When deciding to go solar, choosing the right equipment for the job is crucial. The most important piece of solar equipment are the solar panels, as these will be producing your power. However, the next more important piece of equipment is the solar inverter. Not many homeowners know about solar inverters or what their role is in a solar panel system. What are solar inverters? How do they work? What are the different types of solar inverters?
Let’s break it down for you.
In This Article:
- What Are Solar Inverters?
- What Are The Different Types of Solar Inverters?
- String Inverters: Pros and Cons
- Power Optimizers: Pros and Cons
- Microinverters: Pros and Cons
- What Type of Solar Inverter is Right For You?
WHAT ARE SOLAR INVERTERS?
What many homeowners don’t know is that solar panels produce a form of electricity that most homes cannot use. This electricity is direct current (DC) electricity. The form of electricity almost all homes use is alternating current (AC) electricity.
But how does DC electricity produced by solar panels get converted into AC electricity?
This is where solar inverters come into play.
Solar Inverters have the task of turning all the electricity produced by solar panels into usable power. It does this by converting the direct current, which flows in one direction, into alternating current, which flows back and forth very rapidly.
This AC current is then sent through your electric/fuse/breaker box and can be used by all electrical appliances and fixtures within your home.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SOLAR INVERTERS?
There are three types of solar inverters available to homeowners. These types are string (or central) inverters, power optimizers + inverter, and microinverters.
Each different type of solar inverter has its advantages and disadvantages. It’s important to understand these differences, as well as the pros and cons of each solar inverter type, before choosing which is right for your solar panel system.
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STRING INVERTERS: PROS AND CONS
String inverters, also known as central inverters, are the oldest and most common type of solar inverter used today. They work by connecting a string of solar panels to one single inverter, which converts the total DC input into AC output.
Pros: Because string inverters are the oldest type of solar inverters, they are also the most reliable. After decades of being on the market, string inverters have had most of the kinks worked out. They are also the least expensive solar inverter option.
String inverters are also centrally located on the side of your house or near the side of a ground-mount. This allows easier access to monitor, repair, or replace the inverter.
Cons: While string inverters are reliable, they are also less efficient at optimizing solar energy output. Because string inverters are connected to an entire string of solar panels, shading on one solar panel will cut the power output of the entire string.
Also, string inverters only offer total-system monitoring as opposed to panel-level monitoring. This can be a disadvantage when diagnosing issues with solar production, and it can also be unfortunate for those solar homeowners who want a more granular level of monitoring.
POWER OPTIMIZERS: PROS AND CONS
Power optimizers are located on the back of each solar panel, and they work in conjunction with a string inverter to convert DC to AC. They do this by conditioning the DC electricity from each panel and sending that conditioned DC to the string inverter to convert to AC electricity.
Pros: Because power optimizers can condition the DC electricity produced by each individual solar panel, they can decrease the impact of shading on individual panels. If one solar panel is partially shaded, it will not degrade the output of the entire string as with a simple string inverter setup.
Power optimizers also have the benefit of allowing panel-level monitoring, along with system-level monitoring thanks to the string inverter. This means any issues with solar output can be diagnosed more easily, with each solar panel being monitored individually. It also allows the homeowner to see a more detailed level of monitoring.
Cons: Power optimizers are more expensive than using just a string inverter, but they are still less expensive than microinverters.
Power optimizer systems also require additional power optimizers and potentially additional string inverters if you expand your solar panel system in the future.
It is also important to note that because power optimizers are located on the roof, it is more difficult to repair and replace them if they would happen to have any issues.
MICROINVERTERS: PROS AND CONS
The final type of solar inverter is the microinverter. Microinverters are the latest in solar inverter technology, and they work by converting DC to AC directly from the back of each solar panel. No string inverter is needed because each microinverter takes care of DC conversion on the spot.
Pros: Because each microinverter is handling the conversion from DC to AC on each panel, that allows the system to be minimally impacted by shading on individual panels. If shade covers one panel, only that panel will produce less power output as opposed to the whole system output decreasing, as in a string inverter setup.
Microinverters are also easy to expand with your solar system in the future. Any solar panel that is added to the system just needs to have a microinverter installed on the back of the panel.
Similar to power optimizers, microinverters also allow for panel-level monitoring of the solar system, allowing any solar output issues to be diagnosed more easily and accurately.
Cons: Microinverters are the most expensive of the solar inverter options. However, their benefits can easily outweigh the costs in certain situations, especially if shading is an issue.
And because microinverters are installed on the back of each solar panel, it is more difficult to repair or replace any microinverter that might have issues.
WHAT TYPE OF SOLAR INVERTER IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
Depending on your situation, one type of solar panel might be better for you than another. If you are looking for a wallet-friendly solar inverter, a string inverter might be a good option. However, if you have the potential for shading on your solar panels, power optimizers or microinverters might be a better option.
Contact Green Ridge Solar today to find out which solar inverter is right for you. Our solar experts can explain all the pros and cons, as well as provide a free solar analysis.
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