The solar inverter lifespan can range from a few to several years of service. But given that inverters are among the solar components with short lifespans, it becomes crucial to want to know how long yours is likely to last. More importantly, you want to understand the things that can prolong its service life and make your solar system a worthy investment.
About Solar Inverters
Before diving into more about what the solar inverter lifespan is, let’s understand it first. A solar inverter is defined as the part of a PV installation that changes the DC current that the modules produce into usable AC current. That’s because most appliances are AC loads.
Solar Inverter Working
The typical solar inverter is an electrical device that contains current rectifying circuits or, in other words, circuits to change DC to AC. One circuit causes the DC current to oscillate, that’s, charge direction many times in a second, while the other will smooth it to a level that electrical loads can conveniently use.
Solar Inverter purpose
The solar inverter purpose is to invert, or change, the less usable type of energy coming out of the panels to a more usable grid-like type of current. In an on-grid PV system, the inverter also ensures proper power is being fed to the service line.
In a hybrid system, on the other hand, the inverter alternates between the grid and the battery system. This serves to ensure an uninterrupted supply of energy, since you’re using both the grid and stored power.
Solar Inverter Lifespan
The solar inverter lifespan is the estimated time, in years, that’s it’s expected to last when used regularly. This varies across different type of inverters, in addition to being different in different usage conditions. The exact lifespan of solar inverter devices is further explained below.
How Long do Solar Inverters Last
The typical solar inverter lifespan varies from about 10 years to around 25 years. Note that different types of the device have different lifespans. A string inverter, for instance, typically lasts between 10 and 15 years, and is the least durable.
Modern types, such as the micro-inverter, are more long lasting with a life expectancy of 15 to 25 years. Depending on how you maintain your inverter, it may or may not last its estimated lifespan. So what would make them fail too soon? You may ask.
Why do Solar Inverters Fail?
Solar inverter failure can have many different causes. Apart from age, or when the inverter’s expected lifetime has elapsed, some of the reasons why yours may stop functioning as it should include the following:
- Improper installation where the inverter is not correctly wired and up to code.
- Overvoltage or undervoltage, or in other words, not correctly sizing the inverter for your system
- Overheating as a result of running the inverter in extreme environments, such as hot conditions, and causing a rapid wear of its components.
- Lack of or poor maintenance; your solar inverter life is dependent on how frequently you maintain it and a lack of it can lead to its deteriorating.
- Component failure caused by age. Over time, inverter components will wear out. When that happens, which is usually after many years, a new one must be used in its place.
Solar Inverter Failure Rate
The solar inverter failure rate, although not as low as that of the panels, is low enough to assure you of continued service for many years. Surveys have shown that to range from 4% and 6%. This shows a reliable device, with most issues occurring toward the end of the estimated lifespan, which starts on the 10th to 15th year mark.
The above quoted data is based on this study that involved 100 000 inverters, and that was published in 2020. The study also found the solar inverter failure rate to be low for residential installations than commercial systems, with most problems resulting from wiring and protection device failure.
Other failure reasons included instances of inverter under-sizing or lack of timely repairs. Note that solar inverter failure also depends on the quality of the specific PV installation, or even its age. Newer systems, with their advanced technologies, are less likely to cause problems than older systems.
How can I Make My Solar Inverter Last Longer?
You can improve your solar inverter lifespan by observing proper practices for a PV system, both during and after installation. These two instances, and what to do in both, are explained in more detail next.
Solar Inverter Installation
The lifespan of solar inverter components is significantly reduced when installation guidelines are not followed. Ensure the following when installing a new inverter, whether replacing one or installing a new PV system.
1. Avoid placing the inverter under direct sunlight. Always place it in a shaded place if outdoors, protected from the elements.
2. Ensure the installation environment is clean and well ventilated. Dust and lack of air circulation can make the inverter fail too soon. Ensure a dry environment, too.
3. Mount the inverter firmly, as vibrations are one of the many causes of its early inverter failure.
4. Be sure to follow proper wiring procedures and guidelines. These include using the right types of cables, protection devices such as breakers, and ensuring local electrical codes are adhered to.
5. After installation, the installer must test the inverter’s operation for any errors or other issues; if found, these must be taken care of before allowing the inverter to run or power loads.
Solar Inverter Maintenance
Solar inverter maintenance involves doing things that will make it last its expected lifespan. This can range from cleaning to replacing faulty parts of the system on time. Generally, these devices do not require a lot to keep in working condition. To avoid common (and preventable) solar inverter problems, we recommend doing the following.
1. Always check your system’s wiring and connections (including those of the inverter) to make sure they remain intact and undamaged.
2. Ensure the inverter remains cool by allowing adequate airflow and that the vents are not obstructed in any way.
3. Clean the inverter to prevent dirt or dust accumulation, especially the air filters that help to keep away dust while allowing air in.
4. Do not overload the inverter at any one time. This can cause it to get damaged quickly.
5. Solar inverter maintenance also includes regular visual inspections to see if there’s any sign of problems. If yours has a screen, check for error codes and takes action as soon as a problem is detected.
The solar inverter lifespan is different for different types of the device. So it depends on the type of inverter your system is using, with modern models having the longest lifespan of up to 25 years or even more. But despite that, your usage habits can end up shortening or prolonging this useful life. We hope this article has helped you understand what causes a solar inverter to fail too early, and the measures you can take to ensure that doesn’t happen.