On any solar panel system, the solar inverter does the critical job of converting the direct sunlight that hits your panels into energy that can be used in your home. Your inverter also keeps the level of energy regulated, keeping the whole system and you safe from power surges. All of this hard work means that your inverter can’t last forever. So how long does a solar inverter last, and when should you look at replacing it?
What is a solar inverter?
A solar panel is one of the three major components of your solar panel system, and it does the critical job of converting and regulating power through the entire system.
Solar panels capture direct sunlight, which is a form of energy that cannot directly be used by our homes. Inverters convert that energy into energy that we can use.
There are many different types of inverters, some more complex than others. Most inverters these days will also perform other duties such as preventative maintenance, system repair, and power regulation. No matter what type of inverter you have, it performs an important job and requires ongoing care and maintenance to operate safely and efficiently.
If your inverter stops working or malfunctions, your entire system is likely to stop working. Even worse, problems with your solar inverter, if left unaddressed, can cause danger in your home. If an inverter’s regulation capabilities stop working, for example, you leave yourself open to power surges or worse.
How long do solar inverters last?
Your solar panel system as a whole has a lifespan of around 25 years, depending on the type of system and how well you take care of it. Your inverter, however, generally only lasts 10 years. The inverter is a complex system of electrical components, which is why it will eventually stop functioning.
Your inverter is also sensitive to heat, which can have a big impact on how long it lasts. If your inverter is positioned in direct sunlight, or you live in one of the hotter parts of the country, that could mean your inverter has a lifespan shorter than 10 years.
Maintenance is another factor that could impact the lifespan that you get from your inverter. If it’s well maintained and positioned in a cool place, you could expect a lifespan of up to 20 years, but 10 is more realistic for most inverters.
Indoor vs. outdoor inverters
How long does a solar inverter last when it is placed inside or outside? There are two different kinds of inverters that are designed to be placed either indoors or outdoors. There is often a big difference in cost between the two, as a big difference in durability.
You’ll find indoor inverters are generally less costly than outdoor inverters. They will need to be placed somewhere cool and out of direct sunlight, such as in the garage. If these inverters are exposed to direct sunlight and excessive heat, they are more likely to fail and disrupt power flow. Indoor inverters are also not designed to withstand rain or dampness, so they will need to be installed somewhere dry and out of the elements.
Outdoor inverters, on the other hand, are designed to withstand heat and water somewhat, but you’ll still want to be careful with where you place them. They are typically placed in carports, or on a shaded side of your home. This type of inverter is more durable and can withstand the elements somewhat, but to get the longest lifespan from them, it’s still important that you keep them protected.
Something to be aware of with inverters is that, although excessive heat is likely to shorten the lifespan of indoor and outdoor inverters, it is not going to result in a dangerous situation. If an inverter begins to overheat, it will automatically shut itself down as a safety precaution.
How to maintain your inverter properly
When you are asking the question of how long does a solar inverter last, you inevitably need to consider maintenance. The most impactful thing you can do to extend the lifespan of your inverter, alongside placement, is great maintenance.
If your inverter is placed somewhere like your garage or the side of your house, it’s easy to forget it exists and never check on it. Things like dirt and dust can build up quickly in places like this, so it’s important to clean your inverter regularly to avoid clogs and damage.
You will also need to be careful about what you place around your inverter. Airflow is important for your inverter to stay cool and prevent overheating. Avoid cluttering the area around your inverter so that the air can flow freely and your inverter can regulate its temperature successfully.
Inpsect your inverter regularly
In addition to regular cleaning and avoiding clutter, you should be doing a more thorough inspection of your inverter every few months. When you do these inspections, you are checking for any signs of serious damage, and any external changes that could cause damage to your inverter. For example, if you notice that your garage is no longer watertight and there is moisture around your inverter, you will need to get that taken care of as soon as possible.
If you do find anything that concerns you during these checks, get in touch with your solar panel service provider. An expert can assess whether the damage is going to affect the functionality of your inverter, as well as whether there is potential for danger because of the damage.
If you have signed on to a maintenance plan with your solar panel provider, you’ll be in an even better position to ensure that your inverter stays in great condition. A service provider will come out periodically to inspect every part of your solar panel system, including your inverter.
This doesn’t mean, however, that you’re off the hook with regular checks and cleaning. Ensure that you take good care of your inverter in-between servicings, and alert your provider right away if there are things that concern you. Don’t just wait until they come for the next service.
What to look out for with your inverter
When a solar panel system does suddenly stop working, the most likely culprit is the inverter. The good thing is that if you familiarise yourself with the warning signs, you can avoid this sudden system failure, and keep your power on.
Solar inverters generally will have a series of lights on them which are designed to alert you if something isn’t right. Check your user manual or get in touch with your solar panel provider if you’d like to learn what your inverter is trying to tell you with its lights.
As a general rule, a green light means that your inverter is operating correctly. A blinking green light means that your solar panels are not receiving very much sunlight, but everything is otherwise working as it should. No light means that there is not currently any sunlight on your panels. This is normal at nighttime or on very overcast days, but if you’re not seeing any lights on a sunny day, this likely signals an issue. If you’re seeing a red, orange, or yellow light, this is a definite indication that there is an issue with your inverter, and that it’s time to call your solar panel service provider.
Is my inverter covered under warranty?
You very likely have a warranty on your solar panel system lasting for up to 25 years. This covers the entire system, not just the inverter. The important thing to note about your warranty is that it may not cover your inverter for that entire time. Most warranties cover one replacement over the whole warranty period.
Check your warranty to see what is covered for you, but if you do have to pay for the cost of replacing your inverter once or twice during the lifespan of your whole solar system, it is a fairly easy process.
How long should an inverter last depends on how well you take care of them and what type they are. The cost of replacement will vary widely depending on your provider and the type of inverter you have, so if you want to get an idea of the cost, have a chat with your provider.
Another option you have to offset the cost of replacing your inverter is to look into an extended warranty. This will allow your whole solar system to be covered for a longer time and may afford you more maintenance and inverter replacements over time.
If you are concerned about the health of your inverter, or you are looking for advice on solar panel systems and inverters, get in touch with an expert who will be able to understand your situation and chat with you about your options. Do not leave problems with your inverter unaddressed. If you suspect it may need servicing or replacing, find out now by getting in touch with a trusted solar panel service provider.