Solar microinverters make PV systems more efficient and reliable. However, they’re not well understood. So we asked our solar experts to explain how these inverters work, and what benefits they offer compared to the traditional string and central types. This article will give you a solar microinverter 101, explaining the inverter’s use and advantages.
What are solar Micro Inverters?
Solar microinverters are small, single-module solar inverters that are mounted directly on the back of a solar panel. Unlike string and central inverters, which link to multiple modules, each microinverter only connects to one module.
A typical solar microinverter kit comes with the inverter itself (or several of them) and the necessary cabling. Modern models also come with communication gadgets to monitor individual panels and may include Wi-Fi or internet connections to send panel and system data in real-time.
Solar energy microinverters are usually built for use with either off-grid or grid-tie systems. These will have different features depending on whether the inverter feeds power to the grid or charges a battery storage system. Below is a comparison of the two types of microinverters.
A micro inverter off-grid solar system does not connect to the utility grid. That means the solar panels must produce all of the power needed by your home or business, and any excess power must be stored in a battery bank. Off-grid microinverters are mostly used in remote locations where it is not practical to connect to the grid.
A grid-tie microinverter system connects to the utility grid. When solar panels are producing more power than what is needed by the home or business, the excess electricity goes to the grid. Grid-tie microinverters are used in locations where the customer can connect or is already connected to the grid.
How do solar Micro Inverters work?
Microinverters for solar systems are just miniaturized inverters. Like the traditional string or central inverter, they work by inverting DC to AC but at the individual module level. Depending on the type of system, this power is then used to power appliances, and the excess electricity directed to charge batteries (or fed into the grid for credits).
Solar microinverters are designed to maximize the power output of a solar panel. They do this by tracking the maximum power point (MPP) of the panel and converting the DC into AC at the best possible voltage.
Today’s microinverters also incorporate new solar system monitoring technologies and come with the ability to provide information about the energy output of each individual solar panel. Some will even provide a means to connect to the internet for software updates and other functions.
Micro Solar Inverter Advantages
The solar microinverter market, according to recent research results, is rapidly gaining popularity. Apart from lowered solar equipment prices and government policies, the growth can be attributed to the inverter’s many benefits. Here is a roundup of these micro solar inverter advantages.
Microinverters Increase Energy Yield
Solar microinverters maximize the power output of each solar panel. This means more energy is produced by the system. When you have your solar investment in a cooler climate or places with shading issues, this feature is critical to maintaining your energy production.
Microinverters are Easy to Expand
Installing solar panels with microinverters offers the advantage of easier expansion. You can add more panels to your system without having to replace your inverter or even affecting the rest of the system. This is because each panel has its own microinverter.
Microinverters Allow Panel Monitoring
Solar systems using microinverters are easy to monitor. You can see the performance of each panel in your system, which is useful for troubleshooting or identifying which panels are not performing as well as others. With a string inverter, this is only possible at the string level.
Microinverters Last Longer
The solar micro inverter design makes it a rugged device that can last for a very long time. As a result, it’s common for manufacturers to offer 10 to 25-year warranties on their products. It’s good to note that manufacturers design these inverters to operate at higher temperatures, (up to 85 °C). This is given their location in hot outdoor conditions and mostly on rooftops.
Micro Solar Inverter Disadvantages
In your journey to uncovering the best solar PV system for your needs, it’s important to understand the potential disadvantages of using microinverters for solar power generation. Below, we explore some of the key drawbacks to be aware of before making that important decision. The drawbacks include:
The solar microinverter cost is its biggest drawback. These inverters are typically more expensive than string inverters or even string inverters with DC optimizers. This is because they are more complex and have more features. Overall, though, the many benefits of microinverters justify the cost.
Longer Installation time
Installing microinverters on solar panels can be a time-consuming process. That is because each panel needs to be connected to its own microinverter. That said, solar panels with microinverters built-in to them are available today. These reduce the installation time.
Solar Microinverters vs. Optimizers
Solar micro-inverters and DC power inverters have one thing in common: they are both installed on or next to solar panels. However, that’s where the similarities end. Here’s a quick overview of the key differences between these two types of solar technologies:
- Microinverters convert array DC current to AC power while solar panel optimizers do not. Instead, optimizers only condition and monitor the DC current from each solar panel.
- Microinverters for solar panels are independent inverters that are assigned to one solar panel while solar panel optimizers are part of a string that is assigned to multiple panels.
- Solar panels with microinverters tend to be more efficient than solar panels with optimizers. However, they are also more expensive than optimizers, when comparing similar capacities.
Best Solar Microinverters
Different solar microinverter manufacturers make products with different features. As a result, it’s important to compare your options before deciding what inverter to go for. Here is what you need to look for in the best micro inverters for solar panels or solar energy systems.
First, you will want to match the inverters with the size of your panels. The inverter’s efficiency is also a crucial factor to consider: you want your energy system to convert as much power as possible. Other factors include the following:
Ease of installation: Ensure the inverter is easy to install. This is especially important if you’re planning on installing the system yourself. The microinverter kit must include everything you need for the installation.
Ease of use: The best solar microinverters are user-friendly. This means that they come with clear instructions and are easy to operate, especially if the inverter comes with advanced technologies such as smart system monitoring and optimization.
Warranty: Different solar microinverter companies offer varying warranty lengths. A long warranty is preferable. Only ensure the company is one that you can trust.
Solar microinverters are an important technology that anyone considering solar should be aware of. They offer several advantages over traditional inverters, including increased energy production, easier expansion, and better monitoring. Overall, microinverters represent an innovative technology that has already had a significant impact on our energy landscape, and we can expect great things from this exciting new technology in the future.