You might know that a solar inverter is a box-like component with a solar panel system to convert DC energy into AC energy. But did you know that several types of solar inverters are available in the market, among which plugged in solar panel is popular?
These types of inverters are lighter. In addition, these can quickly connect to the solar panels using a wall socket. But during utility outages, per IEEE 1547, an inverter is required to shut down.
It happened after there had been an intense debate over these devices. Many people even questioned whether or not plug-and-play solar panels are legal.
Read this post to learn everything about plugged-in solar panels.
What is a Solar Plug-in?
Plug-and-play solar is nothing but a panel that is used to offer clean and easy power to an electrical grid. The Panel is on the ground and plugged into an outside wall outlet.
The entire concept of plug-and-play solar panels sounds like an easy way to use clean solar power. But in practice, things get a bit complicated.
Should You Use Plug-in Solar?
Using plug-and-play solar panels is not a choice that you should make lightly. Before committing to anything, you must try to understand the benefits and risks.
While adding power to the electrical system has certain advantages, it is also dangerous. Especially if the process is done poorly, it can set fire to your home, resulting in completely ruining the electrical system.
Pros of Plug-in Solar
You can consider getting plug-and-play solar because it offers what it promises. When you place the panels in a sunny place and plug it in, the solar power directly feeds into your home.
- It is easy to install and take down.
- It saves money on the upfront installation cost of solar
- Its clean power feeds your grid
Plug-in solar is an excellent choice because it is cheaper, more accessible, and helps you save energy. It is, in fact, cheaper than professional solar installation because you can quickly install it and take it down without any help.
Cons of Plug-in Solar
There are a few disadvantages of the solar plug-in. For instance, you cannot make much of a difference to your electric bill with two solar panels. But then, if you install more panels, there is a risk of overloading the grid.
- If incorrectly installed, plug-in solar panels can be dangerous
- It requires multiple safety measures
- Plug-in solar panels are unreliable because they can damage delicate appliances.
Since there are quite a few disadvantages of plug-in solar panels, you must stay away from the sellers trying to gloss over them. The plug-in solar panels come at a higher price than the standard kits.
While you don’t need professional help for installation, you must understand how to connect it safely to your home.
Overall, plug-in solar panels are great but only for specific situations. You can use it if you only need one to two panels for power or off-the-grid power.
How Does Plug-in Solar Inverter Work?
Did you know that an inverter increases the installation cost by around 40% while installing a roof-top solar power panel system? For this reason, many people consider getting plug-in inverters. A microgrid tie inverter’s main advantage is its straightforward installation process.
What’s more? The installation does not require asking for additional help because anyone can do it. It has helped plug-in solar panel companies convince more people to purchase these devices.
You can also isolate specific components for repair and maintenance with this inverter. It is possible because the current flows from the panels to the inverter via a breaker. In this situation, the breaker cuts off the circuit if destructive voltages are produced. This mechanism prevents any fire accidents or overheating. Furthermore, if there’s anti-islanding, this inverter shuts down.
Here’s how the plug-in solar works:
It would help if you had multiple pieces of equipment to operate correctly for a plug-in solar power panel to work properly. Each piece of equipment plays a vital role in the safety of plug-in systems.
Almost all plug-in solar power panel systems come with a microgrid tie inverter. Its role is to safely convert the DC energy into usable AC energy, which is the current electrical system.
As it’s a popular device, it comes with extra safety features. One such feature is shutting off the electricity when the power goes down.
You might think the functionality of this device is lacking if you want the panels to help relieve blackouts. But it’s an important safety feature that stops the Panel’s usage during blackouts. So, a microgrid tie inverter is essential.
#2 Charge Controllers
You might encounter specific problems if the electricity is fed directly from the power grid. As the voltage and current keep varying, the power from the panels is inconsistent. It can also damage the electrical lines and appliances in the home.
The output of the panels also depends on direct sunlight. This inconsistency is smoothened by a reliable power supply from the charge controller. If you plan to get plug-in solar systems, you must invest in a charge controller to avoid damaging your electrical lines.
Delicate electrical equipment, including grids and appliances, can be damaged by inconsistent power output and voltage. So, a charge controller for a plugged solar makes sense.
#3 Battery System
Your solar Panel might not need battery systems, but they can help you get the most out of the panels. Indeed solar panels feed on electricity, but it is not of much use if you don’t use the power.
If you do not have battery systems, the power will disappear if you don’t use them. That means you could lose a lot of power from solar panels.
What’s better? Well, the battery stores the power so you can use it later. It helps you get the most out of your solar panels than just the power you use when they are on. You can also store excess power in it.
#4 Dedicated Electrical Lines
A dedicated plugged-in solar Panel is not something you need to worry about while using plug-in solar panels. The electrical lines get created during traditional solar installations, which run on the electrical box. If something goes wrong, it can be turned off immediately.
This line is created and installed in the electrical box and roof mounting hardware as a part of traditional solar installation. Plug-in solar might not be for you if you use the same outlet.
When Should You Get Plug-in Solar Panels?
If the outdoor line of your home can carry the power generated by plug-in solar panels that you never use, this might be the right option.
Remember that the charge controller and battery must match the system. Also, you need to protect them from the elements. This work won’t be worth it without a sizable solar panel. On average, the house’s electrical grids can handle between 1.5 kW.
Plug-in solar panels seem to be a great option if you can fulfill these conditions and know the right way of installation.
Why Must You not Invest in Plug-in Solar Panels?
While plug-in solar panels are great, several issues have raised questions about their credibility. For this reason, they have not been fully certified by 2021.
The major drawback that’s seen in plug-in solar panels is safety. Since electrical systems are prone to accidents, you must never think that any manufacturer might deliver safety mechanisms that prevent your total investment from draining into waste.
For safety, the solar inverter is tested against the AS 4777.2 and AS3100. The plug-in inverter needs a dedicated circuit switchboard for proper functioning. This circuit might get damaged because a lot of energy flows in and out. In addition, plug-in solar panels require multiple power cords to distribute the power properly.
This system is not installed by any licensed electrician nor signed off by any utility company. So, even though you can save on the installation, you will be disappointed. These facts make a plug-in inverter illegal in other areas.
The plug-in solar panels feed on the circuit without using any shutoff features. So, these might not be an excellent option for your home. These might even violate some utility codes.
In addition, there is a chance that you might bump over a plug-in inverter due to its clunky looks. Plus, troubleshooting an inverter can be difficult. That’s because it has multiple circuits, which makes it challenging to find the actual point of failure. If you want to do the troubleshooting, it’s better to hire a professional.
Alternative Solutions for Plug-in Solar Power Panels
As we have discussed, plug-in solar panels have quite a few drawbacks. They come with a risk of overloading your electrical system, which can be very dangerous.
But if you want to use plug-in solar panels, you can stick to some safer alternatives. Below are some popular options.
#1 Solar Generators
You are advised to use solar generators if you genuinely want to use a plug-in solar panel(Plugged In Solar Panel). These are nothing but attaching a solar power electrical panel to a power bank. You need a simple plug to connect the panels to the solar generator and leave it in the sun.
You can easily use the renewable energy stored in the generator. Take a USB connector or a standard AC dedicated outlet to plug your devices into the generator. This way, you can get a powerful, quiet machine that does not make heavy noises.
In short, solar generators are the entire package that comes in a compact machine. These are up to the size of a large grill that collects the energy from the panels under the sunlight.
The solar generators include wiring, inverters, batteries, charge controllers, and essential features that are required for safety. What’s better? You can use it anywhere outdoors.
You can consider getting it for outdoor power because it needs no installation. But it won’t help in adding power to the electrical grid.
#2 Professional Solar Installation
The plug-in solar panels need the same thing as professional solar installation. And if you want to add multiple solar panels, you might heat the electrical lines. So, if your main aim is to cut down the electricity bills, solar plug-ins are no replacement for expensive professional installation.
#3 Solar Sheds
Installation of a solar shed takes no time if you are handy. If there is no existing electrical outlet, you would need some handiness and math. All you need are the basic requirements of the solar system, wiring, charge controllers, mounts, batteries, inverters, and panels.
In addition, you can also consider getting a small plug-in solar kit. Make sure the installation kit comes with instructions. Professionally hooking it up to your house grid makes sense because it offers outdoor power for electrical appliances and reduces the electricity bill.
How to Run Outdoor Electrical Equipment Off Of Solar Plug-ins?
Since solar plug-ins must be attached to the house’s primary grid, they are known to benefit from solar power with everything you run off the grid.
But you need a dedicated electrical line for the solar panels to operate safely. You can avoid using the same plug for holiday blow-ups or electrical lights. In addition, try keeping the wiring and panels away from the water sources like pools or hot tubs.
#1 Electrical Lights
The small garden lights work on the phenomenon of soaking in the sunlight during the day and lighting up at night. But you can set a better sustainable solar light; you should have it on a separate grid.
Some of the lighting systems available in the market come with solar collectors that can automatically store energy and come on when it’s night. You can quickly light up a piano or garden path with solar lighting.
You get more freedom because these do not depend on any outside power source. Also, they come in multiple styles.
#2 Different Voltages
The charge controllers control the voltage of the solar power panels. But different appliances need different voltages. For instance, the larger appliances need 200v or more, but the smaller ones and outdoor equipment only need 120v.
However, you don’t have to worry because many charge controllers let you switch different voltages in no time. With such a charge controller, you can power multiple appliances without damage.
So, if you regularly work with equipment that is required to be operated at different voltages, you must get it.
#3 Creating a Solid Grid
Figuring out the electrical system is not difficult. You can do it with a simple understanding of the terminology and math to understand the amount of power required. It would help if you also familiarize yourself with the principles of the electrical systems you want to work with.
Setting up your electrical grid to the solar Panel is not tricky. Once you have done it, you can get access to simply clean and endless energy. This system can run anything that is under the limit of the power that is produced by panels. Thus, you can keep around one to two appliances on the system.
Are Plug-in Solar Panel Systems Legal?
Whether or not the plug solar panel system is legal depends on your state’s local laws. While some states allow the usage of plug-and-play solar panels, some do not allow it.
The main reason is that plug-in solar panels require the same things as professionally installed systems. But it is not installed by professionals.
Unfortunately, people ignore the safety procedures required for correctly setting up the panels to the house grid, which leads to accidents. So, it’s pretty apparent that plug-and-play solar panels are banned in many states.
Remember that even if certain states have state tax benefits and allow plug-in solar panels, the local laws might be against it. For this reason, it is advised to always check with the local housing and building laws before installing a plug-in solar panel in your area.
In many states, it’s mandatory to get a safety check from the inspectors before installing solar panels -. It is to ensure that you have correctly followed the procedures required for solar panel safety.
After plug-and-play solar panels were invented, they have been in high demand. That’s because you can easily install them yourself without any additional help.
The installation is relatively easy, and they are also much smaller than the usual off-grid or on-grid inverters. This feature makes it easy to move around. You can get a plugged solar kit, including batteries, for installation because it will save you money.
But these are not licensed by any utility company, which is often a safety concern. They also need a dedicated circuit that might violate the power utility code of many other areas. This thing has made a plug-in inverter illegal in certain places.