After selecting all of your panels, wiring, inverters and any analysis software or batteries or storage, you don't want to accidentally wreck your entire setup by choosing the wrong Combiner Box. As with any product selection, the type, size and scope of the project means everything when choosing a busbar, what works best for a residential installation doesn't translate to a commercial installation, and so on.
Choosing the right sink box for the job is not difficult, but you must understand the site, the other components, and how they relate to the sink box. Keep these questions in mind when developing specifications for your next job
Often, the right combiner comes down to its simplicity and the headache it eliminates from the project-its ease of deployment and installation. A box with a pre-wired fuse holder with pigtails coming out can be a plug-and-play solution that doesn't require a licensed electrician to install.
Your choice of sink box may depend only on price point and availability. For residential installations, there are off-the-shelf solutions available in a variety of potential configurations, saving the time and additional expense required for a custom solution.
However, there are many new possible panel configurations, and depending on the other components in the system, combiners may need to perform more than the basic functions of combining circuits and fuses. Not all Combiner Box Manufacturers have the perfect off-the-shelf combiner box for everyone's situation. Do you need flexibility, or do you just need simplicity? Let's say you have two separate, completely different solar systems that both run into the same box, which will then shoot to separate controllers. Some boxes can handle this, while others may need to be customized.
In the past, all inverters were grounded and the installer would tie the battery string into a bus and then into the inverter. Now, there are transformerless inverters that are ungrounded, which means the installer must fuse the negative terminal. This arrangement is more complicated and requires a bus bar to keep everything together.
If it's grounded, it's an old-fashioned direct parallel connection. If it's transformerless, you have to fuse the negative terminal and be able to disconnect both the negative and positive terminals. Then there is the size of the inverter. Many inverters now have voltages up to 1000 volts, and you need a combiner to match.
Some manufacturers can bundle wireless monitoring technology into a sink box, allowing current, voltage and temperature to be monitored at the panel level and at the string level. In addition to the inherent benefits during installation, monitoring can provide real-time feedback during field commissioning. This way, any errors or problems are caught at the outset, rather than much later, preventing bigger problems later.
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