Which Solar Inverter is Right For You?
An inverter takes the direct current (DC) of electricity generated when the sunlight is absorbed into the solar panel and converts it into an alternating current (AC) to be used by your home. Let’s discuss three main types of power inverters you can have installed on your home: string inverters, power optimizers, and microinverters.
All three fundamentally serve the same purpose. However, they go about power inversion differently. So, which one is the best for your home? We discuss the pros and cons of each so that you can make the best choice when going solar.
A string (or inline) inverter system works by connecting all of the solar panels on your roof by cables (or “strings”) and sends the DC electricity into a central inverter(s) installed on the side of your home where it is converted into AC power. Picture it as if DC electricity on a string inverter is a series of rivers. Eventually, those currents will come together and converge into the ocean or in this case, the inverter.
- As the traditional option, string inverters are the most cost-effective.
- Since all the solar panels are connected through the string, if one of the panels is malfunctioning or covered by shade, for instance from a tree, then the “string” that panel is connected to may have limited or no power production feeding into the inverter. To put it simply, “they’re only as strong as their weakest link.”
- Although there are minimal points of failure within a solar system, the inverter represents the most significant opportunity for failure to occur. As such, if a failure were to occur, your whole system suffers until a repair can be made. This can result in a total loss of power conversion during that time.
- String inverters may make modification of your system very difficult, if not impossible. Therefore, the system may not be able to grow with your needs as they change in the future.
Power optimizers are installed on each panel and are designed to “condition” the DC electricity as it is delivered into a central inverter(s).
- Power optimizers can track the performance of each panel in real-time.
- When compared to the other two types of inverters, these are more expensive than string inverters.
- Similar to string inverters, if there is an issue with any panel in a string, the entire string will be adversely affected.
- You may have issues with adding or modifying the system in the future should you choose.
Microinverters are on the opposite end of the spectrum. Instead of sending the DC to a specific unit to be converted to AC electricity, microinverters are individually installed on the back of each solar panel. This way they can individually convert the DC to AC and then send it into your home.
At Solar Topps, we prefer to use microinverters, and particularly those from our long-time partner: Enphase. They are at the forefront of this technology and represent a great solar brand that we believe will be around for a long time. They have spent and continue to spend countless hours testing and improving their products and solutions. We couldn’t be happier with this choice.
- Since each panel has its microinverter attached to the back, all panels that are not impacted by the shade will continue to generate electricity even if others are temporarily compromised.
- Because each panel is connected to its inverter, you can add more panels to your system in the future if you would like.
- Enphase Microinverters also comes with a 25-year warranty which is sometimes more than double the warranty you would get with the other inverter options.
- Along with a strong warranty and protection, Enphase Microinverters are known to have the best monitoring system. You can keep track of each panel down to the tiniest detail.
- Compared to string inverters and power optimizers, microinverters are a bit more expensive.
Inverters are there to help you convert the electricity harvested from your panels into electricity for your home. If your inverters are not able to keep up with either sunlight absorption or your need for power, then you could be in trouble. There are three types of inverters: string, power optimizers, and microinverters. String inverters save you money and are practical but have higher hazards and are only as strong as their weakest link. Power optimizers do provide slightly better performance than string inverters but are still subject to string-level vulnerabilities. Solar Topps prefers microinverters because of their high quality and their practicality.