Solar Inverter Guide

Solar Inverter

A fundamental part of every Solar Power set up is the Inverter, it is a piece of equipment that is very important to understand.

After you read this definitive guide you will understand:

What is an Inverter?

Hybrid string inverter

In simple terms this component  converts DC power  (Direct Current) into  AC power  (Alternating Current). DC flows in just one direction , this is ideal for Solar Panels because you need it to simply absorb the sunlight and push it through the system in one direction. This might be an oversimplified explanation but for now, that’s all you need to know for the purpose of this article.

 AC flows in both directions , all of your appliances are powered in this way.

Now we have that out the way let’s move on to the next part.

How do they Work?

The energy from your Panels or your Batteries are fed to the inverter, then, in turn, handles that energy by transforming the DC power to AC.

Solar Inverter diagram

You get three main types of Inverters you can use, each one functions a bit differently to the other:

Grid-Tied & Hybrid Types

The Panels are connected directly into the inverter which then, in turn, plugs into your building electrical box (DB Board).

Hybrids are used for Grid-Tied / Off-Grid / Storage and generator inputs. All different Solar Power applications are possible with Hybrid variations, which is the most versatile option.  Hybrid inverters accept DC and AC power .

Here are the general functions that Grid-Tied and Hybrids typically perform:

  • Synchronise to the grid
  • Disconnect if the grid goes down
  • Use an alternative power source (solar, battery or wind)
  • Detect if any power sources are depleted and switch to another
  • Monitor power usage

Here are the different types available:

String Inverters

Hybrid string inverter


  •  Lowest solar inverter price 
  • Multiple MPPT inputs
  • Provides backup power

The modern string inverter has improved over the years making it the  most cost effective , the panels are wired in a series, simply put all the panels are  connected together and is then connected into the component .

It’s a standalone box that is installed close to your fuse box and meter, the newer versions don’t tend to make much or any noise compared to older ones.

If you have an unshaded roof that gets 100% of the sun spread evenly and you have no shade from a chimney or tree the string variation is perfect, but if there are obstructions it can cause it to be  less efficient .

Another factor is scaling, if your energy needs exceed your inverters output you will need to  purchase a bigger version  so scaling up can increase your overall solar inverter price. We suggest purchasing one with a higher capacity just in case you need it.


  • Efficient
  • Affordable
  • Long lasting (around 15 years)


  • Not efficient if panel/s are shaded
  • Expanding is difficult


Micro Inverter


  • Easy to install
  • Expandable
  • Maximises output of each panel

These small variations are connected to the panel itself, they are easy and safe to install.  They can produce up to 25% more energy maximising the panel output .

 Ideal for expanding  the Micro-Inverter monitors (module-level monitoring) each panel independently making them  operate independently , they are the better option when dealing with rooftops that have different pitches and partly shaded.

 Because each panel is independent it maximises each panel  which means if there is a shaded or low-efficient panel it won’t hinder the rest of the group of panels (solar array) as the string variation does.

The downsides to these variations are the price, although they have come down they are the more expensive route.


  • Easy to install
  • Long-lasting (25-year warranties)
  • Expandable and modular


  • More expensive
  • Maintenance requires rooftop access
  • Exposure to the elements can cause issues (extreme cases)

Solar Optimisers

SolarEdge Solar Optimiser Cell

The Solar Optimiser works with a String Inverter and  performs much like the Micro-inverter  by maximising the output of the Solar Panel (More about Solar Panels here).


  •  Works with String Inverters 
  • Performs in the same way as a Micro-inverter
  • Affordable

These components are perfect if you already have the String variation or if you know which Panels are shaded or pitched differently.  They are connected to the panel itself much like the Micro-inverter .


  • Easy to install
  •  Long lasting (25-year warranties) 
  • Expandable and modular


  • Maintenance requires rooftop access
  • Exposure to the elements can cause issues (extreme cases)

Off-Grid Solar Inverters

Unlike the Grid-Tied options, an Off-Grid variation requires batteries, the power from the Panels charge the batteries directly then the battery power is then inverted to AC from DC batteries.

Off-Grid systems are more complicated, this is due to the extra components you will need such as the Charge Controller, Battery Monitors Circuit Breakers, Surge Suppressors and so on.

Here are the different types of Off-Grid variations available:

Pure Sine wave

Pure sine inverter


  •  Delivers quality power output 
  • Quieter than Modified Sine wave
  • Ideal for modern appliances

Safer, the Pure Sine option is the main choice for Off-Grid, affordable and deliver higher quality output. Almost all appliances will work with these making them highly compatible with most systems.

Modified Sine wave

Modified Sine Wave Inverter


  • Lowest price

These output lower quality power and are only compatible with certain appliances. They can be problematic for electronic equipment,  we recommend the Sine wave option .

Hybrid Solar Inverters

Hybrid inverter diagram

We've left the best for last (my opinion of course), the Hybrid inverter really does of the best of both worlds.

Not only does the Hybrid inverter have all the features of an Off-Grid but it also works well with those who want to fall back to the grid.

Here are the main features:

  • For business and residential, it's the ideal choice
  • True Hybrids "blend" the energies together (more about that below)
  • They come in various sizes, small and large setups
  • Gaining in popularity which means the technology is getting better
  • More affordable than ever

"Blending" the Energy

Undoubtedly the biggest feature of a Hybrid inverter is the fact that it  uses all the energy sources in the most efficient way  to power your load.

What does this mean exactly?

Just think for a minute that  your house is running 1kw (1000 watts) of power  and in this scenario, your solar panels are struggling to produce the 1kw of power, what happens?

The inverter will realise this and use whatever power it is getting from the solar panels,  let's say 500 watts .

It will not only  use the 500 watts, but it will also pull 500 watts from the battery to make up the 1000 watts total .

And in the event that there is  no battery capacity it will pull the 500 watts from the grid .

The Goodwe inverters are the ideal Hybrid inverters, we highly recommend these.

What Size Do I Need?

Solar Inverter options

This section might get a little tricky because there is a difference between the capacity of the inverter and the output. The capacity speaks to the max DC energy can be fed into the device, while the output speaks to the max AC current you'll be using to power your home. For example,  if you buy a 3kW converter, but your panels are only capable of delivering 1kW, there's an imbalance .

If you plan on adding more panels, then you've made a pretty good investment. However, getting 3kW from your panels while your inverter can only handle a 1kW output seems like somewhat of a waste.  You're not using your system to its full benefits .

Work out what appliances you will be running

This calculator will give you an estimated system size to use when shopping for Solar Power kits.

  1. Add your appliance and the number of hours it is used in a day
  2. Select if you want the appliance to have battery backup
  3. Take note of the output below to see if the kit will work for your setup

System Size Estimation

Solar coverage

This is how much solar you need to cover your load

Panels needed

Solar Panels
Total Solar / 330w panel size / 5.5 sun hours + 20%

Inverter size

This is the maximum kw size (everything turned on) minus 20%.

Backup size needed

Lithium-ion (80% DoD)

Email us your system size

We will also send you a copy

Note: All figures are rounded up to give systems a buffer in case of unexpected surges or extra appliances.

Something to consider...

If you have a Hybrid inverter that has a dual MPPT output feature you can split that load in 2.

  • 2800 watts (2.8kw) for the Tumble Dryer and Washing Machine - Non-essential.
  • 2047 watts (2.1kw rounded up) for the rest - Essential.

The ability to have to Essential and Non-essential load outputs allows you to prioritise your energy, bundling them all together is not only going to push up the price of your inverter (because you need a larger one),  it also gives you the option to only use your batteries exclusively on the essential load , driving down the cost of storage needed.

What does this mean?

It means that your device size comes down, so instead of a 6kw option to handle it the complete load, you can get a 4kw or a 5kw option instead.

Here's an example of a 4.6kw kit that handles the above with some room to spare:

Goodwe 4.6kW - PylonTech 4.8kWh Lithium-ion - Solar Power Kit

Goodwe 4.6kW – PylonTech 4.8kWh Lithium-ion – Solar Power Kit

In conclusion...

After working out what size you think you need simply double-check with our team at SolarAdvice to make sure, don't forget that advice is always free.

Solar Inverter Prices, How Much Do They Cost?


Here are our Grid-Tied options and their prices, they all vary depending on size and manufacturer.

Single Phase Grid-Tied Options

3 Phase Grid-Tied Options


Micro / Power Optimisers

Best Solar Inverters in South Africa

To name the best pound for pound brand is tricky, each brand does have its strengths and weaknesses depending on its application.

Here are the best brands that we would recommend:

  1. Goodwe - this Hybrid brand is of great quality and a great price
  2. Deye - Parent company has been around for a long time, good quality Hybrid inverters
  3. SolarEdge - a wide range of options available and great quality
  4. SMA - aesthetically great looking and compact, been around for a long time and best known for Grid-Tied
  5. Solis - efficient Grid-Tied and Hybrid options, been around a long time
  6. KODAK - A Voltronic make with KODAK branding, been around for a while


SolarAdvice Rating
  • Return on Investment
  • Affordability
  • Energy Saving
  • Overall Cost
  • Installation (Speed)
  • Installation (Cost)
User Review
4.25 (4 votes)

Solar Inverter Review Summary

Depending on what type of inverter you choose the experience can differ greatly, for such an important component it’s safe to say that we rate the Solar Inverter high. Inverters have improved over the years and they’re only getting more reliable, cheaper, easier to install with improved monitoring features. Consult with a technician before purchasing your inverter just to make sure it suits your needs.


Enables system monitoring Affordable Expandable (Micro-inverters) Long lasting


Expensive for larger systems Can vary depending on manufacter


  1. Nikola Batev May 8, 2020
    • admin May 8, 2020

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