each inverter option, check out our Solar Inverter Guide.)

The hybrid inverter does all of this, and can also use AC power from the grid to charge your solar battery storage if the energy from your solar panels is inadequate or being used to power your home.

Pros and Cons of a Hybrid Inverter

There are definitely some benefits provided by a modern hybrid grid-tie inverter, but there are also some drawbacks that you should be aware of. Below are a few of the hybrid inverter pros and cons that you should consider.

Pros of a Hybrid Inverter

Power Resiliency

Having a solar power system does not always guarantee you will have power during a power outage. If your system uses a traditional solar grid-tie inverter, it will still automatically shut off power from your solar panel system during a blackout for safety purposes.

A hybrid inverter paired with a solar battery storage system is a great solution for such a scenario. It ensures you have both off-grid and on-grid capabilities, so you always have access to power, even during a blackout.

Easily Retrofit Battery Storage

A full solar power installation can be a significant investment, especially if you add an energy storage system to the other individual components. A hybrid inverter is designed to integrate storage at any time, allowing you to forgo the costs of installing battery storage from the get-go. You can then more easily add the battery bank later while still enjoying the full benefits of your solar energy now.

Simplified Energy Monitoring

A hybrid inverter simplifies energy monitoring because you can check vital data such as performance and energy production via the inverter's panel, or through a connected smart device. If your system has two inverters, you have to monitor them separately.

Cons of a Hybrid Inverter

Not Ideal For Upgrading An Existing System

If you want to upgrade your existing solar power system to include battery storage, choosing a hybrid inverter could complicate the situation, and a battery inverter might be more cost effective. All you really need is an AC-coupled battery with its own battery inverter to expand your system. Since you already have a grid-tied solar inverter, choosing to install a hybrid inverter requires a complete and costly re-work of your entire solar panel system.

Increased Equipment Expenses

The initial installation of a hybrid inverter can be more costly than a traditional solar power inverter. If your area experiences frequent power outages and you want the option of adding battery backup in the future, having a hybrid inverter can be worth the higher cost.

However, if your power grid is reliable and you have access to net metering, a regular grid-tied system might be sufficient, and would likely be less expensive than a hybrid inverter plus battery storage.

Less Future Design Flexibility

Solar battery design changes with advances in technology, and not all hybrid inverters work with every type of battery. If you install a hybrid inverter now with the idea that you might add a solar energy battery later, your future options may be limited by compatibility concerns. For example, some solar panel energy storage systems now come with built-in inverters, eliminating the need for a separate hybrid inverter altogether.

Should You Invest In A Hybrid Solar Inverter?

While a hybrid solar inverter does require a larger initial investment, it can be worth the extra cost if you plan to include solar battery storage with your initial solar installation, or shortly after.

A hybrid inverter aids in the elimination of issues like intermittent sunlight and unreliable utility grids, so it performs exceptionally well compared to other types of solar inverters. Better still, a hybrid inverter helps you to store energy for future consumption more effectively, including backup power to use during power outages or peak hours.

Hybrid inverters also allow for more efficient power generation and management, especially when it comes to your relationship with the wider electricity grid through net metering and time of use rates. Additionally, ultra-modern tech allows you to conveniently monitor and manage your solar power system from anywhere via connected smartphone apps.

Can A Hybrid Grid-Tied Inverter Help Me Go Off-Grid?

Most home solar panel systems remain tied to the greater electricity grid, meaning they’re not truly off-the-grid. If you want to fully disconnect your home from the power grid, you must install enough battery capacity to power your home for days at a time, when your panels don’t generate enough electricity or there’s a grid outage.

If you do want to go completely off the grid, a hybrid inverter can help, because they are designed to complete multiple tasks as a single device, including solar panel operation, battery storage, and drawing electricity from generators and other sources of power.

Key Takeaways

Even with higher initial costs, a hybrid inverter can pay off in the long run by giving you a solar inverter that maximizes the operations of your PV system. A hybrid inverter can help reduce your reliance on the grid, lower your carbon footprint, enjoy advanced monitoring tools, and enhance your power generation.

If you’re ready to learn more about inverter technology and the right solar power system for your home, get started today with a Free Solar Savings Estimate, and then connect with a solar expert at Palmetto who can walk you through the various options that are available to power your home.

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