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What Happens When Your Solar Inverter Overheats?

How Heat Affects the PV

Solar PV modules are tested for their efficiency at 25°C. Any temperature increase above 25°C must consider power losses of 0.5% for every 1°C increase.

The maximum voltage of the solar panel decreases as the temperature increases, while the maximum possible current increases.

The string voltage must not surpass the inverter’s minimum input voltage when it is at its coldest temperature. Conversely, when the temperature is at its highest, the string voltage must be higher than the minimum startup voltage of the inverter’s MPPT algorithm.

How Heat Affects the Inverter

The inverter casing plays a crucial role in dissipating heat, in addition to the heat sink. This helps facilitate the transfer of heat. In certain environments, such as during hot summer days with external temperatures reaching 40°C, the temperature of the casing typically ranges from 55°C to 60°C.

A hot to touch inverter is actually a positive indication of a well-designed thermal management system. It ensures the protection, efficiency, and durability of the inverter’s components.

So what happens when the inverter overheats?

Solar inverters are affected by heat, which can cause efficiency loss and damage to components. The inverter generates heat as it converts DC (direct current) power to AC (alternating current) power, and this heat needs to be dissipated to prevent degradation of materials.

The inverter will reduce power generation or stop altogether to keep the heat below a certain level.

Electronics & Heat

Electronics have an aversion to heat. They struggle to function properly in high temperatures.

Products like iPhones are recommended to be kept below 35°C.

The heat is unavoidable in the Australian summer.

Solar inverters are equipped with the ability to sense excessive heat and adjust their performance accordingly. This means that they convert less solar DC into AC electricity.

This feature is known as “temperature derating,” it is a design choice which protects the valuable equipment from potential damage caused by overheating.

Cooling

Cooling in solar inverters is a crucial aspect of their design and operation. Efficient thermal management is essential to ensure optimal performance and longevity of the inverter.

Fan-forced cooling is commonly employed to dissipate heat generated during the conversion of DC power from solar panels to AC power used to power homes and businesses.

By using fans, the inverter can maintain lower operating temperatures, reducing the risk of overheating and potential damage to internal components. This active cooling method allows for better energy yield and a longer lifespan of the inverter.

High-end inverters such as Fronius inverters are optimal due to their use of fans, even though other brands may market their devices as being quieter. A cool inverter is far more optimal than a quiet hot box.

 

Keep the Sun Off Your Inverter

It is important to keep the sun off your inverter to prevent damage from radiant and electrical heat.

An overheated solar inverter can suffer various forms of damage. The excessive heat can lead to the degradation of electronic components, such as capacitors and transistors, which are crucial for the inverter’s operation. This can result in reduced efficiency and performance of the inverter, leading to a decrease in the overall energy production of the solar system.

Traditionally, inverters are not placed on the north side of the house in the Southern Hemisphere. 

Inverter shade covers are necessary if an inverter is installed in sunlight. Inverter shade covers may not provide sufficient protection.

An alternative may be using a shade sail, which can lower the wall temperature by 10°C and protect the inverter from rain strikes. These options may add an additional cost to the system but can help prolong the lifespan of the inverter and other components.

The best place to install a solar inverter is in a cool garage.

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