Photovoltaic solar systems have numerous components that impact how efficient they are. One of these central components is the solar inverter, which converts the DC power generated by your solar panels to the AC power that your home uses. Without the inverter, the energy your solar panels creates wouldn’t even be usable. However, it’s important that the inverter is converting the power efficiently in order to ensure that you’re getting as much power as possible from the panels. High ambient temperatures can impact the efficiency of your solar inverter, but active cooling technology can help keep these components cool and highly efficient. Keep reading to learn more about how this works.

Fronius Solar Inverter - Single Phase

Differences between Active and Passive Cooling

First, it’s important to note that active cooling technology is not the first type of technology used to keep solar inverters cool. Many solar panel systems utilize passive cooling, which relies on natural convection and internal fans only, if fans are used at all. They may also use large heat sinks, making the devices heavier, which means handling and transportation are much more difficult.

Active cooling designs use at least one, and often multiple, fans that help prevent hot spots and regulate the air circulation within the solar inverter, keeping the temperatures within the electronic equipment low. Typically, an active cooling system will use 1 fan for cooling the heat sink and another for internal air circulation—the latter being the fan that prevents hot spots. The speed of the fan is controlled by temperature; the hotter the interior components, the faster the fan will rotate to cool them down.


Why Lower Temperatures Matter

When using a system powered by the sun, you might assume that high temperatures are a given. And while the panels and associated equipment will certainly become quite hot, allowing ambient temperatures to rise too much can negatively impact the output of your system. The Fronius grid tie inverter or other solar inverters are especially impacted by these high temperatures and hot spots; the hotter they get, the less efficiently they’ll convert DC to AC power. With passive cooling technology, you can lose as much as 15% of your power due to high ambient temperatures when compared to active cooling technology.

But beyond efficiency, high temperatures can also affect the life expectancy of your solar inverters. Allowing these electronics to overheat will cause them to break down more quickly, requiring more frequent replacement. In fact, a common rule of thumb in the solar power industry is that every 10-degree (Celsius) rise in temperature will cut the service life of your equipment in half.

Active cooling technology cools electronic components in a more targeted manner with internal fans, extending the service life of these electronics. By keeping your equipment cool, you’ll not only be getting more power from your solar panels, but you’ll also be saving money on repairs and replacements in the long run.


Improving Flexibility in System Design

Every solar-powered home has its own unique design that provides that residence with the optimum amount of power and efficiency. But sometimes, the design and installation of a system is limited by the equipment you have to use. In the case of passive cooling systems, only one module string can typically be connected to each tracker, due to high amperages causing higher temperatures in the components.

Actively cooled equipment, however, is able to dissipate more heat. This permits those higher amperages that come from connecting multiple module strings per tracker, allowing for greater flexibility in system design. The actual installation for actively cooled inverters is also much more flexible, as the inverters draw cool air in from the side, and dissipate the heated air upwards. This means that inverters with active cooling technology can be installed horizontally, vertically, and even flat; inverters with passive cooling, however, can only be mounted at a 90-degree vertical angle.

And, because they’re more efficient in their cooling—dissipating up to 5 times the amount of heat as passive cooling technology—actively cooled inverters can also be installed in areas with higher levels of solar radiation without concern.


Cooling Other Equipment

It’s important to note that your solar inverters are not the only equipment that needs to be kept cool in order to maintain efficiency and prolong their service life. Extremely high temperatures can impact all parts of your solar power system, including the solar panels. There are many different techniques used to cool photovoltaic solar panels, including the following:

  • Ribbed wall heat sink cooling
  • Array air duct cooling (beneath the solar panel)
  • Water spray cooling
  • Back surface water cooling
  • Cooling hydrogel
  • And more

When discussing the design and installation of your solar power system, be sure to speak to your contractor regarding the cooling of the equipment. You’ll want to ensure that the panels have proper cooling measures already installed, and that your other equipment within your solar-powered energy system has a way of being kept cool as well.


Investing in a Cooling System

If you’re planning to invest in solar power for your home, you need to ensure that you are protecting that investment. One of the best ways to do this is to also invest in proper cooling equipment for all of the associated solar equipment, from the panels to the Fronius solar inverters. Regardless of what type of inverter you have—be it a Fronius single-phase inverter or a Fronius three-phase inverter—this piece of equipment will be more efficient, have fewer breakdowns, and require less maintenance if your system utilizes active cooling technology.

While the lifespans of solar inverters can vary, on average, this piece of equipment should last you about 10 years. But as mentioned above, a temperature increase of just 10 degrees Celsius can cut that life expectancy in half, forcing you to use 2 inverters every 10 years instead of 1, doubling your costs for this piece of equipment alone. Investing in active cooling upfront will prolong your inverters’ lifespan. Effective, modern cooling technology is a way to protect your investment in solar power.

If you’re choosing to invest in solar power, it’s important to protect that investment. Protect your Fronius solar inverter—and all other equipment in your system—by employing active cooling technology over passive cooling techniques.