What Do I Need To Know About Solar Inverters?

In our previous posts, we’ve covered solar panels. The panels collect and convert sunlight into electricity through the process of photovoltaics. Solar Inverters are the next step in the chain of conversion. Let’s take a look at one of the most essential parts of a solar power system.

What are solar inverters?

As we mentioned, solar panels collect and convert electricity. However, this resulting electricity must be “inverted” from direct current (DC) into alternating current (AC). Alternating current is the electricity that you use to power practically everything in your home. That is what the inverter does and that is why it is as essential to a solar power system as the solar panels themselves.

Types of Solar Inverters

String Inverters

String inverters are the most traditional of all the available inverters today. They work by connecting groups of solar panels with “strings”. For instance, if you have 15 panels, your installer may arrange them into 3 rows with 5 panels each in a group. You then have 3 “strings” from these solar panels. The current from these 3 strings will flow into a single, central inverter. This central inverter is responsible for converting the DC electric current into the AC current for your home.

The disadvantage of string inverters is that if one of the panels get covered or shaded, all of them will under-perform. An overhanging branch of a tree or even a bird landing on a solar panel can cause a shade. The only way to avoid this problem is to always make sure that your solar panels are free from overhanging branches or any other type of shade. Its advantage, however, is that it’s less expensive than more modern alternatives and dealing with the shade issue is pretty manageable.

String + Power Optimizers

Now, power optimizers are the solution to the string inverters’ weakness. When you add power optimizers to a string inverter setup, you are able to mitigate the underperformance of an individual string. The other strings will now be able to perform efficiently despite one underperformer. However, all electricity still flows down to a central inverter. If this central inverter fails, then your solar power system will not be able to provide power for your home.

Microinverters

Microinverters are the newest type of inverter. The microinverters attach to each solar panel, either to the side or on the back. With this setup, the microinverters convert DC to AC from each panel immediately and send the correct current directly into your home. Like with power optimizers, the performance or underperformance of each panel does not affect the over-all solar power system. You are even able to monitor each solar panel’s performance.

Conclusion

String inverters are the most traditional and the cheaper alternative. However, they may not be optimized if you live in a wooded area with lots of shading over your solar panels. You may upgrade to a string+optimizer setup just so your other performing solar panels can compensate for those that are underperforming. If you’re beginning a new installation, you may want to consider microinverters, which may be more expensive but their benefits may outweigh the cost.

If you need more information, you may check out our Solar 101 articles. You may also send us a message on Facebook or visit our Ask Solar Mike website.

We also provide consultations. Just schedule a call with us. We would love to hear from you. Let’s get you started on your solar power journey.

Originally published at https://blog.asksolarmike.com on June 16, 2021.

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