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Why Do Solar Cells Need an Inverter? [What Does It Do?]

Tim Carter
Written by Tim Carter Last Updated: June 12, 2022

AC is the type of electricity that our modern appliances use. But the power that comes out of your solar panels is direct current (DC).

Within solar cells, the energy from the sun changes into DC electricity. When the tiny solar cells are connected, the DC electricity gets stronger as the solar panel puts out more power. And, when we connect solar panels in series or an array, they make a lot of electricity that the inverter can use. After that, the inverter will change it from DC to AC.

Table of Contents

How Do Solar Panels Work?

Solar technologies use renewable energy from the sun (direct sunlight) to capture and convert sunlight into electricity.

To achieve that conversion and generate more power, we need photovoltaic panels (PV panels).

While solar panels comprise multiple solar cells, we connect panels to create a larger unit, a solar panel system.

Although sunlight reaches the surface of our planet, the amount of radiation differs. Often, solar plants use mirrors to concentrate solar radiation emitted by the sun. We also know this radiation as electromagnetic radiation.

When the sun reaches a solar panel, the PV cells in the solar panel absorb the sunlight’s energy.

Within the solar panel, this solar energy generates electrical charges that move in reaction to an internal electric field in the cell, resulting in the flow of electricity.

Basically, the sunlight activates the panels while the cells in the panels produce electrical current.

The electricity generated by the solar panel passes through a series of wires until it reaches a solar power inverter.

These inverters generate DC electricity.

Why Do Solar Cells Need an Inverter?

To use solar energy in your home, you need an inverter, which changes DC electricity into AC power in real-time.

Solar inverters are important because the DC output of solar cells needs to be changed into AC. The main reason for this is that most of the things we use at home need AC electricity to work right.

But there are a lot of different types and brands of solar inverters.

Which one to install depends on how you are going to use the power from your solar panels.

What Does an Inverter Do?

Solar inverters convert electrical energy into usable power.

Solar cells create DC electricity. When the electricity from the solar cell changes from DC to AC, we can use it to power our home devices.

A solar cell is a rectangular (or square) device that can use the sun’s light to make electricity. The photovoltaic effect makes energy happen.

In its most basic form, a solar cell is a p-n junction diode with electrical properties that change when the cell is exposed to sunlight.

Photovoltaic cells (PV cells) make solar cells work. They use the photovoltaic effect to make DC electricity. When we put these cells together, we get a solar module.

Each solar cell can only make a small amount of electricity (a single solar cell can only make about 0.5 Volts DC of voltage when there is no load on it).

So, we make solar modules by putting together several solar cells in the same direction and plane, which we call solar panels.

Solar panels can produce a lot of electrical energy.

In AC sources, electrons flow back and forth in a cycle. In a solar cell, however, electricity only flows in one direction.

A solar cell can only make DC electricity and not AC electricity.

A Solar Inverter Charger

Alternatively, as cells need an inverter, you can think about adding a solar inverter charger to your solar system.

A solar inverter charger is an improved variant of a regular inverter.

Solar inverter chargers can convert DC to AC and can also charge a battery bank when shore power is available, guaranteeing that you always have access to energy.

Why Do We Use AC in Our Homes? [Why Not Dc?]

There are two main reasons we use AC instead of DC.

Direct current electricity cannot power directly most of the things in our homes. This is the most important reason we need solar inverters to use solar energy.

With the help of solar inverters, solar power can power our homes during the day.

An inverter can change DC power and voltage into AC, so we can use our home appliances.

With an on-grid solar power system, if we produce excess energy from the sun, the extra electricity is sent back to the grid.

To keep electrical losses to a minimum, these lines use AC power with high voltage and low current.

When we connect our solar system to the grid, we also need to make sure that the power it puts out is in sync with the grid.

This is another reason solar cells and solar panels need a solar inverter.

DC can charge a laptop or cell phone, for example. However, AC powers many things in our homes.

The AC power sources in our homes work at either 50Hz or 60Hz, which are standard frequencies.

Here, the electricity switches directions 50 and 60 times in a second. Most things we use in our homes need this kind of electricity to work.

The main thing an inverter does is change direct current (DC) into alternating current (AC).

So, if you want to power your home with solar energy, you need to change the DC output of the solar panel into AC. Inverters do this.

Can Solar Panels Work Without an Inverter?

Home appliances need electricity to work, and that electricity can be AC (alternating current) or DC (direct current).

You can skip the solar inverter part of your solar PV system if you only want to use solar energy for appliances that run on DC power.

DC is the only type of electricity that solar panels can make.

So, if your TV, light bulbs, air conditioner, and other appliances run on DC power, your solar panels will still work even if you do not have an inverter.

Instead of using an inverter, you can connect your solar panels directly to a charge controller or a DC-to-DC converter that will output 12V, 24V, or 48V DC (which are common DC voltage levels).

Final Thoughts

In a solar system, the energy from the sun is converted into direct current electricity within solar cells.

When the tiny solar cells are connected, the DC electricity becomes stronger as the power output of the solar panel increases.

However, when we connect solar panels in series or an array, they generate a large amount of electricity that the solar inverter may convert it from DC to AC.

Solar cells don’t always need a solar inverter to power AC home appliances.

If you want to use solar power to power DC devices, you will need a charge controller or charge regulator.


Tim Carter
Tim Carter

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