Solar Inverters: Types, Benefits, and Factors to Consider for Your Project

by | Inverters

As an integral part of your solar power system, the solar inverter is tasked with converting the direct current (DC) produced by your solar panels into the alternating current (AC) used by your household appliances. In this guide, we’ll explore different types of solar inverters, their benefits, and how to choose the right one, including considerations for panel placement.

1. String Inverters

String inverters connect an array of solar panels in a ‘string’ and are the most common and cost-effective inverter type.

Pros: They are simple to install, making them a popular choice for many homeowners. They work best in solar installations where all panels have uniform orientation and minimal shading issues.

Cons: The ‘Christmas-light effect’ is a downside. If one panel in the string underperforms (due to shading, dust, or malfunction), the entire string’s performance is compromised.

2. Microinverters

Microinverters are individual inverters attached to each solar panel.

Pros: The independent operation of each panel means that the underperformance of one panel does not affect the others. This setup is beneficial for installations with shading issues or multiple roof orientations. Microinverters also provide superior monitoring capabilities, offering detailed insights into each panel’s performance.

Cons: The cost is the primary deterrent for microinverters. They are significantly more expensive than string inverters and might not be cost-effective for larger installations.

3. Power Optimizers

Also known as DC optimizers, power optimizers provide a middle ground between string inverters and microinverters. They are connected to each panel, with a central inverter involved.

Pros: Power optimizers condition the DC electricity before sending it to the inverter, optimizing system efficiency. They mitigate shading issues like microinverters and offer panel-level monitoring.

Cons: Although less expensive than microinverters, power optimizers are still costlier than string inverters.

When considering the placement of your solar panels, particularly with ground mounts, the distance between the panels and your home becomes a factor. A larger distance could lead to voltage drop, which affects the efficiency of your system. In such situations, a string inverter can be a better option. Because string inverters can handle longer transmission distances, they can help minimize potential energy losses that might occur.

Choosing between a string inverter and a microinverter involves considering system size, panel orientation, shading, monitoring preferences, cost, and panel-to-home distance. A string inverter might be more cost-effective for larger systems with little shading, long transmission distances, and uniform panel orientation. In contrast, a microinverter can be beneficial for smaller installations, varying power outputs, significant shading issues, and if detailed performance data is desired.

Also, consider the inverter’s efficiency and warranty. Higher efficiency means more power conversion and less waste. A reliable warranty from a reputable manufacturer ensures you have support if any issues arise.

Remember, a solar system is a long-term investment. Although some inverters might be more expensive initially, their increased efficiency and performance could lead to higher savings over the life of your system. Research each type, weigh the pros and cons, and consider consulting with a reputable and knowledgable solar installer to help you select the best inverter for your unique needs.