Many people installing solar do not know what kind of inverter to use. That’s because there are different types of solar inverters and each has its own upsides and downsides. For example, one inverter will suit a particular solar system more than the other or fit a specific climate better. Here, we take a close look at the three main solar inverter types available today, how they’re used, and their benefits.
Types of Solar Inverters
Different types of solar inverters exist in the market today. When considering a solar investment, it’s necessary to choose the type that offers the most benefits. So, what are these types of inverters for solar panels and what are the pros and cons of each? Solar inverters are available in these 3 main types: String, micro, and power optimizer. Here is a detailed description of each.
String Solar Inverter
The string solar inverter is the most common type in residential and small commercial systems. Some people also call it a central solar inverter. String inverters come in the form of large units that you mount on an exterior wall or on the ground. These are usually equipped with one or multiple inputs to connect a group(s) of PV panels or “strings”.
A string inverter may connect to a single (group of panels) or multiple strings. For example, a 3 string solar inverter would have 3 different rows of solar panels all going into a single inverter unit. The overall output is then the sum of all 3 strings both in terms of voltage and current.
String Inverter Advantages
The main advantage of string solar panel inverters is that they’re the most cost-effective option, both in terms of initial investment and maintenance costs. String inverters are also easier to install and require less maintenance during their lifetime.
String Inverter Disadvantages
String inverter disadvantages mainly stem from the way they connect with the solar array. For instance, if one solar panel in the string is shaded, the entire string will produce less power, seeing that all panels are connected in series to the rest. As a result, these inverters are only most efficient if all panels are receiving sunlight all day and year.
Micro Solar Inverter
A micro solar inverter, also known as a mini solar inverter, is a small inverter that is attached to each individual solar panel. These types of solar panel inverters are less common than the string inverter. However, they’re becoming more popular in recent years owing to their many benefits when it comes to solar system efficiency.
Because they are attached to each solar panel, micro inverters can optimize the power output of each panel individually. This means that if one panel is shaded, the others can still produce power at peak efficiency. In addition, if one panel is damaged, only that particular panel needs to be replaced—the rest of the system can continue operating as usual.
Micro Inverter Advantages
Micro inverter advantages include the ability to allow flexible panel orientation, solar system expansion, and ability to isolate malfunctioning panels in a solar system. This is because each micro inverter is installed with only one solar panel, rather than having to connect all the panels in a string.
Micro inverter Disadvantages
The disadvantages of micro inverters include their higher cost. Because each solar panel has its inverter, the initial investment is higher than with other inverters. In addition, micro solar inverters require more maintenance because there are more units to keep track of.
Power Optimizer Inverter
A power optimizer solar inverter is similar to a micro inverter in that it attaches to an individual solar panel. The main difference is that power optimizers do not actually convert the DC power from the solar panels into AC power. Instead, they optimize the DC power so that it can be converted more efficiently by a string inverter.
Power Optimizer Advantages
Power optimizers increase the overall efficiency of a solar system. This is because they allow the string inverter to operate at a higher efficiency, since it doesn’t have to deal with the mismatched power output of each individual solar panel. These inverters also allow users to monitor each solar panel to identify issues early on.
Power Optimizer Disadvantages
Although power optimizer solar inverters are less expensive than micro solar inverters, they still cost more than the string types. You also need to use a string inverter, which means more costs upfront in addition to having more devices to take care of.
Which Solar Inverter Is Best?
Now that you know the types of solar power inverters and their benefits, which type offers the most advantages based on your specific situation? Or, in other words, which inverter should you choose for your solar system? The best type of solar inverter for home or business will depend on several factors. These include the size of your solar panel array, the type of climate you live in, and your budget.
- If you have a small solar panel array and looking to expand in the future, a micro inverter may be the best option. These allow for easy expansion of the array. That said, string solar inverters are more economical when it comes to large solar systems.
- If you live in an area with a lot of shading, a micro solar inverter or power optimizer may be the best option. These types of inverters can optimize the output of each module individually, which means an underperforming panel won’t affect the others.
- Finally, if you are on a budget, a power optimizer solar or string inverter may be the best option. Power optimizers are less expensive than micro solar inverters, but they still offer many of the same advantages. Solar string inverters, on the other hand, are the least expensive and fit many budgets.
No matter which type of solar inverter you choose, be sure to do your research to make sure that it is compatible with your solar panel array and your home or business energy needs.
Different types of solar inverters present different advantages and disadvantages. When looking to install a solar array, you will want to consider the size of your array, the climate you live in, and your budget when deciding which type of inverter is best for you. That way, you can be sure to choose an inverter that will work best for your needs.