Inverters are an integral part of your solar system. Many companies use string inverters, but we feel that microinverters have more benefits to them, particularly in residential settings. This article discusses inverters in general, as well as outlines the differences between different types of inverters.
Solar panels use sunlight to generate electricity--specifically, direct current, or “DC” energy. However, power is normally distributed to homes as alternating current, or “AC” energy.
To convert DC energy to AC energy, solar systems use inverters. There are two main types of inverters: String inverters and microinverters. Project Solar uses microinverters in all our equipment builds.
- String Inverters & Microinverters - How They're Different
- Microinverter Benefits
- Panel Optimizers
- The Bottom Line
String Inverters & Microinverters - How They're Different
Systems with a string inverter will group panels into a “string” to collect and convert energy, whereas in microinverter systems, each panel will have its own inverter.
Since there’s an inverter for each panel rather than a single, central inverter, microinverters can cost more. This is the main reason string inverters are more commonly used for residential solar systems.
However, microinverters are automatically included in Project Solar’s equipment builds, and, with our pricing model, we’re still able to offer lower prices than most companies offering string inverter systems.
Plus, most string inverters are only warrantied for around 10-12 years, and the Enphase microinverters we use come with a 25 year warranty.
Because string inverters convert energy from a connected system of panels, shading or damaging one panel will affect all the panels on that string; if one panel is producing at 50% capacity, the rest of the panels are, too.
Microinverters eliminate this problem, as they independently process each respective panel’s energy directly at the site of production–right underneath the panel. If one panel is damaged or shaded, the rest of the system is not affected.
Microinverters are also able to monitor individual production, which can help pinpoint panels that need to be cleaned, uncovered, or repaired. Our Enphase microinverters include Enphase’s monitoring app, which can even alert you if there are any dips in your system’s performance.
Panel optimizers are similar to microinverters, but they still must be paired with a string inverter, as they don’t convert energy like inverters do–they simply regulate it.
Panel optimizers condition each panel’s produced electricity and then send it to the main inverter to complete the conversion. This allows them to monitor each panel individually and improve production for arrays that are partially shaded (similar to how microinverters function).
The main downside to panel optimizers is that, though they themselves are often warrantied for 25 years, the string inverter that they feed into is often only warrantied for around 10-12 years.
The Bottom Line
While string inverters may be sufficient for systems without a lot of shading, we feel that our Enphase microinverters are simply the best option for residential solar systems. They enable panel-level monitoring and production, and include a 25 year warranty.
The only issue most people have with microinverters is cost--and, with Project Solar’s pricing, that’s nothing to worry about.