Updated: Dec 27, 2019
A power inverter or inverter is an electronic appliance that converts DC (direct current) electricity from sources such as batteries or solar cells to AC (alternate current) electricity for use in appliances.
An inverter can be constructed to draw its DC electricity from batteries. When so, the inverter is called a deep-cycle or battery-based inverter. Such an inverter will depend on grid power or a generating set to charge its batteries.
An inverter can be constructed to draw its DC electricity from solar panels. Otherwise called a ‘solar inverter’, such an inverter can only work during the daytime when there is sunlight.
An inverter can also be constructed so that this gap between what is produced and what is consumed during the evening and night time when there is no sunlight, is bridged. It becomes necessary to store energy for later use and manage energy storage and consumption with an intelligent hybrid inverter. In other words, these ‘intelligent’ hybrid inverters are able to choose where to draw the electricity based on availability and/or needs. Also, they are able to store the electricity drawn from the solar panels in the batteries for use at a subsequent time. Inverters that perform this ‘hybrid’ functions are called ‘smart inverters’, ‘intelligent inverters’, ‘muti-mode inverters’, multi-directional or simply ‘hybrid inverters’.
HOW A HYBRID INVERTER WORKS
A hybrid inverter is an inverter which can simultaneously manage inputs from both solar panels and a battery bank, charging batteries with either solar panels or the electricity grid, depending on availability, consumption or preference.
A solar hybrid inverter will first use the solar power, and if the demand exceeds the solar power, it imports power from grid. If the solar power exceeds the power demand, the excess power is used to charge batteries. Moreover, if the batteries are fully charged the excess power can be fed back into the grid. All this are automatically controlled by smart microchip systems. In other words, they are able to do this on their own without constant changeovers. Hence the name ‘intelligent’.
Also, most models can convert DC power from modules to usable AC power and then convert stored AC from the batteries to power loads when needed.
A Hybrid Inverter Can Be Used in These Four Ways
Off-Grid Mode. The inverter is not connected to grid power. But to a battery bank or solar panels.
On-Grid Mode. The inverter is connected to grid power.
Hybrid Mode. In this mode, the inverter functions with a battery bank, but is also connected to the grid.
Backup or Storage Mode. In this mode, the inverter can switch from on-grid to off-grid mode at the moment of a grid outage thereby eliminating appliance shutdowns.
Hybrid inverters vary in size, capacity and performance. Not all hybrid inverters can be used in all these four ways. Depending on your appliance needs, it is good to seek recommendations from our team of experts when acquiring one.
Advantages of Hybrid Inverters
An existing solar panel system or deep-cycle battery bank can easily be upgraded at anytime with a hybrid inverter.
A hybrid system offers total freedom from grid power.
Self-consumption is the use of solar PV energy directly at source – either immediately or delayed through the use of battery storage systems. A hybrid inverter can increase self-consumption from 30% to more than 70%.
In other words, the electricity generated by solar panels can be used 100% of the time the sun is shining with or without the grid.
Some hybrid inverter systems include features such as internal WiFi and remote monitoring. This enables easy data reading and 24 hour monitoring from Windows/Android/Apple devices, with vivid charts and graphs daily/weekly/monthly reports.
Regardless of its numerous advantages, as with any device that does several jobs at once, a hybrid inverter can be less efficient than dedicated solar-only or battery-based inverters. However, this loss can be compensated if the other components are improved.