Most homes in residential areas must remain connected to the city’s power grid. However, with the rise in popularity of solar power systems—and the more recent explosion in the popularity of solar with storage—many homeowners are exploring the options available to become more energy independent, even while remaining connected to the grid. If you’re not able to disconnect from your city’s power grid, you can choose between 2 different types of inverters for your solar power system: hybrid and grid-tied solar inverters. What are the differences between these types of inverters and how do you know which one is right for your system? Keep reading to learn more.
What is a Grid-Tie Inverter?
As the name implies, a grid-tie inverter is designed to be connected to a city power grid. It uses this grid to help regulate the flow of energy from your panels and into your home, and it can also funnel excess power back to the grid itself. Most cities allow for net metering, which means that the excess power you provide to the grid will be credited back to you on your utility bill. In essence, the grid acts as your power bank, storing up your excess watts for you to use later when the sun goes down.
What is a Hybrid Inverter?
The hybrid inverter gets its name by enabling users to take advantage of both a city grid and a solar battery bank. This allows you to take a step towards energy independence and a true self-consumption system while still providing you with the security of the city grid. Of course, the addition of a battery bank does represent another significant investment for solar power users. However, it enables you to get more out of your solar power production; after all, true independence from the grid cannot be achieved if you’re still relying on city power every night!
How to Choose the Right One
Now that you understand the differences between these two types of inverters, the real question is how to choose the right one for your home. Based on their different uses, you can probably imagine that the first question you need to ask yourself is whether or not you intend to add a battery bank to your system. How important is it to you to achieve self-consumption? How much do you want to continue to rely on the city grid each day?
Additionally, you should examine your budget closely to determine if adding a battery bank is feasible. Of course, this doesn’t need to be done right away. The great thing about hybrid inverters is that they will function like a grid-tie inverter if a battery bank is not attached. So, you could feasibly add a battery bank a year or two down the road when you have more room in your budget for additional equipment. If you think that a battery bank might be in your future, you should now opt for a hybrid inverter. If you don’t, you’ll need to swap out your inverter down the road when you finally decide to attach solar storage.
If your city does allow net metering, you may find the benefits of a battery bank to be quite minimal. After all, the grid can essentially function as a battery for your home. As mentioned above, the benefit will be slightly lower since you’ll likely be buying back your watts at peak rates. However, if your city grid is reliable, solar storage may not be necessary for you to get the most out of your system. In these cases, the real deciding factor is just how much going green and achieving energy independence means to you. Still, it’s a good idea to learn more about your city’s net metering policies to help you in making this decision.
Finally, keep in mind that grid-tied solar power systems will shut down in a power outage for safety purposes. So, if your grid is prone to frequent outages (either due to unreliability or planned rolling blackouts at certain times of the year), you should plan for your home’s power to shut off, even if the sun is out at the time. On the other hand, hybrid systems can disconnect from the grid and continue to run safely during a blackout. If this is something that often happens in your area, and you want to be able to keep power running in your home, a hybrid option may be better for you.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line here is that choosing between a hybrid inverter and a grid-tie inverter is all about how you plan to use your system. Both hybrid and grid-tie solar inverters have their advantages and disadvantages. If you’re still wondering which is right for you, speak to a solar contractor to get guidance in this choice.